Browsing the archives for the Personal category

Regulating Blog Output

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Miscellaneous, Personal

Shamus writes about the fundamental Blogging Paradox — When you’re doing things that you want to write about, often you don’t have time to write about them. When you’re not, you have nothing to write about. From there he asks if anyone else has trouble “regulating blog output.”

I really like that phrase, and I think that’s pretty apt for me. I most definitely have trouble regulating blog output. Two months ago I was so busy that I simply didn’t have time for more than the occasional post, and now that I have more time I’m throwing it into catching up on all the things I didn’t have time to do while in crunch mode.

Another factor in posting is topicality and variety. I generally try to keep this blog with some sort of vague focus on technology, games, and things of that nature, and so a lot of the things I could blog on I might not. Then there’s variety — I could probably easily fill up this blog with posts about my thoughts on what I might want to do with D&D or any number of other hobbies. But I feel like I’d rather not have so many posts in a row on the same subject matter, especially given that usually means my thoughts won’t be completely hashed out on the matter. I get the impression lately that I tend to be moving towards longer posts, rather than short and snappy, which is both good and bad — Hopefully I can find some happy medium for both, as writing a really long post isn’t something I can do on a day-to-day or every-other-day basis.

Predelictions

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Personal

So I’m finishing up work on a major project and, though I’m not yet done, I can’t keep my mind from wandering to other things.

After reading Shamus’ DM of the Rings for months now, I’m feeling inspired to watch the whole series of movies again. But then I got to thinking about it, and it’s been at least a decade since I’ve read the books. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any fantasy novels of any kind — The last few have all been George R. R. Martin books and before that I tried reading Robert Jordan before deciding his series was going nowhere and was too derivative. So I figure I’ll probably start reading the books again, which will hone my knowledge of Tolkein for the inevitable internet battles.

And, what the heck? I may even get around to doing the WoAdWriMo ideas. And possibly start up my D&D campaign again. And I can paint my Circle Orboros army … Hmm, sounds like an excessive amount of geekery coming up.

Yikes – Update

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Miscellaneous, Personal

Wow, it’s been over a week since my last update? I’ve been kicking my tail with work all week and crossing my fingers that my home computer, which has tons of critical data on it, won’t die.

I’ve got a major backlog of posts that I haven’t gotten around to writing. Way too many Hordes battle reports with my army from over the past three weeks, amongst television, movies, gaming, and other things.

For the time being, since I’m spending pretty much all my waking hours working, I’ve been having a pretty good time listening to various podcasts. Shamus was on Fear the Boot two weeks ago and I’ve been having a good time listening to the guys on that ‘cast banter back and forth — humorous and thoughtful.

Along with that I’ve been listening to Fell Calls, a podcast about the Iron Kingdoms (which is the setting for Warmachine / Hordes tabletop wargames). Fell Calls really scratches my obsessive-compulsive desire to learn everything about the Iron Kingdoms due to my interest in Hordes.

And then there’s always the D&D Podcast with Mike Mearls and Dave Noonan. The latest one focuses on “Magic Items” or as it’s more colloquially known — loot.

Probably not going to have too much free time for the blog in the next few weeks, but hopefully that should mean situation normal, since I’m always pressed for time.

But Thinking Makes It So

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Personal, Technology

I was thinking the other day about how much time I really end up spending doing maintenance sort of work on my computer. Specifically, on this Windows machine as opposed to my Mac. All of the antivirus, antispyware, anti-everything-else that targets or afflicts only Windows machines. If I weren’t doing development that required me to primarily use Windows I’d gladly move on back to OS X.

So today I’m browsing the web and listening to music and my computer crashes — to a BSOD. Wonderful.

I turn the machine off, go grab myself a drink and sit down for a few minutes, then come back to it. Boot it up, everything looks okay, no obvious error messages. Start up Firefox again, get back into the swing of things for an hour or two… And get hit by another BSOD.

I’m really hoping this isn’t going to continue.

Talking on the phone the other day, one of the guys in the D&D group apparently had a critical computer issue not too long ago. The whole thing apparently was so clogged with dust that the fan stopped working and some parts melted. I had just finished sending him an email asking if I could buy his used parts cheap when my first BSOD hit. So after the second one I opened up the case and did a little cleaning, but it wasn’t all that bad in there for a computer.

Other than the dust issue or possibly one of the new programs I just installed a day or two ago, I’m drawing a blank. And that’s a bad thing. So hopefully I can diagnose whatever the issue is if it continues, though in an even better future I won’t have any more such problems.

Reflections

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Administrativa, Personal

Well, the first year of this blog being up and active has gone by. This is day one of a new year.

In retrospect, this blog has kind of gone in a different direction than I expected. Slightly more emphasis on the whole gaming and geekery aspect than I originally intended. That’s not really a bad thing, just not exactly what I was anticipating — I suppose realistically that comes from general time constraints. When I write here it’s in the time I would normally spend on other hobbies, and so there’s a lot of overlap. Writing about D&D or videogames or (more recently) tabletop wargames is just another way to sit down and ponder the intricacies of their respective systems without necessarily playing them or spending wasting time reading forums.

Seeing as how a year has passed, I’m pondering whether I should do something with the theme, or perhaps “re-branding” (so-to-speak) the site with a more game-centric title and tagline and all that? If I didn’t know that I’m already too busy to be doing that sort of thing I’d consider it…

Guild Wars: Computerfall

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Games, Guild Wars, Personal

So, as you might’ve been able to tell, things have been a tad busy over here of late. For the time being, though, I’ve hit a little bit of a lull in work and other obligations.

A lot of really nice updates have hit Guild Wars recently: ArenaNet finally increased storage, and dramatically. Every campaign you own added another “storage tab” with as much storage as you previously had in total. A huge benefit to me, as I’m always overloaded with extra items. Last week we also saw the introduction of “Hard Mode” — It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it promises nice rewards for those who participate. Not to mention various other updates to skills, item drops, and titles that were rolled into effect simultaneously with Hard mode.

Either way, I felt like I might want to spend an hour or two running around Guild Wars, exploring, completing missions, and generally relaxing. So I started up the game, waited for all the updates to download, got my bearings, then went about my business. I started exploring an area … And died. My party wiped out and I went to go try again.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that I generally don’t like to wipe out and start over on an area that I’m exploring. My exploration process is pretty systematic and I like to see every step that I’ve taken in an area plotted out if I can at all help it. So I loaded up on as many henchmen as I could take and ventured out again. Things were looking good for the first fifteen or so minutes … I managed to clear most of the entire map. And then my computer crashed.

I restarted my computer, logged in to Guild Wars, and fortunately only a few minutes had passed — Around Christmas ArenaNet rolled in a feature that allows you to reconnect to an instance you were in if you happen to disconnect. So I logged in to the previous instance I was in and continued clearing the area — Unfortunately, all of my previous map-progress was lost, and this irritated me, but at least I was back where I had been.

I cleared the entire area … And then my computer crashed. I restarted, logged in, continued on. A fluke, right? Won’t happen three times, right? Wrong. Ten minutes later another crash. I tried this about five times and I can’t accept that this many crashes in the space of an hour or so is a fluke.

Each time I managed to get into the game just enough to hit my stride and then all of a sudden the game freezes. My sound card stutters madly. My mouse does nothing, my computer doesn’t respond at all. It’s all very irritating. Since I haven’t changed anything significant on my computer I have a hard time believing it’s anything other than the latest patches to the game. That, too, irritates me. I read the patch list, I get excited for everything I see only to have it denied to me, and worse, denied by the very patch itself.

Oh well. I suppose I’ll wait around until the next patch rolls around and then maybe I’ll be able to play the game again for periods longer than ten minutes.

Setting Planning: Pantheon Thoughts

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Personal, RPGs

I’ve been thinking a bit about what I want to do with my D&D campaign setting. Ideally I’d like to start it up again “soon” (whatever that means). However, since I’m not currently running the game I have the opportunity to play around with setting details to create a more interesting campaign setting to play in. One specific area that I’m thinking of doing some major changes to is the pantheon of my world.

A little bit of exposition: In my campaign setting there are about 13 major gods. This isn’t a huge number but it is a significant number. The trouble is, in any homebrew campaign setting you’re essentially throwing out a lot of the passively accumulated knowledge that players may have. In some senses this is good, because you’re throwing out the expectations for established D&D settings. But when it comes to actually interacting with the environment it helps if you know who you’re dealing with, why they’re doing what they’re doing, and all of those other critical questions. Your players might not know everything about the setting, but if you’re like me you’ve been encountering Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk material for decades. Even though I’ve never consciously set out to learn about either of these settings I know enough that it’s very helpful.

So what can you do? I don’t like throwing thirteen (and, in reality, about fifty major gods, but thirteen primary ones) names at players and expecting them to remember them. They need to remember plot events, character names … Having huge rote memorization tasks to function effectively in the setting is not something that I want.

I’ve decided that I probably want to pare my “Olympian” gods (So to speak) down to twelve. If I can think of a way to do so, what I really want to do is pare it down even further to something like Guild Wars’ pantheon. In Guild Wars you have five gods: Balthazar, Dwayna, Grenth, Melandru, and Lyssa. There are other lesser deity figures, but they aren’t the sort of figures you need to know to grasp the general setup of the religion of the gameworld. Another interesting thing Guild Wars does to add a bit of flavor is to reference the gods in many of the skill names (e.g. “Dwayna’s Kiss,” a Monk spell that does healing). Assuming I wanted to, I could reprint all of the classes from Iron Heroes with modified skill / feat names. Unfortunately, unless I printed out a couple of nicely bound copies of this modified material I think this would just be a headache for referencing purposes.

The real trouble is, I don’t know if I can do what I want with the religions of the gameworld and simplify things down to five or six major deities. The sort of twist I want to put on the religions in the campaign world is pretty academic and thus I’m inclined toward basing my fictional polytheistic religion on … real polytheistic religions. Having an obviously artificial system like Guild Wars’ is nice for players because each core class is basically associated with one god and everything stacks up nicely. Unfortunately I’m coming to believe that the messiness inherent in real life polytheism is antithetical to the goal of making a religious pantheon easy to handle for players.

The one thing that I’ve been strongly considering as of late is to simply throw out the idea of creating a unique pantheon. Why not simply utilize a real pantheon like that of the Greeks? I have to say the possibility holds some appeal. It resolves my own hangups about believability and complexity. At the same time, I’m sure the players in my group know who Zeus is, they know who Apollo is, and so on and so forth. Virtually everyone has at least some background with the Greek/Roman pantheons, whether it’s from school or God of War.

This is seriously tempting.

Battle Report 1: Circle vs. Menoth

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Miscellaneous, Personal

As my first game of Hordes I was playing against a friend of mine who is also a novice player, or at least one who hadn’t played Warmachine/Hordes in a very long time.

My army was this:

Circle Orboros
Kaya – 57pts
Argus x 2 – 108pts
Warpwolf x2 – 216pts
Total – 381pts

I’m a bit fuzzier on my opponent’s army, but I’ll make a rough approximation of what I remember it being:

Protectorate of Menoth
High Exemplar Kreoss
(1 Heavy Warjack), Crusader(?)
(3 Light Warjacks), Repenter, Revenger, Redeemer (?)
Total – 390pts

Now both of us, as I mentioned, were pretty new to the game, so to speak. I was constantly referring to the quickstart rules, and it took me awhile to get the hang of things.

We rolled off for initiative. I won initiative, so I would go first. We chose a random amount of terrain, two hills, and three forests, then deployed our forces.

In deployment I was a bit foolish as I split my army up into two “task forces.” The idea was to have one main group consisting of Kaya, a Warpwolf, and an Argus to engage the enemy. The spare Warpwolf and Argus would move up the other side of the board, attempting to move into a flanking position so that at an opportune time I could charge in with my additional heavy and wreak some havok.

While I think this sounds pretty reasonable, the fact of the matter is that I was deploying a good part of my army outside of Kaya’s control radius. I didn’t realize this at first, but that pretty much makes a lot of the power of a Warbeast (the ability to force them while within the Warlock’s control radius) wasted. On turn three and four I moved my second “task force” back into control range, but… Anyway.

Turn 1, Circle:
I force all of my warbeasts to run forward, Warpwolves warping for +2″ of speed. My forces move basically 14″ up the board. The enemy’s main force has clear LOS to my main task force, which is advancing on the right side of the board. However, I use Kaya’s “Cloak of Mists” spell on her and the other units in task force 1. Stealth prevents units from further than 5″ away from targetting the units. My secondary task force (WWolf2 & Argus2) attempts to gain a little bit of cover by sitting in the shadow of a forest on the left side of the board.

(Elided here are the rules-futzing which caused me to conclude that my beasts would all have to make threshhold checks on turn 1 because I hadn’t spent any of their fury. I had my Warpwolf in task force 2 frenzy and destroy the nearby Argus…)

Turn 1, Menoth:

Menoth, seeing my two-pronged approach, also splits his forces into two groups. One group consists of his Warcaster, his heavy warjack, and a light warjack; This group moved about three inches and took cover behind a nearby hill, obviously plotting to come out around the hill and charge my primary task force. His second group consists of two light warjacks, one of them with some sort of rocket launcher weapon. He moved these units about 3″ towards the left side of the board to present an obstacle to my secondary task force. One of the light warjacks had some sort of rocket launcher, which he attempted to target against my Warlock. However, since all of my task force was under Stealth he was unable to target them directly (since I believe the rocket launcher is an AoE he might’ve been able to do so anyway, but we didn’t realize this at the time). He fired a rocket at the Warp Wolf in my second task force and completely missed.

Turn 2, Circle:
At this point, having deployed at 12″ from the table edge and moved 14″ the previous turn, and Menoth having deployed 12″ from the table edge and moved an additional 3″, I was able to make a 9″ charge with my Warpwolf. I had him warp for +2 Strength and charged him headlong into the Menoth heavy warjack that was staring me down from the side of a nearby hill, a light warjack and his warcaster not far behind. The Circle is not one to mince words, and my designs were to control the battlefield by having complete control over any engagements — Letting myself get charged was not an option.

My Warpwolf charged in, the charge adding one fury token to his total pool. The first claw did some fairly significant damage, especially having been boosted from the charge. With his second claw attack I boosted the attack to make sure it hit, as the Warpwolf has another ability called “Throat-Ripper” that can trigger if he connects with both claw attacks. Both claws hit, and the Menoth heavy warjack was definitely feeling some pain. Then I followed up with Throat-Ripper, an attack that knocks down the enemy and does one point of damage to every system or aspect. This pretty much put the nail in the coffin of the Menoth heavy warjack, knocking it down and disabling three of its systems.

Kaya and my Argus moved up somewhat. My second task force found themselves outside of the control radius of Kaya, so I couldn’t force them. Rather than moving them into the open but within control range, I moved them into the nearby forest for cover. The battle was going my way on the other side of the board and they were doing well enough to draw off two enemy warjacks.

Turn 2, Menoth:

Menoth’s situation, though he didn’t know it yet, was grim. His caster was sitting a few inches away from his disabled heavy Warjack and the only thing that stood in the way of my Warpwolf charging his caster was a light Warjack. After virtually wiping out a heavy Warjack in one turn I was confident my Warpwolf could eat his light jack for dessert.

His caster used a spell on his light warjack, boosting it somewhat. He then used his feat, which knocked down every enemy unit in his command area (which included my Wolf, Kaya, and my Argust). His light warjack then charged my Warpwolf. The damage was significant, but as the Warpwolf’s body is constantly in flux, I could allocate the damage where I wished. My Warpwolf’s mind aspect was disabled and much of his body aspect, but I planned on having him regenerate the next turn to return him to full operating strength.

The other two Menoth light warjacks didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. Another rocket launcher shot flew past my Warpwolf in task force two, doing nothing.

Turn 3, Circle:

My Warpwolf regenerated a few points of damage, stood up, and then turned his attention to the upstart little warjack that dared to attack him. Two claw attacks and a throat-ripper later and the light warjack was a light pile of mechanical scrap. With the threats out of the way, I had my Argus and Kaya stand up and move forward. They were in perfect position to charge at the enemy Warcaster next turn.

Feeling the battle was mostly over at this point, and that there would be no way for me to screw it up, I moved my Wolf and Argus in task force two out in the open and more towards Kaya. I decided I may as well try to pile in on his Warcaster with everything I had. If his two light Warjacks got in the way, I figured I could scrap them too after seeing my Warpwolf do such a number on the other Menoth jacks.

Turn 3, Menoth:

Menoth’s warcaster used one of his remaining light warjacks as an arcnode to cast some sort of lighting spell that struck out at my Warpwolf in task force 2. It did some damage, but nothing crippling. The remaining two Menoth warjacks remained in position and didn’t attempt to move over to guard his warcaster. A rocket flew out towards my exposed task force 2, but did nothing.

Turn 4, Circle:

Kaya, my Warpwolf, and my Argus charged Kreoss. Menoth resigned the game.

Victory number 1. A pretty good start for starting out completely ignorant of the rules.

Switching and Keeping Allegiances

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Culture, Personal, Visual

My discontent with Battlestar Galactica has been growing for some time now, and ever since the season finale I’ve been mulling whether I want to continue watching the show. You see, Battlestar Galactica right now is rather odd — It’s got great acting, cinematography, and is overall a damned intense, dramatic show.

The thing is, I don’t care.

It started in the second half of season 2. We started having episodes where things that happened off-screen, presumably in prior episodes, became important features of current episodes. Episodes began to be pulled by these invisible strings, and though they certainly twisted each character into tangled positions, their struggles something that I could empathize with, the arbitrariness of it all began to put me off. This continued with Season 3. We got no answers to any of the questions. Why did the Cylons wipe out all of the humans at the start of season 1 and then decide at the end of season 2 they wanted to live in peace? If the Cylons really wanted to live in peace with the humans, as they claim, why put people in death camps? These are big questions, huge questions, but we never know. We just got more twists, more questions, less coherency.

Starbuck dies in some meaningless way only to return two episodes later. Arabic renditions of Dylan music plays through space. Important and unimportant characters are presumably revealed to be Cylons. Who knows what it all means? More importantly, who cares? I thought this show was going to avoid the pitfall of American TV, the aimless wandering with all the pointless plot-stretching, but I was wrong.

Anyway, as I indicated in a previous comment, I’m pretty much deciding not to care anymore. This does kind of leave me with a gap in my passive recreational activities, though. I’ve probably seen every Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and don’t care to watch many again. Heroes is on hiatus until April 23rd, and even then it’s probably only going to come back for maybe four episodes before the season ends and there’s a six-month drought. So I’m kind of looking for something that I can watch when I just want to sit down and relax.

Andromeda1

Enter Andromeda.

I remember a long time ago when this show was on the air getting the impression that it was pretty much Hercules: The Legendary Journeys … in Space! I have to say, though, my TiVo has occasionally been picking up episodes of the show and I’ve ended up watching a few and being pleasantly surprised.

What I’ve watched isn’t anything spectacular. It’s pretty standard-fare space-opera with a few interesting twists here and there: One being Lexa Doig, who is definitely worth watching even if she is a sort of generic beauty, and the other being the Tyr Anasazi character ,whose whole ‘Nietzschean’ angle intrigues me. Even if it doesn’t end up having critical acclaim or supposed parallels to contemporary events or great acting and drama, what it does have so far from what I can tell is good old-fashioned storytelling.

I find it kind of funny, actually, how earlier today I come across this post by Shamus on Steven Den Beste’s impromptu manifesto against our cultural elites … And all throughout writing this I’m thinking of Michael Blowhardian themes of “our elites have turned against us” and “Why does the lit-world care all about the writin’ and none about the good-old craftsmanship of storytelling?”

Ah, well, good company I guess.