Games, drumming, juggling, home improvements, cooking, comics, dogs, macs, music, etc.

Squall - probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse skval: useless chatter (Merriam-Webster)
It's my goal to have the LONGEST blog pages around. Kind of.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sanctuary - Characters

Here's a list of the players and characters. The Green Ronin (GR) books offered an option called 'character clusters' which allows players to have multiple characters. They don't necessarily have to be linked, but I think it is better if they are. The player can choose which character to play, generally for each session or 'scene change'. With multiple characters, this option adds to the retinue of the party.

Crude Jack - Fighter / Barbarian
Jack is a common name, so all who know him call him "Crude Jack", mostly because of his love for the simple pleasures of wine, brawls, and, of course, women. He says what's on his mind, and usually doesn't use the polite words, hence he's fairly crude. Pretty things in dresses and a good fight keep Jack happy, and earned him his nickname.

Gagino La Grave – Merchant
Kalima La Grave – GodSworn of Sebelia.
Our first character cluster, Gagino is the father of Kalima, but in a long-lost way. The first few games had elements of Gagino looking for Kalima. Gagino is a S'Danzo merchant class with a permanent spot in the Bazaar, and is the party's fence. Of a completely different life, Kalima was brought up in the Ranken church of Sabelia, and is thus a GodSworn class (similar to a Cleric). Kalima is part S'Danzo and part Rankene, making an interesting internal conflict.

Malkar – Bounty Hunter
Raised outside of the city, this young man visits Sanctuary on errand runs for his family. Lately, he seems to be in the city more often than not. While at home in the wilderness, the city is its own wilderness, to which Malkar is fast coming to terms with. Tracking your prey in the city relies on verbal trails more than physical ones.

Modig Olvir – Spy/Information Merchant/Thief
A quiet footpad who skulks the streets; listening, watching, plotting and generally up to no good, except he's fallen in with this gang, who seem to be a batch of culls. He's found himself applying his skills to other's benefits, not just his own.

Khira Bloodbane – Witch/Con Artist
Elorin – Rankan Noble’s son
This character cluster is a Romeo and Juliet situation, except without the love. Each get what they want from the other, and it's an amenable situation.
Khira is an entity completely on her own, but uses Elorin for information, baubles, and anything that can get her ahead; perfect for this town of miscreants. Elorin likes Khira for everything she's not: Not noble, not Rankene, not approved by his parents, etc. Elorin is spoiled and selfish. Almost two peas in a pod.

Nickolas – Assassin
A different shade of black, this one is. While the group tends to avoid direct confrontation as a whole, Nikolas seeks it out; as long as he has the upper hand. Dirty work abounds for this one, and he relishes in it.

Brennus - Warlock
New to town and a bookish lad, Brennus is prime pickings for the scourge that roam the streets. With his smarts, he's working in the information trade, although mostly on papers at the scriptorium. Magic is his secret weapon for now..

Next post for Sanctuary will be the first story they went through.. "Murder At The Vulgar Unicorn".

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mmmmmmmmm.... Waffles

A few years back, Meran bought me a wonderful new toy / appliance. A Waring Belgian waffle maker. I had been traveling a lot for work and found that my preferred chain of hotels often had a waffle maker and waffle batter in a 'ready to make your own' mode. I got used to it, and I had gotten to really like waffles. So, in comes a new waffle maker and my hunt for the perfect waffle was on. It didn't take long to find it. It's the "Carbon's Golden Malted" waffle mix. And, this is what is present in my favorite breakfast buffet at the hotels, too.. I was happy, I had even found 10 lb bags of it so I (A) wouldn't run out, (B) saved money by buying the mix in bulk. So, I recommend you finding / trying it..

Now, fast forward another year or so, and Meran and I have transferred to a gluten-free (GF) diet. This means no wheat, rye or barley (are the big contenders). This means we now avoid most products we are used to; bread, beer, soy sauce, bisquick, malt vinegar, anything breaded, etc, etc, etc.. So, this means no more malted waffles for me.

And the new quest is to find a good, nay, an excellent gluten-free waffle mix / recipe. I had tried a few with poor results, until this weekend. I used an off-the-shelf product , which these were varying in results, but we've tried this brand before and were generally pleased with the other products. Kinnikinnick - tough name, but good GF products. Others we have tried are Arrowroot, Bob's Red Mill, and some I forgot. Some were good, some were awful, and some didn't even make a good waffle at all -- they were wet and didn't 'bake'.. ruddy mess... I should have noted the BAD brands, but I wasn't blogging then, so you'll have to just avoid them by using this one. The picture is one of the actual waffles I made - and ate!
And that is my waffle post.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

New Look..

I changed the template.. I was sick of having my browser wide, and having the blog in a skinny column. So I changed it. comments? hate it? love it? lemme know...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sanctuary - Prelude

First off, Sanctuary is the name of the town where the game is centered. It is from the Thieves' World books, edited originally by Robert Asprin. Here are some links:
Wikipedia's entry
Lynn Abbey's site

I used to run a game in an old home-brew RPG system, which I will NOT get into here. When Green Ronin announced the Thieves' World books for d20 (which Joe told me about initially) I went NUTS! I already liked d20, and we'd been playing a few d20 variants already:
Babylon 5 - from mongoose publishing
Conan - also from Mongoose publishing
d20 Modern - from Wizards of the Coast (WOTC)

As a group, we had issues with 'second hand' publishers (IE Mongoose) because of the massive number of typo's, errata, missing information and generally a sub-standard product line. So, I was wary of the d20 Thieves' World offering. But, my hopes outweighed my wariness, and I plunged in and got the 4 books available at the time, both in hard copy AND PDF. No toe test for me, I dove in.. Spent a pretty penny on my TW addiction. After looking through the books, I was very glad I did. The folks at Green Ronin do a top notch job at publishing stuff. I was impressed and giddy as a school girl. I took the books, consumed them over and over again, took them with me when I traveled and generally lived, breathed and ate Sanctuary.

Green Ronin's series of books for d20:
Thieves' World Player's Manual
Thieves' World: Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary
Thieves' World Gazetteer
I ran the module
Thieves' World: Murder at the Vulgar Unicorn

One note on the module; it's set in the 'Irunne Era', and since I've really only read the first 5 or 6 books (there are now 14) and my key time period is the 'Ranken Era', I didn't want to start my game 50 years from what I was familiar from. So, I modified the module to fit in the time period I had chosen, which is actually BEFORE the books start. The books start with Prince Kadikithis taking rule of the city with his Ranken Elite (Hell Hounds) soldiers. I set my game to about a month before this event. Then, when the adventure was over, it would tie into the Prince coming into the city, and the introduction of the iron fist that would be the Ranken Elite (Zalbar, Tempus, etc). Plus, it gave me opportunity to introduce the gang to Jubal, and the city in general. I thought it worked out well.

With that game introduction done, next I would like to introduce the players and characters, and end this posting. The next Sanctuary post will be the edited log that I kept for the game, and I will post in parts.. mostly significant story arcs. To date, I have "Murder at the Vulgar Unicorn", "The False Prince", and "Elinbar Steel". The game group is on a Sanctuary hiatus currently, but I am trying to re-engage the group.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poor Grendel..

Our 2nd oldest dog, Grendel - a Cairn Terrier, recently (Tuesday!) had an abscess on his head. His abscess is healing, but he's sitting in my office looking pitiful, so I thought I'd share. Last year, he had a skin condition that was causing his face to scab up and fall away, and he was left with little to no fur, and raw skin all over his face. We had blood tests done, and they gave him 3 weeks to a month to live, due to liver issues. Well, we cleared all that up by changing foods. Candy is now cooking doggie stew for all our dogs, and all are doing well on the home cooked food. And Grendel? He's 11 months overdue from his 'death date'. We still call him Eeyore, tho.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Board Games

I've recently (well, the last 4 years) gotten into board games a lot more heavily. I've always played a few that were 'adult' - meaning mature and thinking, not erotic. My games collection tended heavily towards Avalon Hill. My favorite is Titan. I played the quintessential "Settlers of Cataan" and that, like most people, opened my eyes to the new breed of games. Most people like to call them EuroGames. "Euro" boardgames generally refer to the newer style of boardgames that have arisen out of the game trends started quite few years back with "Settlers" (as we geeks refer to it as).

So what? Board games should be called bored games, cuz you're bored while playing them. That's what most most people think about games, and some are amazed I tell them I play board games. Inevitably, they spark up with dull gems like Monopoly, Sorry, or even CandyLand (I'm over 30, you think I am playing CandyLand??? Boot to the Head!) Jeez. Even Clue is a moderately decent game, but no, I don't play those.

EuroGame play is completely different from a typical Parker Brothers/Milton Bradley style board game - where you only really do any one thing on your turn, and then can go and make a sandwich while everybody does their turns and you wait until it comes around to your turn again. Another Boot To the Head. "Euro" games require you to pay attention throughout the entire game. In fact, many "Euro" game mechanics have an interconnected style of interaction, such that it is never, necessarily, any *one* person's turn. Instead of a game where you pay attention 1/3 or 1/5 of the time, you have a game where there is *always* something for your brain to be mulling around; in a good way! You wind up very engaged for the entire length of time of the game.

Even my favorite game "Titan" lacks a lot of what I like about EuroGames. Most games that I like have interactions like auctions, trading, etc. And a non-elimination element. Plus, Titan takes a long time to play - I still say it is an excellent two player game, because of the elimination and time elements.

Some of my current favorite games are Power Grid, Domaine, Brass, ElfenLand, Evo, Kaivai, and more. Oh, and I love them racing games: Formula De, Das Motorsportspiel, and Ave Caesar!

I've been playing at a friends house for these four years, and I must say that I have enjoyed it very much. The first year, I don't think I played the same game twice, and I wish I was tracking my game play on "The Geek" then... I only recently started tracking my games played - see the side of my blog, it shows my last 10 games I've played - not including RPGs - but that's another long ass post.

Finally, for the best insight into the Euro board game revolution, and the types of games which it has spawned, definitely check out the greatest board game website out there.

Using reviews on "The Geek" have helped me make my board game purchases. Although playing the game first (usually at Ben's house) also helps me decide to buy it or not.

Finally, Game on!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Juggling intro

I am posting about my various hobbies, and basically starting threads of my interests so that folks can see my various threads, and decide what they want to read about.. So, this post is about juggling.

Juggling is a great way for me to get up and stand - since I sit at a computer all day. and it's nice to have a hobby that is not sitting. I'll make this post short and sweet (in comparison to my previous diatribes).

What I can do:
2 in one hand, parallel and circles.

3 balls, and about a dozen or so tricks including:
Tennis, the Machine (still working on left side, tho), reverse cascade, under the leg, etc.

3 in one hand - tho 6 throws and catches is my best, currently.

4 balls, basically just synchronous and asynchronous, non-crossing (2 in each hand).

5 Balls, well, I can barely do it. 9 throws & catches is my current best.

3 scarves. Just cuz I can say it.

3 clubs. No real good tricks, but I am passing fairly well with others.

The COOLEST site for learning new tricks:

I am working on 3 club tricks (behind the back, under the leg, overhead, etc.) and 5 balls primarily. With 3 in one hand being my next goal.

Oh, and I am proud to say that I sewed my own juggling bags (balls). I used a faux suede and filled 'em with millet. I also weighed each one so they all weigh the same. I am very pleased with how they came out. Check 'em out, all purpley 'n greeen.

And two sizes, small ones are a simple 6 panel design, about 2" in diameter and weigh 70g. The larger ones are a 12 panel design, about 2.5" in diameter and weigh 130g.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Revamping of the drum kit..

First Guitar Hero and then Rock Band.. I only own Guitar Hero, and a few friends own Rock Band. I drummed a while back (long time? 10 or so years since I seriously hit the skins) and even was in a band. It was a fun experience, but I knew I wasn't a pro drummer, and I should move on with my computer / geek job / career. So now, 10 years later, and I am getting the itch, thanks to the aforementioned video games.

I am back on track to getting my drumkit back up and going. I should mention, that the kit is electronic.. I have custom drumpads and had used an old Roland PM-16 (So old, Roland doesn't even list it in their legacy products.. sheeesh..). And the PM-16 is on it's death bed - 16 inputs (hence the 16 in PM-16) and 7 of them are bad. So, I look for something new and shiny. With the PM-16, it was merely a MIDI interface, no on-board sounds, so I had an EMAX sampling keyboard for the sound source, and I sold that long ago. I had purchased an Alesis SR-16 but found it was seriously lacking; or I wasn't getting it to set up right - I gave up pretty easily on this one. So, with 2 items going weird on me, it was time to look for a newish drum 'brain'. This was in 2006ish.. and I didn't know what I was looking for and wasn't interested in doing a bunch of research, so, I EBAY'd another PM-16. This was after a friend of mine basically gave me his KORG 01 Keyboard. It has broken keys, but I won't be using the keys much, so it's a great free sound source.

This is where I was before, PM-16, and a keyboard. I set it up, and was moderately intrigued, but not excited. Then, we decided to renovate the room it was in, so, the kit was basically packed away.

Until 5 months ago.. when I started playing those accursed games, that also please me to no end. And I started looking for information.. And this time, I was serious.

I found forums, people, bits, pieces and a few sinks, too. First off, let me say that electronic cymbal technology has come a long, long way in a decade. Variable hi-hats with positional sounds (open [full, half, 3/4, 1/4], close, foot splash, etc.) and crash cymbals that choke, dual zone rides (bell and bow). And now, three zone cymbals (bow, bell and edge) with choke. Baffling.. So, I decided to go 100% electronic. a-yup, I used e-drums and acoustic cymbals in the 90's.. now, I can use e-cymbals.

Anyway, long story short, I bought some e-cymbals (PinTech), and a new module. I am still using the KORG, and the new module is still a MIDI only module - an Alesis Trigger I/O. Overall, I am pretty darn happy with it. Now, I am practicing a few times a week - oh, I got a cheapo 5 channel mixer, and I mix in my iPod so I can practice / play to anything. Sweeeet.

I will keep posting on this topic as I get back into the groove (for me..), make mods to the kit, etc. I'll post pics, too.

If interested, check out these forums I visit often: - My favorite - Great for online lessons and general drumming stuff - Good stuff, a little too much of a Roland slant, but that's their name - VDrums..