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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mini E-kit

I've been working on a new set of e-drums using acoustic shells. I am still working on the final arrangement for a full posting of THAT project. But, as was the plan, I was going to use part of the full kit to use as a mini kit for the PS3 - for Rock Band and Guitar Hero use.

Key to this was finding out that GH4 came with one of those cheap, lame drum kits, but it had a MIDI input in the kit. I figured if the drum kit came with a MIDI option, then a MIDI converter without a crappy drum kit would soon be an option. Well, not an official one, but I did find one. IF you are on the Rock Band or Guitar Hero forums online, you'll probably find the 'Seth' MIDI-PS3 adapter. Well, I did, and I bought it. It took me about a year to finally hook it up to a drum kit, and play with it. Basically, my existing drum brain (to MIDI) is an Alesis IO. This then sends MIDI to the 'Sethbox' converter, which acts as a PS3 adapter and controller - it's got all the buttons like the square, triangle, circle, x and the Start PS3 and select buttons. Much like the drum kit controllers for the PS3 or any other console.

So, on to the details and pictures!


Implements of construction: hacksaw and file for cutting and de-burring the strut, nuts bolts, washers, wrenches, brackets, braces, extra strut, flannel shirt (cutting strut outside in the cold!) and an extra 1/4" patch cable. And, etc.

This is it. I built the rack out of my typical Super Strut rack construction. The feet are 18" long, and the verticals and horizontal are 24" long / tall. The 18" bass drum (12" deep) fits in great, with some room to spare. I am happy how this ended up fitting together.

Rotating around a bit, you can see the toms and snare. I opted to use my e-snare on a snare stand like a typical drum kit rather than 4 toms mounted on the rack. Mostly for space reasons. I'd need a longer bar for 4 toms, and I like the visual of the snare.
The white caps on the strut are to minimize clothing and carpet snags from the cut ends of the strut - even tho I filed it smooth, can't be too careful for Meran!

Another angle. One tom head is white - it's the first mesh head I got - I bought it. Making the black mesh heads myself is more cost effective. The green 'dots' are nerf gun bullets (2" in diameter) cut in half to serve as a dome for the piezo underneath. Roland vdrums uses foam 'cones' and cost about $8 each. I got 10 'domes' for $5.

Mostly straight-on front view. I plan on making the back resonant head out of mesh eventually. I cut a hole in the mylar head because I was getting some resonant sound from it when it was whole. I'm trying to cut down on as much acoustical noise as possible.

Higher angle

Top view, it's pretty compact!! I plan to add my electronic hi-hat and 2 e-cymbals for more realism during play. All it takes is duplication of Rock Band / GH colors on the game to map to the additional bits. Example: Blue is used in Rock band for a middle tom, a ride and the open hi-hat sound. I can map the second (middle) tom to blue, my electronic ride, and the open action on the hi-hat to all blue, so depending on the song I can use it more realistically. Or not, choice is yours on which blue to use.

Left side, nothing too new here


The "bits". The Alesis Trigger IO - translates the piezo signal from the pad to a MIDI signal. This normally goes to a laptop, keyboard or other MIDI sound source to produce the sounds.
The little white box is the 'Sethbox' or 'sethmeisterg's EDRUM-USB adapter" converter. Built by a RockBand forum member named Seth. This takes the MIDI signal from the IO and sends it to the PS3 for game play. It's also got the standard PS3 controller buttons - Square, Circle, Triangle, X, Select, Start and the PS3 button. It's also got flashing LEDs to indicate mode, setup and hit registers. I am impressed; it came with 20+ pages of documentation for some super customization and setup options.

Who's ready to give it a try?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Playing Cards and Dice Tower

I tell people not to bother with gifts for my for my birthday, but I usually get a good gift from Meran. This year was no different, with an added surprise.

First up, Meran's awesome card decks she found; a bunch of really cool deck themes, with some really good art in them, too.

First up, the Pirate deck! Yarr! Really neat and clever deck. All the Jacks, Queens and Kings are famous pirates, and have an antique feel and look to them.

The rest of the decks are from Bicycle and are all from their 'custom decks' line. Or magic decks. If I were into card tricks, these would be great to play around with and learn. They are also usable for regular cards. Cribbage or Poker, anyone?
And some I can't find reference to anymore:
  • Black Spider
  • Purple
  • Guardians
  • Black Scorpion
  • Black Light Glow in the Dark
If you want a unique deck of cards, check out Bicycle's arcane line.

I hosted a Titan game in my new game room, there will be a post for that soon, too (The game room, not Titan). Probably after Thanksgiving. One of my friends gave me some passes to get into the Portland Chinese Gardens. We've been to the Japanese Gardens (mostly for the Bonsai showings) but not the Chinese Gardens - we are looking forward to going.

I got a package from UPS today. It was from my brother-in-law, Dennis. I had an inkling this was coming, but I wasn't going to expect it, but enjoy it if / when it showed up. It was a dice tower. I love dice games, rolling dice, and dice towers. I've never really gotten around to making or even buying a dice tower, or a rolling surface. Best I ever did was to line my dice box with a soft, rubbery surface that Meran got for me at a hobby shop. It's a great surface - I may line this dice tower with it, but the cork Dennis used is probably sufficient. Anyway, the dice tower collapses for better / easier transport. Many of my friends' nice wooden dice towers are all-in-ones that are bulky to carry. Other friends have collapsible dice towers made from cardboard or even PVC pipe. Enough squall, on to the pictures:


Pretty cool, huh?


Here it is collapsed, ready for transport!

Close up of the dragon graphic.


That's my gift synopsis. If you don't know how old I am, I won't divulge that intel in this post. You'll just have to figure it out on your own. Here's to another year on the planet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green Chile

Green Chile - This is by far my favorite dish. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine (Brooke!) at a Rock Bottom Grill in downtown Denver. It was only offered as an appetizer in a cup like soup. I was hooked. I was constantly on the lookout for green chile in any restaurant. I found that it varies from a watery greenish sauce to a think, hearty stew. I tend to like the thicker stuff, not so much the watery stuff.

I've learned to cook it to the capacity where I enjoy it immensely, although I usually forget the cumin until late (usually Meran reminds me to put it in). We've done variants with potatoes instead of pork for a vegetarian green chile, and changed out some of the ingredients, but it is pretty consistent of Hatch chiles, tomatoes, pork, onions, garlic and spices to taste.

Whenever I make it, I am always trying to do different things with the end product; smother burritos, nachos, or quesadillas. Eat it alone as soup / stew, with flour tortillas. Huevos Rancheros. And during my last gallon of chile, it got me thinking. When I see (or saw) kids eating french fries, they didn't really eat the fries. The fries were mostly a ketchup delivery device. So, with all my burritos and various dishes, was I really just delegating them to a green chile delivery system of my own? Well, yes, I guess so. Although, I do eat it on its own, I also use it as a gravy or condiment of sorts.

With the last batch I made I committed a holy sin of Green Chile - I used canned chiles. I just haven't found a source of fresh fire-roasted green chiles in Oregon. I've heard rumors of an occasional farmer's market, but I haven't found anything solid. Oregon is a 'Chile free' zone, it seems. It's even tough to find big cans of green chiles. I can find big ass cans of jalapenos, but not green chiles. (I finally found them at WinCo and Cash & Carry.) This last batch, along with the cardinal sin of canned chiles, I used tomatillos instead of tomatoes, and that kept the green chile green! Boy howdy! It was a good experiment; I've seen recipes with tomatoes and tomatillos, and the tomatillos are a keeper. Now I gotta find fresh ones because, alas, these were canned, too. This whole batch was the 'canned chile' recipe. It still came out really good, tho.

What do you like YOUR green chile on?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Carport

Remember my post about the 30" of snow that took down our carport? If not, remind yourself of the carnage here. I'll wait while you go look.

Back? Okay, so, here's the NEW and IMPROVED carport. It's much sturdier, so we've upgraded its status to a shed. (Candy calls it a "garage extension".) We've got a concrete block base wall (there is a small hill behind it, so we wanted some water / soil proof barrier wall, but it didn't need to be the full height, so a 3-block-high base was built. Then the framing was put on top of that. We hired someone, so don't get all impressed that I did this myself. It went up while I was in Florida at a customer site. It was nice coming back and seeing this:
Here's a quick shot of our temporary storage area.. not covered.




The new structure sat there like that for a few weeks as I was still traveling. I finally got some siding on there. Kudos to Matt who came over and held up the other end of the 12' Hardie Plank siding.
Below is the old metal roofing, cleaned up for reuse.





Again, a few weeks pass. Then, the roofing. I recycled the original metal roofing. This time, Since I am an equal opportunity friend abuser, Jacob came over to help with the roofing. Candy took some action shots. Also, this was the first time I put my new Ryobi impact driver to some real work. I was impressed.

We put in two sections of some clear plastic roofing for some light. We'll see if the theory holds out.



That's the end of the post. I guess I had one more 'done' picture, but I don't. It's not that much different from the last shot here, though. There's still some work to be done, but for now, it is functional as an outside rain-free storage zone. And, I can move my table saw and use it as a work shop for the multitude of other endless projects.

Stay tuned.. the Game Room is reaching critical mass...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Portland Juggling Festival 2009

The weekend is over - well last weekend, it took me longer than anticipated to finish this post. Since I was traveling a lot right before the festival, I didn't do the Volunteer Coordinator this year. So, I volunteered to be put to work as "Gym Coordinator" and "Late Night Czar".

As Gym Coordinator, I was responsible for keeping the back door closed, general upkeep, and initial setup and cleanup at the end of the festival.

As Late Night Czar, I was there to open the doors for late night juggling and close the gym down at 2am, when we kicked all the jugglers out for the night. Kicking jugglers out at 2am is a lot tougher than you'd think. Like herding cats. it helped when security showed up, but not a lot.

Friday night Renegade Show - Late Friday night is 'Club Renegade'. This is a tradition for most juggling festivals for folks to do some acts that wouldn't be too acceptable for a public show. Beer (this year, tequila was added), partial nudity, and other questionable bits are to enjoyed.

Some of the top acts from the night:
  1. Rhys - Steven Hawking does stand-up. This bit was hilarious. Rhys was merely sitting in a wheel chair, head lilting off to the side, and a laptop in his lap. Meanwhile, over the PA, the sound of a Steven Hawking voice over. Jokes consisted of classic jokes with a science boost. (I just flew in from the outer nebula and boy are my arms imperceptibly younger). The jokes were pretty rough, but I hadn't laughed that hard in a while.
  2. Diabolo - Two guys, one was a narrator doing the Diaboloist's talking for him. The other was pretty damn good at the Diabolo. The voice-over / narration was funny, and contained a lot of Emu references for whatever reason.
  3. Devilstick - A lone soul looking for a place to stay was trying to work the crowd with good Devilstick skills. The crowd managed to convinced him to take off his shirt.. He found a place to stay.
  4. Bekka - From Vancouver, Canada. She's awesome! She does a lot of club tricks that involve rolling them and manipulating them around her body. Always fun to watch.
  5. Poki & Parasol - The bit consisted of a contact juggling routine with a parasol, lots of isolation tricks to make it seem like the parasol was under its own power. Poki's fantastic at object manipulation.
Saturday night Extravaganza - the big show!
First off, since I am volunteering and we volunteers can't always get to the theater in a timely fashion for some really good seats, we get seats saved for us, so we are guaranteed good seats. This year, I got the front row! Unfortunately, my friends had a family emergency come up and I was left with some open seats. I browsed around and found a small child and his father (Rob Brown - unicyclist and his son Quinn) to take up some killer seats with no heads in the way.

The show was awesome, as usual, here's are some of the highlights:
  1. Poki (and another guy, I forgot his name! Sorry!) This was awesome, they had on black suits and came out with their hands behind their backs. did some minor dance steps, and then, the big reveal, their arms were twice as long as they should be, and amazingly flexible. They had put gloves on the ends of some sticks and starting doing poi / swinging moves. It was fabulous! I thought it was clever and very well executed, too.
  2. Poetic Motion Machine. Club passing mania! 4 guys doing some very entertaining club passing, with some really long and high throws mixed in. Really fantastic.
  3. Sweet Can - A slack rope routine that was very good, and then, she lays on her back (on the slack rope) and does foot juggling with a rolled up carpet. Very entertaining.
  4. Curtis Carlyle did a bit where he got an audience member to help him as he worked his body through a tennis racket. Great bit, good jokes, and fun.
  5. Last year, we had a Japanese champion unicyclist. This year, Kawri returned, and was joined by another champion unicyclist. They each did a routine, then they did a duet routine. Really amazing uni-cycling!
  6. Sean Blue - the headliner. He did ball spinning with small balls, contact juggling, and some high number juggling. Some of his ring manipulation / juggling was very visually incredible.
After the show, back to Reed for late night juggling!

On the last day, Sunday, Bernard hosted some juggling games. This consisted of a few games:
  1. Club collecting contest - I managed 14. The winner of the game did 68.
  2. Quarters - each contestant juggles 3 quarters. when you drop, throw your quarters in the middle. Last person juggling takes 'em all.
  3. Club passing for distance - done like an egg toss. Standard 4 count passing, and every 2 rotations (8 throws) one of them takes a step back. The winners were from the Poetic Motion Machine group, and were probably 40-50 feet apart.
  4. Combat - Juggle 3 clubs, everyone runs around trying to get others to drop by either using your clubs to hit other clubs, or just however it happens. Last person juggling wins. This game went on for at least an hour with a lot of rounds happening. I know this was Bernard's favorite.
Well, that's the report. No pictures this year, I think juggling pictures are kinda weak, I can take a picture of me 'juggling' 7 or 9 balls.. it really needs to be video. Last year I got some good pictures of people passing clubs from unicycles, but really, how many pictures of that do I need to post? It was a great time, and I am already looking forward to next year's festival!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9 Review

I didn't really know about it much before I saw it. I heard some DJs spouting about it on the radio, and I decided it was going to be different than what I thought it would be. And it was even different from that. I think it was a Alien Nation meets Starship Troopers; Alien Nation due to the race trying to live with humans. Starship Troopers due to the total mayhem of guns, explosions and humans popping like meat balloons. But in a fun way. I'd see it again, but I wouldn't pay over $5 for it - so in a 'second' theater or if it comes out on DVD, I might NetFlix it. I probably wouldn't buy it on DVD, but I wouldn't throw it away if I got it as a gift.

But, I digress. The movie was produced by Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson. And the movie is an extended version of a short film made by the director, Neill Blomkamp.

I liked it because of the political / social commentary. And the first few blood bag meat explosions. There was some witty comments and dialog, but my favorite part was the mech scene. When you see it, you'll know what I am talking about. Much like something out of a Japanese anime, but not Japanese, and not anime. The mech was well done, as was all of the CGI, and they did the scene justice all the way through to the end. It was long enough to get the maximum out of the mech, without it getting campy or overdone. And more blood bag meat explosions.

This movie had the best CGI I've seen in a while. I do think the aliens were a little over-detailed - but they were still damn good. I am very glad I saw it on the big screen. Some movies I've wished I would have seen on the big screen, and others I bummed shelling out $10 per ticket (or$7.50, as we tend to go to daytime showings as much as possible when we go).

There was a lot of 'hand camera' shots which made one of my movie-going buddies annoyed - he hated it to the point that he will never see it again. This style was made popular by the BSG TV series that just wrapped up. This info I got from my woman who is an addict to scifiwire - she reads it daily on her iPod Touch. The movie starts out as a documentary style, and I think it worked out OK, and I wasn't as sensitive, so I didn't really mind the camerawork. I thought it did add some 'realism' to the scenes due to people running with the camera and whatnot.

Overall, I'd rate it 4 out of 5. It was very entertaining, had some good social commentary / message, and additionally was very fun. The explosions were amusing (did I mention it has blood bag meat explosions in it?) but the action scenes really didn't add much to the movie for me. Except the mech scene - awesome.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hammered Brass Snare

At the end of last year, I started looking for drum lessons to give me a new view. I was always just doing metal / rock drumming and felt there was stuff I was missing. So I found my drum teacher, Don. He's been expanding me into blues, swing and shuffles. I've gotten the feel of acoustic drums again by playing on his kit whenever I took a lesson. That sparked the bug to get my e-drums updated and more realistic. The new eDrums are better, but I still really desired the range of expression you can only get from an acoustic snare drum. Also, I've been learning how to use brushes, and honestly you cannot do that on eDrums. They have brush sounds, but it's still not very good, especially for the constant contact 'rub'.

Don also builds drums, and sells them. Check out his site: www.portlanddrum.com
I've also been helping him maintain his web site - his new titanium shell snare is super.

But, I fell for the hammered brass snare he had. I saw it the first or second time I was over there for a lesson. I thought it'd be cool to convert it to an eDrum, but after working with Don for a while, I decided I really wanted a nice acoustic snare. So, here it is:




Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thieves' World - Stepsons and Jubal


If you are just picking this up, I suggest reading the previous posts first!
Prelude : Characters : Act I : Act II : Act III : Act IV : Prince and Steel : Festival : Kadakithis & HellHounds : Sikkintairs & Portals : The Swans


Stepsons and Jubal
2nd of Sperraz
Inside Marta’s for dinner, the Group is once again alerted to happenings outside by screaming people. Outside, there are two more Sikkintairs in the sky; these are much larger than the ones from yesterday. The Sikkintairs are circling, looking for prey on the East side. They swoop down and grab some people and fly off. All the arrows from the guards and the Group are not enough to kill one. Afterwards, the Group goes back into Marta’s for a while, and then heads out on the streets for home. On the way through the East side, Kalima and Modig see a group of thugs hanging out at a doorway, and when the thugs leave, they follow them. They recognize it as one of Roxane’s Death Squads – with a Soul Sniffer with them. They seem to randomly pick another doorway, and hang there for a few minutes, and move on to yet another doorway. Modig goes to get some of the others while Kalima watches the Death Squad. Malkar, Nicolas, Modig and Kalima attack the Death Squad, which flee immediately. The Group manages to knock one member is unconscious and the Group takes a prisoner. An explosion is heard nearby, and the Group checks it out. The first doorway was trapped with a trap that exploded in a fiery ball, and was set off by someone. The Guard is there and looking for suspects. The Group sneaks off to look at the other doorways, and find them trapped as well. Modig attempts to disable the trap, but accidentally sets it off instead. Modig has some mighty quick reflexes, and doesn’t get hurt. He’s a little embarrassed, but the black marks from the fire covers the red. The second trap goes a little worse for Modig, as he is not quick this time, he gets slightly hurt. He’s confident that the next time he comes across any more of these Death Squad traps, he will best them. The Group decides to take their prisoner to the temple of Sabelia for questioning and healing – both for the prisoner and Modig. On the way, the Guard stops them, as they are still looking for suspects or witnesses to the explosions. The guard contingent consists of several members of the Watch, and a Hell Hound captain. After some discussion about what the Group saw and witnessed, the captain assigns a member of the Watch to go with the Group to make sure that everything is accounted for. They get to the Temple and find that their prisoner has died during the travel. They pay for a “Speak with Dead” spell and they get to ask 5 questions.

1. Where is your base of operations? – In the swamp, about a 2-hour walk outside of town
2. How many squads do you have in the city? – 2 currently
3. Where is Roxane? – In a top floor apartment near the Street of Red Lanterns
4. What contacts do you have in the city? – Just Roxane
5. Where is your homeland located? – We are from Nis. North of here, in the mountains

The Group leaves the Temple (After Modig gets some healing, but no eyebrows are able to be regrown) and Kalima sends up her owl to look for SoulSniffers and Death Squads. The Group combs the East side for more Death Squads. Finding and approaching one Squad, the Squad immediately scatters. A little later, they find the other Death Squad setting traps. Their attack kills three of the Death Squad members as well as the Soul Sniffer.
After dealing with the Death Squads, everyone is ready to go to bed. On their way back to the West side, they spot Tempus on the Processional heading into the West side. Sneaking after him, they watch him find, follow and attack a Hawkmask. The man in the Hawkmask drops after just one blow. Tempus spits on the corpse, and stalks off. Waiting a few seconds, Jack runs over to the Hawkmask, stops his bleeding, and pours a healing potion down his throat. The Group makes their way to the Vulgar Unicorn with the Hawkmask in tow, sans mask. When they get inside the Unicorn, they find a table and order some drinks. A comrade of the Hawkmask’s approaches them from another table. He says he is a friend of the man they brought in and is interested in helping him get home safely. The Group wants to question him first, but don’t want to offend the man. The man buys them a round of drinks, and slips some money under a mug for good faith. They get the wounded Hawkmask awake, and Jack tells him he owes him 55sh for the healing potion he used on him. The man gives him a leather pouch containing a very nice set of thieves’ tools. Jack doesn’t know what they are, so he gives them to Modig. The man tells them his name is Mor-am, and thanks them. He leaves with is buddies from the other table. As that group of three men leave, a nearby table of six mercenaries erupts in laughter, as if goading the three that are leaving. The Group listens to the boisterous mercenaries as they talk about the War with Nis, and a person they call ‘The Riddler’. The Group finishes up their drinks, and leaves.
Back out in the Maze, the Group comes across a man about to hit a beautiful woman, cowering from the possible blow. Jack rushes to the aid of the woman when men hidden in the alleyways suddenly jump out and throw nets over the Group. Kalima and Jack both get caught up and struggle against the nets. Modig deftly dodges the net meant for him and prepares for yet another fight. The thugs are armed with saps and attack, trying to knock them out. Kalima works her way free first, and starts dealing out some justice. Another couple of seconds, and Jack gets free and metes out his revenge on the men. All of them are killed. The woman thanks them and the Group escorts her back to the Temple of Sebelia where she can be safe for the night. In the morning, the woman is gone, with none of the Priestesses seeing her leave.

3rd of Sperraz
After the busy night they had last night, the morning starts a little late at Marta's, with Jack, Malkar, and Modig meeting for breakfast. After the three are almost done, Isabella shows up, and says it is starting to rain.
Gagino is at his tent in the Bazaar watching some new soldiers in town; they look to be mercenaries. He strikes up a conversation with two of these mercenaries, Niko and Abarsis. They are Stepsons looking for Dubro's forge. Gagino keeps them in his tent by talking with them and determines that they are in town on a mission, working for their old army buddy the 'Riddler'. They've heard that the fabled steel of Enlibar can be found at Dubro's and they are looking for some swords made from this famous steel.
Four other Stepsons are in Marta's and Jack starts carousing with them. He also manages to get some information about their mission in Sanctuary. He drinks with them for a short time, and is invited to the Rank & Shield later on for some more drinking and carousing. The rest of the Group watches the Stepsons carefully, with some interest.
After a bad day of business, due to heavy rain, Gagino shuts up shop early and meets with the rest of the Group at Marta's. He talks of the Stepsons, their patron the ‘Riddler’, and how they are in town to destroy Jubal and his empire. Malkar secrets off and sells this information to Gastov at the Happy Beaver.

The rest of the day is spent indoors drinking out of the rain. Eventually the time comes to meet the Stepson’s at the Rank & Shield. The Group makes their way slogging through the rain and mud. At the soldier bar, Jack decides to go in first. He finds and sits at the table with six Stepsons and Tempus. The rest of the Group comes in after Jack and sits to watch and listen to the stories of the War in the North with Nis. Conversations wind from old war stories to new, and to current events in Sanctuary. It is obvious that the Stepsons are not pleased with the piss hole that is Sanctuary, Tempus agrees, and finishes his drink. Tempus bids everyone a goodbye and leaves the bar. After a short time, the Stepsons get bored with the Rank & Shield, and decide to go to a better bar they have heard of: The Vulgar Unicorn. Jack says he can take them there and accompanies the Stepsons. The Group waits a while, and then decides to go to the Vulgar Unicorn as well.
On the way, the Group (less Jack) sees a mugging take place. As they typically do, they jump into action. The muggers seem to have killed their victim, but they don’t fare well with the vengeance of Malkar, Gagino, Modig, Isabella and her bodyguard. The Group rolls the bodies of the muggers, and they find that the man is not dead; they save him from a certain death. Isabella bids her bodyguard to take the victim to the Temple of Sabellia for healing. The money in his purse is used as a donation to the Sisters of Sabellia. The rest of the Group continues on to the Vulgar Unicorn. They get there, and the Stepsons and Jack are not present.
Meanwhile, Jack and the Stepson’s are lost and wandering the Maze, finally stumbling across the Vulgar Unicorn. They go in with a lot of noise and take the biggest open area for themselves. Gagino plays his Mandolin while Isabella dances; they earn enough coins to keep the Group in drinks for not only tonight, but also for quite a few nights.
The Vulgar Unicorn is unusually busy; there are several drawn curtains at the booths. There is another large group of men there, obviously out of their element and grouped together for safety. The group of men is talking about the exploding traps that are wounding people in their neighborhoods, but no lives have been taken, not yet. They are discussing possible courses of action since it seems the Prince Governor and his guards are not doing anything about the Death Squads setting these traps.
The Group listens around and gets a lot of information, and decides to head out into the night to see if they can confront any of the Death Squads they've run into the past few nights. The first Squad they run across spots the Group, and immediately scatters.
The Group determines that Death Squads aren't much of a problem tonight, and head for their various homes for the night.

4th of Sperraz
Malkar wakes in the Happy Beaver, and has a chat with Gastov about some possible work he has available for him and his friends.
The Group is at Marta’s, eating breakfast when an armored woman comes in. She sits alone at a table and eats. Eventually, she notes that Jack looks like the fighter who her Father, Tempus, told her about. He and his group of friends can possibly be recruited for the task she is here to deal with. Kama introduces herself to the Group and starts talking to them. During the conversation, Malkar gets a note delivered to him. It is from Gastov, and he wants to finalize any deal that will get the group to help Jubal.
Two Stepsons also show up at Marta’s, and Jack is distracted from Kama for a while as he chums up his new buddies from yesterday and last night.
Kama goes to scope out Roxane’s, near the Street of Red Lanterns. Meanwhile, the Group and 2 Stepsons go to the East side to assess damage from the Death Squads.
Kama watches Roxane’s building and follows an agent. She is seen, and diverts away to the Rank and Shield. In here, she learns of the portal in Molin’s quarters and goes to the Temple of Vashanka. After talking with some guards at the Temple, she meets up with the Group. They are on the East side mapping out the attacks, looking for a pattern they can identify. Jack, scouting the East side with a few Stepsons, chats about the note that Malkar received earlier that day. Jack tells them that it was from Jubal. One of the Stepson’s takes this information directly to Tempus, who orders the Stepsons to prepare for attack tonight, before Jubal can prepare. The Stepsons inform Jack that they have new orders and leave for the Palace barracks. Jack follows in surprise, and on the way, he sees Kama and the rest of the Group. Kama goes to the Golden Oasis; Jack follows her in, intrigued. Jack pesters Kama to the point where Kama twists Jack’s wrist painfully – Kalima (peeking in) sees this and is very amused. Kama mouths ‘Marta’s’ to Kalima, and Kalima turns and leaves. Kama pays for lunch, and leaves, leaving Jack behind with another fresh ale. She slips outside and immediately hides in a nearby alley. Jack downs the ale and leaves the Golden Oasis, looking for Kama, but not seeing her. He gives up looking, and makes his way to Marta’s. Kama then follows him to Marta’s.
With Kama and several Stepsons at the table, the Group discusses the map and starts planning their assault on Roxane. During lunch, a scroll bearing Gastov’s mark is delivered to Malkar. It is a personal invitation from Jubal for dinner. Malkar passes the scroll to Modig, who reads it, then to Kalima and finally, to Jack. The note content is kept secret from Kama and the Stepsons. The Group decides to let Modig deal with the meeting with Jubal, while they do some reconnaissance on Roxane and her Death Squads.
Spying on Roxane’s begins again at dusk, when the Sikkintairs are summoned every night. Kama positions herself on the tall walls of the Palace watching Roxane’s building. Kalima and Malkar join Kama on the wall as well. While they watch, three figures arrive on the rooftop, it is Roxane and two other figures, not human, but humanoid. She casts a spell or two, and then returns downstairs. The witch summons 2 Sikkintairs and they appear over the Wide Way. The Stepsons and Jack are nearby, and they run through the fleeing crowd to the docks. Jack presents himself as a target to the closest flying creature, and it swoops down to grab him. The Stepsons fire their crossbows, and Jack steels for the attack. Jack, with his sword still swinging, is grabbed and is taken into the air. Crossbow bolts continue to sink into the Sikkintair and while in the clutches of the beast, Jack delivers the final killing blows to the flying creature. The creature goes limp, and falls heavily to the ground taking Jack heavily to the ground with it. Jack barely escapes being crushed by the falling beast. Tempus shows up on horseback, still concerned about the remaining beast in the air, but glad to see one of them is already dead. The other Sikkintair swoops and grabs a citizen and flies into the air, flying north to escape with its prey. Malkar, Kama and Kalima all get pot shots at it, but not enough to take it down. The city Watch is dispatched to dispose of the dead beast’s corpse.
To get to his meeting with Jubal, Modig goes to The Happy Beaver, and is escorted to Jubal’s estate through an underground passageway that starts in the sewers. He enjoys a lavish meal, in the sense of atmosphere, not so much in food. Jubal asks why he, Modig, was the sole respondent to his invitation, Modig says he’s here as the representative for the whole Group. Jubal offers Modig and the group a lot of silver to help him defend his estate from Tempus and the Stepsons. Modig says he’ll consider the deal, and inform the Group of the offer. He leaves the same way he came, through the tunnel and sewer.
Modig looks for the group on the Street of Red Lanterns. Malkar and Kama spot him wondering the Street. Malkar goes to get Modig, and brings him up on to the wall with the others. They remain for several hours watching for any more activity from Roxane. Nearing midnight, Kama sights the Death Squads assembling near the river, on the other side. They ford the river in a low spot and go into a wooded area just on the other side of the river. The group assembles an ambush at a wall opening and wait. And wait. No squads come through the gate, and the Group searches the woods for the Death Squads. They do find a portal, through which they go.
They appear on the Wide Way and immediately set out looking for their quarry. The Group sees an eerie orange glow from the west, Modig estimates that the glow is where Jubal’s estate is. An explosion leads them to one of the squads. As they approach they are spotted by a Death squad, which immediately scatters, except for the Soul Sniffer, who attacks Jack. Jack, hurt from the Sikkintair attack, takes a nasty blow from the Soul Sniffer, and returns in kind. Malkar steps in to help, and together they take the Soul Sniffer down.

The Group decides the glow near Jubal’s is more important than finding the other two Death Squads. Leaving the other two Death Squads to do their deeds near the wharf, the Group goes west towards Jubal’s estate. Tempus intercepts the Group at Jubal’s, and informs them that his attack was a surprise to Jubal and that Jubal is no longer in business, here or otherwise. The Group surveys the battlefield; there are bodies everywhere, and very few of them are Stepsons.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thieves' World - The Swans


If you are just picking this up, I suggest reading the previous posts first!
Prelude : Characters : Act I : Act II : Act III : Act IV : Prince and Steel : Festival : Kadakithis & HellHounds : Sikkintairs & Portals


25th of Esris
The Group meets at Marta’s – Jack and Modig are hung over from last night’s festivities, and Jack decides to clean up and visit the nearby bathhouse. The rest of the Group talks about what to do with the athame they retrieved from the other side of the Portal. The athame has markings on it, and it is decided to find out more about these markings. They go to the Promise of Heaven to ask Kalima’s Head Priestess. The markings indicate the Goddess Sostreia, the Goddess of Sacrifice and Rebirth. This doesn’t tell the Group much, and they decide that this item would probably fetch some significant silver, so they decide to sell it.
Back at the Bazaar, Gagino sends word out that he has a magical item for sale, and a buyer shows up within an hour; without any hesitation, he pays the asking price of 150sh. Malkar follows the fellow into the swamp. The Group joins Malkar in the swamp and finds an encampment of several men around a fire, and a few tents. The Group plans a surprise strike, and attack. Modig cuts open the closest tent and is taken aback: There is a creature in that tent, not a man. The corpse-like creature takes a swing at Modig, and with that one strike, Modig goes down. The Death Squad throws firetraps, shoots bolts from crossbows, and then run away. A chase ensues, and the Group manages to capture one, and then they loot the camp.

26th of Esris
The morning is begun with clouds, and the threat of rain. The Group finds an empty warehouse to interrogate their prisoner. They learn he works for a Nisibisi War Witch by the name of Roxane, and that she is directing the Death Squads mission. The questions take them to the purpose of the mission, and the prisoner tells them that they don’t know the whole purpose, but they have specific orders. Those orders are to cause chaos and fear with the exploding firetraps. From the looting of the camp, the Group finds enough materials for dozens of firetraps, crossbows, bolts and provisions for several days. There are also documents written in a language that no one can read. Nickolas takes all of these found documents to Melilot’s Scriptorium to have them translated and has multiple copies to be made. After the interrogation, the Group takes their prisoner to Mizraith as proof to what is going on. They inform the Wizard about Roxane, the Death Squads, and their mission; he seems unconcerned, and nonchalantly dismisses the party. After the visit with Mizraith, the Group gets the documents from Melilot, and they confirm what the prisoner had already told them.

27th of Esris
Morning starts with howling wind and driving rain. Few people are on the streets. The storm is so bad that everyone stays in for the day, drinking and eating at Marta’s. After dark, Gagino returns to find his tent ripped and torn from the storm; it will need repairs.

28th of Esris
It is still raining, but there is little wind. This city puts out a call for workers to help with clean up after the storm. Jack goes to work for the day, and earns 9 padpols, which, since he worked hard all day, goes entirely to dinner.
Meanwhile, other members of the Group have other tasks they are pursuing. Malkar is hiding in an alleyway on the Wide Way looking out for a man Gastov is looking for. During his stakeout, he sees an abduction of a young girl. He discreetly follows after them, and watches them board a rowboat and row southeast, towards the infamous Smuggler’s Isle. He takes a few pot shots from the shore, and manages to kill two of the 6 slavers on the rowboat.

The mysterious person from the alleyway contacts Kalima. He’s well dressed, and they go to a nearby bar where they discuss a contract for an assassination.
“These people are scum that threaten Ranke, and as a Rankan citizen, you should want to help me clean up the streets of this kind of people. Of course, the pay is very good, and is in Rankan coin.”
Kalima accepts the work in behalf of the Group, seeing as how it may actually clean up some of the rabble in Sanctuary. He hands her a scroll case and they agree to a price.

Modig is in the Temple of Sabellia recovering from his wounds from the Soul Sniffer attack from the other night. The Priestesses are taking very good care of him. Jack comes in to visit Modig, but that is a thinly veiled excuse to be among the priestesses, for the first time without being a patient.
Gagino gets an interesting rumor from the Bazaar folk. There are folks asking for items that match very closely to the items the Group looted from the Death Squad in the swamp. He manages to use this information to sell back the loot for a tidy profit.

After an eventful day for all (aside from Modig’s bed rest), the Group once again find themselves within the walls of Marta’s. Malkar talks of the abduction and the slavers he witnessed.
During Malkar’s story, there is a commotion outside. The Group rushes out and sees two Sikkintairs flying in the sky. These are smaller than usual, but are still dangerous and hunting the city from the sky. The flying beasts snatch up a person each, and fly off to the north. The city guards were completely ineffective, and the Group didn’t reach the area in time.
Back at Marta’s, Kalima unseals her scroll case for the assassination contract. She gasps audibly when the information is revealed. There are pictures of her quarry – Malkar, Jack, Nickolas and herself and even her father, Gagino. It seems that the man doing the hiring didn’t know whom the quarry was, but was just doing the hiring.

1st of Sperraz
Meeting at Marta’s for breakfast, the Group discusses some of the situations they are looking into. Malkar mentions the slavers he ran into on the Wide Way, and Kalima trumps him with the assassination contract on the Group. The Group decides this needs to be taken care of, and to hopefully get Arion Swan out of their lives once and for all. The Group starts discussing a plan.
Kalima pays a visit to the local apothecary of Alten Stulwig and purchases an amnesia drug, a sleeping drug, and a truth serum, totaling 250 sh. The rest of the Group goes to find an abandoned warehouse, and proceed to clear it of the transients that are squatting inside. The Group has a Where and a How; now they just need to collect the Who, and the When will be as soon as they get the man in to the warehouse. Kalima and Jack go to the Rank & Shield to meet the man who hired Kalima. Jack stays out of sight while she tells him that she has completed the first assassination, and wants payment. He says he needs proof, and Kalima agrees to take him to where she has the body stashed. They head over to the empty warehouse where the Group will ambush the man.
Once inside the warehouse, the Group comes out from their hiding places and surround Kalima and the man, and quickly knock the man unconscious. The Group ties him to a chair and administers the truth potion they purchased, and wait for him to wake and for the potion to take effect. Then, the questions start.
Under influence of the potion, the man holds back little information. The man’s name is Byron Swan, Arion Swan’s cousin. Arion gave Byron the sealed scroll case in Ranke, and with it, instructions to hire a capable assassin. He also tells the Group where his place is on the East side. Modig and Nicolas go to his apartment and rob it, return a lot richer, and spread out the spoils. The Group then starts preparing Byron for a journey back to Ranke. They have him knocked out in a crate by using the sleeping drug, and there’s a note written for Arion to see when his cousin is delivered to him.
With Byron, the Group wrote a note addressed to Arion Swan:

Lord Arion Swan
City of Ranke, Imperial Palace

Lord Swan,

We hope this missive finds you in good health and good spirits. Otherwise it could prove to be a detrimental shock to your delicate system, and we can't have that on our collective conscience -- at least not from this distance.

We have received your amusing gift. Enclosed please find said gift, your cousin Byron, which has been attached to this note for your convenience. Also please feed and water him. It has probably been several days since his last meal.

As you have surely realized by now, we cannot accept your thoughtful gift at this time. He has been entertaining, but as with many of your lackeys, he is too fragile -- not to mention lacking in sufficient mental resources -- to withstand the rigors of the real world.

Your services have been appreciated, but regretfully they are no longer required. We wish you success in all your future endeavors.

Well, okay, we don't. Just stay out of our hair and you can keep yours.

Sleep tight. And eat your vegetables. Kiss kiss.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Games - Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I've been delinquent in blog posts. Not that thousands of people are anxiously awaiting to read everything I type, but there are those that I've found reading my blog. So, first off, my Sanctuary RPG hasn't been played in over a month, and I do have one installment I need to finish up. I'll be getting to that soon (hopefully). Additionally, I might start posting a game log about the Serenity game I am joining.

However, this post is about last night's board games. It's been a long time since I've had a night of all new games, and last night almost counts. I played:
  • Agricola - with an expansion - the expansion was new.
  • Finca
  • Snow Tails
On with the review post!

Agricola - Through the Seasons

Still Agricola, but this adds a bit more variety. Each round gets a new season, and you cycle through the seasons starting with a random one until the game ends. Each season adds a new action only available for that round - at least until the season comes around again. The season also makes some minor tweaks to the resource fields and some standard actions.
  • Spring comes with an additional sow/breed action.
  • Summer with vacation (extra victory points)
  • Fall with harvest/vegetable
  • Winter with family growth without space (for 2 wood and 3 food).

The resource tweaks are usual +/- one wood/clay/reed/stone/fish and the action tweaks are usually freebies you get when taking the tweaked action (e.g. two free fences if taking fence action etc.).

Generally, I liked the seasons. I thought that the resource tweaking wasn't necessary, but it's not a show stopper. I was mostly raising animals due to the occupations I got, and I took advantage of the extra breeding and the sow action twice. There wasnt a spring that went by that someone didn't use the free 2 fences.

I don't know if I would play with this every time I play, but it is nice to have the option. PLus it it basically free, you just got to find and print out the image on some card stock (preferably in color).


Finca
This was a cube farming game. except the bits weren't cubes, they were fruits / nuts. The gameboard of Finca is an island. Using a rondel / windmill of fruits, you move your farmers to try to harvest fruits - oranges, lemons, almonds, grapes, etc. Then you deliver these fruits to gain points.

This was a clever game, with some rules that if a resource (fruit) ran out, everyone has to put their stock pile back. Since this was my first play, I tended to collect with a goal, rather than using the opportunity of high gain on the windmill. I came in 3rd of 4 people. Prior to final tally, I thought I might have been second. I wouldn't set out to play this game, but it's a good time filler for 45-60 minutes.

Snow Tails
Our board game group has a love / hate with racing games. We try them, and few of them are liked by the whole group. Formula De, Das Motorsportspiel, and Moto Grand Prix all make it out to the table occasionally, but the people wanting to play them vary. This is a racing game that simulates a dogsled race on snow and ice. You gotta watch out for sharp turns, trees, and other sleds. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it is. Game play is simple in execution, but difficult in decisions. you have three factors, left, right and brake. You have a deck of cards numbered from 1 to 5, and you shuffle these to give yourself a hand of 5. You can only play one value per turn, so if you want to play 2 or 3 cards, they must match. Different front values (played on seperate turns) allow for drifting and steering, and you can also put a numbered card down to slow down. Losing control or speeding into a corner results in Dent cards being acquired. Each Dent card will limit a your hand size by one, so 5 dent cards means a hand of zero, and your sled is toast!

The game contains modular track pieces which can be fitted together to form different courses, which is what a lot of the racing games are doing now. I think that modular tracks are a great idea. Even though I have all the Formula De tracks, there are infinite possibilities with a modular track setup.

We played and even though I didn't do very well (3rd out of 4), it was very enjoyable. There was some rules clarification when it came to what constituted a drift and forward move, but the rules had pictures to clarify. The group came around to a concensus pretty readily.

And that's it. 3 games played and sorta reviewed. Check back for another installment on Sanctuary or even Serenity.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Traveling again.

This is sort of a rant, and sort of an attempt at informational. You be the judge.

As a 'traveling consultant', I got used to traveling, and got pretty good at it. I go for the 'efficient' travel (re: lazy?) schedule. I leave my house 90 minutes before my plane departs. I basically chunk up my time in 30 minutes blocks, each block having a specific goal.

Goal 1) Get to airport. This usually takes 20 minutes, so 30 minutes is generally ok. I have 10 minutes wiggle room.

Goal 2) Get through security. Depending on the line, this can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. And since I haven't traveled for 2 years, all my status is gone, so I don't get to go to the 'Premier Line' - yet. I am traveling a lot this year, and I am sure I'll get there soon.

Goal 3) Get on the plane. Boarding means getting in line, shuffling on to the plane, and finding a spot for my "rollerboard" in the overhead bin. Airlines generally board with a 'seating order', the lower the number, the earlier you can get on. The earlier you get on, the more opportunity you have to get the overhead bin space. Again, status helps and so does having an exit row or a bulkhead seat. Or asking nicely, or lying about your 'mileage partner status'. Something I've done as of late, and I am sort of proud about it.

I don't check bags, and I print my boarding pass from my computer before I leave that house. So, I skip the check-in line, and the baggage check-in, and go straight to the security checkpoint. This saves a lot of time, really. And with the airlines starting to charge for bags, I expect more people to do this. Or not, people tend to think less when traveling.

For the last few years, I've been mostly working from home, which is good and bad. I like to travel, but 100% travel is hard, and working from home 100% of the time is hard, too. What's the perfect mix? Probably 50/50. Though, I like traveling enough, I could probably go 70/30.

The good of working from home is I get to do all my hobbies; games, drums, juggling; not to mention house renovation / repair, yard upkeep, etc.

The bad is that now I am low man on the totem pole for traveling. I don't have any of my statuses anymore and therefore deal with non-priority lines and service. I know enough about the system to skirt a few of the inconveniences the novices just don't know about, so I get along pretty well, even without status.

I've been on the road for 4 weeks, and looking at probably another week, but in a different place / city / State. The last two trips have both been to the East coast, and from Portland, that means an entire day of planes, airports and automobiles. Leaving Sunday's, and getting back on Friday's, giving me about 36 hours a week at home - which does suck.

I hadn't posted anything in a while, been too busy traveling! Good travels to you, and if you travel a lot, check out tripit.com - a social networking site for travelers to see who is going to be near them on their next trip. Kinda cool, but limited to how many of your friends sign up - and update it. I am definitely slow on updating it.

Another interesting travel site:
http://www.seatguru.com - a site that tells you all the secrets about every seat on every plane. Like which rows don't recline, etc.

Basic tips:
One bag in the overhead bin, One bag at your feet! Learn it, love it, live it! If you have a big bag at your feet get a window seat 0 the aisles are narrower - I can barely get my backpack in the under-seat storage.

once on the plane - carry your rollerboard!

Don't use seats for balance or leverage to get up - someone is sitting there, and they feel everything you do to the back of their seat. Or jam your legs / feet up against it. - classic do unto others, etc.

Security, just get through it. Take off shoes, belts, jackets, phones, hats and empty your pockets. If you do it in line before the metal detector, you'll get through faster. Laptops in a separate tray/bucket/bin.

Text messages to your phone about flight status, online checkin / boarding pass printing, web browser on your phone to check statuses and schedules. All good tech bits to help. Google maps on my phone rocks, too. Not as good as GPS, but very usable.

Buying tickets online saves you money, and allows you to select your seats.

That's it! stay tuned for more random squall, hopefully sooner, and a little more often.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thieves' World - Sikkintairs and Portals


If you are just picking this up, I suggest reading the previous posts first!
Prelude : Characters : Act I : Act II : Act III : Act IV : Prince and Steel : Festival : Kadakithis & HellHounds

Sikkintairs and Portals
22nd of Esris
The Group is in Marta’s having drinks and dinner when there is quite a commotion from outside. Once on the streets, the Group hears screaming and cries from people outside. The noise is coming from the direction of the Bazaar. The Group rushes towards the Bazaar, and Kalima shouts to look up. The Group stops dead in their tracks, and they see 2 huge black snakes with wings – each easily large enough to carry off a horse. These flying serpent-like creatures are circling the Bazaar and seem to be attacking the city. The Group reaches the Bazaar and sees a few of the Rankan Elite Guards trying to figure out how to fight the flying creatures. The general populace is in a panic, and the Group and the Hell Hounds continue in their attempts to attack the creatures. The Group makes little impact, although Malkar is as effective as anyone with his bow. A Rankan Elite Guard named Tempus gets close to one as it swoops down, and kills it with one mighty blow. The remaining creature snatches a citizen from the Bazaar and flies off towards the East. Everyone empties the streets under forced orders of the Rankan Elite Guard. The crowd resists a little, but generally complies.

23rd of Esris
The next day starts early since most folks got to bed early, if even reluctantly. Also coupled with the fact that nobody got any business done after the attack, the streets are teeming with people. Malkar wakes in the Happy Beaver and looks around, asks around and finds that Gastov and his entire crew are gone. He goes to Marta’s for breakfast, and eats alone. He decides to see if he can find out about the flying snakes from yesterday, and goes to the only place he knows of that deals in learned information: Melilot’s scriptorium.
Meanwhile, Jack also wakes and starts wandering the Bazaar talking to anyone about yesterday’s events. Blind Jacob’s cart is a good place to communicate with all the Bazaar folk, and finds out that most folk are more fearful than informative. He wanders a while longer, and eventually goes to Marta’s. He flirts with Mary and makes a date for later on. Jack learns that Malkar was there earlier, and goes out looking for him after he is finished with breakfast. At Melilot’s, an apprentice informs Jack that Malkar had been there, but was no longer there. With a couple of padpols from Jack, the apprentice adds that most of the folks looking for information about the flying creatures are going to the temple of Vashanka. The boy apprentice also tells Jack what they are called; they are Sikkintair’s. Word on the street is that most of the resident Rankan’s think this is a spiritual summoning, and are concerned that the gods have something to do with yesterday’s attacks.

Jack makes it to the Promise of Heaven, and starts commiserating with the crowd, generally keeping the crowd riled up by agreeing with whatever opinion he hears. Malkar has spent the last hour watching the crowd. He sees Molin Torcholder on the highest front balcony, and Malkar also notices that the doors on the balcony look to be broken. Molin Torcholder is watching the crowd and receiving messages from runners. Zalbar joins Molin on the balcony, and the sound of marching boots can be heard approaching the temple. Palace guards show up and Zalbar announces to the crowd that they need to disperse or be arrested for interference. Jack and Malkar duck into an alleyway. The guards stay in place and eventually see the pair hiding; so they move on. They head back to Marta’s where Mary makes sure that Jack provides a date for her friend for their outing tonight. Jack puts up Malkar for the double date. Jack then goes and buys some fresh clothes and gets a bath. It’s already dark out when the pair meet up with the girls, Mary and Suzy. They go out to the Wideway in search of a place Mary has heard of called the Flying Fish. It’s supposed to be much more than just a bar, with music and dancing. On the way, Suzy starts screaming and Malkar sees a bleeding man slumped over a barrel, unconscious. Malkar glances around and catches a quick glimpse of a man running off. Jack takes instant action, and attends to the man with two healing potions, saving the man’s life. They pick the man up and haul him to the nearest watch shack, and are detained, being questioned for at least an hour. The night is getting late as the Group finally is allowed to leave the watch shack, the Group returns to search for the Flying Fish on the Wideway. Once on the Wideway, Malkar sees movement in the sky and recognizes a Sikkintair swooping down. Jack flies into a rage, and Malkar attacks with his knives. Jack narrowly misses as the beast flies in, grabs Suzy and lies off into the sky. Malkar manages to sink an arrow or two into the escaping beast, but Suzy is gone.

24th of Esris
On the following morning, the Group meets at Marta’s, and Malkar recants the adventure from the night. Kalima signs on to kick monster butt, and everyone is concerned about how to attack flying beasts. Kalima goes back to the Temple of Sabellia, and informs the head priestess about the abduction. The Temple sends a messenger (Acolyte Alaide) to inform the Palace of the abduction. Kalima follows the messenger to the Palace gates, and then heads to the Wideway for some snooping around. Kalima searches the Wideway for any clues from the previous night’s abduction. On her way, an agent of some unknown benefactor is looking to hire Kalima for some work. He says it is a cleaning job, the cleaning of some Wrigglie street scum. He’ll meet her again and will have a sealed packet describing the soon to be corpses. He drinks every night at the Rank and Shield. After an unproductive scouting on the Wideway, Kalima returns to the temple, and the priestess tells her to gather her friends, the Palace has responded to the message about the abduction.

Meanwhile, Malkar and Modig question the staff of the Eastern estates. They meet Tumarr who tells them that the Sikkintairs never made it that far East, they saw the beasts in the skies, but they didn’t come out of the city. Modig and Malkar leave Tumarr with a padpol for his troubles.
Nikolas poses as a palace representative and also questions the Eastern estates. His information gathering returns the same information, after bribing with a shabooza.

The Group decides they want to get into the Temple of Vashanka to do some additional snooping around. Between the information they got from the people on the estates, and the broken doors on the balcony of the Temple, they have substantial suspicion. The Group goes to Gastov who is in the Happy Beaver, and buys a sewer map to get them underground access to the Temple of Vashanka, they pay 15 sh for it. Their next task is to head over to the Temple of Sabellia. On their way, they see two more Sikkintairs circling the Bazaar. They turn and run towards the Bazaar as fast as possible, but don’t make it before one of the Sikkintairs picks up its prey. The beast flies over the Group and back to the Temple of Vashanka, where it enters the top floor balcony at top flying speed. There is no noise or evidence of any collision.

The Group gets to the Temple of Sabellia to talk with the Head Priestess. This meeting results in the head priestess hiring the group in behalf of the Prince-Govenor Kadikithis. The offer is for 1000 sh for the Group. They get a medallion with the official seal of Ranke as a sort of badge, and they are encouraged to go immediately to the Temple of Vashanka. Zalbar and another Guard meet them at the door to the Temple of Vashanka. Zalbar greets the Group, but has the other Guard escort them upstairs to Molin’s personal quarters. Upon entering the room, the group notices two things. The first is that the room is completely barren of furniture. The second is the glowing silvery portal on one end of the room. The portal looks like it only has one side. If looked at from the non-silvery side, it is like it doesn’t exist, just a slight wavering of the room seen through the area. The other side is a shimmering silver oval that is 5 feet wide and 7 feet tall. It faces the balcony doors, which have been removed completely. Jack reaches through the portal but doesn’t feel anything on the other side. They finally decide to step through the portal.

On the other side, they are on a mountainside in a huge mountain range as far as the eye can see. Looking in the skies, there are hundreds of Sikkintairs flying in the air, both near and in the distance. The Group is standing on a large ledge, and they look down, to another large ledge. On the lower ledge, they see a few bodies of the victims from the various abductions, including Suzy, or rather what is left of her and her clothing. Turning around and looking at the cliff face going up, the mountain they are standing on has a lot of caves in the side of the cliff, where the Sikkintairs presumably roost. There is one cave that is significantly larger than all the rest that is slightly above the ledge they are on; it’s a simple climb to get in. The Group decides they don’t know what they are looking for, and decide to return back through the portal. They catch their escort napping when they get back, and are taken to Molin Torchholder for a briefing. The Group informs Molin of what they saw, and in return they are berated and insulted by him. He calls them useless and insignificant. The Group leaves disgusted, and decides to try to get more information from Mizraith, the Rankan magician on retainer by the Palace. The Palace personnel are very helpful in getting the Group to Mizraith’s place near the intersection of Processional and the Governors Walk. Mizraith meets with them reluctantly and is similarly condescending. He informs them that his magical resources are doing all that they can to close the portal. The Group, disillusioned and angry, leaves to go try their luck with Enas Yorl.

Approaching the famous house on Pyrtanis Street, the Group pauses at the gate uncertainly; they see the front door of the house opening, as if beckoning them to enter. The Group walks up the path to the porch, entering the house carefully and respectfully. A squat lizard-like being with wings meets them just inside the door. It leads them to a sitting room where the Group sees a cloaked figure sitting comfortably in a chair and assumes that it is Enas Yorl. They are correct; his magically shifting form is unknown due to the coverage of the cloak. They tell him their discoveries so far, including the disdain and disinterest of the Rankan government. Enas informs the Group that the portal is most likely being held open by a significant item that is still on the other side. They need to find that item on the other side, bring the item back through, and the portal should close.

The Group heads back to the Palace to get some mountain survival equipment for their task, on Ranke, of course. The Palace allows them to stock up from their armory, and the Group prepares for their second trip through the portal.

At the Palace armory, the Group meets up with Jack, who has been training with Tempus all day, preparing to handle himself against the Sikkintairs. Armed with a long pole-arm, Jack is ready as ever to fight these beasts.

For the second time, the Group goes through the portal. They get to the other side and decide to start searching the caves, and start with the biggest one, closest to the portal. Inside it, they see what looks like living quarters for something, something very large. There is a Sikkinair spitted and roasting over a fire. The fire is the size of Gagino’s tent in the Bazaar, and the Sikkintair is one of the larger ones. They search around the cave; it has a central wall that separates the entrance from the back of the cave. Sneaking to the back of the cave, behind the wall, they see a huge humanoid, almost the same color of the rock walls. The Stone Giant hears something and starts to get up, reaching for a very large club. The Group takes position but does not attack immediately. The Giant sees the Group and rushes them. Modig manages to sneak around the other side and starts searching what looks like the Giant’s bedding. The Giant attacks and starts dealing mighty blows to Jack, Malkar, and Kalima. Nickolas manages to sneak behind it and up on its back. Finally, with enough blows from everyone and a final stab in the back from Nickolas, the Giant goes down. During the fight, Modig searches for the mysterious item; and finds a dagger-like object. The object is figured to be an Athame, a magical device used in casting rituals. This is probably the item used to keep the portal open. The Group gets back to the portal outside of the cave, and everyone goes through, with Modig bringing up the rear with the Athame. As soon as Modig appears in Molin Torchholder’s room, the portal closes. The Group gives a collective sigh of relief.

They are immediately brought into the Palace. Molin, Zalbar, Mizraith and the Prince Kadakithis meet with them, but not after making the Group wait for almost a half an hour. The Group shows Mizraith the Athame, and then is dutifully paid 20 Coronations (250 sh) for each person present. They are also encouraged to keep this information to themselves. Enas Yorl magically appears and is not pleased with the ‘reward’ that the Prince-Governor and his staff have given. Enas tells the Rankan’s his opinions of how this whole situation has been dealt with and wishes them a "good day". The Rankan’s are highly annoyed and the Group is displeased with the lack of appreciation. Both groups separate on sour terms.
They unceremoniously return the equipment they borrowed for their quest in the palace grounds, and are escorted out of the Palace. The Group stomps their way to Marta’s.

They order drinks and dinner and eat a somber meal. A voice is heard while they are eating their meal, and the lizard-like servant of Enas Yorl appears from out of thin air. The voice is coming from a Magical Mouth on a nearby wall. The voice is loud enough that all the patrons in Marta’s stop what they are doing to witness this extremely odd event. Enas uses this to tell of the Groups heroic quest to make Sanctuary safer. He also describes the level of the Rankan’s malaise towards their actions. Enas tells everyone listening that he has decided to personally reward the Group; and he is going to do it publicly, right now. Marta is so happy that she buys the Group a round of wine.

The mouth says "First, for Jack. The tough but rash ex-soldier who takes care of others first, I give to him a magical Ring of Force Shield. This will protect him as he protects others."

"Kalima, righteous leader with your friends, trying to keep an eye on all who might wrong you or others you care about, I present you with a statuette of this owl. Once per day, it can magically come to life as this size or a giant size and serve you, as you will it. Be warned: after the third time as a giant sized owl, the statuette’s magic will expire.

"Gagino, as a music lover and a friend, you’re always on the lookout for your associates, this Canaith Mandolin can aid you and your friends with healing, magical cancellation or even the summoning of a creature for aid."

"Malkar, you have the hunter’s will and skill. This tiger skin Mantle of the Predator will give you an animalistic edge against beast and man alike.

"Nickolas, with your quiet attitude, you will get this magic armor made from studded leather that is as black as midnight. Your foes will find it difficult to see you coming."

"Modig, your skills with tools and mechanical works is good, but even the good can get better. This magical ring will enhance your abilities.

"Take these items and continue on your path. I am truly proud of you, even if the Prince Governor Kadakithis, or Ranke, is not."

Monday, March 30, 2009

GameStorm 11

My first blog posting was on GameStorm 10, and since last year, I've been awaiting another GameStorm, and this weekend was it. GameStorm 11 - good times and great oldies! Here's what I played, and some thoughts about the convention, games, people and whatever else crosses my mind during the typing of this post up.

Friday - March 27th
First day, pretty excited, I am looking forward to playing some games that I am familiar with, but with new people. My Tuesday night game group is great, but I like meeting new people, too. The first hour or so was spent wandering the con and familiarizing myself with the layout; where the RPG's are, LARP, vendor room, etc. Then, I was ready to try my first game.

SPANC
I skulked around, and found a game I hadn't played before; SPANC by Steve Jackson Games. SPANC stands for Space Pirates Amazon Ninja Catgirls. I do not lie. I rate this a 2 out of 10 on the BGG scale. The game is obviously for teenage boys with no need for thought during gameplay. The game is completely ruled by dice rolling, and really has no redeeming value from any strategy standpoint whatsoever. The game is played with two to four players, and each assembles a crew of 4 randomly drawn characters, and assigning one as your Captain. Each character has 4 atributes: Space Pirate, Amazon, Ninja, and Catgirl. The game is played in rounds until one crew gathers 10 Loot. Each Round introduces 4 challenges, which have a skill related to the 4 Attributes. A roll of the dice, looking for a lower number than the challenge rating. Roll lower, continue to the next challenge. If you fail a challenge, your crew member gets knocked out and cannot continue. First person through all 4 challenges, gets a loot and toy boost. Challenges can be rewarded with Loot and / or Toys. Loot was already explained. Toys are gadgets that add Attribute mondifications - usually in the positive. The game is primarly focused on scantily clad anime girl art. Toys are items like Camoflage Bikini, vibrating swords, and Poolboys. The game is super silly and provides male eye candy (Softcore TNA), so if you're looking for that type of game, you might like it. I didn't care for it at all.

Agricola
I've posted for this game before - see my clay animeeples posts. I played this game with a new person and another that was teaching. We played 'family' style with no minor improvement or occupation cards. I've played this way before with 2 people, but was surprised how good of a game it is without the cards. It's a greatly balanced game, and the cards add a lot of variety and adds a ton of replay value, but the basic game is still a great game. A solid 8 on the BGG scale.

PS3 Games - Rock Band - Street Fighter
I got into the console gaming room a few times over the weekend and got to play the new Street Fighter IV game and some Rock Band, too. I had fun playing with new people.

Dragon Dice
One of my favorite games as of late. An old TSR game, but the rights and all of the original die molds were bought by SFR Inc. A collectable dice game, each die is a unit in an army. Each die has a value from 1 to 4. 1 = common, 2 = uncommon, 3 = rare, 4 = monster. You construct an army with 10 races to choose from, then battle your army against your opponent (or opponents) trying to gain control of 2 terrains. Using Manuvers, Missles, Melee and Magic to win. It's got a decent amount of strategy, and still has an element of luck. And even though I didn't like SPANC due to it's reliance on luck, this game at least has a lot of strategy to it as well.

Saturday

Titan
One of my all-time favorites! I hosted this event again this year, and got 4 players. Dave E and Ben from my regular Tuesday night game group, and Dave B, from my Dragon Dice group. Dave B was a newbie, but we had a few fellow Titan fans stopping by the table giving him advice during the game. I think this was great for people to help out, because any advice from us would be suspect. Ben was the first out (but I am sure he wasn't disappointed), then Dave B. At that point, we had 5 hours in the game, and Dave E and I compared Titan stacks and agreed that my Titan stack with a serpant was probably more powerful than his Titan stack with almost Hydra growth. Dave E's Titan was stronger because he was the one to manage to eliminate Dave B and Ben, but it was still only a 9 Titan. Dave wanted to go to dinner so he basically conceded, though we were both ready to stop playing.

Tichu
I quick errand into Portland, and back, then I was ready for a lighter game. I found a friend who I knew liked it and she was sitting with her friend who's husband was off enjoying the Con, and she was bored. We both thought Tichu was a good try for her. We wrangled up a fourth, and I commenced teaching Tichu to 2 new players. The game is a trick taking game, but uses poker hands for tricks. Each player doesn't (and sometimes cannot) play each time play comes around to them. The first person to go out is the winner, but the round continues until 3 of the 4 are out. It's hard to explain and teach (as I found out) and is best experienced. I enjoy this game quite a bit.

Sunday

Serenity RPG - SerenityRPG.com (site's down?)
I played this last year with the same GM. It was a fantastic game once again. Last year, it was a kidnapping rescue job, this year, the plot was more party intrigue based. There was questionable cargo on the ship, which had a datadrive with important secret data on it, and several characters had instructions or personal desire to get this data. The ship was attacked by Pirates and boarded. We managed to fight them off (I was playing the Mercenary of the ship, so I managed to get 3 of the 5 AND managed to stay unharmed - WOOT). After the fight, the intrigue started. I was going to search the cargo while everyone was in the common room (impromptu infirmiry) getting patched up by the medic. I found the cargo and with it, a small bomb - I assume meant to blow the crate up. I managed to get the bomb off the crate, switch the data drive with my dupe, and re-package everything. Then, I announced my finding of the bomb to the rest of the ship. After a lot of arguing, it was determined that myself, the Capt, and the First Mate were going to open the cargo and search it. I was able to open the crate, thus keeping the rest of the crew ignorant of my previous breaking of the seal of the cargo. After the rest of the crew sees the contents, I feign disinterest due to it not being any sort of weaponry. The rest of the crew search, assemble, dissasemble and generally do everything imaginable to the computer in the cargo box with no idea if what is so important about it. We take a day or so to get to our destination planet to drop to sell the cargo, and during that time, each interested party member manages to get a crack at the data drive to do whatever nefarious deeds they needed to do to it. When we land, we are approached by a man who's name I recognize, but he is an impersonator. I let the Captain sell the cargo to the imposter, knowing I have the data drive, and this would send the heat somewhere else, and not to my contact. I follow the man, and while out of the ship, meet my real contact, pass over the data drive, and let him berate the captain for selling the cargo to the wrong man.
Suddenly, a group of armed men with military grade weaponry suround the ship and inform us we are leaving with them - these are my full employers; the Syndicate. A few dozen meters away from the ship, the Alliance shows up, too, and a massive fire fight ensues.
The last fight wasn't played out due to time and energy constraints, but everyone got the ending they wanted. Then, we did the Big Reveal. I was successful in getting the data drive to my Employer, and that I was an agent of the Syndicate. The medic is an Alliance officer, the passenger had interest in the datadrive, but was sent to destroy it with virus / worm software. Turns out, the Alliance ended up with the virus laden data drive. That'll teach 'em.

The venue was a Hilton in Vancouver, WA, and it was nice. we had roving hotel employees with carts selling snacks and pizza - that was new. I am sure some people appreciated the fact that the food came to you, but I didn't think it was all that great. Overpriced con food on wheels - not impressed. Also, parking was a pain, and there was very limited free spots - I ended up paying for parking the whole weekend. That was annoying.

That ended my GameStorm. Looking back, I didn't play as many games as I probably could have, but I had a lot of talking time with a slew of folk and I did have a great time. I already registered for next year.