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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BGG Con 2010

From November 17th to 21st, BGG Con happened. 5 days of gaming goodness. My brother in law, Dennis, decided that for my birthday, he'd buy me a ticket to BGG Con. So, we made plans to go. With points (so it was free-ish) I got us a room (3 of us, Dennis, Martin and myself), Martin got the rental car.

Oh, for those of you NOT in the know, BGG stands for BoardGameGeek - a website dedicated to better our board game experience.

Wednesday
Loch Ness
Children's game, simple - good for filler. I liked how Nessie moved and the 3 part piece.

Smallworld
This was my first play of this, even though I've been wanting to play it for a while. The game is different than what I originally thought it would be like, and I like it well enough. Wouldn't buy it, but would play it occasionally.

London
This is a newer game that has heavy card management. You balance money, re-building portions of London and running those boroughs, and poverty. I liked it but didn't get another play, and I need more plays.

Aton
Dennis' freebie from the Con registration. It played ok, pretty light. Fair 2 player game. We played it while awaiting the car to show up with Martin. Or the other way around.

Domaine
My first game of the con with both Dennis & Martin. Time and travel weariness forced a lighter game. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I love this game, its quick, easy and has a bit of an element of tension in the mid / end game. I managed the mid-game massive land grab, and won the game with exactly the needed number of points.

Thursday
Age of Industry
I was walking by one of the rooms and a guy was sitting there reading the rules for what looked like Brass. I inspected closer and saw it was a new game, called Age of Industry, but had a lot of the same Brass elements. We got 2 more newbies and played it. Right before we started, we got a coach for a quick rules review and confirmation. It was a good game, and what probably made it better was that I won. I can't say I like it better than Brass, but it is more streamlined, and has a few less fiddly rules.

Ubongo 3D
After a heady game with new rules, I found a lighter game. It was still a thinker since we had to put together a block from 3D tetris-like blocks. Really fun, and frustrating at the same time. Get some blocks, build the shape, get points. Oh, and there is a timer.


Titan
Classic, and since I made all 3 of us t-shirts with the Titan counters from the Avalon Hill release, we had to play it. Plus, this is a game I introduced to the Burke brothers. We had a fourth, Tony, who ended up whomping us all.



Rock Band 3
same as Rock Band, new songs, new features, yadda, yadda, yadda..

Crows
this was kind of an abstract collection game. You place your 'shiny object' and the crows flock to it in a straight path. Various things give you better scores, you can thwart your opponents with trash piles', and there are bonus points. Good short game, great for filler. the bits were good, too.

Friday
Age of Industry
New opponents, two had played before, one hadn't. We played the same map, and I managed 2nd place, which I was fairly happy with.

Fresco
Played a 4 person game in the demo area. We played the the 'basic' game, and after one play (and 2nd place again), the game seems dry. Maybe the expansions make it a bit better, but I don't think I'd be interested enough to try them.

Thunderstone
Dennis was looking for a game to take home. I recommended this over Dominion, simply because Dominion was a little vague for me, but Thunderstone has a more obvious goal, and that is to beat up monsters in a dungeon. Dennis bought this (and the expansion) and we played the basic game.

Poker
Free Texas Hold 'em tournament for a bunch of games for prizes. Out of 175ish folks, I was out fairly early, with 100 people still playing.

Stronghold
This game, two players are assaulting the castle, two are defending. I was talked into this because this was the game that Martin and Dennis talked so much about from last year. Sadly, it didn't do it for me. I think the game is a great representation of what it is - defending / storming a castle. I am just a rotten tactician and I quickly grow bored of being stomped. Also, if you play thins, make sure you find the best rules translation. There were a lot of questions about this game and its rules.



Saturday
Saturday was the flea market, with lines as long as the eye could see. I guess this is a huge deal at BGG Con - people selling used games for low prices. I managed to sneak in a few minutes before it closed, and saw some cool stuff, but nothing I really couldn't pass on.

Parade
While waiting for the flea market to finish up, I jumped in on this quick card game. You play a card and take cards of the same color, and those that are lower in value. Your card that you play 'freezes' that number of cards so you don't have to take them. Lowest score wins, so taking cards is against your goal.

7 Wonders
One of my new game buddies, Tony, said to try this game, it's fast, fun and short. So, I went to where a game was just being started, and played. It's got a lot of game for so short, too bad the group I was playing with was neither fast nor fun. But, with the right people, it would be a great short game as filler.

Cyclades
This game has a war game element - you get armies and navies and invade / hold your islands. The war aspect is pretty low, so it wasn't too bad for me. The interesting part of the game is the monsters that you can use to do various things, the Kraken will obliterate a navy, the Pegasus flies a unit anywhere on the board, etc. Turn order is set in reverse of who went first last time, and that is determined by the god you activated. You bid for the god you want to utilize, which are in random order each turn, and do that action. I crippled myself on the first turn, and the game wasn't fun for me, but I think it would be fun, should I play it again.

Thunderstone
More dungeon delving carnage! Dennis branched out and used some other cards.

Prolix
This was taught to me by the designer, Gil. He places it on the table, and it is obviously a word game. He says "I hate word games, so I made one that I like". The game has no vowel tiles, and you basically just call out a word you see in the 8 visible letters and score it. 2 letters shift off the board each time a word is made, keeping it fresh for each player. You can 'steal' or 'interrupt' the current player to score, but it is scored slightly less. I like this one.


Age of Industry
3rd play, and we finally got to use the other side, or map #2. It is more difficult, only 2 coal spaces for players to build, but a lot of off-shore coal. Very odd, but fun. I tied for last.


Tichu
Played this with a couple of guys I found playing another card game. I got my first Grand Tichu.

Sunday
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Last day of the con, and Dennis and Martin were flying out soon, I had a late flight, so I looked for a few games. I played this with 3 other folks, and I turned out to be the Traitor. another player was one room away with the revolver and made short work of my character, so I focused on the creeping vines. I managed to 'mulch' one other player before the plants died a nasty death.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
This was getting a lot of buzz, and there was a guy demoing it. I played it and I liked it. It's easier to set up and reset than Dominion and Thunderstone, which may be the reason I buy it over the other two. I think I need at least one deck building game..

Peloponnes
I played this with the owner (and his wife) of Fun Again Games, a fact I didn't know until almost the second game. We played once, and messed up the rules enough, that a second play was in order. The game is fun, but I need more plays. It's pretty light, but has a good bidding part to make you think a little more. The game finished right when I needed to leave for the airport.

That's it! For the most part, one highlight was hard 8 BBQ, and the fact that I got to spend time with Dennis & Martin playing Titan and other games. The travel was wearing, so I don't think I'll do BGG Con yearly.. maybe every 3-5 years.

Game on!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Portland Juggling Festival, 2010

The annual festival has come and gone. It was a good weekend. I took a lot of workshops, and did some great progress. Also, it was great to have my friends Marcus and Tim in town for the weekend. The shows were good, and I got to see a few friends at the show.

I took some 3 ball, 4 ball and 5 ball workshops, and a clubs back-cross workshop. I made good progress on my 4 ball tricks, and finally got the 3 ball shower going. 5 balls is still eluding me beyond 6 or 7 catches. I also got my first few successful club back-crosses. I didn't do a lot of passing.

I was a volunteer again, Gym Coordinator and Late Night Czar. We also tried something new this year to try to get more people who wanted to learn in a 'learning corner'.

The Friday Night 'renegade' show was pretty cool some of the acts were:
  • Juggling 2 balls in one hand while making a balloon animal in the other
  • A bit on how Cannibalism will save the environment
  • A juggling act to the song 'Pour some sugar on me'
  • Juggling on a giraffe unicycle
  • 3 ball contact juggling
  • Two person club passing with 3 clubs, lots of switching out and swapping
  • A great street juggler act
There were over 20 bits at the renegade show, and most of them were entertaining.

The public show was great, too. My friends Jamie and Joe showed up, as they have in the past. Whitten showed up with his kids, and they thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was great to see the kids enjoy themselves so much.

A few of the acts from the public show that I thought were really great:
  • An acrobat / contortionist did a great routine, ending with shooting a bow and arrow with her feet. Accurately.
  • A bounce juggling act combined with beat-boxing.
  • The headliner act, Justin, did 7 clubs, all back-crosses, plus a lot of other great stuff.
Some web resources I found on the web:
A Picsaweb Gallery
7 Ball Endurance
Another PJF goer's blog posting

Thursday, October 7, 2010

R.I.P. Grendel

Grendel was our Cairn Terrier that was given 3 weeks to live. 2 years ago. If you don't remember, here's the post:
http://jghostman.blogspot.com/2008/07/grendels-pain.html

Anyway, he had liver failure that was causing his skin to slough off, and it was ugly and sad. We ended up changing his food (and in fact, all of the dogs) to a home cooked diet. Meran calls it doggy stew. Grendel made a fast recovery, and lived on.

His whole life, we joked his name should have been Eyor, not Grendel. He was not a scary monster at all, just the complete opposite. He was always the sick one, it was at least a year after we first got him that we found out that he had a urinal tract infection, and had probably had it for the year (or before) we had him.

Here's some photos of his better days.

Grendel in the back, he had some red in his coat.


Close up of 'hang dog'

Leaning tower of Grendel

Trying to get some sleep.

Well, that's it. We loved him, and we know a lot of folks enjoyed him. We're glad he is finally pain free...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thieves' World - Beggar's Revenge


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 vs. Jubal : Roxane


Beggar's Revenge

12th of Sperraz, Ilsday
After a few unnaturally quiet days, Gagino opens up his shop in the Bazaar and takes stock of the potential prospects for the day. There has been a noticeable, steady increase of Moruth’s beggars around the Bazaar, and business has been steadily dropping off. After a few minutes of self-deliberation, he decides to take the day off from business, and heads off for a drink or two at Marta’s with his friends.

At Marta’s, Gagino joins Modig and Jack, who are already wolfing down their breakfasts. Malkar has been missing since the attack on Roxane, and his absence is the top discussion. Lisle saunters in and subtly delivers a message to Modig. The note is from Gastov and inquires about Malkar’s recent activities; there is also an offer of some work. Modig and the group discuss the note and the prospect of a job. When breakfast is finished, the Group finds themselves on their way to the Happy Beaver to talk with Gastov.

At the Beaver, the Group and Gastov talk about the offer for work in the Maze. Gastov has a friend who owns a place in the Maze called The Dead Dog Tavern. His name is Jackson, and he’s having problems with some beggars and local riffraff causing problems that normally Jubal’s protection would have taken care of. Since Jubal’s protection is gone, the Group is going to go and see what they can do to help.

With Modig leading the way, the Group navigates the Maze to the Dead Dog. They drink the only good mead in the Maze with Jackson, who proves to be a surly man who’s definitely come to age in the Maze. Jackson has known Gastov for a few years during their business together and is glad to have an offer of protection from him. Over the drinks, Jackson talks of the toughs coming in and causing problems. The Dead Dog is a local place that attracts the weaker elements of the Maze, and Jubal’s protection was useful in this regard. Another new occurance is that there has been a significant increase of beggars in the area. The Group asks if there is a place they can stay, but Jackson doesn’t rent rooms; however, there is a building down the street that some beggars are squatting in. Maybe they can kill two birds with one stone by clearing out the beggars.

They go scout the building; their efforts reveal one door and a very small opening that might be a window, but it is more of a “murder hole”. The Group decides to press the attack since they have the element of surprise. They spread out, Gagino at the murder hole, Jack at the front door, and Modig coming down through the roof. Jack rushes in and springs a trap on the door, getting shot with poisoned darts. His strong constitution proves stronger than the poison. The room has six people inside. For appearing as beggars, they seem to be well armed. Jack rushes in and starts swinging at them, meanwhile Gagino starts playing a raucous tune on his mandolin, summoning a creature to aid them. Modig climbs along the roof, pulls a few loose boards away and drops into the building from the roof above. One of the beggars moves to block up the murder hole, and the rest focus on Jack. Gagino’s summoned monster is a hellhound, and it attacks the man trying to block the murder hole. Modig finally makes it through the roof and drops in to aid in the battle. It ends fairly quickly, but two of the beggars end up getting away. The Group searches the space, and finds a stash of weapons: poor crossbows and cheap swords. Hidden in a corner, there’s a strongbox with the beggar’s cache, a dozen or so shabooza – all in padpols.

The Group sets up defensive preparations for the building. Gagino goes to purchase a mallet and some nails, and is severely overcharged due to his upscale manner of dress. Gagino is steamed about the expensive tools, and takes it out on the repair he’s making. The building is livable, still not nice, but livable. They finish their repair tasks and go try the Dead Dog Tavern for a meal.

Trying to relax in the Maze after eating a surprisingly poor dinner at the Dead Dog, the Group hears some noise outside and they prepare for an attack. Someone tries the door, setting off the trap that Modig had reset. The door remains closed, and the Group hears ‘Ok, light it up’. Men outside the building with torches are attempting to set the ramshackle building on fire. Not as easy as it could be, as the building’s exterior of adobe is still decently intact. More men with crossbows have set up positions around the building on rooftops. Some flames catch and Gagino battles the minor flames fairly successfully. Jack sprints outside to attack anyone he can get to, which are only the torchbearers trying to start the building on fire. Modig attacks the crossbowmen, surrounding them on the rooftops, killing a few, and the rest run away. The attackers now fended off, the Group focuses their efforts on quashing the last fire. This attack and new damage to the building sparks a discussion on what to do with the building now, whether to fix it or move their Maze base somewhere else. They’ll decide tomorrow; right now they need some sleep, even if the building smells of charred wood.

13th of Sperraz
The Group decides to repair the building and stay where they are, but this time will have Gagino find better materials for better prices. Malkar shows up at Marta’s, and Kalima finds him there; both of them are not sure where the rest of the Group is. Malkar suggests that Gastov at the Happy Beaver might know something. Gastov fills them in on the job in the Maze, and the two of them go into the Maze to look for the others.

The rest of the Group is waiting in the Maze, near the beggar building looking out for more beggars and the toughs that should be around. Gagino takes his leave to open his shop in the Bazaar, and to run down some supplies. Jack goes with Gagino to take a bath, to return in a few hours. Malkar and Kalima manage to find their way to the Dead Dog, and has little problem finding their friends. Malkar and Modig seek and find the gang that they were hired to deal with and they watch what they suspect is the gang’s headquarters all morning. The gang leaves in the early afternoon, and Modig follows them around. Modig watches as the gang visits a few places, and when they start approaching the Dead Dog tavern, Modig slips away to inform the Group of the gang’s approach. As the gang nears the tavern, the Group prepares for confrontation.

The gang is made up of five tough-looking older men; they could easily be ex-Hawkmasks. The Group tells them that the Dead Dog is under their protection now. The gang recognizes the characters from their reputation around the area, and decides to leave without further incident.

“That was too easy”, says Modig. The group agrees and decides to remain in the area just in case there is any further trouble. The Group sets up watch over the Dead Dog and starts cleaning up the scorched building. Kalima fashions a crude hammock out of a length of rope. She’s slept better, but it is better than the floor. The others decide the hammock is a good idea, and decide to get some more rope or actual hammocks the next day.

14th of Sperraz
Early in the morning, Jack is outside the building when two young urchins approach him selling baked goods, and services. Jack recognizes Gabe and Jilly; they also recognize Jack from a few months ago. Jilly sells them the baked goods and Gabe works for them in the building cleaning up the fire damage and soot, after rushing off to find some decent cleaning supplies. The Group continues to stay outside of the Dead Dog and notices the beggars are all watching them. Gabe gets paid for his day of work, and goes home. The Group tries their luck with dinner at the Dead Dog again. The results are the same: they need to find a more pleasant source of food in the Maze. When they return, Kalima’s makeshift hammock has been cut to bits; the few items in the building are broken or tossed around. And to top it off, there is a fresh leaving of human waste in the center of the room. The Group believes that the beggars are responsible for this vandalism, as there are suspiciously very few beggars around.

15th of Sperraz
Gabe and Jilly meet the group at the door for more breakfast goodies and work. The Group buys more baked goods for breakfast and sends Gabe out for supplies: Hammocks, canvas and other items for their headquarters in the Maze. They tell him to go to Gagino in the Bazaar, and he’ll set everything up. The Group makes sure that there is always one of them in the building to keep the beggars from vandalizing it again. During the watch on the Dead Dog, one of the gang members visits the tavern; it looks like a peaceful enough visit, as nothing happens. On his return, Gabe tells the group about an attack on Gagino’s tent. Yesterday, the first thing in the morning, Gagino’s tent was attacked by a group of beggars: the tent sides were cut, and a few items were stolen. The tent is okay, as fellow Bazaar residents helped with repairs. The Group discusses the event with surprise, and is becoming very wary of the beggars around them.

Gabe informs the Group that the beggars are organizing a different kind of attack against Gagino in the Bazaar. The beggars are uncomfortably close to the tent and are keeping customers away from shopping with Gagino. Halfway throughout the day, the beggars increase their actions by spreading to the neighboring tents. Gagino’s neighboring merchants threaten the beggars with guards, but as soon as they are moved away, others slink in to take their places. Gagino starts playing his mandolin nonchalantly, and summons a couple of wolves to attack the beggars. The two wolves attack four of the beggars, killing one and chasing the other 3 off. Gagino releases the wolves as soon as the beggars run away. A guard comes rushing to the scene and starts asking everyone what happened. Since the dead beggar is directly in front of Gagino’s tent, the Guard starts with Gagino. Gagino slips the man a couple of shabooza, and relates that the beggars were a problem, and that something happened that took care of them. The Guard does some additional questioning, but leaves fairly quickly.

In the Maze, the rest of the Group keeps watch over their building and the tavern. They discuss a plan to fake leaving in the morning, to see if the gang of toughs leaves the Dead Dog alone or not. Additionally, the beggars have become a little more brazen: they begin throwing odd bits of whatever they can find at the Group members whenever they are within range. The beggars scamper and scurry off quickly after a throw, and it isn’t worth the Group’s time to chase after them, annoying as the pithy attacks are.

16th of Sperraz
The Group continues with their plan to make it look like they are leaving. After the show of them leaving is orchestrated, Malkar and Modig sneak back to see if the Gang stays away from The Dead Dog Tavern. They set up watch near their building, but watch from separate hidden locations.

Meanwhile, at Gagino’s tent in the Bazaar, the beggars continue to keep business away with their presence and pushy nature towards potential customers. Kalima stalks down a beggar and tries to get to the reason to why the beggars are focusing their efforts them. The beggar replies with “You attacked us first!” and scrambles away without any more words.

At dusk, a beggar approaches with a note, informing the Group of a chance to meet with Moruth, the Beggar King of Downwind. Kalima sends an owl to Malkar and Modig, informing them of the meet-up. Malkar and Modig tie a return note to the owl with “wait for us” and start out for the Bazaar, vacating their post. When they get there Kalima is finishing up some spellcasting, in preparation for the confrontation with Moruth as it could easily get dangerous. One spell is Zone of Truth, so that they can make sure that Moruth is honest with them; other spells are for the protection of the Group.

Entering Downwind, they are greeted with a barrage of items being thrown at them: rocks, pottery shards, dirt clods, sticks of wood and whatever else that can be found handy. The Group doesn’t retaliate, but lower their heads for protection and continue on. Eventually, one item that is thrown at them is a piece of white cloth tied to a stick. Kalima picks it up and holds it above their heads. The assault dies off and they see a man step out from an alley. He tells them to follow him to Mama Beecho’s place. The building they arrive at is “nice” by Maze standards, and “amazing” by Downwind standards. They enter into a single room tavern, with a curtain down the middle. The tables are low to the ground, as they are meant for cushions or pillows, of which there are none visible. Their guide motions at the curtain and hastily leaves the building.

Entering the side of the room hidden with the curtain, the Group sees a lone man sitting at another low table; it seems all the cushions have been appropriated for this table. Jack recognizes the Beggar King, Moruth. Moruth smiles a jagged smile, and waves at the table, inviting them to sit down. There are cups for drink, rags soaked with Opah, and little else. As soon as they sit, a young man comes in and starts pouring what must pass for wine in Downwind into all of the cups. Moruth encourages the Group to drink, and inhale the Opah provided. The group drinks shallowly, but doesn’t partake in the Opah.

Moruth quickly gets down to business, and makes three offers for a truce. The first offer is that the Group leaves town – permanently. Second, Moruth wants any member of the Group to come to the aid of any beggar in trouble, be it from the hand of a guard or a citizen. The third and final offer is a single payment of 1,000 shabooza. The Group tells Moruth that they need time to answer him, and he gives them until sunset tomorrow. With the offers that have been made, and Moruth’s hospitality assumedly slighted, the Group is hasty to leave. At least leaving Downwind is easier than it was entering and who would have thought the stenches of the far Westside would be a welcome odor?

After some drinks at Marta’s, the Group comes up with two counteroffers, and they write them in a letter to Moruth. First offer is a one-time payment of 500 sh and assistance to any beggar in legitimate trouble on the street in the Westside or the Bazaar. The second offer is one of an alliance of the Group and the beggars for defense against any Hawkmask oppression, and the beggars will also get the Maze building back. Happy with their progress with the beggars, the Group goes to their respective homes for the night.

17th of Sperraz
In the Bazaar, a beggar shows up at Gagino’s test and Gagino hands her a sealed note for Moruth, along with a few padpols. Around midday, Moruth sends an answer and declines both of their offers. Not wanting to leave town or pay the 1000 shabooza, the Group decides to start helping the beggars around town. They start in the bazaar, which keeps Jack busy everywhere he goes. Now that they are on watch for it, beggars seem to be getting pushed around or roughed up on every corner. The Group can hardly walk more than a few blocks without intervening on a beggar’s behalf.

A scribe approaches Gagino offering his services. The two men seem to hit it off and they start discussing jobs and future plans.

Meanwhile, Malkar shows up at the Happy Beaver to talk to Gastov about Jackson and the Dead Dog Tavern. Gastov sees him enter, and jumps off of his usual bar stool in a wild rush. Gastov attacks him screaming “You sonuva froggin’ whore! Jackson is dead, and the Dead Dog is burned to the ground!” Gastov pounds wildly on Malkar and Malkar is spitting out apologies between hits. He quickly escapes Gastov and retreats from the Happy Beaver, wondering where he’s going to stay now. He wanders down to the WideWay and sees the crowds gathered, all looking at the sea; on the horizon, there are dozens of sails that can be made out, maybe more. That many ships can’t be good for Sanctuary. Word is spreading through town quickly as the others join Malkar on the WideWay. Kalima says her goodbyes to the Group and heads for her temple to inform them of the ships; but the Temple has already heard the news. The city is starting to set up defenses, as it appears to be an attack. The Temple suggests to Kalima that she go to the Promise of Heaven where other mages are gathering.

At the docks, Modig has a lengthy discussion with Hakeem about the ships. Hakeem doesn’t have much information, he’s never seen these sails or ship configurations before. Modig decides he needs to get some rest; tomorrow looks like it’s going to be a big day. He makes it back to his apartment for the first time in a week and finds it ransacked, including one of the Group stashes of money hidden under a floorboard.

Jack wanders around the WideWay and ends up at the docks, stopping to talk to any Stepson he encounters in the area. Everyone is preparing for the worst, an invasion of some sort. The Palace is setting up magical wards and defenses and bringing all soldiers and guards in to guard the Palace. Seems the Rankens are going to let the common folk of Sanctuary fend for themselves.

At the end of the day, The Group still needs to remedy the beggar situation, and after a day of helping the beggars, they find that it is a full time job and not worth it. They decide to make the payment to Moruth, only to find out that after their counteroffer, the payout has been increased to 1250 shabooza. The Group digs into their shared treasury to pay off the beggars. Maybe now they will get some peace, although with the ships on the Horizon, maybe the beggars were the least of their problems.

Friday, June 25, 2010

GameStorm 12 - Pictures



Somehow I temporarily lost the pictures I took at GameStorm 12 this year - specifically during the Savage Worlds Hellride adventure.

So, here's a re-post of the adventure, and the pictures will follow.
Savage Worlds RPG
Hellride - Hellforce One

This game was a sequel from last year, although I didn't play it. The genre is modern. There is a gate to another world, which seems to be high fantasy - Demons, Gorgons, Dragons, etc. So, there are high-powered monsters, but we also have missiles, tanks, fully automatic guns, grenades, and gate magic to transport across the worlds. I played the medic, and took a gambling quirk. We were recruited for a mission to the other world, due to Air Force One being attacked by demon-looking creatures, which then disappeared. The President and about 40 other passengers were on board. We got a tank requisitioned, some guns, ammo, and a gate 'Go Back Box'. Simple. Find the President, activate box, bickety-bam, we're home.

We gate over, and the first thing I do is lay out a betting pool for what would break first on the assault vehicle. We look around and see a big column of light that is obvious enough for us to see it a few dozen miles away; we figure that's where we're going.

First thing we run into is a stampeding herd of creatures - which turned out to be Gorgons - thousands of them. We manage to duck into a cave (vehicle and all) while they pass. In the cave, an interested pack of rats emerge. The commander got a claymore mine positioned in time, however. After the Gorgons go by, and the rat bits are cleaned off the windshield, we're ready to go.

We drive into a canyon, and notice figures on the rim of the cliffs above us. We watch them, and after a few miles, they start tossing rocks down at the vehicle - one lucky hit, but no damage. We use the turreted machine gun to suppress further attacks. We round a corner and see a crudely built rock wall; we come to a stop. Rocks come down, and we decide to go for the rock wall - which is more like a long pile of rocks than a wall. The vehicle struggles through the pile - the loose rocks aren't a problem, though they do slow down progress. On the other side, there are 5 creatures standing there, with what looks like war paint. One of them is obviously the chief. Surprisingly, they speak a broken English. They are wanting us to leave; we tell them we are looking for our Chief. They are concerned that we are here for 'gems'. We convince them we have no interest in these gems, and that we need to get to the column of light in the distance. They decide to trust us and show us a short cut towards the column of light.

Driving at a creeping pace uphill towards the light, we get to the plateau where the light is coming from. The scene: Air Force One is hovering about 30' off of the ground, and there are actually 5 beams of light that make up the column. The 5 beams form a pentagram, where each point has a small ritual of dancing and spell casting - apparently keeping the magical 'threads' intact. In addition to the five groups, there is a massive Demon-looking thing, and he's flanked by two important looking smaller guys - all three of them seem to be in the middle of supporting a spell, as well. Behind these three, is a regiment of Arabs, which we're none-to-keen on seeing.

Pour on the attack! Our first shot is a LAW missile into one of the five dancing groups (I voted for the big, nasty, ugly demon-looking guy, but was out-voted) and the group goes down. So does the magical thread. The plane rocks ominously in the sky, but stays where it is, just not as stable as before. Then the vehicle starts going, we track a path around the plane, aiming to run down each group at the base of each thread. During the whole loop, various other monsters jump the vehicle, and we manage to brush them off with gunfire and grenades. The Arabs split up and start setting up rocket launchers and the Big Demon decides to fly up in the air. Meanwhile, our gate expert is starting counter spells for the threads. The Demon comes down and throws a cone of flames on the vehicle, barely scorching it; one of the Arabs manages to get a missile off, it hits but the impact was low. The gate expert manages to work the spell so that he can swing the plane around, trying to hit the flying Demon with Air Force One! The second LAW missile is targeted on the big Demon, with a direct hit. This crushes the morale of the monsters running around attacking us, and we can concentrate on the missile launchers still being set up. The plane drops to the ground, hopefully not injuring anyone inside. The Arab groups are dealt with, and we get a few prisoners to 'question'. A few minutes later, we board the plane, get the vehicle against the plane, and make it back to Earth with a mostly-intact Air Force One. Casualties are surprisingly low for our side. After the excitement of returning, we are invited to the White House for a huge highfalutin reception.

Oh, and the driver won the bet - the windshield wipers were the first thing to break.

Overall, I really like the Savage Worlds system; I bought the 'Explorers Edition' for $10 - cheapest RPG I've bought so far!

No, on to the pictures, the GM had some killer props. This was the final scene, with airforce one in the center of the scene.


The airplane was cool, and the armored vehicle worked great, too!


The armored truck was a force to be reckoned with, we were mowing down opponents with it. I giant, steerable bowling ball. hehehe.

Still running down demons.


Here's where our gate expert starts swinging the plane as a weapon.
The wings are starting to rip off.

The plane is unusable, but we're gating back to Earth, not flying.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

R.I.P. Colin


Our oldest dog was put down a few weeks back, I wanted to post something with pictures, so we spent time going through old pictures and scanning them. So, here's a memory lane of photos:

A very young Colin.

A very young Colin, probably focused on a toy (tennis ball most likely)

Colin and Daisy.

He loved playing fetch! His rapt attention on the Frisbee..

He was smart always figured it out. The Frisbee was too big for him, but he figured a way to carry it anyway.

And he loved the snow!


Older, more mature Colin.

Of course, with his beloved Tennis Ball.

Treats! Prairie Dog pose.

A trick we taught him - to balance stuff on his muzzle.

What's that boy? Timmy fall down a well?


Waiting for another throw.

TWO Tennis balls nearby!

Colin, Daisy and Grendel on their matching couch.

Colin and Grendel after enjoying the snow.

Colin will be missed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New front door

We ordered a new door, and finally got it installed. Our favorite contractor (Jerry) installed it while I was out of town on business. Meran is super pleased with it.
It's an Atruim Entry / Patio Door.

The key is that the side lights open and are screened so we can have airflow without opening the door. We are looking for a working screen door / storm door solution for the door itself, but right now, that's not a priority. And, the entryway to the house is soooo much brighter, since everything is full-light.

The down side, is the size of our opening was such that the door we ended up with is a 32" door, instead of a 36" door. We are planning on ordering another one, and move this door to another spot in the house. In a year or so, we'll see.

Now on to the pictures!

Walking up to the house, some finish work is done, but we still need to paint the porch.


Looking through the plants on the porch.


Closer view.

Inside view. the interior trim work is being painted, then installed. The white is just primer, so we can paint it whatever color we want. and the linoleum is going to be swapped out with some nice slate tile.

That's it. Short post, huh?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review - Alesis DM10 drum module

I've had this sucker for over a month now, and I think I have enough data to compose a review, and I do this after finding out something that is super annoying. But, we'll get to that.

First, a quick review for the impatient. This is, IMHO, the best module for it's price on the market today. Alesis could probably charge 50% more (and maybe more) and it would still be a good price. With extra purchasable 'sound sets', the DM10 is also expandable without having to go the full VST / Laptop / computer route, this isn't the first module to allow uploads (I have heard the ddrum modules did), but it is the first in recent years, and is definitely a feature that is unique in the current market. The triggering and editing capabilities are excellent and easy to learn. A few minor annoyances aside, I am very, very happy with this module.

The fuller, longer version for the detail gluttons:
The DM10 module is the newest offering from Alesis for their e-drums set. A full kit runs about $1000 (US) for the 'Studio' and about $1500 for the 'Pro' kit. Personally, if I were buying a full kit, I'd get the 'Studio' kit.

Since I built my own e-drums using acoustic shells, and I already own a bunch of e-cymbals, I only wanted to purchase the module. Cost $639, plus the mounting hardware of $40. (purchased from RMC Audio)

Comparison vs. Roland (functionality & price)
Functionally, it compares in between the Roland TD-9 and the TD-12. It has some high-end features which makes it a better module than the TD-9, but there are features that the TD-12 have that the DM10 doesn't, so I rate it in-between for functionality. But for cost, it is LESS than the TD-9, making it a great deal.

Comparison vs. Yamaha (functionality & price)
If you're a Yamaha edrummer, it's got a lot of the features of the DTXtreme III (layering comes to mind) and completely out classes the DTXPress IV. I think the only thing that the DTXtreme III has on it is on-board sampling (which even Roland TD-20 doesn't have!). The DM10 is definitely better than the DTXPress, but not quite the level of the Extreme.

After that, the DM10 is a very good module for low/mid-entry level e-drummers, it's just slightly short of the other companies top-end offerings, making it a great deal. For expereinced e-drummers, if you are used to a top-of the line modules, this may not do what you want, but it is cheaper, so if you are looking for the mondo kit and one more module, maybe this would be a good second / add-on module.

My experiences with it:
The good:
excellent editing capabilities - I get excellent dynamic response from my drum pads after tweaking the module a bit, and once I learned some settings, I could apply them across all my pads to get good response from all of them.

Lot's of inputs - The DM10 has 11 stereo inputs that an industrious user could use and configure 22 single-input pads. the 12th input is the hi-hat, and it is not stereo, only mono.

Hi-hat dynamics - This was the primary reason I bought this module, I wanted a newer module with excellent hi-hat reaction and definition. I can get about 5-6 different levels of 'openness' that I can hear. Maybe there are more, but I can't hear the difference. I can get a foot chik, and a splash.

3-zone ride feature - this takes 2 inputs (2 stereo cables) but you get a ride that has a bow, bell, edge crash and choke functionality.

Built-in kits - 100 pre-programmed kits out of the box. This thing sounds really quite good. Even kit 001, Fusion, is decent and I find myself using a lot of the default kits. You can modify these kits, too, if you want. But there are a lot of room to customize, read on.

Editable kits - the DM10 gives you 100 more kits to edit to your hearts content, what is better, you can copy a pre-programmed kit, and make changes to it, leaving the default kit alone, and allowing some significant tweak room to make your perfect kit.

Third party kits - the DM10 is going to soon feature down-loadable sound sets. These are specific kits that are made for the DM10 from companies like ToonTrack, FXPansion and others. These sound sets will allow you to replace the default sounds with a purchased 'high definition sound set'. Alesis hasn't quite gotten these out yet - to my current disappointment - but they are planning to have some for purchase soon.

Expandability - The DM10 has a unique feature to allow access to 35 additional customized sounds via MIDI. And this could be user-custom sounds, not just stock sounds. So, with my Trigger IO, I could build a monster kit with this option.

The Bad:
Single Zone hi-hat. tip and shank - is that really too much to ask for?

One choke-able crash - for some reason, only the input #7 for a crash cymbal allows choke. True, the ride allows choke, but only when configured as a 3-zone. I have a second crash that I cannot configure to choke, and I am slightly disappointed in that.

MIDI note editing - I just found this out, I was testing the DM10 into VST - I own Steven Slate Drums and I wanted to check out the DM10's MIDI capability / functionality. I found the that the hi-hat and Ride MIDI notes cannot be edited - and the manual confirms this. I found this super annoying, and while I am resourceful and can get around this in at least 3 different ways, the easiest way is to edit the note in the module. Why would Alesis hard-code MIDI note numbers for certain inputs? It baffles me.

That's my review, and as usual, I was long-winded. Maybe you'll find this useful, I hope so. If there are questions you have, feel free to post them, and I will answer them as best I can.
Tschuss!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thieves' World - Roxane


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 vs. Jubal


Roxane

5th of Sperraz, Ilsday
The Group decides to scout out Roxane’s headquarters to gain some ideas on how to best attack her. Gagino and Modig go to Roxane’s building; they approach from the Street of Red Lanterns and circle around to the back. Once the two get close to the building, an overwhelming feeling of discontent rises up their backs, and they hastily retreat from the building. Discussing this with the others, it is decided that Roxane probably has a magical ward around the building to discourage curious people.
Everyone rests until dusk. The Group decides to try to strike at Roxane’s Death Squads before they can even make it into the City. They find a suitable location in a copse of trees that are near a ford in the White Foal River. Their ambush is planned and set up; now they just await the victims. The Group hears the Death Squads approach from the Marsh, cross the river at the ford, and wend south towards the trees the Group is hiding in. The Group hides as best as they can, but Kalima is spotted, and the three approaching death squads attack the Group immediately.
Everyone engages with the Death Squad members, and start exchanging blows. Modig and Kalima fight valiantly, but get overwhelmed and taken down. Malkar and Nick get some wounds but manage to stay up the entire fight. Jack goes into a berserker rage, and manages to take out the bulk of them, and a very few manage to escape. The Group quickly grabs up some of the Death Squad equipment and get Modig and Kalima to the Temple of Sabellia.
On the way to the Temple, Tempus crosses with the Group. They give him a report on the Death Squads. He listens, but doesn’t seem too concerned with the news. The Group continues on to the Temple, grumbling about Tempus’ lack of concern. The Priestesses take very good care of the wounded two, and Modig is feeling much better by the next morning; Kalima will need another day of rest.

6th of Sperraz
Malkar, Jack, Akhir, Kama and Modig meet at Marta’s for breakfast. After a quick breakfast, Kama and Modig head over to where Roxane is, in order to set up some traps. The traps they are using are the explosive traps they have appropriated from the Death Squads they pounded in the fight last night. Carefully, Modig starts setting up some traps; his fingers fumble a bit while setting the first trap and it explodes! Modig gets a blackened face, and a hurt ego. The explosion alerts Roxane, and she looks out the window to investigate. She sees the two running away, and casts a spell on them. They are both engulfed in a column of fire, damaging Modig to the point of unconsciousness. Kama hefts Modig up and heads back to the familiar Temple of Sabellia. Jack meets up with Kama and helps to carry Modig. Malkar picks up on their trail and gets to the temple as well. The group discusses the beginnings of a plan to take care of Roxane, once and for all.

Malkar goes to the Happy Beaver for some rest and relaxation. One of Gastov’s men approaches him and chats him up. Since Jubal is apparently out of business, this guy is recruiting for his own gang of thugs. Malkar tells the guy he’ll think about it, and goes to his room to sleep off the day’s events.
The next morning at Marta’s, Malkar tells Jack about the man in the Happy Beaver recruiting. They discuss some of what might be happening with Jubal gone. Akhir listens in and makes comments over his breakfast.

Gagino goes to the Temple to visit the recovering Kalima; they both leave and meet up with Modig and Kama in the courtyard. They head West to meet up with the rest of the Group. They discuss their plans to attack Roxane, everyone is very optimistic about their chances of defeating the witch. Kama has her reservations about success but she celebrates the night before battle by inviting Jack to her bed.

7th of Sperraz
Akhir loads up the Group with magical enhancements: Fly, Armor, Protection, and Speed spells. The Group is ready to take on Roxane. Kama, Akhir, and Malkar get on a wall near the Palace while Kalima and Jack await for the signal to rush the building from the front door. The attack is set, and the Group awaits Roxane’s appearance.
Roxane gets to the top of her building and summons the nightly Sikkintair using a Summon spell. The Group uses this as their cue to attack from their positions; Kama and Malkar fly in magically, and surprise Roxane with a few attacks. Kalima and Jack burst through the front door and start running through the building, doors opening in the hallway as they run through. Roxane uses a Lightning spell and commands the Sikkintair to defend her. Kama, Malkar, Jack and Kalima pound on Roxane, and they manage to kill her in their swift attack. The Group finishes off the two Soul Sniffers on the roof, along with her two serpentine guardians. As they exit the building, there are more Soul Sniffers on the ground floor that had come out of the doors earlier. These are easily dispatched as well. Kama insists on visiting Tempus for a status update, and then the Group goes to celebrate at Marta’s. Kama and Jack celebrate again by going to Kama’s room at the barracks.

8th of Sperraz
With the witch dead, Kama’s duty is done, and she can’t wait to get the hell out of Sanctuary. She wakes early, but doesn’t disturb the sleeping Jack in her bed, and she prepares to leave town quickly. She makes her goodbyes to her father, Tempus. Tempus presents her with a new horse, and she rides out as the sun is starting to rise. Jack comes out of the Barracks an hour later or so, and makes his way to the usual Marta’s for breakfast. The Group meets up at Marta’s and hopes for some quieter days now that Roxane is gone.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Game Storm 12

I know you've all been awaiting this with huge expectations. Here is my annual GameStorm report. Enjoy!

The format is basically this: Game name, followed by a brief description (could be lifted from BGG) and then my personal experience of the play.

Thursday
Snow Tails
A race game on snow using dog sleds. To maneuver / turn, one dog must be pulling harder than another. Dodging trees is interesting.

We didn't finish the race; I'm not surprised, with 3 newbie players and only an hour to play - and the person running the game showed up 20 minutes late. Still, I like the game with the unique race method of dogs and pull for steering. If you like race games, this is a good one.

Power Grid - Factory Manager
Basically, this game is supposed to be in the Power Grid family, but it doesn't really have much to do with Power Grid. You run a factory producing goods, and buy tiles (Robots, Machines, Storage, and Optimization) to increase your income. The game is 5 turns and the player with the most money wins.

I've only played this once (twice, but the first time was a rules knowledge disaster), so I decided to set up the orange cone and see who would play. I got 2 players after about 20-30 minutes of waiting, and we were starting the second phase of the first turn when another guy showed up. So, we had four, which is good - I've played with 5 before, and I was interested in seeing how (or if) it played differently. No opinion there, the players played differently, and I'm not sure if the differences were in the number of players or the players themselves, but I tend to think the latter is more true. I came in 3rd out of 4 players, but I realized I was doing poorly on the 2nd to the last turn, and I was still planning growth instead of my end game. All in all, I enjoyed the game.

Agricola

A farming game, using your people to take actions. Build your house up, get animals, fences and stables. Plow and sow fields. Slaughter animals, bake bread, cook vegetables to feed your family.

I was teaching a new player (one who just played Factory Manager with me) and we played "Family Style" without the Occupations and Minor Improvements. I still think this is a good game. I probably could have been more helpful in my teaching, but he did well learning the game.

Merchants: Lords of the Sea
A card game where you trade goods, sell them on a variable market (prices are set by players) and sell goods. Whenever you sell, all players with that item makes money. There are extra cards that give you bonus powers - dockworker, etc.

Simple game; Dave snagged me on my way out for a late night quick last game. It was fun, but I won't go out of my way to play it. A good filler game. I tied for 1st out of 3 players.

Friday
Agricola
I saw the recruiter of the game walking around the game room with the box lid in his hand to advertise the game to be played. I just walked in and was not sure what to play yet, so I jumped in and started. And began looking at what I'd play next. I did okay; I had animals and fences earlier than the rest of the players, but was late getting kids / actions. I came in 3rd of 4 players.

Power Grid: Brazil
In Brazil, power providers prefer biogas for the production of electricity. Thus, players should consider the garbage power plants as biogas-fired power plants and the garbage resources as biogas tanks when playing with the Brazil maps. The fight for scarce resources is intense and will keep the players focused during the game!

Interesting game, tho we never made it to Step 3 - the winning player built to 15 plants, and powered 13; I and another could power 12, tying for 2nd place - we didn't count money so we didn't work out the tie. Not really worth it!

Bonus for me: I had my copy of the expansion and lent it to the organizer so that he could run 2 games later in the Con for Spain/Portugal and for the tournament on Sunday. I got a Flux Capacitor power plant card as a thank you gift.. Sweeeet! (its cost is 33 1/3, and it takes 4 of ANYTHING to power 6 cities).

Middle Earth Quest

A game of adventure and conflict set in the time leading up to the creation of the Fellowship. One player will adopt the mantle of Sauron and do his best to spread his evil influence across the lands. Up to three players become heroes and will do their best to foil Sauron's foul plots, and rally the peoples of Middle-Earth to their side.

Great game; I had a lot of fun playing it. We were doing our best to defeat Sauron (played by Dave) and in the end, both sides won and lost at the same time. Both sides won because we got the victory track markers to the winning area at the same time. We both lost because neither side's 'secret goals' were accomplished. Overall, I think it was an odd outcome, but the game was fun enough I didn't care who won.

Dragon Dice - Sealed Starter Tournament

The dice represent armies of different fantasy races and monsters which battle to control essential pieces of terrain. Any number of players can share in this struggle, although it's normally only 2 players. The first player to capture two terrains wins the game immediately. You might use spells for certain kind of armies to get better attacks or defense.

Our own Stumptown Dice Rollers Guild held its first tournament - run by the Washington rep, Dave. With several games, I won some, and I lost some - a few in great fashion. The end of the tournament was called due to time (JT conceded). The new player won the tournament, and got a starter army for his efforts.

Saturday
Dungeon Lords
You are the Dungeon owner! Pesky adventurers are going to maraude your beautiful dungeon, and you need to get monsters and traps to destroy them before they destroy your dungeon. Use imps to get gold, food and other resources to manage your dungeon.

This is a fun game, and the winning strategy is usually to go evil and get the points for killing the paladin that comes in to the most evil players dungeon. This was not the case, as I won the game by 2 points, and I didn't kill the paladin. I was never even evil enough to attract his attention. I basically was able to handle the standard adventurers and limit destruction to my dungeon. I think that it's not a winning strategy every time, but would depend on the players.

Mike Pondsmith
I was browsing the GameStorm12 booklet for the weekend and saw that Mike Pondsmith was going to be a guest designer for the Con. He designed one of my favorite RPGs - Teenagers from Outer Space. I picked this game up in my late teens (over 20 yrs ago!) and played it for a while with some friends - we all went to the same high school so it was great to run a game in an area everyone was very familiar with. My first read through the book had me laughing pretty hard, and the game itself is simple and fun to play.

Anyway, I met up with Mike and we chatted for a few minutes about TFOS and how hard it is for a game to be good and funny. "Funny is hard", Mike says, "It takes a lot of work to be funny in the right way for RGPs to work like TFOS should." He signed my first edition (he hadn't seen one in years) and although the 'little dice' that came with the game were missing, I remember them in the book when I bought it. He gave me his email address for more little dice, should I want them.

With Mike was his son, who was the inspiration for TFOS - he wanted to have an RPG for the younger generation to play. His son hadn't known that, and it was neat to see that interaction.

Savage Worlds RPG
Hellride - Hellforce One

This game was a sequel from last year, although I didn't play it. The genre is modern. There is a gate to another world, which seems to be high fantasy - Demons, Gorgons, Dragons, etc. So, there are high-powered monsters, but we also have missiles, tanks, fully automatic guns, grenades, and gate magic to transport across the worlds. I played the medic, and took a gambling quirk. We were recruited for a mission to the other world, due to Air Force One being attacked by demon-looking creatures, which then disappeared. The President and about 40 other passengers were on board. We got a tank requisitioned, some guns, ammo, and a gate 'Go Back Box'. Simple. Find the President, activate box, bickety-bam, we're home.

We gate over, and the first thing I do is lay out a betting pool for what would break first on the assault vehicle. We look around and see a big column of light that is obvious enough for us to see it a few dozen miles away; we figure that's where we're going.

First thing we run into is a stampeding herd of creatures - which turned out to be Gorgons - thousands of them. We manage to duck into a cave (vehicle and all) while they pass. In the cave, an interested pack of rats emerge. The commander got a claymore mine positioned in time, however. After the Gorgons go by, and the rat bits are cleaned off the windshield, we're ready to go.

We drive into a canyon, and notice figures on the rim of the cliffs above us. We watch them, and after a few miles, they start tossing rocks down at the vehicle - one lucky hit, but no damage. We use the turreted machine gun to suppress further attacks. We round a corner and see a crudely built rock wall; we come to a stop. Rocks come down, and we decide to go for the rock wall - which is more like a long pile of rocks than a wall. The vehicle struggles through the pile - the loose rocks aren't a problem, though they do slow down progress. On the other side, there are 5 creatures standing there, with what looks like war paint. One of them is obviously the chief. Surprisingly, they speak a broken English. They are wanting us to leave; we tell them we are looking for our Chief. They are concerned that we are here for 'gems'. We convince them we have no interest in these gems, and that we need to get to the column of light in the distance. They decide to trust us and show us a short cut towards the column of light.

Driving at a creeping pace uphill towards the light, we get to the plateau where the light is coming from. The scene: Air Force One is hovering about 30' off of the ground, and there are actually 5 beams of light that make up the column. The 5 beams form a pentagram, where each point has a small ritual of dancing and spell casting - apparently keeping the magical 'threads' intact. In addition to the five groups, there is a massive Demon-looking thing, and he's flanked by two important looking smaller guys - all three of them seem to be in the middle of supporting a spell, as well. Behind these three, is a regiment of Arabs, which we're none-to-keen on seeing.

Pour on the attack! Our first shot is a LAW missile into one of the five dancing groups (I voted for the big, nasty, ugly demon-looking guy, but was out-voted) and the group goes down. So does the magical thread. The plane rocks ominously in the sky, but stays where it is, just not as stable as before. Then the vehicle starts going, we track a path around the plane, aiming to run down each group at the base of each thread. During the whole loop, various other monsters jump the vehicle, and we manage to brush them off with gunfire and grenades. The Arabs split up and start setting up rocket launchers and the Big Demon decides to fly up in the air. Meanwhile, our gate expert is starting counter spells for the threads. The Demon comes down and throws a cone of flames on the vehicle, barely scorching it; one of the Arabs manages to get a missile off, it hits but the impact was low. The gate expert manages to work the spell so that he can swing the plane around, trying to hit the flying Demon with Air Force One! The second LAW missile is targeted on the big Demon, with a direct hit. This crushes the morale of the monsters running around attacking us, and we can concentrate on the missile launchers still being set up. The plane drops to the ground, hopefully not injuring anyone inside. The Arab groups are dealt with, and we get a few prisoners to 'question'. A few minutes later, we board the plane, get the vehicle against the plane, and make it back to Earth with a mostly-intact Air Force One. Casualties are surprisingly low for our side. After the excitement of returning, we are invited to the White House for a huge highfalutin reception.

Oh, and the driver won the bet - the windshield wipers were the first thing to break.

Overall, I really like the Savage Worlds system; I bought the 'Explorers Edition' for $10 - cheapest RPG I've bought so far!

Dragon Dice - 60 point battles

I picked an army of Undead - I used the Minor Death monster for the first time - I like the Plague special ability. In the first game, the Undead rocked the other two races, and I won quickly and quite soundly. The second game, well, we called it at 12:30 am as a draw; each army had one terrain, and not much was happening at the other one. Lotsa dice-rolling, lotsa magic, and lotsa high numbers. At one point, my army in an 8th face was hit for 66 points of melee damage; I saved for over 75 points. Both numbers were pretty high!

Sunday
Dragon Dice - Dice Trade
I managed to trade a bunch of extra Dwarves, Undead and Coral elves for some Treefolk - including the Unicorn.

NeverWhen RPG

NeverWhen was converted from d20 to 4e, and this was the 4e version. Neverwhen is a campaign setting that allows you to multi-genre a D&D game. You can have lasers and swords; plate mail and power armor; horses and hovercraft. It's interesting, if you want that sort of thing. Personally, I like playing the system, but I'd hate running it. Too much stuff going on.

Our party consisted of two shape shifters (Spell caster and a fighter type), a female space Orc (fighter), a blind leopard / cat person (monk), and myself, a natural construct (android with a soul) who was a technoMage.

Our task is pretty simple - escort a delegate for negotiations. We get jumped immediately by street thugs on the way. We manage to fight them off. Once at the location, we find out that there is a part two: we need to go and recover a stolen idol, which is on yet another planet.

On the new planet, magic works, but not lasers or much technology at all. We make it to the temple where this idol is supposed to be and are confronted by two guards. We manage to scare one off (one of the party shape shifters shifted into a demon), while the other one remains steadfast to his post. We rolled amazingly poorly and it took us forever to best the guard. We finally get into the temple, and there are two more guards inside. Well, with our luck so far, I decide enough was enough, so I didn't bother with the guards, and ran up to grab the idol immediately and run out. The blind cat person decides that a stick of dynamite would work out well in this situation, so as we make our leave of the temple, there is an explosion loud enough to be heard around the city. The idol is bigger than we thought, so I cast a magic bag spell, and pop it in the bag. Good thing, too, as security has been stepped up significantly. We get through security to the gate, and step back to the world where the negotiations are taking place.

They are happy we retrieved the idol, and everything turns out just ducky. We get paid a bonus, and wrap up the adventure pretty quickly.

Wrap-up
So, that was my weekend. I spent a lot of time with my friend Jacob (aka JT); we specifically wanted to check out a Savage Worlds game, and play in the sealed box Dragon Dice tournament. We got to do both. I also wanted to play Power Grid-Brazil and Spain/Portugal - I got Brazil in, but not Spain/Portugal. Oh well, I'll get it soon enough.

Next year, Jacob and I are thinking about running some d20 Thieves' World games. Maybe we'll even do the work to convert it to Savage Worlds. We've got a year, after all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2009 / 2010 e-kit

I set out to build my own e-drum shells and renovate my kit to a more modern e-kit. Here were my thoughts and goals for this purpose:
  1. Implement mesh heads for quieter playing for when I am using headphones.
  2. Use my kit as a standard e-kit for my personal drumming, and to dual purpose it for 'Rock Band' / 'Guitar Hero' use. The mesh heads for quieter playing would come in handy here, too. I hear a lot of complaints from people who own them, about the plastic thwack noises from the 'drum kits' that come with the games.
  3. Utilize standard drum shells for a more pleasing look and for tom mounts on the side of the drum instead of the middle of the pad.
With these thoughts in mind, I planned on replacing my current setup with a similar shell setup. Currently, I use 8 pads in two rows of 4, all 8" in diameter, with 2 bass drums, also using the 8" pad design. The issue with this setup is it is not very mobile, as the bass pedals don't attach to the bass drums and are screwed down to the riser I built out of particle board. So, easy multi-use for me and the PS3 games was out of the question. I decided I could build a kit that could be multi-purposed and usable for both of my desires.

I want to add a huge THANKS to Don, my drum teacher / drum building mentor for his help. He provided me a loaner step drill for drilling, he guided me through the lug and drum leg layout, advice on wrapping, etc. And some good prices on the parts and various bits. Visit him here: Portland Drums and Don's Drum Studio.

I got started with 8" shells that I bought off of Keller's overstock Ebay store. I got 2 shells that were 8" in diameter and 18" deep. I figured I could cut them down myself, and get my 8 shells, and they would all be about 4.25" deep. Then I got 2 shells for the bass drums 18" in diameter, and 9" deep. I was set to do a complete replacement of my kit.

Along the way, fellow e-drummer (AxeGrinder or 'Ron') sent me a 13" shell that was used for an e-tom. I decided this needed to be my e-snare. Now, 8 toms seems a little ridiculous, since I was planning on using 2 of them as 'snares' as I do in my current layout. With the addition of the 13" snare, my layout may be too much. I guess it's always nice to have backups, eh?

Mesh drum heads

Home made mesh heads made from a fiberglass screen material found in the hardware store. I also used old drum rings from old drum heads. I trimmed out the mylar head, and used a dremel to 'route' out the old glue. I pressed in my head into the rim, and glued it. I used Gorilla Glue - which expands, so the yellow bubbly stuff is Gorilla Glue. Trim with an exacto blade, and it's not nearly as ug-o-lee.

8" diameter Tom drums

8" shells cut from the 18" long stock pieces

Gouge from me and my table saw will be hidden with some finish work (rubber hose trim). Just wanted to show some of my hardships. The finished product came out great. Just wait.

Wrapped shell - cheap vinyl sign material in a metallic copper color. Not quite the brilliance in the pic, better in person, but still nice. Also shows how the gouge is minimized.

Mounted on my rack. you can see the difference between this new one and my old ones (above it a bit) , and even the middle step of experimentation - the 'hybrid - old pad w/ mesh head - lower left in the image.

Back side, you can see the l-rod mounting on the Superstrut rack, and the jack hanging free. I need to decide how I am going to attach that jack. I'll probably drill another hole for it.


Top view, the green dot is my 'trigger foam' - a 2" Nerf bullet cut in half to a dome. This is done for the padded trigger - most drum pads on the market use a dense foam to make cylinders or cones for this purpose. I have seen folks selling these cones for $8 each. I got 10 'domes' for $5.

Bass drums!

Bass Drum shell - drilled for hardware - lugs and legs.

Bass Drum shell - drilled and wrapped in the copper wrap I found at the sign store.

Bass drum with hoops - no hardware

Hoops, no edge finish

Both drums 100% done. Electronics installed, hoop edges finished - I used some copper foil tape that Meran has. Since she does stained glass, she has scads of this in her shop.

E-snare!

Here is the 13" shell - it was used with a different lug pattern (6 lugs, I am using 8) and had a big hole in it for a tom mount or something. I used some wood filler to patch the holes and sanded it to mostly smooth. The wood is super soft, but it doesn't really matter a lot; I will be covering the drum in a wrap.


I decided to go a little extravagant on the snare, so I got rims and lugs in a black powder-coated chrome. I found some really cool hardware at Ego Drum Supply; mostly they had some really cool colors that you could get hardware in. Anyway, I figured copper and black was pretty cool, so there you are.


Electronics installed. I have a hole cut in the bottom clear drum head while I am working on it - eventually it will also be converted to a mesh head. I built this drum to be dual-zone, so there is a piezo under the head, and on the shell. I am still working on isolating them from each other. Dual zone is new to me; I am pretty content with one zone drums.

Finished and on the snare stand I bought. I bought it for the hammered brass acoustic snare I got a while ago, and will probably be buying a 2nd stand so that I can have both available.

New hi-hats!

So, I got these new electronic hi-hat cymbals. They are cool; the controller is in between the cymbals, and they work with a drop clutch (critical for double bass drumming!). I got these in trade from a buddy of mine. Sweeeeeet.


Top view - pretty. He tried to give me a set in a dark red, which would have kinda been cool, but I think the color would have worn on me. Basic black for me, thank you!



Underside, two connectors, one for the trigger, one for the hi-hat mechanism for detecting how 'open' they are.



The guts. Kind of. They are in the cylinder in the middle. Suffice it to say - it's in there!

Full Kit!
The next task was putting it all together. I went a new route on the rack - I still use the Superstrut, but I am phasing out the keyboard as a sound source, and going with a drum module (the Alesis DM10). And I am keeping the trigger IO for RockBand / Guitar Hero and for potential expansion into the DM10. Anyway, instead of having one rack that is 4 feet long, I used my mini e-kit and just doubled it, so I made 2 smaller racks at 24" long each, and angled them for a more ergonomic feel. The entire right hand side pulls away, moving easily into the media room for PS3 game playing.

Okay, okay, I need to clean up the cables. Agreed.

The bass drums will have a mesh head on the rear, too. Eventually.

Side view: 5 toms, 2 bass drums, snare, 2 crashes (with choke!), dual zone ride (bow and bell), and my newest gear, the Pintech hi-hats with the controller in between the hats.

Bird's eye view.

Squirrel's eye view of the bass drums. I still need to adjust the left pedal; it's riding higher / closer than the right pedal.

Well, that's it, thanks for viewing. It took me a long time, but since I was traveling a lot last year, I had my time split up with the game room remodel, other household tasks, and whatnot. I got this project done a little before the game room was done, but final setup had to wait until I could do it in the game room. I still am waiting for the new DM10 module, and I need to clean up the cables. The right bass drum seems to be double triggering, so I need to figure that out.