Monday, December 31, 2018

And thats a wrap

Okay folks, this is pretty much it, we are in the final hours of 2018. The first half of the year pretty much sucked frost giant balls, but the second half of the year turned out pretty good. I think 2019 is going to be a tough year for many many reasons, but I think I am much better equipped to face 2019 than I was to facing 2018.

Plans for 2019:

Kingdom of Loathing: I am going to ascend my character tomorrow and continue this run for the entire year with ascending again until January 1st 2020. This is really just an experiment to see how high of a level I can obtain.

Dungeons and Dragons Game: I want to get the characters my players are using currently to 20th level. They are currently 12th to 14th level, I expect them to be 20th level before the end of the year and then go out with a bang.

Writing: I really want to write way more than I have been. In past years I have promised myself I would write a thousand words a day, but I almost never come close to that. Instead in 2019 I am going to participate in National Novel Writing Month and turn out a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Now I just need a good idea.

Misc other things: I really need to start getting out and exercising, I also need to quit smoking and while I am at it, I might as well become a vegan. Haa Ha Ha, just kidding.

D&D, Scopes of play

These are the general scopes of play as I see it, pick the one you like the best and play.

Basic: At its most basic level, 5th edition is a fairly simple game, the only allowed rules are those presented in the free downloadable basic PDF. Only 4 classes and 4 races are allowed along with a very narrow field of additional background crunch. Characters are easy to roll up and virtually all of depth is provided by the players.

Intermediary: This type of game uses only the core three hardbound books. There are 9 races and 12 classes available, along with several customization options for each class. Character generation is more difficult and the different niches can be filled in interesting ways by a couple of different classes.

High: This game includes, in addition to the core books, the Players Companion, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Basically everything published by Wizards of the Coast as a D&D supplement is fair game, including Unearthed Arcana articles. The options available to players and DM’s is mind boggling. The first two levels are static and never change, at this level, something new is available every couple of months. The only things not allowed are rules produced by 3rd parties.

Very High: This is where things go nuclear. This type of game can include virtually anything available from the DM’s Guild. All manner of classes and races are available and I doubt any group could or would even want to allow all of it, but it is in the realm of possibility. Niches are almost non existent at this level as virtually any class can fill any niche with just a little customization. DM’s have to be very careful at this level as to not allow anything unbalancing or disruptive to play. Of course at this level, it probably does not matter if something is unbalancing or disruptive, because everyone will have access to things that are unbalancing or disruptive. The problem with this level of play is, it is difficult to move characters from one campaign to another.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: Feed

FeedFeed by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Feed was a really tough read for me. It starts out depressing and steadily gets more depressing. I get that it is supposed to be an extension of smartphones and the "People as products" business model of Facebook and Google, but that is really what is depressing about it. I am also not the type of person who needs a happy ending to a book, but when people die, I like there to be a reason for it, I like there to be meaningful in some way. Violets death did not change anything, it did not even change the main character in any way, he ultimately made the same bad choices at the end of the book that he was making at the beginning. While I found the slang language used by the teenagers to be kind of distracting, I do have to say though the descent into the pit of despair was subtle and well written.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Review: The Tripod Trilogy

The White MountainsThe White Mountains by John Christopher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tripod series is three books; The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire. The books were written decades ago by John Christopher, who is a tier two, possibly tier three science fiction writer, he did the bulk of his work in the 50's, 60's and 70's, and was a reasonably prolific writer. Reading his Wikipedia entry, I think he was popular primarily in the U.K..

To start with, the things I did not like about the books. First off, these books did not age terribly well. They aged better than your average Heinlein book, but they still come off as very dated. The writing itself is pretty good, its just that the books were obviously written with 14 year old boys in mind, with no thought to appealing to any other demographic, which was pretty standard procedure back then. Remember this was at a time when women science fiction writers had to pretend to be men in order to get published. The story reads a bit like Huckleberry Finn, where a couple of kids go off on a grand adventure and do things no 14 year old boy could realistically do, the characters instead rely on luck to survive. By modern writing standards this falls under the category of seriously Mary Sue writing, however at the time of the writing, this was an accepted story telling mechanic.

Now the things I did like. Reading these books from the prospective of the 14 year old boy that lives inside my head, these books were a lot of fun to read. I mean who didn't want to be the young hero who always got the upper hand on the adults and the super advanced alien race in the story. There were quit a few just straight up fun scenes in the books and what the boys lacked in skill, they more than made up for in chutzpah. They were able to do things simply because no one ever told them they couldn't. The books show the true innocents of the time and the generally optimistic view of the world that many science fiction writers had at the time. The author also wisely skipped much of the potentially boring stuff, like the process of coming up with a plans to defeat the aliens, instead, this was left up to the adults to do off screen, while the boys only had to deal with the fun and cools things.

Overall, this series is well worth the read, I wish I had read them when I was in High School, before adulthood ruined my sense of wonder and my need for adventure. All three books are pretty short and easy to read, I had a lot on my mind in November and December, so it took me way longer to read then it normally would have. I am pretty sure an average reader could get through them in a week or two.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 22, 2018

My next D&D Character

My primary creative outlet is playing D&D. For the last 15 odd years I have been running D&D for a group of really good players, keeping these guys busy can sometimes be a part time job. The problem with always being the Game Master is I almost never get to play, however, this gives me years to think about character ideas and interesting builds. Recently I have joined another group as a player and I am now getting to release some of my ideas on the unsuspecting world. My current character is a 4th level Human Variant Wizard, with 1 level of War Domain Cleric (Wizard 4/Cleric 1), this allows me to do all sorts of cool things, like cast spells even if I am wearing armor and have a weapon and shield in may hands.

So now I am thinking about my next character. I have not begun his build yet, but I am thinking about his background. The character I am playing now is really just a proof of concept character, because low AC wizards annoy me. But this next character I want to be a story based character where his background is more important than his class and levels. The grain of my idea starts with Lancelot, a knight who has fallen into disgrace for the love of a woman. I want my character to suffer from unrequited love, but I don't want it to be all emo and depressing, I want the story to be at least a little bit silly. So here is my preliminary background story.

Du Lac (Lancelot's last name and my current working name, it may change) lives in a small forrest kingdom with a large Elven population. He himself is a knight bound to the king of the land, he served his king well and was chosen to become a Paladin.  Du Lac was sent to train among the elves for his eventual ascension to Paladin hood. While there training, he met and fell in love with an elf woman named Eruwaedhiel. She was just as in love with Du Lac as he was with her. However, she being an elf meant she would outlive him by a thousand years, it was was also true, she was already 100 years older than he was.  While the age difference did not matter to him, it did matter to her and the thought of outliving him saddened her. Their relationship was brief, but it left its mark on both of them.

Du Lac and Eruwaedhiel do not avoid each other, in fact they are always in each others orbit, always aware what is happening with the other. Du Lac often goes home to visit her. Their relationship has many strange quirks. Du Lac pretends he cannot pronounce Eruwaedhiel's name and calls her Goddess, Eruwaedhiel knows damn good and well he can pronounce her name and in turn refuses to use his name, simply calling him Paladin. Du Lac endlessly flirts with Eruwaedhiel, which exasperates her, she is often heard saying to him, "I should have just slept with you and you would be over this nonsense by now!", to which he usually replies "If you had just slept with me, we would be married and have three children by now!". While she refuses to allow a romantic relationship, she does recognize his love for her, she knows he will love her until the day he dies, for this she allows him to carry her favor, a small medallion with her family crest hanging on a silver necklace. She tells him when he dies she will give it to another, but they both know that is not true.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Pictures of my trip to Billings

While I was in Billings, I spent one morning driving around my old stomping grounds with the intent of taking some pictures. None of these are all that interesting, but the idea was to show some bit of the old home town where I spent time growing up.

View from 2nd story window at the Billings Parmely Library
They actually tore down the old library

The old building was more like a warehouse I think

Apparently I actually was in my Senior yearbook, this was the first time I had ever seen it.

This use to be North Park school where I went to elementary school, now it is some sort of administration building.

This is North Park, I am pretty sure I have urinated on every tree shown in this picture when I was a kid.

This is a picture of Billings from up on the Rim Rocks, near Yellowstone Kelly's gave.

That is the big ditch we use to swimming in, every year at least one kid drowned in there.

Sacrifice Cliff across the valley, they say the Crow Indians use to stampede buffalo off those cliffs, no idea if that is true or not.


This is the apartment building I grew up.

What a fucking dump

Billings Senior High, where I went to high school, I was somewhat disappointed that it had not been burnt down yet.

And finally, Pioneer Park, I did not urinate on any of those trees, but back along that tree line is a creek and I urinated in that many times.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Final Vacation of the year

So this is the final night of my last vacation of the year. Normally this vacation is rather festive and enjoyable as Shannon and I close out the year, wrap up our Christmas shopping and celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year everything came to a screeching halt when our oldest cat Grixie got sick and died. This process took about 3 days and pretty much ruined the mood of the vacation.

2018 was all in all not a very pleasant year. The only real highlight was going home for Thanksgiving and reconnecting with an old friend. If it had not been for that trip, this whole year would have been a total wash. I am hoping the next couple of weeks go well and I can end this year and begin next year on a high note.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Forging the path forward

I recently bought myself a Tarot deck. A friend has reintroduced me to it. While I am not a particularly big believer in divination or predicting the future (after all, I believe in karma, kismet just pisses me off), I do think how we interpret the symbolism inherent in the cards can give us insight into our own psyche and perhaps light the path a bit.

This was my first layout. My intent here was the top card is my current state, the place where I am now. The bottom three cards are past, present and future. What I need is help with the path forward, i have been floundering for the last couple of years, dealing with depression and anxiety. Some recent emotional turmoil has really pushed me to get off my ass and do something instead of just wallowing in my own depression.

My first tarot spread

So the Fool at the top makes me very uncomfortable, but I have to admit it is a fair assessment of my current state. The King of Swords is where I have been, my previous assessment of myself; a soldier, a man who solves problems, often with brute force, but just as often with wisdom and Intelligence. The Nine of Pentacles is my present, I think this represents my wife, the person who tends my garden, keeps my house and loves me. I think this is an important reminder of what I have, because I think recently I have taken her for granted and been neglectful of our relationship.

The final card, the Five of Cups, represent my being mournful of the past. The spilt cups represent the years past, the standing cups represent the years to come, I am of that age where I have more years behind than I have ahead. More importantly though, in the background is a bridge and a castle. Maybe its just that 40 years of playing D&D has ingrained in me that wherever there is a castle, there a dragon close by, but when I look at that, I see adventure down the path.

Quote of the day

"She had thought it was love, but maybe it was only the coffee."


Puberty was not kind to me, I was often seen stomping around the house with a scowl on my face. For you women out there who cannot imagine what it is like to be a boy going through puberty, I can only say, it is basically walking around with an erection for four years and no one willing to help you with it.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

No Shave November

No Shave November is an annual event at work where the married men whose wives do not like facial hair, band together in solidarity and grow beards. I thought I would chronicle the progress. I think all in all I managed a pretty decent growth before I shaved today. For the record, it took 4 double sided blades to take it all off.

October 31st, freshly shaved.
 November 14th, 2 weeks in.
 November 28th, 4 weeks in and my birthday.