Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: The Circle (Dan Lenson, #3)

The Circle (Dan Lenson, #3)The Circle by David Poyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am somewhat torn in my opinion of this book. On the one hand, I understand what the author was trying to convey. He was paining a picture of the what it is like to be aboard a combat vessel during the cold war, when there were frequent stand offs between American and Soviet ships at sea. These stand off must have been stressful and dangerous beyond belief, the captains of these ships had to make hard choices about what to do and when to do, and I am sure this often caused the lose of life. I think over all the author did an okay job of bringing that across.

On the other hand, I did not find the authors writing style to be terribly interesting. The plot moved along too slowly, sometime getting mired in unimportant details. The book was really two stories, had the book ended after the first part, I think I probably would have rated it higher, but the story went on for another 200 pages. I did not find any of the characters particularly compelling and it was fairly obvious how any given character was going to react to the situation at hand.

So over all, this was a decent book, not a great, but okay. I admit, part of that is I do not particularly care for this type of fiction. If you enjoy military style fiction, you will likely enjoy this book, however if you are looking for a fast moving adventure novel, this is not it.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Playing D&D Online

With COVID-19 sweeping the world and everyone wondering where all the damn toilet paper went, there is a mass migration from playing D&D in person to online. My group and I have been playing online now for 18 years. I doubt we are the longest lived online game in existence, but we were certainly pioneers in playing RPG's online. We have certainly had our ups and downs, players have come and gone and we have certainly almost broken up at least once, but somehow we just keep traipsing along, year in and year out.

In 2002, I had not played in a regular game since I was in the Army in 1995, we played D&D for about 6 months before before we deployed to Bosnia, which pretty much killed the game. Prior to that, I played 2 or 3 games of GURPS in 1992 and before that was 1990. So the 90's were pretty much an RPG wasteland for me, I wanted to play, but I just never found a group of people I was comfortable enough with to actually get down to playing.

I discovered two things in 2001 that changed all of this for me. First I discovered HackMaster, I came across the players handbook in Barns and Noble, the cover was designed after the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition cover, I was suddenly washed away by the nostalgia of it, I sat down on the floor and started reading it right then, right there. The wife found me an hour later still sitting there wondering what the hell I was doing. I bought the book and all the follow up books for the RPG and I WANTED to play again, I missed my old group from Montana. Sometime later, I discovered OpenRPG, a program for playing RPG's online. OpenRPG was definitely ahead of its time, providing the capability no one else was. It had built in chat, a drawing board, dice rollers, interactive character sheets, the whole nine yards. The big problem of course was, OpenRPG was not a very good program, but it was better than just about everything else out there, and for a long time, it was the only thing out there.

In early 2002, I decided I was going to run a game using HackMaster and OpenRPG. I started contacting all my old friends in the various groups I played with in the 8o's. I sent letters, I emailed and I called them. One by one over 2 or 3 months, I finally got 4 people to agree to try it. In April of 2002 on a Sunday afternoon, we all successfully installed the program and logged into the server and started rolling up characters. We played our final HackMaster game in December of 2015, when we switched over to playing D&D 5th Edition, around the same time, OpenRPG stopped being developed and we needed to switch to a new platform. We experimented with a couple of others Like Battle Grounds and Fantasy Grounds, before finally settling on Roll20, which we have been using ever since.

So to all of you new comers out there, just now starting to play your games online, welcome, pull up a chair, grab some dice, we have been waiting for you.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Character development in Dungeons & Dragons

Back when we were playing in the early days, I put very little thought to the way my characters would develop over the course of any given campaign. Back then there were not a ton of options anyway, a fighter was pretty much a fighter differentiated only by the attributes you rolled and the personality you provided him. The only time characters developed in weird ways was when an unusual magic item would popup. If I started the character using a Long Sword and a shield, and a +1 two handed sword came along, you bet your ass I would drop sword and board in a heart beat and still later, if a +4 Spear dropped, that two handed sword got sold off for scrape.

In the current version of D&D, there are a lot of options available. Even at first level, the background you choose or the skills you take can have a lot of affect on a character. As the character levels, he gets to choose his subclass, increase his attributes, and take feats. Two fighters starting out at 1st level together, will probably look very different by the time they are 4th or 5th level, depending on the choices the players make as the characters progress. Most players these days, when starting a new character, generally has a plan as to the type of character they want to play and how they are going to develop that character as the game moves along. I am no different in this respect.

My latest character, Haakon started out life as a pretty stock fighter. I like human fighters, while I certainly play other races and other classes, human fighter is more or less my preferred character type. When I started Haakon, my plan was to build him as a sword and shield type of fighter, concentrating on his ability to sustain large amounts of damage and or avoid damage altogether rather than how much damage he can deal out. The theory being that combination of a good armor class and better than average hit points, would ensure he could outlast his opponents and live to land the finishing blow. Needless to say, I multi classed into Barbarian to get some damage resistance and a few levels of that sweet d12 hit dice. The addition of a flaming sword, was just icing on that cake.

Two games ago, Haakon acquired an animated shield, a shield that dances around you, doing all the things shields are supposed to do, all on its own. This freed up a hand, this was unexpected. I had been developing Haakon as a single weapon fighter, I had taken the Duelist fighting style and I had never considered the possibility of becoming a two weapon fighter. Haakon was simply not optimized for this type of fighting. Now I could just give the shield to someone else and move on, and I may do that, depending on how things shake out in the next few games. In the mean time, this adds some interesting choices to Haakon's development. This would allow me to trade the +2 damage bonus Haakon gets for taking the Duelist fighting style, for an additional 1d8 damage attack. There are pros and cons to this choice, the +2 damage is guaranteed on any hit and could potentially lead to 4 extra damage per turn, as he has 2 attacks, which is more or less the average of a 1d8 die roll. Adding the extra attack could lead to extra damage, as the die roll could be a 5, 6, 7 or 8 and I will roll above a 4 at least half the time, (although I will roll less than 4 at least half the time as well). However, the extra attack also gives me addition chances to roll a critical hit.Going this route also forces me to take the Dual Weapon Fighting Feat, so I can use heavier weapons, and since I chose Battle Master as my subclass, I will not be able to gain the two weapon fighting style.

So over the next couple of games, I am going try it out and see how dual wielding works out, if it is meh!, then I will give the shield away and go back to being a Duelist.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: The Zero Blessing (The Zero Enigma, #1)

The Zero Blessing (The Zero Enigma, #1)The Zero Blessing by Christopher G. Nuttall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This books was better than I thought it was going to be. Usually young adult fiction is is not my thing, although there are some really good ones out there. The Scythe series for instance is a really good series and the fact that it is YA is a side note. I came into this series with some low expectations, I was thinking "Okay, yet another Harry Potter clone", but I was pleasantly surprised. While it is standard fare The Chosen One goes to wizard school, there are some interesting twists in the story. I am usually pretty good and figuring out plots twists before the characters in the book do, but in this case, the author fooled me completely until the main character figured it out herself, which pleased me, I enjoy it when an author gets one over on me. Good book, well worth the read, especially if you like YA stories.

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Review: Once an Eagle

Once an EagleOnce an Eagle by Anton Myrer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a long damn book, probably a lot longer than it needed to be. I am pretty sure this book could have been done in 500 pages, there was a lot of unnecessary sections to the book, chapters that did not move the plot forward or contribute to character development. The authors writing style was often rambling and one too many times changed the scene mid paragraph. While the characters, specifically Sam Damon and his wife Tommy, were well developed, the author clung too hard too stereotypes, especially with the secondary characters.

Having said that, this was actually a good book, following the career of General Damon from a farm boy through being an enlisted man, and through to becoming a General. Sam Damon lived a good life, one that many of us only wish we could have had. He was strong, proud and never wavered, except for once, in a moment of weakness, which he regretted the rest of his life. His character was obviously based on every character John Wayne ever played and his wife was Maureen O'Hara, red hair, green eyes and a fury personality. Don't let all of this fool you though, this is very much an anti war story, war is not glorified in this book in any way. Even World War II is portrayed as it actually was, bloody, messy and corrupt. While reading the story, I was often reminded of Catch-22, where the villains are not the Japanese or Nazi Germany, but rather the upper echelons of the military, horrible people who mismanaged the war and made questionable decisions that cost more American soldiers lives than was needed.

I can see why this book is on every 2nd Lieutenants reading list, the book portrays Sam Damon as a man's man and leader among leaders. A leader who is willing to go out on a limb for his men and even crippled his own career at times to do the right thing. The sad thing is, I think a soldier like this would be washed out of service before he ever made Major. Sam Damon is how every officer in the military views himself, but in reality an officer like him would be branded a wild out of control renegade and no one would except him into their command.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Re: Donald Trump vs COVID-19

I am cross linking this from Leigh's Nurseferatu blog, it is a very nice follow up to the Sunday podcast and my own blog post from a few days ago. I share this not just because I agree with everything he say says (I Do), but because it is important that we know where we are and how we got here. People are scared and I don't blame them, I am scared too. Its not a hoax, its not fake news, this shit is real. Every presidency is faced with its moment of tragedy, and the difference between the great presidents, the simply good presidents and the terrible presidents, is how they handle this moment. The leadership of this country has failed us and we need to never forget this.

https://nurseferatu.net/2020/03/17/a-pr-problem-is-all-this-is/

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Donald Trump vs COVID-19

Here is a link to today's Nurseferatu Podcast, as promised we discussed the Corona Virus for nearly 2 hours, specifically the political incompetency we have witnessed for the last 3 months. Enjoy!

https://nurseferatu.net/2020/03/15/podcast-4/

COVID-19 aka The Corona Virus

I suspect Leigh and I will discuss this ad nauseam today on the Nurseferatu Podcast. I am not going to tell you to wash your fucking hands, I am not going to tell you too stay the hell home. If you are not doing these things, you are screwed anyway. What I want to discuss is the political leadership or lack there of we have had around this outbreak.

Lets touch on the last major outbreak of a highly contagious virus, H1N1. 61 Million People contracted this virus in 2009, something close to 12,500 people died of it here in the United States. The first case of H1N1 was reported on April 15, 2009, and the government declared H1N1 a public health emergency on the April 26. The first test to detect the new virus was approved by the FDA two days later. Shipments of the new CDC test began May 1, just 15 days.

Now lets look at the Trump administration's reaction to COVID-19. The first reported case of COVID-19 in the U.S. occurred on January 19th, it is now March 15th and this administration was still claiming Corona Virus was a hoax up until last week, and just got around to declaring an emergency two days ago. The CDC does have a test for it, however the first batch was error prone caused more than few false positives. The new tests are still being developed and the CDC is saying the new tests will not become available for 3-4 weeks.

When H1N1 was spreading, there was no wide spread panic, in fact it barely registered on my person radar at the time. Today, we are seeing panic buying, people are buying out the stores of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The news is full of "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!" segments. If you want know why this is happening and why the stark differences between the two events, the answer is very easy, Leadership.

The Obama administration lead from the front, The President was worried about people and livelihoods, he did exactly what he was supposed to do, he gathered his people together, built a plan and executed it, mind you, he had been president for 3 months at this point. Mistakes were made, there were things that did not go as planned, some of the things planned did not work out as well as was hoped for, and President Obama owned those mistakes, he took responsibility for it, he owned the bad as well as the good.  President Trump on the other hand did not even acknowledge COVID-19 existed until February and that was just to call it a hoax and no big deal. When it came time for him to own up to it and was asked said and I quote, "I don't take responsibility at all.". This is not what a good leader does.




All the leadership in this crisis has come form House Speaker Pelosi. When it became obvious the White House was not going to act, Speaker Pelosi put together a bill appropriating money for the things that needed it, giving money to the CDC, whose budget was cut earlier in the year, specifically for research and development of a new testing kit, money to States for handling the crisis and many other projects, totaling 8 billion dollars. Speaker Pelosi then followed up with another bill guaranteeing free testing to those without insurance, paid sick leave and tax credits to help small businesses survive the labor shortage. Without Speaker Pelosi's leadership, the Trump administration would still be fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what to do and how.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Hacker Files

From August 1992 to July 1993 DC Comics published a comic book entitled The Hacker Files. The story was about a computer hacker named Jack Marshall who exists in the DC Universe. The 12 issue mini series contained 4 story arcs touching on different real world historical events of the time; the spread of computer virus's, FBI cracking down on computer crime, the Tiananmen Square protests and the rise of artificial intelligence. The series was not well received at the time and pretty much dropped off virtually everyone's radar even before the end of the series. The series has never been reprinted or even discussed much.

The reason I am bringing up this little known comic book from the early 90's, is DC is about to publish a new graphic novel The Oracle Code, a book about Barbra Gordon's (Batgirl) time as the computer hacker Oracle. For those of you not in the know, In the aftermath of Batman: The Killing Joke, Barbra Gordon was left paralyzed from the waist down when she was shot by the Joker. She would later regain her mobility, but while she was in a wheelchair, she acted as an intelligence collector and an operational overwatch for many heroes and was the leader of The Birds of Prey. Barbra Gordon was one of the hackers picked up by the FBI when they began cracking down on cybercrime, and appeared in The Hacker Files briefly and the two have encountered each other.

I realize The Oracle Code has already been written and the art is probably all but done at this point, however I think this would have been a great opportunity to revisit Jack Marshall in the modern post New 52 DC Universe. While he failed a lead in his own book, I think Jack would make a great backup character or perhaps as a replacement for Barbra as Oracle, though I have to admit, I am not terribly warm to that idea. I think he would be better suited as one of those normal people that superheroes goto to get things done. He is a middle aged, balding, overly serious and grumpy man, a great foil to the young, pretty and energetic Batgirl. I would love to see a scene where no one is taking him seriously, until he starts using everyone's first names, showing that none of their secret identities is safe from his skill.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

I wsh I were a better man

Okay so, I try not to slut shame and what I mean by that is I try not to denigrate women for expressing their sexuality. In fact I will be the first person in line celebrating women's sexuality. I like it when women fearlessly show themselves as sexual beings and I appreciate the feminine form. Of course the problem for me and all men really is where to draw the line, because we also do not want to objectify women, women are more than just a set of boobs. I of course fail at this more than I like to admit. This is a good example of one of my failures. When this picture appeared in my FaceBook feed, my first reaction was, "Really, so we are going for Artist are we?".






That was really not a fair reaction to her, it is really none of my business what she considers her profession and my response to the picture she uses for her page is not her fault, but rather my own.

For those of you who want to know, I did not click on the link for her page, nor did I follow her.
Shannon bought me a gift, a new dice bag. Dice bags, like dice them selves, are something one can never have too many of. This particular on is a very clever design. I currently have 7 sets of dice in there and I am certain I can get 10 more. There is some controversy about what should go in the center; 100 sided dice, a bottle of beer, but I say it is obviously there to hold your favorite set of dice.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Review: Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh

Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As an action adventure story it is pretty good, there is not a lot of deep character development, but the story is fairly interesting, with a couple of good fight scenes. I like the book enough that I may read some of the later books, but I did not like it enough to move anything down my reading list to make room for it. I did like the setup for the next book, although the author did telegraph the plot of the next book.

My biggest issue with the book was the setting, the inclusion of vampires was out of place and the idea that angels make vampires felt like an editor told the author "Vampires are cool and popular, so add vampires.". I understand this is supposed to be an alternate earth with different cultures and histories, but it just did not make a lot of sense to me. This setting was too much like our earth, I am pretty sure if humanity were ruled by immortal arch angels, society would look nothing like it does today.

Over all, a decent book, but up front I would like to say, I do not care for Urban Fantasy or Modern Fantasy, depending on who you ask. I like it better than Steampunk though, so there is that. However, I would suggest this book to anyone who does like the genre, you will probably not love it, but it is a good time sink and a mildly enjoyable read.

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human CadaversStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I may now be regretting asking FaceBook friends for book suggestions. When I started Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers I hated the book by about page 40. The subject matter does not bother me, but the writing style terrible and the author is so flippant it is really annoying me. Think about that for a second, I am a who considers flippant to be a positive lifestyle choice and I am finding it annoying.

The writing style of this book reminds me of another book I read several years ago, Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress by Shelly Mazzanoble, which did not particularly amuse me either. The book is written like a human interest story in Cosmopolitan magazine, which is fine for Cosmo, but is not fine for a lengthy book on a macabre subject. I get it, she was trying to add some humor and brevity to a serious subject, the problem is, she was not particularly funny and this was magnified by the grim subject matter. Don't get me wrong here, I do not object to being flippant about sensitive subjects, not at all, but rather, I did not care for her style of writing or sense of humor.

Unfortunately, the sorority girl humor detracted from what I would have otherwise considered a fairly interesting subject matter. I have seen some documentaries on the discussion of how cadavers have been used throughout history, in both ethical and unethical ways, for the betterment of humanity and the not so much, which I have found fascinating and informative. This book did provide some of that, but not enough to convince me it was worth reading.



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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Review: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #0.5)The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay, I am going to be honest here and it is probably going to make some people gasp, but I liked the NetFlix series better. The NetFlix Series was pretty close to this book, except for the Ciri parts, which were not in the book and with the exception of one single story. Normally, I much prefer the books to the movies, mainly because we get better characterizations and with a book, we are getting only one persons vision of the story, where are in movies we are seeing the vision of the screenwriter, director, the producer, the actors, etc. In this case, having seen the show first, I noticed the flaws in the book, that were not there in the story.

First off, this is a good, almost great fantasy novel, Geralt is not a pretty man, but truly a world weary soldier who does what he does simply because he knows no other way, Yennifer verges on being a villain in her own right and Dandelion is the best best friend Geralt could ask for. These characters are intense, well written and play off of each other masterfully. The book itself is more of a series of loosely told short stories, basically giving us the backstory for the later series. It is well put together and entertaining.

My problem with the book is more technical than anything else. As I read the book, I had this feeling that something was lost in translation, that it would have somehow been much better had I read it in its original Klingon. The translation was not perfect, there seemed to be places where the sentences were not quit right, odd words being used slightly out of context, minor things like that. I think some people would tell me this was just his writing style or a way to differ speech in this fantasy world, but it really did not feel that way to me.

Overall, a good read, if you liked the show, you will like this book. If you hated the show, you will hate this book. I suggest reading the book before before seeing the show. I would definitely suggest this book to any who like high fantasy stories.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Review: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a really fun read. The main character, Murderbot, is a true slacker in all the best ways and I identified with him almost immediately. His character development was brilliant and subtle, the story was fun and sublimely funny. Though I do not like all of her stuff, Martha Wells is a really great writer, with a smooth and almost lyrical writing style, not quite on Ursula Le Guin's level, but close. I recommend this one for anyone who is looking for a fun and intelligent romp. My only complaint with this book was it is WAY too short, I immediately bought and downloaded the sequel.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Review: Crusade by David Weber

Crusade (Starfire)Crusade by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The author, David Weber is also the author of the Honor Harrington series of books. If you are familiar with those books, the writing style will be instantly recognizable. He is also the author of the Safehold series. The Safehold series is by far Weber's best work and unfortunately this story does not live up to the Safehold series and is more at the level of the Harrington books.

So don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book just fine, I also enjoyed the Harrington books I read as well. However, this book is simply not Weber's best work. I am not sure which book was written first, this one or Off Armageddon Reef, the first book of the Safehold series. The plot of the two books are very much the same, although the characters involved are different and handle the events differently. This is a solid book, with good writing and decent characterizations, it flows well from scene to scene, giving a good view of both sides of the conflict.

I liked the book, but I did not love it. While it is a decent enough book, it is standard fair military scifi, and does not do anything new nor does it stretch any tropes into interesting shapes. If you like military scifi, then yeah, go a head and have a read, you will not hate it and if you really like the Honor Harrington books, you will probably really like these as well.

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Strike on Castle Strahd

So this is my plan for the incursion on Strahd's castle. Now all I need to do is convince everyone to take the Shield Master Feat and the Acrobatics skill.


Dual Weapon Fighting vs Great Weapon Fighting

Over the last few years there has been a debate in the D&D community about which is better, using two weapons and getting an extra attack or using a single two handed weapon with greater damage dice. On the surface, it appears that in the early development of the character when the fighter has only 1 attack per action, the dual weapon fighter does better overall damage using his bonus action as an attack as well. However at 5th level when fighters get 2 attacks per action, with the dual weapon fighter getting a 3rd attack, the great weapon fighter reaches parity in damage with just 2 attacks. Finally at 11th level when both fighter have 3 attacks per action, the great weapon fighter will produce more damage than the dual weapon fighter. even with the extra attack.

The math is pretty simple, 1d8 of damage averages 4.5 per roll, the dual weapon fighter getting 2 attacks will average 9 points of damage.  A great sword does 2d6 damage, which averages out to 7 (3.5x2=7) points of damage per attack. At 5th level the dual weapon fighters average damage becomes 13.5, the great weapon fighters average damage becomes 14 points of damage, pretty close to even. At 11th level the dual weapon fighter's average damage becomes 18. while the great weapon fighters average damage becomes 21 points of damage.

The problem with looking at at like this, is it does not take into account the dual wielder will have more opportunities to do damage over the long term of the game. It is ridiculous to assume both fighters will hit 100% of the time. Just for the sake of argument and to keep the math simple, we assume both fighters are going to hit 75% of the time over 100 rounds of combat and both are 5th level, receiving 2 attacks per action.

Dual Wielding Fighter
3 attacks = 300 Opportunities to do damage
He hits 75% of the time = 225 hits
Each hit is doing 4.5 damage
225 x 4.5 = 1012.5 average damage

Great Weapon Fighter
2 Attacks = 200 Opportunities to do damage
 He hits 75% of the time =150 hits
Each hit doing 7 damage
150 x 7 = 1050

Still pretty even, with the great weapon fighter slightly edging out the dual wielding fighter. But lets see what happens when you add in Strength bonus for for each attack. Assuming a Strength of 16 for each fighter, this is an additional +3 damage per hit, this increases the average damage output for the dual wielding fighter from 1012.5 to 1687.5 and increases the great weapon fighter from 1050 to 1500. Now the dual wielding fighter is edging out the great weapon fighter by 187.5 points of damage.

I can hear everyone screaming now, that in order to achieve the dual wielding fighter must take the Dual Weider feat in order to use 2 long swords and if this is the case, the great weapon fighter should get the Great Weapon Master feat, which allows him to take a -5 penalty to hit to gain a +10 to damage, which would be an overwhelming advantage. Except not necessarily, taking a -5 to hit, means the great weapon fighter is reducing the number of times he hits by 25%, so in our scenario, he is going to hit 50% of the time, or 100 times over 100 turns.  17 damage over 100 turns would be 1700 points of damage, only 12.5 more points than the dual wielder. So even under these circumstance, they are still pretty much in parity.

Now lets look at 11th level, when both fighters have 3 attacks per action. The dual wielder will hit 300 out of 400 attacks will produce 2250 points of damage over 100 turns. The great weapon fighter will hit 150 times out of 300 attacks and will produce 2475 points of damage, at this point he is exceeding the dual wielding fighter by 225 points on the average.

So yes, at lower levels, dual wielding is better than great weapon fighting. In the mid levels, both styles are in parity. However at high levels, the great weapon fighter takes the lead by about 10%.

So would this stop me from playing a dual wielding fighter? Fuck no, dual wielding is cool and sometimes cool is better than munchkin. Is a 10% advantage in damage output really a huge advantage, well yes it is, when you consider that you will probably be playing more games getting from 11th level to 20 level than you will getting from 1st level to 11th and really, there is not much stopping you from doing both when it suits you.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

DC Heroes RPG

Way back in 1985 Mayfair Games published DC Heroes, a Roleplaying Game based on the DC Comic Books. I absolutely loved this idea, unfortunately my game group was not really into the super hero genre so we never played it, although we did play the Marvel Superhero game once or twice. I still have a copy of this on my game shelf. Apparently Freddie Prinze Jr. did actually play the game back in the day and now he is producing and starring in a an unscripted streaming show where he and some others will be playing the game. The show will be streaming on DC Universes, which is fine, once Picard is over, I will cancel CBS All Access and sign up for DC Universes and catch this, Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol. Once I am finished with that, I can drop it and get Disney+ to watch the Mandalorian.

DC Universe All Star Games

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day I think gets a bum rap. Lots of people don't like it because it is a greeting card holiday, meaning it was created as a way to sell greeting cards and it is a total commercial fabrication. Others do not like it because it is only for women and men are not into it. I disagree with both of these opinions.

Now don't get me wrong, my wife and i do not celebrate Valentine's Day in any significant way, but I do go out of my way each year to specifically tell her that I will love her until the day I die and this will be true unless I receive a brain injury that erases the last 40 years of my life.

My thing is, Valentine's Day is a holiday meant to celebrate love and friendship and yes, I think little kids in school should be expected to give those cheap little cards to each other and even as adults we should give them to the people we love and even our friends to remind them that we care. Love and friendship is something we should celebrate, especially when you consider how many holidays we have to commemorate various wars and don't even get me started on Columbus day and Thanksgiving.

I really don't think it is too much to ask to have one day a year where love is celebrated and we show appreciation for the people who loved us throughout our lives. So the next time someone complains about having to buy some chocolate and flowers for his wife, remind him that she is the mother of his children, remind him she has been there for him through the hard times and even the times when he was not a very nice person to be around.  If you hear a woman complaining that her husband never does anything for her on Valentine's Day, ask her if she is making worth his while to celebrate it, remind her that it is not just a day for her, but it is a day for him as well. Believe me ladies, if you give him a blowjob on Valentine's Day, he will have flowers in hand the next Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The UCMJ vs Donald Trump

A journalist today asked President Trump if LTC Alexander Vindman should face disciplinary action for testifying before Congress. President Trump of course indicated that might be a possibility. This would be a two fold problem for the President, neither of which I am sure the President would want to deal with.

First off, Federal law protects whistle blowers from retaliation. If LTC Vindman's lawyer can show that he testified in good faith, court martialing him would be against the law and would likely never go to trial. This would be the likely outcome as there is ample evidence corroborating LTC Vindman's testimony.

Second, even if through pressure from the White House he was court maritaled, this would open up a whole new can of worms for the President. In this case, it would be up to the prosecution to prove that LTC Vindman lied under oath. During the impeachment hearings, the White House defense team did not produce a single shred of evidence to the contrary. In fact several Republican Senator's said they believed the President committed the crime he was accused of, that the House Managers had proven their case, but they did not believe this rose to the level of an impeachable offense.

So the problem facing the prosecution would be how to prove LTC Vindman lied under oath if no one who could say otherwise would be willing to testify under oath themselves. Nor would the White House be willing to release any documents that could prove the case one way or the other. It would also be very likely that the defense would call sitting members of the House of Representatives to testify on his behalf. This would be a very ugly situation for the AG and any Army lawyer designated to prosecute the case.

On top of that, it would be a near guarantee that LTC Vindman would have a very high profile and expensive lawyer defending him. The first thing this team would do is subpoena the real transcript and every person who was on the call. The President could of course fight this, but he would not be fighting it in a civilian court where it might take years to make it way to the supreme court. In the military court system there is the "Intermediate service courts of criminal appeals" and the "Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces", both of which can be convened very quickly and would not take months to make a decision. The case could be appealed to appellate courts, but the civilian judiciary has very rarely accepted cases coming out of the Military and it is very unlikely they would be willing to take this case on themselves. However I suspect the case would be thrown out before it got to this point for lack of evidence that LTC Vindman did anything but testify in good faith and fighting it would in and of it self be evidence that the White House did not want to incriminate itself.

The best thing the White House can do is let this die down and let LTC Vindman quietly retire in a couple of years.

Edit: I would also point out that in all likely hood LTC Vindman considered the order from the President to defy subpoenas issued by Congress was an illegal order. Considering that the order was issued to cover up a probable crime by the president, he was correct in disobeying the order, in fact it was his duty to disobey that order. For those of you who do not understand this, here is a pretty good article discussing the topic.

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/military-orders-3332819

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma KeyDuma Key by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I do not hate Stephen King, I am also not a big fan either. I have read some of his early work; Carrie, Salem's Lot, Christine, etc. However, he does not as a rule excite me as a writer. Duma Key definitely falls under the category of books I would never have read if left to my own devices, which was one of the reasons I put out a call on FaceBook for my friends to suggest books to me.

My expectation for this book were somewhat low, for reasons mentioned above. I was however pleasantly surprised. The book starts out as a journey back from darkness for Edgar Freemantle after a near fatal accident. It takes until almost the middle of the book for it to start solidifying as a psychic drama and does not become a horror novel until the very end. The progression of the story is smooth and well written. King's descriptions of Edgar's injuries and depression are interesting and will be hauntingly familar to anyone who has suffered from depression. I especially enjoyed the slow discovery of the menace, mixed with the history of Duma Key and the Eastlake family who have owned the key since before World War I.

My only contention with King's writing here was, he seemed to setup Edgar for a fall by building up his life to almost literally having the best day of his life, before King starts to kill off those that Edgar loves. I really feel the buildup felt artificial and took a bit too long to setup. While I liked the characters of Edgar, Wireman and Jack, as an unlikely trio, I kind of feel like King could have taken a bit more time at the end to show how these characters were affected by their experience. As it was, it felt like they were all in the same place emotionally as they were shortly before the menace presented itself.

Overall, a decent book, if you like Stephen King, I suspect you will enjoy this book, while not one of his all time greats, it is none the less a good story. If you are not a King fan or have not read much of his stuff, I am inclined to send you to his more well known works before reading this one. I am glad I read it though, it is certainly outside of my normal reading pattern.

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Friday, January 31, 2020

Review: The Deed of Paksenarrion

The Deed of Paksenarrion (The Deed of Paksenarrion, #1-3)The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I did not realize I had purchased a bundle of the first three books, so it took me much longer to finish than I had anticipated. However, I am glad I read all three stories together, had I just read the first book, I would have been somewhat disappointed. The best parts of the story do not come until the second and third books.

This is a pretty standard fare heroes journey story, while it is well written and has some interesting character development and world building, it relies too much on medieval fantasy tropes to be a truly great book. In fact this book read a lot like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, which does not particularly bother me, but the author seems to go out of her way to describe in story the powers a Paladin has in the game and at times this felt awkward to me. Elizabeth Moon knows how to write a good fight scene, this to me is a big plus for me, however she also knows how to write a good torture scene, which does not particularly appeal to me at all, thankfully she skips describing the rape in any detail.

Overall a pretty good book, I am not sure I would recommend it to everyone, but if you are a D&D player and want a good story about the rise of a Paladin, this will suit you very nicely. In fact reading the book makes me want to play a Paladin in the campaign I play in.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Playing the sandbox

On FaceBook, I only belong to a couple of groups, 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (uncensored*) being one of them. I like this group because it tends to be bit unhinged in a good way. Yesterday someone posted they wanted to start a new campaign setting and wanted suggestions. Another member suggested "It starts in a tavern" and I followed up with something like this:

So the starting map is 200 miles by 200 miles, divided into 5 mile hexes. In the center is a town with a tavern, a temple, and a general store, each with 1 or 2 NPC's. One hex to the north are the ruins of the castle of a long dead noble. Then make shit up or roll randomly as they head into other hexes. You will have a new setting in no time that will make at least as much sense as the Forgotten Realms.

 A little bit later I posted the map shown here as the starting area. I am thinking, it would be interesting to see how 4 or 5 different Dungeon Masters developed this map over the course of a campaign. The possibilities are endless and of course each one would be tailored not just to the taste of the DM, but the players as well. Perhaps this is the cross roads between great cities. Maybe it is a war torn region full of haunted battle fields. Or this was once an outpost to a great empire now long faded into history and the area is littered with what remains. Or maybe there is a Hell Mouth in the region where demons and devils enter at will.

What I thought was this is the center of a great conflict that is brewing between four factions, this is sort of a neutral zone between the Desert nomads to the west, the Sea Kings to the east, the Dwarven under mountain to the north and the Tropical swamps to the south where Elven shamans practice ancient magic. Of course there are others as well, like the Mother of Dragons who owns the skys and The Red Duke, a mercenary captain with an army and a reputation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

RE: Review: Looking for Alaska

A couple of people have expressed concern over the spoilers I provided in the review of Looking for Alaska. Spoilers are not something that particularly bothers me when reading books or seeing movies. In fact I will often go read the Wikipedia entry before I read a book or see a movie. Spoilers just do not ruin or detract from my enjoyment. What this means of course is, when I am discussing these things, I do not even consider spoilers to be an issue and will happily blurt things out without regard. I would love to say I will be more careful going forward, but I probably won't.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Looking for Alaska starts off a a light hearted coming of age book, where a young nerd boy goes off to boarding school and much comedy ensues. The book covers first love, first kiss and yes, first blow job. All of this works well, I did not just identify with the main character Miles "Pudge" Halter, but I also identified with Chip "The Colonel" Martin and Alaska Young (her real name), who are his best friends and the primary instigators of all the teenage antics they perform. Up to this point, it is a fun book, well written and beautiful characterizations. The book very much reminded me of the good things about being a teenager.

About halfway through the book, the unthinkable happens and Alaska Young dies in a car crash. I have to say, this is one of the best deaths I read in a very long time. Not in terms of interesting or spectacular or anything like that, but in terms of emotional hit. Because it hits like a bull out of no where and leaves you thinking what the fuck just happened. Now, with just under half the book left to read, the reader is no longer reading about the fun loving teenagers sneaking cigarettes, but suddenly left with sullen and remorseful teenagers coming to terms with the death of their friend and deal with their grief in their own ways. No teenager should have to read this book, but they probably should.

There are uncomfortable moments in this book, subject matters that teenagers probably should not be reading about. The problem with this view point, is I am an adult and I am viewing this story through the lens of an adult whose memories of being a teenager are not as clear as they once were. There is a semi graphic scene describing oral sex, these kids also engage in drinking and drug use, as an adult, this bothers me. However, this is what being a teenager is like, these kids taking their first tentative steps into adulthood and are exploring the possibilities. This is what it is like to be a teenager and we should not avoid these subjects, rather they should be included in stories like this, because oftentimes it can be a jumping off point for parents to talk about these subjects with their kids. Being uncomfortable was good for me and made me realize, teenagers have really not changed that much since I was one.

This book was better than I was expecting. While it is classified as Young Adult, this is a book even an old ass adult can enjoy.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oryx and Crake is a dark book, the story does not describe child prostitution/pornography in detail, but does reference it as part of the background of the Oryx character, so if this offends you, this is not the book for you. In spite of the darkness, it is a very good book, well worth the read.

Snowman, the primary character, is sort of an Everyman who was thrust into the unlikely role of holy man to a new race of humans genetically spliced together by his mad genius best friend. The story is two fold, first is the story of Snowman as he is in this post apocalyptic world and his journey to find more supplies. The second takes the form of Snowman remembering his life before the plague and the events leading up to it, including who Oryx and Crake are and why they are important to him.

The writing is excellent, the plot develops in interesting ways and the characterizations where believable and compelling. The story does plod along at first, but picks up steam as it moves along. The description of Oryx's early life will make you uncomfortable and her acceptance of what has happened to her is even more uncomfortable, as is the society that is almost tolerant of it and allowed it to happen.

Over all, a really good read, I would recommend it to nearly anyone, I will be reading the other two books in the trilogy later in the year.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

I should get a lot of reading done today

I am having a colonoscopy tomorrow, so today is purge day. Nothing but jello and popsicles to eat and at 3PM I start the colon blow. What a great way to end the holidays.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

FaceBook Friend Suggestions Reading List

Last night on Facebook, I asked for reading suggestions and I got some interesting responses. What actually surprised me the most was no one suggested anything I had already read. Here is the list so far, it is kind of a mixed bag, with some stuff that is definitely outside of my normal reading habits. In no particular order;
  • Crusade (Starfire Book 1) - Wade
  • All Systems Red (Kindle Single): The Murderbot Diaries - Tonia
  • The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher - Shannon
  • A River Runs through It and Other Stories - Karla
  • Looking for Alaska - Elizabeth
  • Once an Eagle -Karl
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Tanya
  • Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter Book 1) - Bonnie
  • The Deed of Paksenarrion - Cisco
  • Duma Key: A Novel - Michael
  • The Zero Blessing (The Zero Enigma Book 1) - David
My next step is to hit up all the people who did not respond personally, to see if i can get a suggestion from them and add to the list.