Cyrran Reaches: What Looms Beyond

Wednesday July 10, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- After camping for the night, the group made it back to Rolessi.  Their plan was to see if they could find someone to implement a more permanent solution to the problem at Ver'Sheole and then find some way to move against the growing orc presense.

- Rolessi, however, seemed to be in a state of social and political turmoil.  In general, much of the populace seemed to be a little on-edge.  The PCs reports of orcs to the west had developed into all sorts of rumors, and several sudden assassinations had made many feel unsafe.  The leaders of the city were apparently engaged in heated disagreements about whether the primary focus should be on internal or external problems.

- Lily and Taryn spoke with Lady Wyrra of house Dyn'Talor about the nature of the rift they'd found in the ruined keep and the anti-magic field that was currently containing it.  She told them that her house would see what they might be able to learn and hypothesize about possible solutions, but that few would be as capable as they (the PCs) were in actually acting against the forces at work.

- The city had sent out several militia parties to investigate reports of problems in the region - and some had not returned.  After some discussion, the group decided they would head to the remote settlement of Saint Orvusk, which had been cut off from outside contact for some weeks amid reports of unusual orc activity...

Spirit Island - Greater Than Games

Tuesday June 25, 2019 at 12:56pm board games, spirit island Comments (0) »
 Spirit Island artwork © Greater Than Games
Spirit Island artwork © Greater Than Games

So Spirit Island was definitely the new-to-me board game highlight of this year's Trogland meetup.  Let's talk about it a little.

 

Spirited.

First off, Spririt Island is a cooperative game, which is always a big plus for me.  There are a number of competitive games I enjoy of course, but all else being equal, coop is always more fun.  I'm always glad to find a new, solid, coop game.

In this game, each player plays as one of several primal "spirits" inhabiting an island and taking care of the natives.  Unfortunately, some punk colonists from who-knows-where have arrived and are messing up the place - like they do.  Your objective as a group is to stop their spread, repair their damage, and ultimately eliminate them from the island - hopefully keeping the natives safe(ish) in the process.

Each spirit starts off in their own little corner of the island.  As the game progresses, they will spread their influence, gain powers, and increase in colonist-stomping strength.  On each turn, you'll "grow" a bit, and then try to find the best way to apply your current powers to the situation at hand. The growth and power mechanics have a satisfying feel to them.

Each spirit also plays quite bit differently from the next.  Not quite Vast-level "different", but enough that it meaningfully effects the play and feel of the game.  Also enough that, with all you have to keep track of just for yourself, it would be hard to concern yourself with what anyone else is doing.  This goes quite a ways in preventing the "alpha gamer" problem where you have one person that wants to tell everyone else how to play. 

Since only some of the Spirits will be at the table in any given game, the particular mix present also affects the overall strategy and the general progression of the game.  Really interesting dynamics there, too.

The pacing of the game has an interesting reversal of many games.  Many games start out slow and easy and ramp up to a certain franticness.  Spirit Island is almost the opposite - you start off feeling pretty overwhelmed by the colonial presence, but as you play through turns and gain power, you quickly begin to out-pace them and, by the end of the game (if you're winning), you're pretty handily wiping them out.  At first glance you might think this would be anti-climactic (and, I suppose it could be in some senses or situations), but it actually plays really, really well.

 

So yeah, really enjoyed this one.  Like I said before, my favorite find of the weekend.

 

~PS

Trogland 2019

Tuesday June 25, 2019 at 12:27pm trogland, gaming, board games Comments (0) »
Trogland 2019 Image

Trogland 2019.

So last weekend we had our mostly-annual Trogland meetup.  I say "mostly" annual because we missed last year for the first time since we started doing this thing back in '07.  Things just kinda fell apart in 2018.  At this point, it's mostly just me planning the thing with some input from some of the others.  Not that I mind, really, but it's a significant task.

This year, though, I think went pretty well.  We had a different venue which was a little smaller, but our old location inflated the price on us about 700% which was undoable.  Sunday we actually spent in the game room of a local game shop, which was actually kind of cool.

We operated at a bit of a deficit this year. I was glad we had some cash left over from previous Troglands to break even. May need to tweak some things for the future, but overall not a big deal.

I think this year's Trogland went quite well.  One of the cool things this year was that several of the kids were actually old enough to participate.  I guess we're getting to be that age.  I mean, we have been doing this for 12 years.

 

Games at the Trog.

So we played games, of course.  I mean, that's what we do.  Didn't get to run the Fate game I'd pitched, but after the massive Battletech encounter, several of the participants weren't up for a longer time commitment.

I got to play Stuffed Fables again - still only made it to the junk-pile page, but thoroughly enjoyed it.  Played through Mysterium as a player, which was fun even if I was terrible (I'd been the ghost the previous 2 times). 

The Mind is a very interesting game in its staggering simplicity. 

Sheri played a game called Comanauts, which I understand to be similar to Stuffed Fables but with a darker, more serious sci-fi theme. 

I got to play Pandemic again for the first time in years - and, for the first time ever, we won.  

Unearth was enjoyable, though we didn't get to play a whole game. 

I think the board game highlight of the weekend for me was Spirit Island - will be making a post dedicated to that one.

 

And, of course, I got to run the Battletech scenario, which always takes a long time but I always enjoy.  Ran this one as a double-blind where both sides felt like they were the underdog and a countdown timer brought other conditions into play.  It went just about exactly like I'd hoped.

 

That's just what I made it to the table for (or observed).  LOTS of other games were played.  Lots more fun was had.

It was a good time, as always.

 

Oh, and on Sunday at the game store we picked up Folklore, which we heard great things about from some other attenders and we're planning to try out tonight.

 

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Closed Doorways

Tuesday June 11, 2019 at 8:15pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Lily, Tyrrox, and Ravina were upstairs battling the hordes of demons rushing out of the previously-sealed room.  They were managing to keep most from escaping, but some managed to push their way through.

- Trying to stay focused, Taryn dropped the key and headed deeper into the room - trying to get closer to the rift before triggering the anti-magic effect.  He was unexpectedly pursued, however, by a pair of devils that suddenly appeared.

- Kael, meanwhile, played as though he accepted the hezrou's offer for aid in defeating the more powerful demon while he too maneuvered further into the room.

- Fighting broke out between the two most powerful demons in the room, but the most powerful demon present seemed intent only on tempting Kael - presenting him with powerful artifacts and an implicit promise of great power.  Taryn, on the other hand, was struggling against the devils to get the orb out of his pack.  Seeing Kael less harassed by enemies, he threw his pack to his friend.  Kael caught the bag, which interrupted interaction with the demon.  Within that brief moment of clarity, he pulled out the orb and shattered it.

- The resulting shockwave plunged the room into darkness as all magical and supernatural effects were extinguished.  The group hurriedly withdrew, occasionally being buffeted by demons also escaping.

- Near the surface, they reached the edge of the anti-magic effect.  Outside they found a dense magical fog and the distant sounds of battle.  As Ravina cast a Wind Walk spell to aid in their flilght from the region, they caught site of the bronze dragon, still very angry at the intrusion...

Black Foxes: A Brutal Life

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- The Foxes had discovered that Muggs (the leader of the Stone Club) was going to be attending a particular hound race at Vreen's and made a plan to pull of their hit operation then and there.  Fortune was with the PCs' crew this time, as Muggs conveniently separated himself from his attendant and bodyguard - a woman called Rellanna.  While Drave tangled with her and everyone else was distracted by the manifesting form of a horrific spectral ogre, Erik was able to move in for the kill.

- This turned out ot be Erik's last operation, however - the scoundrel's life had taken its toll on the man, unhinging him a little.  His companions decided they'd turn him in to take the fall for the crew to clear some heat on them.

- While their leader is dead, the Stone Club is by no means defeated.  They're undoubtedly planning a counterstrike, and foxes will need to press their advantage if they're going to make this strike really count...

Cyrran Reaches: Who To Trust

Tuesday May 28, 2019 at 8:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- After some discussion and further study of Lily's map, the group decided to explore another possible entrance to the dungeon vaults: a secret passage that seemed to originate from another building.  After finding that route impassable, they resigned themselves to the "main" entrance and decided to rest for the night.  Passing through the streets again the next morning, they found them thick with an unnatural fog and could hear the sounds of some commotion in the distance - at least some of which was certainly the dragon. 

- The plan for the dungeon vaults was this: they would break the seal and fight off the demons just long enough for someone to get near the rift and shatter their anti-magic orb (an object they'd picked up back in the horde of the dragon they'd fought in Velgrin) - believing that rift to be the source of the "wrongness" and hoping that the anti-magic field would seal it up at least for a while.  They would then do their best to flee on foot until they escaped the magic-void area and could use spells and magical equipment to enhance their escape - hopefully avoding the dragon.  They would then return to civilization and tell others what they'd found and what they'd done, and advise them that they had no way of knowing how temporary or permanent their "solution" might be.

- The warding seal on the vaults seemed ready to give and it collapsed immediately on contact with Lily's Dispel Magic spell.  The door itself unexpectedly disintegrated, and demons began pouring out - though most seemed more interested in escape than combat.  While Lily, Tyrrox, and Ravina fought with the fleeing hordes, Kael and Taryn fought their way down to the dungeons below.  There, Taryn found himself with a familiar red key and a mental nudge toward the malfunctioning portal, and Kael was addressed by a Hezrou telling him he would need its help to destroy the Glabrezu now approaching them...

Battletech: A New Campaign

Thursday May 23, 2019 at 8:30pm new campaign, battletech, game session notes Comments (0) »

For a variety of reasons we decided we'd start a new Battletech campaign rather than continuing Aralakh.  We spent a session making new characters with some slightly different rules.  The new gang will be a Davion-aligned merc unit operating somewhere near around the midpoint of the Capellan march.

Cyrran Reaches: Secrets of the Past pt. II

Tuesday May 21, 2019 at 8:15pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Though they could still hear the pounding of the dragon above them, the group decided Lily should cast her Legend Lore spell to learn more about the place they've found themselves in.  In so doing, they learned that the deep interior of this keep was once the lair of Lochthuun, the legendary hydra, and that its death apparently tore open a rift into the lower planes which was the origin of the contaminating evil of the region.

- Deciding they needed to see what was actually going on in the dungeons below, Kael activated the ethereal ability of his armor and passed through the door.  On the other side, he found several dozen demons, a malfunctioning portal, and the abyssal rift floating above the perfectly-preserved body of a massive hydra.  The group now needs to decide what to do about the situation to prevent the situation from worsening and to keep the cult from abusing it...

Cyrran Reaches: To Go Deeper

Tuesday May 14, 2019 at 8:45pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- As the Mafka zealots launched their attack and the roaring creatured bellowed from outside, Ravina began her spell to de-petrify the goblin leader.  As the creature's warnings grew closer and more angry, the zealots retreated.  Ravina completed her spell and managed to restore the goblin chief to life, though he was not too happy to see his saviors.  As the building shook, they all moved further into the structure away from whatever was outside.

- The goblin chief stopped his aggression against the group, but insisted they part ways.  At Lily's convincing, he indicated the way toward what the goblins called the "Deep Evil" - which was down in the lower dungeons and vaults of the keep.  They made their way down, hearing the furious pounding overhead, and found a sealed door bearing an evil, pulsing rune...

Shiny, Shiny Pedals

Tuesday April 30, 2019 at 10:36pm guitar, gear, music Comments (0) »
Shiny, Shiny Pedals Image

A couple of weeks ago I broke down and ordered some guitar pedals.  The idea was to create a selection of pedals I could use both with my amp and running directly into a mixer for playing at our church and/or for recording (been doing some writing again lately).

I haven't spent extensive time fiddling with each one on its own, but I have been playing a lot with them as a unit.  What follows are my initial thoughts and the reasons I chose the ones I did.  My default choices were going to be Boss pedals, because they're a good industry standard, and they make solid stuff.  I stuck to that default sometimes; other times, I didn't.

Overdriving

Going in order of my effects chain, the first pedal is overdrive - specifically, the Boss OD-3.

I suppose the main question to answer is "why the OD-3 over the SD-1, which is about half the price?".  I did debate this quite a bit, but after watching several comparison videos on youtube and reading reviews, it seemed that the OD-3 was reputed to be a bit clearer, warmer, and less harsh - and I wanted "overdrive", not "super overdrive".  There's also a little of "you tend to get what you pay for" in my thinking. 

I don't have any personal experience with the SD-1, but the OD-3 sounds great.  It gives a nice, warm, blues or classic-rock style overdrive crunch to the signal on its own, and if I run it into my distortion pedal or drive channel on my amp, I get a really nice, jagged, high-gain metallic distortion.  It's just what I wanted from overdrive.

Distorted

This was the pedal that I agonized over the most.  There are a lot of different distortion sounds, and they all have different characters.  My original plan was to go with the good ol' DS-1.  It's a well respected pedal, and it's cheap - and I still might pick that one up - but I really wanted something versatile.

In a couple of distortion pedal lists and videos, I found the Fender Pugilist Distortion pedal - and I really liked the sound of it.  This one has two different distortion circuits, the sounds of which you can use seperately, blend together, or even run one into the other (I do think it would have been cool if they would have made the blend/series switch a footswitch).  It's not a super-high-gain pedal (their Full Moon Distorition is more aimed that way), but you can get a pretty wide range of drive from using only channel A with just a little gain, to a pretty heavy sound running channel A into B with both gains cranked.  Add my Overdrive onto the front end, and you can get some pretty wicked gain (albiet a bit noisily) as mentioned above.  The Fender tone also does a bit to mitigate the midrange exaggeration of my SG+amp combo (which I've mentioned before).

The Fender pedals are solidly built, look great, and I have to admit, I loved the name of this one.  "Pugilist" as the name of a drive pedal is pretty awesome.

Compression

Next up is the compressor.  Once agan, I initially figured on picking up the Boss CS-3, but read several articles sayng it was a bit noisy.  I know there is some misconception with compressors and noise, but I saw this concern often enough that it affected my choice.  Since I'd already gone with one Fender pedal, I decided to take a look at their compressor, The Bends.

This was another pedal with a good look and a cool name, but that wasn't going to sell me on its own.  The reviews on this compressor were very positive though, and a couple even commented that this particular compressor was quiet and subtle.  Compression is one of those effects where, if you're doing it right, you don't really notice it - so this sounded good to me.

The controls on The Bends are a little different from those on the CS-3 and more "standard" compressors, but ultimately they do the same thing and give you a fair amount of control (moreso than the much-loved  MXR Dyna Comp, which has one knob for "compression").  Also, I like the feature where the jewel LED on top of it actually changes color to show when/how the compressor is affecting the signal.  I tend to leave this on all the time, but its effects are most noticeable when playing clean - tightening up the dynamics and giving a little boost to sustain.

Choral

So then there's the Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble.  This pedal is different from the others in that I've had it for about 20 years.  It's probably not one I'd pick out these days, but I got a lot of use out of it in the past - and I have it, so I threw it in.  It performs its chorus functon well, but it's not an effect I use super often - and when I do, it's usually fairly subtle.  I think these days, if I was going to pick up a modulation pedal, I'd probably look at a flanger or phase shifter.  Like many modulation pedals, it will take you all the way from "barely noticeable" up through "unusably bizarre".

The 'Verb

The biggest reason I wanted a reverb pedal was for amp-less playing.  My amp has a decent spring reverb built in, and I'm not super picky about my reverb sound - I just know I don't like the sound of an electric guitar without a good dose of it. 

For whatever reason, reverb pedals tend to be some of the more expensive effects.  I went ahead with the Boss RV-6 on this one, as it was well-liked and seemed to have a decent selection of reverb types/effects.  I also liked the fact that it has a +delay mode to play around with without buying a dedicated delay pedal.  Whle I may not be picky, I have enjoyed playing with what this pedal can do - and it's reverb is quite a bit juicier than what's in my amp - so it's usually always on.

It sounds good.  Like I said, I'm not super picky on reverb in particular.

Equality

Last in the chain is the MXR 10-band EQ pedal, which I've talked a little about before - it's good for guitar and bass, and it has +/- sliders for volume and gain.  It does a good job of taming my amp in a couple of ways, and it should give me more control over my tone for direct inputs.

 

So that's about it.  I'm pretty happy with this setup.  Nothing super fancy, but it gives me a solid sound and some versatility.  If I get good mileage out of this stuff I might eventually pick up other toys - perhaps wah, volume, phaser, delay, some more drive pedals - but most of that stuff is all secondary at best.

 

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Enemies of Enemies

Monday April 29, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- The group awoke to find themselves surrounded by goblins.  They were approached by one of them - Tofkag - who turned out to be the leader of one splinter of a local tribe.  In exchange for their help in de-petrifying their leader, they told the PCs they would lead them to the keep by ways that would avoid the more hostile goblin factions.  They spoke with Tofkag for some time about his tribe, the keep, and the "Deep Evil" he said dwelled beneath it.

- Making it to the keep the following day, they made their way into the ruin.  Within the CourtHall of the primary tower, they found the statue of the former leader of the goblin tribe - as well as some of the Mafka zealots Tofkag had warned them about.  The altercation was only beginning when the building was shaken by a tremendous roar from overhead...

Cyrran Reaches: Into the Curse

Saturday April 27, 2019 at 2:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- After a considerable conversation, the rest of the party managed to convince Taryn that going after the Orb was too dangerous and put the rest of their mssion in jeaopardy - though Tyrrox tended to think they could defeat the goblns.

- The group continued northward to the Navlin forest - a cool, pine-covered region leading into the foothills of the Elmhine mountains.  Inside they found the slaughter of a village of some kind of humanoid mushroom race and had a run-in with some territorial canine humanoids.  Deeper still, they found that the forest was corrupted and diseased, and they began encountering bloated, corrupted, undead, and unusually aggressve animals.

- On the far side of the forest, the group located the old elven road up into the mountains that would take them to Ver'Sheole.  As they climbed, they found evidence of several recently-used humanoid camp sites and even caught site of someone else on the road.

- Near the top, as they pressed on into the night, the group was ambushed by a goblin warband, which they managed to fight off.

 

GM's Note: This session had two pretty serious combat encounters, and I was very entertained by how much terrain factored into both of them, as well as the previous river-ambush encounter.  We also did an interesting encounter-setup-contest between the PCs and the opposing force for one of them to determine who started with the high ground and prep time.

Black Foxes: To Strike at the Heart

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- Erik met up with his "friend" from their smuggling run at the Maple Grey in Silkshore and got an easy job offer.  Drave stumbled back into the Foxes' turf, but was acosted by the Bluecoats on the way in.  He tried to turn their attention to the Stone Club, but was only partially successful.  A few nights later, their tinker friend Lerrin found them at the Three Pennies to tell them that the Club was making problems in Fenwell Hook again.

- The gang spent some time discussing their options and gathering some info on their rival gang.  They were able to track down the Stone Club's HQ, as well as some that their leader Muggs has made a recent habit of betting on the hounds down at Vreen's races in Nightmarket.  The time has come to strike - and they're looking to cut the head off the snake...

Cyrran Reaches: Green Warren

Saturday April 13, 2019 at 3:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- The group fought with the goblins on the high bank and the monstrous elder water elemental that had appeared in their midst.  The tactical advantage the goblins had proved to be very effectve, and the tide of the combat didn't turn until Taryn pulled out his orb and used its powerful breath weapon.

- It was then that the sole surviving goblin in its area - a spellcaster of some apparent power - took notice.  Using a potent stunning spell, he froze Taryn, took the orb from his hands, and disappeared into the grasslands before any of the others were aware of what had happened.

- Now deprived of his second source of power, when he came to the panicked Taryn insisted that they follow the thief.  Kael quickly found that the trail suddenly vanished a few hundred feet from the site of the encounter, however.  The group interrogated one of the subdued goblins and found that the spellcaster, called Akrisk, had taken over their tribe some months ago - though he couldn't tell them much about his abilities.  After releasng him, the group tailed him back to his warren - Ravina's divination having suggested this would be the best way to recover the artifact.  There they found a large triibe inhabiting a cavernous hollow in the ground in a small, hilly region of the grasslands...

 

GM's Note: Ever since Taryn had found that Orb of Dragonkind and I ruled it had actually be held for some of ts abilities to be used, I have been mindful every time he uses it.  Sooner or later, I knew that something smart enough to recogniize its power would take interest and try to deprive him of it.  As this particular NPC spellcaster was very powerful, I knew if he saw it, he would make a play for it - and I'd given him a couple of spells that would give him a shot.  Even so, several things had to go just right for him to be able to pull it off - and I didn't expect it to actually work.  So now the players are on a little detour from their time-sensitive misson, and they're having interesting coversations about how and whether to try to get it back.

Jamming Again

Thursday April 11, 2019 at 12:17pm music, guitar, drums Comments (0) »
Jamming Again Image

So a month or two ago someone at our church was talking about needing more musicians.  This actually surprised me a bit, as I know we have a lot of talented people.  Talking to our worship minister, turns out they have a lot of people that can play, but he's only got a few for any given instrument.  By the time you add in scheduling conflicts, he's apparently had some trouble filling all the roles every week.  Playing music is fun, and I like to help out, so I told him I could fill in on guitar (lead/rhythm), bass, or drums as necessary.

And I thought, yeah, I miss playing.

Getting the Axe

After that conversation, it occurred to me that it had been some time since I'd even played my SG.  Sadly, it and my amp had been in the basement for a  year or two - mostly because there isn't an "out of the way" place for them to live.  Playing again sounded like fun, so I brought it in and set it up in a corner of the living room.  It's not "out of the way", but the biggest problems are keeping the 3yo away from the knobs, and competing with the TV for audio time.

Anyway, the first thing was to change the strings and clean up the fretboard.  The second things was a bit less expected: re-solder the input jacks on my amp.  They'd been finicky for some time, but apparently they finally snapped - quite literally.  The old solder had given out from years of stress and the jacks had simply popped off the circuit board.  Luckily, it was about the easiest possible thing to solder, and thus within my meager capabilities.

Since then, I've been playing quite a bit - trying to squeeze in an hour or so most days.  I've been working a lot on my fingering, alternate picking, and generally expanding my repertoire of techniques.  I've been going through spotify playlists picking out riffs that sound like fun, and then learning how to play them.  I haven't tried anythng objectively difficult, but I'm pretty pleased with how I've been able to take something truly challenging for me that I've never attempted before and then be able to play it fairly proficiently after just a little practice.  I think I've reached a point now where I'm actually a little better than I was back in college when I was playing a lot more.

Pedal Hard

So I play through an old Peavey Special 212 Transtube amp I got in the late 90's when my highschool band outgrew my little Fender practice amp.  When I got it, I was playing a fender Duo-Sonic my parents got me after I'd been playing for a while (still one of my most memorable Christmas presents).  It's still a great amp, but Peavey's favoring of the midrange combined with the darker tone of my SG's humbuckers means that, while you get really fat lead sounds from it, you can't get a rhythm tone that isn't 5-year-old-puddle-jumper-level muddy.  After a couple weeks playing on it, I decided I needed to tweak that - and I ordered MXR's 10-band eq pedal.

I (obsessively) looked at a number of eq pedals before landing on this one.  The big reasons I decided on this one were that it offers an eq range that's useful for guitar and bass, and that it has a 'gain' slider as well as a simple 'volume'.  I figured that bumping the gain would be good for my passive instruments when doing direct-inputs, and I've found that pulling the gain all the way down (when running it post-preamp) quiets the hiss of my amp and enables me to turn the volume and post-gains on my amp up further than "1" (the other thing about my amp is that it's 200 watts - which is great if you're on an outdoor stage, and not-so-great if you're in your small house with sleeping children).  I've been pretty happy with it so far.

I'm now looking to expand my pedal selection a bit more - if only so that if I end up playing at my church, I don't have to lug my amp (the other other thing about this amp is that it is unnecessarily heavy).  Think I'm going to pick up a distortion pedal, a compressor, and a reverb to start.  After (also obsessively) looking at a lot of the options, I've got my eye on some Boss models.  They seem to be a solid mix of quality + value, they're well-reviewed, and I know Boss makes good stuff.

Drummed Up

I was never really "a drummer" - Justin always took care of that.  But I have always loved to play drums.  I think it's the energy in feeling the music that comes with it.  When my brother started playing, I developed a habit of playing his drums pretty often, teaching myself the basics and developing that particular kind of coordination.  Actually, I think it made me a better musician overall.

Since then, I've played drums in a few ad-hoc music groups - usually praise bands at camps/churches/whatever.  Basically, wherever someone was just needed.  I don't know that I would pass too many auditions, but I can keep a beat and I play well enough on simple stuff to get by.  I'm the percussive equivalent of that guitar player who only plays straight rhythms with with open fingerings - I'll get it done, but it's usually nothing special.

That's not to say I'm satisfied with my meager skill level.  I'd love to practice more, but I don't have a kit of my own, so I'm kind of stuck here for now.

Jamming Again

So last week I was asked to play drums for service this sunday.  We had a rehearsal last night, which went fairly well.  I've been deemed passable - which I consider a success if only because the guy playing percussion is a good drummer, and he said he didn't hear any big issues with my playing.  Still, the once-through rehersal was not enough for someone like me who likes to be over-prepared.  I've been told we'll go through everything "for real" on sunday morning.  Meanwhile, I'm scrambling to make recognizable notes on what I was doing that worked vs. what didn't.  As the new guy, it's maybe 1/4 the rehearsal time I'd like, but it's been a ton of fun.  

Until yesterday, I actually hadn't played drums in at least a few years.  Just haven't had the opportunity.  Knowing this, I made arrangements to get to the church a couple of hours early to warm up, break off some rust, and generally have a blast rocking out.  I played for about 2 hours straight, soaked myself pretty good with sweat, and made my shoulders sore.  If I end up doing this regularly, I think I'm going to need to get a kit.  Or make arrangements to be at the church...often. 

Yesterday was the first time since playing my brother's that I got to sit down, undisturbed, and really get comfortable with a kit.  I have to say, that by itself was awesome.  The difference between then and now, however, is that this kit is electronic.

Electro

Like a lot of actual drummers, I prefer the feel of an acoustic kit.  Unlike others, I do like the tighter sound of the electronic kits (maybe I just haven't played a really good acoustic), and the fact that I can, in a church, hit drums hard and not have to worry about being uncontrollably loud is fantastic.  The "gentler" I have to play, the worse I am - or, at least, the less I can pull off.

The church's electronic kit is pretty decent.  As you can see from the photo, it's a Roland kit, and it uses the TD9 module which is solid enough.  I actually read the owners manual ahead of time so I was able to program the sounds I wanted into my own kit on the thing (piccolo snare is a must).  The drum pads have all-mesh heads, and the response feels good.  The cymbals are decent to play on, if nothing particularly amazing.  The hats are really my only complaint.  They're not the worst I've played on, but like most of them, the trigger is "lazy" in that letting up on the foot controller after hitting the pad doesn't change the sound.  This is my continual pet peeve on electronic hats.  I do know that Roland makes a hat trigger system that mounts on an actual hi-hat stand that doesn't have this annoying behavior - I've just only got to play on one for like 10 minutes at a Guitar Center.  

 

All this has brought my songwriting back onto the radar.  Other than recording a dozen or so chord progressions as voice notes on my phone, I haven't done much with it yet - but if the musical momentum continues, I'm hoping to be able to channel it there.

 

 

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: The Crossing

Monday April 8, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Lily had a conversation with the innkeeper Helia, giving her a few more details than they'd told most of the townsfolk.  She also asked if anyone unusual had been through town, and after talking to a local farmer, they discovered that someone matchng the description of the missing Aegus Rothan had been seen several months ago.

- Using some magic from Ravina and Kael's sense of direction, the group headed north toward the Navlin Forest and the road into the Elmhine Mountains that would lead them to the abandoned Ver'Sheole keep.  The river, however, kept pushing them further west, and they eventually decided to cross at a ford, where they found themselves ambushed by goblins...

Cyrran Reaches: Unrevealed

Tuesday April 2, 2019 at 8:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- As the group left the library, they found a young elven woman weeping at a run-down shrine originally devoted to Corellon Larethian.  As Lily engaged in conversation with her, it became increasingly clear that something was wrong with her.  The woman became increasingly agitated, and apparently reached a breaking point when an unearthly shriek came out of her.  The sound was loud enough to vibrate the surrounding structures - and attract the attention of the bebilith that had entered the Courthall.

- Lily attempted to ignite the webs the spider-demon had constructed across the street, but found that they would not burn well.  The party had just begun hacking their way through when the spider burst through the large, half-open doors of the building.  Kael fired arrows and Lily summoned a celestial creature to distract the monster as they made their escape.

- Back in town, the group rested at the inn and told the townsfolk some of what they found at the keep on the hill.  Most were troubled at the news, but few seemed surprised.  Taryn had another chat with a strange but familiar swordsman, and Lily also was visited by a strange old woman whom she later decided must have been the hag she and her friends had encountered when the first arrived in the region.  Apparently she came to tell them that orcs were massing in the western corners of the area, organized by something claiming an eye/tooth symbol...

 

GM's Note:

This game has been going for a while, and I found it very satisfying to (finally) get to bring in a hook from all the way back at the start of the campaign.  This narrative thread was so old that we've added 2 players to the group since it was on-screen.  When the PCs had spared this hag and saved her "pet" hydra, she told them she would not forget their kindness - and has now made good on that by alerting them to a growing problem they otherwise had no way of knowing about.

Cyrran Reaches: Secrets of the Past pt. I

Tuesday March 26, 2019 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Though wearing down quickly, the group continued the fight against the demons until their leader noticed the monstrous demonic spider trying to gain entry to the hall - at which point it fled and its remaining lackies went with it.

- After taking a moment to regain their strength, the party decided they would make a search of this main structure of the keep.  Its upper floors contained the bodies of quite a few dead demons, the most of which were piled before the door of a small study.  Having discovered there was someone inside, they had a brief conversation through the locked door before he vanished.  It wasn't until later that Lily realized who it was: Aulthust, the marked man.

- The group picked the lock and searched through the room, finding that the man was apparently concerned with books on elven lore and history and something pertaining to a dwarven settlement - and they learned a few tidbits from the open books they found and decided they would head to the keep's library.  There they found more info about the keep they're heading to - Ver'Sheole - and saw more evidence of Aulthust's search for information on a place called Ur'Galek...

Cyrran Reaches: Smashing The Way In

Tuesday March 19, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (2) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Unable to trace the tattooed man (suspecting he was an illusion) and aware that demons in the streets around them were closing in, they made the decision to smash their way through a window of the large, central building.

- Once in position, Tyrrox shattered the glass and metal of the window and everyone scrambled up and through it.  Though their efforts were well coordinated, they soon found themselves under attack and pressed between a gang of demons from inside the building, and the monstrous, demonic spider from outside...

No Thank You Evil: Towing Hobgoblins pt. I

 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The Inspector directed the Pirate Olivia and her Pretty Pony to take the hobgoblins they'd captured to Lucy Lawful in Out The Window. 

- On the way to the Crossroads, they saved Edwin Bear from a gang of Fluff Spiders. 

- They encountered That Imp at the Crossroads, but they managed to get past him by convincing him that his demanded toll of three Unicorn Feathers didn't make any sense.

- Once through the Crossroads and into Out The Window, they searched the crowded city streets for Lucy Lawful's office.  Just when they found it, however, a wave of Bobgoblins swept them into Nortorious Inc. where Olivia found herself locked in a filing room...

Cyrran Reaches: In The Webs

Tuesday March 12, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- The party gathered themselves together and made their way deeper into the keep.  They found the central building structure - likely the lord's manor and court they were seeking.  Between them and the entrance, however, was a great deal of webbing they believed was probably from the massive demonic spider Lily had seen earlier.  From the attic of a nearby tavern, they were able to get a slighly better view of the area.  They were deciding whether to go through the webs, traverse the rooftops over them, or smash their way through one of the high windows when they caught sight of someone moving in the abandoned city: a tall man with a curling tattoo of a two-headed dragon on his face...

Cyrran Reaches: Demons & Devils

Wednesday March 6, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- The group was continuing its struggle against the Gelugon and its Bone Devil minions when a small horde of Babau demons were alerted to the situation.  Taryn had managed to distract and anger the ice fiend - which was both good and bad.  As the Babau rushed in, the Gelugon once more blasted the entire area with a wave of frost, further wearing down the already-battered PCs and the demons alike.  The PCs collectively decided to let the mortal enemy fiends take out each other while they disengaged. 

- Unfortunately, the injured Kael found himself pinned down against one of the buildings in the street as the fight between the outsiders raged around him.  Taking aim at the Gelugon's head, fortune smiled on the desperate ranger - giving him a perfect shot that felled the devil.  As it exploded into shards of ice, the Babau horde chased after the remaining Bone Devils, leaving the PCs alone on the frozen streets...

Between Two Cities + Gamer In Training

Monday March 4, 2019 at 12:46pm board games Comments (3) »
 Cover artwork © Stonemaier Games
Cover artwork © Stonemaier Games

Over the weekend, Sheri & I played Between Two Cities with our daughter.  We'd bought the game for her for Christmas - our friend Tony had recommended it as a good age-accessible game - but with everything else going on, we hadn't managed to bring it to the table before now.  Actually, Hannah had even forgotten about it entirely.

Since Sheri & I are both into various tabletop games, we like to encourage that with our kids - especially with Hannah, now that she's getting old enough to really play some of the more interesting games.  I mean, Candyland has its limits.

 

Between Two Cities is a great quick-play game for 3-7 people.  The fact that it supports more than 4 players is an automatic bonus for us, since we frequently play games with larger groups of friends.  It actually has a solo variant as well, if that's your thing.  We played the game through twice in about half an hour or so.  We were only playing with three, but because of the way the game works, I don't imagine that increasing the number of players will greatly affect the play time (I'll let you know if I find out differently). The game has a competitive goal, but it is actually played cooperatively - which is a very interesting dichotomy.

During the three "rounds" of the game, you will be building two different cities: one with the player to your left, and the other with the player to your right.  On each turn, you'll choose a couple of tiles from your hand, and you will to place one in each - then, you and your partners will decide where to place the tiles in your city for best effect.  There are several different types of tiles, and each scores points in a different way; the goal is to create the best cities you can with what you have.  Note that you have to focus on both cities, because your personal score will be equal to whichever of your cities scores the lowest.

 

Hannah loved the game.  At 7, she can't quite keep all of the considerations in her head while placing tiles - but then, neither can I.  She said she really wants to play it again, though she's also really excited to play Stuffed Fables and to do more No Thank You Evil.  She went to bed that night having encountered, for the first time, the "Gamer's Dilemma": So Many Games, So Little Time.

 

~PS

Play Me + Tiny Epic Quest

Tuesday February 26, 2019 at 12:19pm board games Comments (0) »
 Cover artwork © CMON and Gamelyn Games
Cover artwork © CMON and Gamelyn Games

Last night was supposed to be our third D&D session of 2019, but alas, it was cancelled due to a player or two being sick.  So instead, the healthy among us busted out a couple of small box board games.

Play Me

The first one we pulled out was called "Play Me".  It's an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed dice-rolling game that starts competitive and then (probably) becomes cooperative. 

The basic mechanic is that you're trying to be the first to roll a 1-6 straight on six dice, only keeping one die per roll.  You can "block" the other players to slow them down, and each of the characters you're playing (Alice, the Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter, etc) starts out with a unique ability that aids them in this endeavor.  However, once you've won a round, your card flips to the "Madness" side: you lose your special ability and gain a pretty serious detriment.  The design consideration seems to be that it should be possible for someone to win with their detriment in play, but it should be unlikely

If you do pull off a Madness win, you win and the game is over - but if no one manages this before all players have flipped to the Madness side, then the game changes: the last person to win loses their character - and becomes the Jabberwocky.  Everyone else flips their cards back over to the advantageous (aka "Wonder") side, and they, collectively, must now win multiple rounds before the Jabberwocky can drive them all Mad.

Overall this was a simple but fun game.  Not one I could play for hours, but it has an interesting flavor and is definitely fast-paced.  The competitive/cooperative dynamic is also interesting.  I think our game took about 20 minutes, and that seemed like the "right" amount of time to spend on it.  The artwork is really cool, and the dice are pretty.  Also, I love Alice in Wonderland, so that's a plus for me. (Sidenote: In case you're wondering, this is the best movie version.)

Tiny Epic Quest

We started to play Tiny Epic Quest some weeks ago, but really only managed to get it set up, sort of figure out the rules, and stumble through a couple of turns.  (Note: learning the game takes some effort.)  I was just starting to really get into it when we had to quit for the night.  Last night, we cracked it open again.

For being so Tiny, this game is pretty complex - or, at least it has a lot of components and aspects.  And a lot of fiddly bits. 

Basically, the game works like this:

The game is played over 5 rounds, each of which has a Day phase and a Night phase.  During the Day phase, you move your three heroes to different locations on the island kingdom - usually to complete "movement quests", to get boosts from "Mushroom Grottos", and/or to set yourself up for the Night phase.  During the Night phase you "Adventure".  Here players take turns rolling the Adventuring Dice, which will damage them, give them Power to help aid their efforts, increase the world's magic level (so they can learn Spells), and allow them to progress through temples and attack goblins.  Some symbols rolled will benefit everyone, others only affect some players based on who rolled them, the relative seating positions of those at the table, and the number of symbols rolled.  Adventuring continues until all players have said they've had enough and declared that they're going to "Rest" - at which point the Night Phase resolves and the game progresses to the next Day.

Objectives for earning victory points in Tiny Epic Quest include learning Spells, completing Quests/Temples, and fighting Goblins.  Learning Spells increases your magic power, defeating Goblins increases your health/toughness, and completing Quests gives you some boon to aid in your adventures.

Scoring at the end of the 5th round works something like games such as Agricola: you get points for Quests, for defeating Goblins, and for learning Spells.  The more of one thing you do, the more points you get - but ignoring one of those aspects actually costs you points as well, so you'll want to keep that in mind.  You also get bonus points for each Legendary Item you recover (which you do by completing certain Temples according to your hero card).  In only 5 rounds, you probably won't get "everything", so you'll want to plan where you're going to focus without getting too specialized.

We played this one for an hour and a half or so before we had to call it.  I think we made it into round 4, so we didn't have a lot more to go.  I found this one to be a lot of fun, and I look forward to playing it again.  While it is complex, once you get your head around the different aspects, it's actually pretty straight-forward - and since everyone's movement choices and die rolls offer opportunities to all of the players, you don't get too bored during other players' turns. 

Production value on the game is pretty high - which is what we tend to expect these days.  All of the components are well designed and produced, and the implementation of meeples that can actually hold items is highly amusing as well.

 

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Bedeviled

Tuesday February 19, 2019 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- As the group proceeded deeper into the fort, Kael found a town-square area that contained a fountain - all of it frozen over with a thick layer of ice.  The bodies of dozens of devils and other monstrous humanoid creatures littered the ground.  There was a sudden tremor and a red, electric glow "awakened" the ice devil lying in a far corner, which then summoned several more fiends to its aid.


- The group struggled to reunite and coordinate its efforts against this threat, but a building collapse resulted in something of a bottleneck in the street. Ravina was KO'd attempting to keep the creature from concentrating its attacks on the injured Kael, Lily is having some difficulty getting into position, and Tyrrox has been tied up with a pair of bone devils. The gelugon has proved itself a formidable opponent, and while the acid breath from Taryn's orb was effective, the ice devil returned in kind with a blast of frigid air...


The battle continues...

Battletech: Forged In Plastic

Monday February 4, 2019 at 12:38pm battletech, miniatures Comments (0) »
Battletech: Forged In Plastic Image

As of a little less than two weeks ago, Catalyst finally released their awesome new Battletech Box sets. And, from what I hear, supplies are already running short.  Also, as part of my "yearly gaming order", I picked up a handful of units from some "unofficial" third-party manufacturers which have been added to my already decent collection of plastic minis from other production runs.  Because there are some notable differences between them, I thought I'd do a little comparison here.  Such a thing would have been useful to me, I think.

Battletech 3rd Edition

While I only really got into the miniatures game 4ish years ago, my oldest Battletech minis harken all the way from 1994.  I am, of course, talking about the Battletech 3rd Edition Box Set.  The 3rd Ed set came with 14 plastic minis of fairly poor quality.  I mean, that was like 25 yeas ago - your expectations probably shouldn't be *super* high.  There are a fair number of holes and warped/mis-shapen surfaces.  My Warhammer was actually missing part of the shoulder such that the right arm couldn't be attached.  Most of this was readily fixable (the rebuild on the WHM's arm was a bit arduous, but turned out well), but it's not indicative of superlative production quality.

The thing is, however, basically all of the 3rd Ed box minis, shabby as they are, are also Unseen minis: if you want an official, old-style Marauder or Warhammer in plastic, this is pretty much your option.  Also, I found that good paint work can really make a so-so sculpt look good.  My Crusader from this set is, I think, still one of my best minis.

The scale of some of these minis is a little wonky, tending toward overlarge size compared to the later box sets (though not the most recent, see below) - particularly the lights and mediums, such as the Phoneix Hawk, which seems comically oversized for a 45-ton medium, especially standing next to the Battlemaster from the same set.

Battletech Introductory Box Set

The next box set with plastic minis arrived via Catalyst in '07.  This one had 24 plastic minis, plus two "premium" plastic minis.  While the "premium" minis were nice, the other minis in the set are, well, pretty poor quality, suffering from most of the same problems as the 3rd Ed box, but without the appeal of Unseen units.  Still, if you were just getting into the game, 26 minis would give you a lot of play for $50-$60, even if it wasn't particularly "pretty".

The sculpts on these are what some would characterize as "classic", and what others might deem "silly".  The two are not mutually exclusive.  The units are modeled around older designs, and some of them show their age more than others.

I have a set of the minis from this first intro box set production, but I haven't bothered painting any of them.  I have, however, let my 7yo paint a few, in her typical rainbow fashion.

The scale of these is what I use as a baseline, as the sculpts and sizes are similar to the metal minis of the time.  In general, the scale seems "normal", though some units are maybe a little too big or too small.

In addition, this set came with some really nice folding cardboard maps.  I have two sets of these, and they are what I prefer to play on.  After having the thick boards, playing on creased paper seems like a downgrade.

Battletech 25th Anniversary Introductory Box Set & Alpha Strike Lance Packs

This one - the one with the Atlas on the cover - is what I would refer to as the Holy Grail of plastic Battletech.  The "premium" minis in this set are different units from the previous and, ironically, maybe not quite as good - but the other units are the *real* story. 

This set contained the same impressive array of units with identical sculpts as the previous release, but with a major improvement in quality.   Aside from the "premium" units of the former release, these were probably the first "good" plastic minis for Classic Battletech.  I have two full sets of these minis, and they form the backbone of my collection through sheer numbers.  The Alpha Strike Lance Packs had units of the same quality (all of them including at least 2 units from the box set), and at ~$15, they were a decent value as well.  To this day, if you see a copy of the 25th Anniversary Box Set for anything even close to MSRP, it's a great value.

Since they're the same sculpts as the original Intro set, the scale evaluation is identical.  There are a few minis from the Alpha Strike packs - like the Stalker - that seem to be a bit "off", but overall the line feels *fairly* consistent.

Battletech Beginner Box and A Game Of Armored Combat

And that brings us to Catalyst's most recent offer: the new, much-anticipated box sets that came out just a couple weeks ago.

The sculpts on these units are pretty amazing.  Maybe not *perfect* quality, but they are definitely the best to-date.  The only "complaint" on I have on these minis - and it's a comparatively small one - is that they monkeyed with the scale.  The minis from the new sets are noticeably larger than they should be - some, like the Awesome and the Catapult are pretty dramatically different.  While they are taller, mostly the new units are just thicker - beefier. 

I'm not sure why they did this.  Perhaps the larger size made controlling for errors in the plastic easier or less expensive.  Or perhaps they're looking to make more and they're seeking to "invalidate" previous models.  Given the not-quite-consistent array Battletech seems to have with regard to scale anyway, the different unit sizes are likely only to be distracting when fielded with the same units from other productions.  So, while not a "perfect" addition to existing mini collections, they're acceptable - and, again, the quality on these is outstanding, and the sculpts are considerably cooler than their predecessors (especially that Thunderbolt).

The new paper maps in these sets are pretty nice - the shading on the levels makes a flat map way more playable.  That said, I'm unlikely to use them as-is: the cardboard maps are just too nice, and I like the hex terrain levels I've made.  I will probably chop these maps up to make more hex terrrain.  I *did* find the inclusion of some cardboard tiles with terrain bits on them a nice surprise - this can add some additional variation to the otherwise static maps.

The quality of the other materials in the box are all superb as well - rulebooks, fiction, etc - but the minis are what I came for.

(Size Comparisons)

 

And now we move on it 3rd-party and "unofficial" sources for Battletech:

 

Robotech Tactics

Some time back, Palladium made a Robotech miniatures game called Robotech Tactics.  From what I understand, it wasn't a huge success.  However, several of the miniatures for this game were perfect stand-ins for Unseen Battletech 'mechs claiming the same design.  By the time I discovered these, they were getting to be hard to find.  I'd still love to find a Spartan/Phalanx (Archer/Longbow) set for $Decent, but alas, those seem to be long gone.  I did, however, pick up a Tomahawk/Defender (Warhammer/Rifleman) box - and, as of the time of this writing, you can still find these here and there.

These minis are good quality, but they are a nuclear pain to assemble.  One miniature of this scale should not be composed of more than a dozen pieces, especially when those pieces have precious few tabs or sockets to help with their assembly.  They also leave some gaps in unwanted places.

That said, once you've won the assembly battle, you've got some pretty nice-looking units, and the scale is pretty near identical to the original Battletech minis - at least for most units.

When I ordered my set off Amazon, I noted that it had 5 reviews.  Three of them mentioned that they were bought for Battletech.  I wonder what percentage of Robotech Tactics minis ever see a Robotech Tactics game.

Warhansa

I follow the #battletech hashtag on Instagram, and through this discovered that you can get some unofficial and/or 3d-printed minis of newer sculpts (such as MWO versions) from various places online.  Warhansa seemed to be one of the better liked sources.

Given that the company is in Russia, it takes a minute to get deliveries here in the states.  That said, they have a pretty impressive catalog of "Robomechs", scaled to the same(ish) size as standard Battletech minis - so I ordered a few minis unavailable in plastic from anywhere else.  

Overall, the quality is good, but there does seem to be some variance from unit to unit.  I don't know if some of their models are just better than others, or if the production of said models is inconsistent, but I found that my Black Knight, Crab, and Urbanmech are pretty precise, while the Highlander and King Crab have considerably more...fudge...in the rendering.  Still, they'll all look good once they're painted up.

The minis come disassembled and with a bit of material to be trimmed, but they're quite easy to put together - probably the easiest I've done to-date.

Scale seems to be fairly accurate to standard Battletech overall - which is to say, a little bit smaller than the current sets.  One or two might be slightly too big or too small, but again, within standard deviations.

The names Warhansa gives to their minis are obvious tongue-in-check references to official Battletech units: the Crab and King Crab are "Shrimp" and "Jumbo Shrimp" respecitively, the Black Knight is a "King Arthur", the Highlander is a "Mountain", etc.  It does make identifying them fairly straightforward in most cases.

(Photo)

Stratominis

Strato is a Polish company that makes some generic-ish sci-fi minis of a generally comparable scale, but some of them are obviously inspired by Battletech units.  These minis might be the best looking ones I own.  Very precise casting over 95%+ of the surfaces.  And the sculpts - particularly the one for the Marauder (which they call "Bull Shark") - look amazing.  When I saw that, I knew I'd be giving them some cash.

These minis come disassembled and with some material to be trimmed - particularly from the bottoms of the feet - but they're not too bad to put together, and the final product looks great.

The Stratominis scale is a little bit too big, but that actually puts it in the right ballpark for the current Battletech minis from the new sets.  While those units are really "beefy", most of the Strato units are sleeker - just tall.

(Size Comparisons)

 

So, there you have it.  My findings in the realm of non-metal Battletech miniatures.

 

~PS

What We've Been Playing

Friday January 18, 2019 at 1:07pm board games Comments (0) »
 Cover artwork © Mayfair Games, Twogether Studios, Stonemaier Games, Plaid Hat Games, Leder Games
Cover artwork © Mayfair Games, Twogether Studios, Stonemaier Games, Plaid Hat Games, Leder Games

When not playing our tabletop rpg campaigns (see also: most of the rest of this blog currently), we've enjoy busting out some board games.  Every so often, we pick up a new one that we really like.  Here's what we've got into over the last year or so:

 

Iron Dragon

My wife loves the Ticket To Ride games.  A lot.  We own most of the iterations and have played them more times over the years than I could possibly count.  We've occasionally tried other train-themed games, but TTR had always remained king.

Then about a year ago, I got her Iron Dragon for Christmas.  Since then I think we've played TTR maybe twice.  I mean, I can remember playing it once for sure.  There might have been another time.  I dunno.

This is actually an old game from the 90s, but it was reprinted in late 2017.  The game involves connecting cities like TTR, but you also have to deliver goods from city to city based on demands, and manage your cash to build new rails.  It's everything we liked about TTR, and then some.

Iron Dragon is a train-based, empire-building game with a sort of fantasy-industrial flavor.  Each city on the board produces one or two resources, and you have cards that indicate which cities want which goods.  You build track to deliver the wanted item to the city, and you get paid - the harder it was to get the item there, the bigger the payout.  Then you draw another demand card and expand your rail lines into new territory.  You can hire different foremen to help you build in different regions, and upgrade your train to go faster and carry more.

If there's one negative to ID, it's that it's a long game.  Playing with one other player when both of you know the rules well, a game takes about 2 hours.  If you add more people or you're playing with new players, add an hour or two.

 

Illimat

It turns out that the Decemberists got into playing board games.  Back in 2016, they hired the designers at Twogether Studios to create rules for a game based on the arcane, antiquated aesthetics of a photo shoot they'd done some years earlier, and launched a Kickstarter to fund it.  When one of my favorite bands wanted to do a project with one of my favorite hobbies, I was all in.

Since I got my copy back in late 2017, I've played it quite a bit, and it's one of the games I love introducing to people.

Illimat plays like a classic card game with some modern, mechanical twists.  It has enough recognizeable elements to be extremely accessible, but enough novelty to make it interesting.  The game is played in hands, where player attempt to "harvest" cards from different areas of the playing field.  The changing "seasons" of each area affect which actions you can and cannot do, and the "luminary" cards add additional, transient rules.

My friend Rucht and I actually got to talk with designers of the game on our Table Dragon podcast a while back.  We had some issues with the audio quality, but the conversation was a blast.

 

Charterstone

I do tend to get my wife a new game for Christmas each year.  For two reasons, really.  One, she likes board games, and two, she is really difficult to shop for.

We also have this tradition of playing boardgames around the Christmas tree during the holiday season.  In fact, it's probably the season where we play the most games.

This year, I wanted to do something different.  I'd heard about "legacy" board games, but had never played one - so I did a little googling for one that was well-reviewed and looked like the kind of thing my wife would be into.  I settled on Charterstone.

Let me say that this game is awesomeIt's a fairly standard (if complex) worker-placement game, but the legacy elements are amazing.  The introduction of mechanics a little at a time is a great way to build a complex game, and the unfolding story is interesting and surprisingly....odd.  We're six games in to the 12-game campaign, and it continues to surprise us with new aspects.

If you pick up this game - which I do recommend - make sure you only read what you're supposed to, and make sure you read that very, very carefully: if you don't do something just right, you can screw stuff up.  Probably not irreparably, but enough that it will affect future games.  Also, don't overthink it: just do what it tells you to do, make sure you've got it all, and then just play with what you know.  The game will build itself from there.  Really cool.

Since picking this one up, I've been looking into other legacy games. I've heard good things about Gloomhaven and the Betrayal Legacy version.

 

Stuffed Fables

This was one of the many games introduced to me by one or more of my many gamer/board-gamer friends.  This one I've only played once so far, but I've got to mention it, because it's so cool.

First, the premise of Stuffed Fables is awesome: all of the players are the stuffed animals belonging to a little girl.  They protect her at night, of course.

Second, the game progression is interesting.  It plays a little like a board game, a little like an rpg, and a little like a choose-your-own-adventure book.  Basically, each page of the game book contains a bit of story and a game board with a given objective.  The players move around the board and perform actions based on their character abilities and the objective on that "page" of the story.  After completing the actions on that page/board, you flip to another one based on what happened.

The game has an interesting dice-drawing mechanic; most of the other mechanics of Stuffed Fables seem fairly standard, but well implemented.  It's a cooperative game as well, which I always enjoy.  Also, the miniatures look awesome, and I can't wait to paint them.

 

Vast

I heard cool things about this game online and encountered it in passing at our (mostly) yearly Trogland Meetup, but I didn't get to play it until more recently.  It did not disappoint.

Vast is a pretty unique game in my experience.  The premise is a group of conflicting parties all wanting something from a given situation - specifically, a situation involving a cave, a dragon, a knight, a theif, a tribe of goblins, and, of course, treasure. 

Some of the goals are mutually exclusive, but others are not.  I may not get the specifics quite right, but it's something like this: The Knight wants to kill the dragon.  The Dragon wants to wake up and leave the cave (presumably to sow chaos elsewhere), the Theif wants to steal the treasure.  The Goblins want to kill the Knight.  The Cave wants to collapse on all of these noisy intruders so that it can rest.

Each player plays one of the above roles (including the Cave!), and has their own set of actions and abilities to perform on their turn.  The first to accomplish their objective wins the game.

Now, when I say that each player has their own set of actions and abilities, I mean they each have their own unique set of mechanics.  This makes the game very interesting, but also very difficult to learn.  In most games, if you're new, after a brief overview you have someone else go first and you just kind of watch what they do to get the gist of how the thing works.  That method is utterly useless with Vast, because what the other players do has literally nothing in common with what you'll be doing.  And, unfortunately, the rulebook could be several orders of magnitude more clear on a lot of things.  I recommend google and youtube if you don't have someone handy who knows how to run your particular entity to get you going.

It definitely has a learning curve, but it's definitely worth it.

 

Honorable Mentions

There are several other games we've played a little and enjoyed as well.  Boss Monster, Smash Up, Clank, Kodama, and Rise of Tribes come to mind.  There are probably others.  That last one I only got to play a partial game of, but it seemed really neat.

Our daughter has also started getting into games a bit.  Her current favorites are Sleeping QueensSet, and Decadolo.  We got her Between Two Cities for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to trying that one - as soon as she cleans her room.

There are, of course, always a number of other games I've heard good things about that I'd love to pick up at some point.  Right now that list contains KeyForge, Terrra Mystica, Gaia Project, Scythe, Swords and Strongholds,  Also love to play Roll for the Galaxy again.

We play a fair bit of Dixit, Telestrations, and Red Dragon Inn as well - they're our current go-to's for "an easy game that fits a lot of players".

I'm sure there's something cool I've left out.  I think in the future I'll try to post these one at a time as we pick them up. 

We'll see.

 

~PS

Black Foxes: Better Than Nothing

Thursday January 17, 2019 at 8:30pm blades in the dark, black foxes, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- Fortune was not on the side of our scoundrels tonight, which meant that all of their successes came with a lot more strings attached.

- The pair found out which door had been repainted recently from a man hanging out on a balcony in the backpool, but only after Erik agreed to take him out for a drink the following evening and the manifesting ghost echoes prompted them to act on this information immediately.

- Once inside, the crew met the man called Thad they'd been told about - some Iruvian hawker from a gang called the Incense Collective.  Turns out the gang that Tellis used to run with indirectly caused some problems for Thad's organization, and that was going to dent the profitability of any deal to be made.  By this time, Boros and Erik were so worn down that they just wanted to take what they could get and be done with it. 

- The gang ended up with some impressive coin, but it was only a fraction of what their stolen loot was worth.  To top it off, Thad only agreed to the deal at all if they promised him a favor, but they had to get something out of this and they knew their bargaining position was slipping by the second. 

- Looks like the Foxes are going to be breaking into a Bluecoat watch station to destroy some incriminating evidence - but first, they've got to do something on their own turf about the Stone Club...

Aralakh Company: Out For Blood pt. VI

Thursday January 10, 2019 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- With armor all but completely blasted away from both sides, each hit began to have a real impact.  While Aralakh and the attackers both took quite a bit of critical damage in recent exchanges, the key turning point came when the newly-arrived reinforcements managed to take the 95-ton Banshee out of the fight.

Cyrran Reaches: The Silent Keep pt. II

Tuesday January 8, 2019 at 8:15pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- After fighting off the orcs, the group stayed the night at the Darkpine Inn as local celebrities.  The next day they made their way into the pine forest and up to the sealed keep.  The forest was unnaturally dark, devoid of animal life, and host to shadowy beings that lingered just at the edge of their perception. 

- Upon arriving at the keep's walls, they found that the doors of the gate had been broken but wedged back in place, and that something had gouged abyssal words into the stone wall.  Lily was able to read the writing, but when she tried to tell Kael what it said, something began to affect her mind or perception.  Believing him to be a threat, Lily attacked Kael - stabbing him with her sword.  As the others attempted to discern what was happening and talk her down, she appeared more and more disconnected from the present situation.  An enchantment-breaking spell from Ravina eventually returned her completely to them.

- Meanwhile, Taryn had found a way into the keep.  Climbing a tree that had fallen against the wall, the group was able to easily bypass the gate and the 15' wall it was set in.  Once inside, they found the streets littered with half-completed statues of people (which they suspect may be victims of some unusual petrification effect) and the dead bodies of several devils.  The only living thing they encountered was a senile old woman who didn't seem to know much about what was going on.

- After the old woman wandered off, the group decided to press further in, searching for the lord's manor...

Black Foxes: Moving The Goods

Thursday December 20, 2018 at 9:15pm blades in the dark, black foxes, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- The other boatman turned out to be an opportunist called Tellis looking for a way to make some coin with his info.  He gave them some instructions and the name of a likely buyer for the goods they'd just pulled out of the canal.

- The crew decided to jump on the opportunity immediately - both to unload their hot cargo asap, and because they really need the coin to finance their other efforts.

- Making their way to Silkshore, they made contact with the Bluecoat Lannerhand and got access to the backpool - but the blue door they were supposed to find is nowhere to be seen...

Aralakh Company: Out For Blood pt. V

Tuesday December 18, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Having lost their heavies, Aralakh found itselve in a seriously-out-gunned 2-on-4 match.  They spent a couple of rounds in defensive maneuvering before getting word that half of Garret's Bluesabres lance was coming in to assist them. 

- The arrival of the Clint and Orion didn't exactly even the playing field, but it did add significant strength to their previously-desperate position.  Even so, they had poor fortune overall in trying to inflict significant damage on their foes...

Cyrran Reaches: Village Beset pt. III

Monday December 17, 2018 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- The party continued to engage them undead leaders as the orc horde descended upon the village.  Some well-placed blows, a summoning spell, entangling vegetation, and a breath weapon kept the raiders from reaching the town and sent them fleeing back into the wilderness.

- After the battle, Taryn once again noticed a strange flash in the dragon orb he had been carrying - it was accompanied this time by a voice and a summons.  What he found when he answered was a sort of meeting place for the current owners of the orbs - though this was not at all to say they were "friends".

- One of the villagers did give them a bit more info about the keep - but mostly they weren't sure what was going on.  The keep had suddenly ceased opening its gates and no human sounds are heard coming from within.  The darkness that has settled upon the pine forest has kept most of the villagers away from it.

Cyrran Reaches: Village Beset pt. II

Thursday December 13, 2018 at 9:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- As the party continued more earnestly engaged the raiders, they found the two lead orcs to be a considerable challenge.  By the time the rest of the band was reaching the village, only one of the wolves had been killed.  Lily sent a sonic bolt through the remaining wolf and its orc rider.  The stroke felled the latter, but then that a strange, red static seemed to pull it back up from the ground, it's eyes glowing bright as arcs of brilliant red electricity shot between the tall spires of the keep on the hill behind them...

Cyrran Reaches: Village Beset pt. I

Tuesday December 4, 2018 at 8:15pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- The group was talking a bit more with the locals - trying to get a feel for the village and whatever is going on there - when they suddenly found themselves under attack by some raiding orcs from the plains to the west, and by shadows from the pine forest at the edge of town...

Cyrran Reaches: The Silent Keep pt. I

Tuesday November 27, 2018 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Having discussed their next move, the party made plans to seek out the keep called Ver'Sheole: if Many Eyes, Many Teeth had interest in the location, they wanted to reach it before the cult did.

- They consulted with Tyless Vallane again about what the House Vallane Adventurers' Guild knew about Ver'Sheole, which, unfortunately, wasn't much.  It was an elven keep located in a pass up in the Elmhine Mountains that has long been abandoned.  An old "road" leading up and out of the Navlin Forest should take you to the keep if you can find it. 

- Tyless was a bit more help in planning their route, however, knowing more about the Reaches than any in the party.  He told them the fastest way would likely be to go north through the town of Blosam and then east to the Navlin Forest and the mountains, but, he said, if they took a slightly longer route through Fort Kelsguard, they might be able to find useful information in its library.  Feeling like they might need more info to find the place, they opted for the latter option.

- On the way to Kelsguard, the party found the remains of a wagon and the bodies of two men apparently attacked by orcs.  Tyrrox happened to notice a letter among the tattered clothing of one of the men - it was addressed to the constable at Rolessi and detailed a call for help from Fort Kelsguard, saying that the keep had cut itself off from the village outside and that they suspected their paranoid ruler had finally gone mad.

- They arrived at the village of Kelsguard just after dusk and made their way to the only establishment that seemed to contain any activity - a reasonably-sized inn called Darkpine run by a somewhat cantankerous woman by the name of Helia Twill.  Lily did a good job of presenting the party to the suspicious strangers in the best possible light, but while Helia did tell them that something was certainly wrong, she refused to go into any detail.  Instead, she told them that if they wanted to find out what was going on, they needed to go to the keep and look for themselves...

Cyrran Reaches: The Social Scene pt. III

Monday November 19, 2018 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Tyrrox brought the nearly-unconscious Eliot Jaand to the watch-captain Wencia, who was sure that he'd been drugged.  She asked Tyrrox some questions about the situation and was alarmed at the mention of demons.

- Taryn caught up with the woman in the purple dress talking in an alcove with a dwarf.  He heard parts of their conversation, including mention of Malefes, some sort of deal, and an elven keep in the eastern mountains called Ver'Sheole.  Tyless Vallane later brought up this name again, and wondered if it was another designation for the same keep Taryn had been researching.

- Lilly spoke to Lord Magnar about the magical mark on the floor of the hall, which turned out to be the symbol of Many Eyes, Many Teeth.  She suspected a woman in a yellow dress as the source of the mark, and was able to learn that she seemed to be connected to lesser-noble house of Nevarg.

- Fredrick Thullus of the Reaches Arms approached Taryn, Tyrrox, and Kebrand Brightwinter about some help the House Vallane Adventurers' Guild could be to him.  Apparently a contact of his at House Briglau in Igveston had news of increased orc activity and an intentional rock-slide bearing the eye-tooth mark.

Black Foxes: Sunken Treasure

Thursday November 15, 2018 at 8:30pm blades in the dark, black foxes, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- The Foxes regrouped after their last score, but they know clocks are ticking on some outstanding "problems".

- Borrick - the leader of the local Bluecoat patrol - cornered Erik in the Three Pennies, threatening to run him in. The scoundrels managed to dodge Ironhook for the time being by promising a future favor.

- The Foxes' gang returned with news about a ditched smugglers' shipment in one of the Coalridge canals.  Needing coin for their plans and figuring the shipment must be worth something, they decided to jump on the opportunity.

- They "acquired" a boat from a local fisherman and went to the place the gang had described.  Due to some good fortune they managed to locate and recover both small metal crates with relatively little consquence, but before they could vacate the area, another boat came up the canal.  They made like they were simple fishermen, but the inquiry "So how's the fishing tonight?" called from the other watercraft didn't sound completely sincere...

 

Cyrran Reaches: The Social Scene pt. II

Tuesday November 13, 2018 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- As Lily was beginning her performance, Taryn found his way into the library where he spotted a woman in a dark purple dress apparently stealing a book from the library.  He did his best to apprehend her, but some confusion with the guards and some subtle magic allowed her to slip away and he lost her in the crowds outside.

- Lily noticed some unusual activity from the stage involving a woman in a bright yellow dress, who was apparently leaving the party as she was finishing her set with Julius Nevarg.  As they neared the exist, she saw a young woman in a dark purple dress approach and hand her something.  She also saw Taryn apparently searching urgently for someone or something - and he was a cloaked in shadow, meaning he had activated one of his more potent magic items.

- Meanwhile, a fight broke out near Tyrrox between a dwarf and a drunk, and he spotted two men escorting an apparently-drunk guardsman out of the hall.  When he approached he was able to see the that guard was more dazed than drunk and so intervened.  The two men made it into the hall outside before Tyrrox caught up with them and, when pressed, revealed themselves to be quasits and flew away - causing a small amount of commotion with the nearby guards.

- After spotting some strange marks appearing on the floor, Kael - who'd previously been enjoying the evening with Gella Barens (a young noblewoman he'd met in Igveston) - began to get a hunch that something was wrong.  He met up with Lily as they approached the Balcony where Taryn was scanning the room for his quarry...

Aralakh Company: Out For Blood pt. IV

Thursday November 8, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh's good fortune couldn't last, perhaps because it was too good.  Now realizing his opponents were a significant threat, the Marauder began to check his overconfidence and think more tactically.  Though he'd been hunting the Phoenix Hawk, its defensive maneuvering began presenting him with more ideal shots against the Crusader and the Warhammer which he no longer blindly ignored.  This change in tactics from their most dangerous opponent - combined with gravity and some bad fortune - resulted in the loss of both units over the subsequent exchanges.

- Their primary heavy units now disabled and the Phoenix Hawk starting to show some wear, Aralakh's position is beginning to look more desperate.  Hopefully reinforcements will arrive soon...

Aralakh Company: Out For Blood pt. III

Thursday November 1, 2018 at 9:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- After a rough initial contact, Aralakh's forces began to rally.  A few decisive rounds exploited their dangerous enemies' poor fortune and lack of effective coordination.  As the result of concentrated fire, the Banshee has lost its AC/5 and a signficant quantity of armor while the Marauder's left arm PPC has been destroyed. 

- These scores didn't come freely, however, as the Banshee repeatedly pummeled the Crusader with its powerful fists, and the Phoenix Hawk is starting to show some wear as well.  Still, the tables have drastically turned in Aralakh's favor and an engagement that was starting to look desperate looks much more promising.

Cyrran Reaches: The Social Scene pt. I

Monday October 29, 2018 at 8:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

New Character:

[Keara] Ravina - Dwarven cleric of Moradin

Highlights:

- Six months after the attack at the Festival of Thorns, the PCs find themselves invited to the Magnar City Social - a yearly gathering of the nobility and honored guests - for their efforts in stopping the rampaging beast and the subsequent investigations into the activity of the cult known as Many Eyes, Many Teeth.

- Lily and Tyrrox were greeted as local celebrities, Ravina chatted about her home city with a dwarven jeweler called Pierless Gray, Kael ran into an old friend, and Taryn spoke with some of Dyn'Talor's court, a man concerned with Magnar's defense of the city, and Tyless Vallane, who told him a particular book Taryn was looking for might be found in the Magnars' library.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Heart of the Void

Thursday September 27, 2018 at 8:30pm numenera, mysts of the ninth world, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group was able to ward off the attacking predators with Naran's daylight abilities, directed by Piper's artifact which had tuned in to their dimensional energy signature.

- Continuing on, they eventually left the fern-encrusted tunnel, finding their way along catwalks suspended in nothingness to a vault that had been torn open from the inside.  6 massive tentacles protruted from it in different directions, and within it was a swirling vortex of black smoke.

- Once they moved into position, Naran used the artifact Piper had made to amplify her cutting light abilities to sear away the darkness - but each time she did so, she became weaker.  The others fought off the flock of bat-like shadows that began streaming from it, and they all did their best to dodge the great tentacles which reeled themselves in and began grasping at the intruders.

- As the blackness was cleared, they were able to catch a glimpse of the interior of the vault - where they saw the source of the living void: an open book.  When the last of the blackness was burned away, the book lay inert on the vault floor - the faintest wisp of black smoke issuing from its pages. 

- The void intrusion now disrupted, the group suddenly found themselves in some sort of control room amdist blaring alarms, frantic error displays, and components and terminals which were burning out and arcing eletricity - the system was overloading.  Against all odds, Piper, Naran, and Ronin managed to manipulate the system to bleed off the excess power and return it to a relatively stable condition.

- The group made their way back to the surface, where they found Polious looking somewhat relieved.  The Weathervane had stabilized - and, even better, was now operating at about 85% of ideal output - a marked improvement from the unstable 30-50% they'd been getting previously.  While its days were still numbered, he was optimistic that they would have at least another 5 years to prepare for its ultimate failure.

END OF CHAPTER 1

GM's Note: Chapter 1.  This is chapter 1.  And it took us two years and 62 sessions to get through.  I think the reasons for the long timeline were a combination of having the party split for so long, having short 1.5 - 2.5 hr game sessions, and that there is just SO MUCH to explore in the Ninth World and beyond.  Also, our group tends to "take the long way".  Don't get me wrong, the campaign has been a blast, but they have only scratched the surface.  For now, however, we're going to set this one aside and play some other things.  On our return, my plan for Chapter 2 is to advance the timeline a significant distance into the future: the players will construct a new generation of explorers set to build on the discoveries this group has made.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Hunger in the Void

Tuesday September 25, 2018 at 8:15pm numenera, mysts of the ninth world, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Piper headed back to town, where they found that the ruin surrounding their settlement seemed to have "energized" in some way.  Polious was reporting that output levels for the Weathervane were averaging around 120% - up from about the 30-40% of the preceding weeks - but that the system was increasingly unstable. 

- Piper resumed work on the devices the group needed to address the problem and was able to finish them over the next several hours.

- Ronin, Ganthet, and Helios made their way through the night back to Arable, having a brief encounter with a strange, hovering eye covered in voluminous robes.  It seemed to have "left" something for them - a component that turned out to be *exactly* what Piper needed to finish the devices she was working on.

- After resting up, the group headed once more into the corridors below the Weathervane - searching for the epicenter of the dimensional-void they had been encountering.  Using the 'detector' Piper had made, they found their way deep into the ruin, through large sections that seemed to be "missing", and ultimately onto a long, twisting set of catwalks extending out into seeming nothingness.

- Eventually, the pathway led them to a large spherical chamber - from the outside closely resembling the control room they had just scavenged in the B Dome - but the inside was covered in luminous purple ferns.  As they made their way through it, Ronin began to suspect that they were being watched - just before they found themselves under attack by shadowy beast that seemed to materialize from a cloud of black smoke...

Black Foxes: Painting the Scene

Thursday September 20, 2018 at 8:30pm blades in the dark, black foxes, game session notes Comments (2) »
 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- The Foxes were given a job offer to steal a set of paints from an artist in Charterhall that had been illegally infused with spirit essences.  It promised to be an easy score with a decent payout and since they were needing some cash quickly to get what they needed to stay ahead of the Stone Club, they took it.

- The target was located in the old Charter Wall community, and Erik and Boros quickly encountered a Bluecoat presence, intoxicated citizens, and a level of midnight activity they weren't used to in Six Towers.

- They broke into the artist's studio and were rummaging around when they began to encounter spiritual activity.  As one of the paintings began to wail and distraught ghosts began manifesting, Erik grabbed a couple of the paints and took off in a near-panic.  Boros steeled himself enough to grab a couple others as well as the howling artwork before making his getaway.

- The two were successful in their mission, but they were seen clearly by one of the local Bluecoats, a drunk, and Crenoll - the artist they robbed.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Gathering Storm

Tuesday September 18, 2018 at 8:15pm numenera, mysts of the ninth world, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- As Piper pried the last of the needed components from the machinery, the system's stability reached a tipping point.  The pulsing blue lights in the sphere above them turned a dark red and alarms began to sound.  As they made their way back to the hatchway, several spherical maintenance automatons activated, though only one seemed to be functioning correctly.

- Outside, Ganthet and Helios confronted the many-mouthed being.  Before any real fighting began, however, it was distracted by another of its kind that had targeted Ronin.  As the two creatures argued and fought, the three of them withdrew, rejoining their friends, and all of them hurried toward the exit to the sphere - which was now full of flashing red lights and vibrating intensely.

- Once back at the entrance, Ronin, Ganthet, and Helios used their own abilities to descend from the sphere while Naran teleported herself and Piper directly back to Arable - or, close to it.  They arrived a few miles south of town at Aglarion's watchtower.  They were close enough, however, to see the stormclouds gathering to the south, the tribe of brutish abhumans approaching from that direction, and the billowing plume of smoke rising from beneath the southeast side of Arable - which had now pulled itself about 50 feet up and out of the ground...

- +1xp

Some Cache At Last

Monday September 17, 2018 at 3:06pm geocaching, hiking Comments (0) »
 The 'Blue Hole'.  This shot taken with my phone as I didn't have camera on me.
The 'Blue Hole'.  This shot taken with my phone as I didn't have camera on me.

It had been a while since Tony and I went out on a real caching adventure, so we made plans about a month ago to go out last saturday - and those plans actually happened!  We weren't out quite as long and didn't go quite as far as we might have liked, but we had a great time and a good adventure in a new area. 

It had been probably a decade since I'd been out to the 'Blue Hole', and Tony had never seen it - and there were a few caches in the area that hadn't been found in some time.  Plus it would mean tromping through the back woods in search of ammo boxes.  Win-win.

The biggest adventure was going after one of DMFlyer's 'Adventure Awaits' caches - which always prove a good time.  This venerable cache hadn't been found in nearly two years, and I'm not really surprised as it's located about .4 up a wooded hollow and, depending on which way you go and how you define the word, there are either *two* trails, or there are *no* trails.

The lack of direction/landmarks gave us some trouble with the hint and locating the cache as well, but we eventually made the find - it was still present and in good shape.

There are several more targets up that way we'll be hitting in the future - hopefully later this fall.

These are the outings I love.

~PS

2018 Appalachian Renaissance Faire

Thursday September 13, 2018 at 12:47pm appalachian renaissance faire, photography Comments (0) »
 Lords of Chivalry in full armor, preparing for the joust.
Lords of Chivalry in full armor, preparing for the joust.

We enjoyed the Appalachain Ren Faire again this year.  Always like seeing the Lords of Chivalry.  Had some interesting conversations and saw some cool performances.  And shooting at events like this is always a good time - here's what I got.

We're toying with the idea of making costumes for next year, because we've always thought that would be fun.

~PS

Aralakh Company: Out For Blood pt. II

Thursday September 6, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh continued their fight against the FWL attackers, but fortune seemed to be against them.  Rip's Crusader nearly had its cockpit bashed in by the 95-ton Banshee, and Drevan's Warhammer has been so battered and shot-up that it has only a single medium laser remaining.  The company has managed to return some of the damage they've received, and while they've burned off a good chunk of armor, they haven't managed to inflict any real damage on their opponents.

- Orion's Assassin is virtually untouched but Aralakh's biggest ace is the lostech Phoenix Hawk, which is also still in good shape.  Will it be enough to turn the tide?  And how is the rest of the planetary defense shaking out?

Mysts of the Ninth World: At Its Core

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper and Helios fought off the sathosh, though some sort of smoke cypher nearly killed Piper - Ronin was able to save her by sacrificing one of the artifacts they'd taken from the abhumans.

- Meanwhile, Naran found some sort of access terminal and was able not only to stop the deafening noise, but also learn something about the ruin they were in and where they might be able to find the components they were seeking.

- The group reunited, and Naran led them deeper into the structure toward something she'd seen in the readouts labeled as an environmental processor - it would likely have the sensors they needed.

- Finding their way to that region proved difficult, however, as broken corridors and other obstructions blocked what should have been open pathways.  They found themselves in a cavernous space that had been overgrown by mushroom-like fungus.  Within this area, they found the entrance to the chamber they were seeking: a hatchway in the top of what seemed to be a 100' sphere.

- As Naran and Piper climbed inside and began cannibalizing what they could from the machinery within - being careful not to disrupt any systems that would prove hazardous - Ganthet, Helios, and Ronin found a humanoid bat-creature that had been captured.  As they freed it, they were interrupted by a strange, skulking humanoid with a head covered in mouths...

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Out For Blood pt. I

Thursday August 30, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Having altered their contract by doubling their pay, the Lysidas Barony secured Aralakh's services to help repel the coming planetary assault.  Deciding they would meet the FWL forces on the plains to the northwest, the company set up their defenses.

- Aralakh's primary lance met the spearhead lance of the assault: a Vindicator, Dragon, and Banshee led by the defected Marauder pilot they'd previously encountered.  All of them skilled mechwarriors, the skirmish promised to get brutal very quickly.

- The forces traded missles and long-range potshots as they closed.  The first real exchange chewed off some armor from the Vindicator and dented the Maruader a little, but it was the second salvo that proved more significant: a face-off between the Warhammer and the Marauder.  Drevan led with a lucky PPC headshot that almost destroyed his foe, but the Maruader came back with a series of strikes that pounded through its right torso, destroying his SRM/6 and its ammo bin.  A split-second premonition before the hit prompted Drevan to dump the missiles, keeping his unit from being ripped apart from the inside only moments after initial contact...

Mysts of the Ninth World: New Heights

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group returned once more to the "B Dome" - this time with Piper - in order to find components she needs to complete the the devices they require to help them address the blackness plaguing Arable.

- They encountered some sathosh on the way, including one particularly unusual individual in white, robe-like garb and weilding obvious numenera.  With the help of a hologram their presence seemed to have triggered, Piper and Helios found their way up into some sort of control chamber...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Missing Pieces

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ganthet, Ronin, Naran, and Helios traveled north to the "B dome", now revealed to be a 1400' sphere and hovering about 200' above the landscape.  They found a collapsed crater beneath the floating orb containing some remnants of the metal sphere and a partially-crushed burned stonework structure - as well as the entrance to an underground sathosh lair.  Unsure of a good way to reach the sphere above and unintentionally attacting the sathosh's attention, they decided to return to Arable.

- Piper continued working on her new devices, and Naran and Helios were finally able to nail down the exact capabilities and limitations of Naran's teleportation ability: to be reliable, the starting point and the destination must be located in direct sunlight otherwise the jump would always be off - sometimes a little, sometimes a lot

- Piper eventually came to the conclusion that to create the necessary artifacts, she would need some specialized components she didn't have - and the most likely place to find them would be the B Dome...

- +1xp

Black Foxes: Shots Fired

Thursday August 23, 2018 at 8:30pm blades in the dark, black foxes, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- Having acquired a few more members - a gang of Rooks and a cutter called Boros - the Foxes decided their next move would be to kick the Stone Club out of Fenwell Hook.  They'd had their eye on this territory for some time, and their contact that lived there was getting increasingly impatient.

- Their efforts to gather information about the area yeilded mixed results and they were unable to pin down exactly where and when the Stone Club appeared and/or what they did in the area.  They ultimately decided their approach would be an ambush-style assault: they'd jump the gang when they came to harass Lerrin again.

- The Foxes set up a concealed position outside Lerrin's shop and waited for the gang to appear.  When they did, the engagement quickly went sideways - it seems that someone may have tipped off the Club to someone else operating in their area.

- The resulting skirmish was brief and bloody, though it resulted in no immediate deaths on either side.  Though their gang broke and ran off and Borors and Erik took a great deal of injury and stress, they were ultimately able to beat down and run off the part of the Stone Club gang that operated in Fenwell, claiming that turf for their own.

- Now at-war with the Stone Club and under the eyes of the Bluecoats, the Foxes found themselves in a tight spot.  They had the good fortune to meet up with a Leech who helped patch them up, but their gang hasn't been seen since the street fight.  Worse yet, they're down to their last few coins.  The crew needs some easy cash - and soon...

Mysts of the Ninth World: The Living Void

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Flashback: About 24 hours after their return from the margr encampment, Drakald organized a search party to go look for Tala and Kelon, who still had not return.  What remained of the encampment was a  bloody mess of dead margr and scavenger beats.  It took a couple hours of searching, but they eventually found the bodies of both of their friends.  Upon return to Arable, a funeral for the lost was arranged.  Even with the return of Naran and Helios, the spirits of the town were depressed for a y several days - lifted somewhat when Piper arrived.

- The group spent some time discussing Polious' concerns.  Despite the Aeon Priest's feeling that the device was doomed, they beleived that if they could remove the void influence from the Weathervane, it might recover enough to be stabilized.  They did some experiments on the puddle-like protrusions finding that bright light seemed to boil it away.  With the help of a cypher, Ronin was able to look "inside" one of the puddles, to find a swirling vortext of shadow leading deep into the earth.

- Ideas for how to remove the void were difficult in coming, but the group eventually decided their best bet was to somehow amplify Naran's light ability and direct it at the "heart" of the void, somewhere deep within the ruin beneath tham.  Piper set about trying to make a some devices (one to enhance Naran's light ability, and one to detect the source of the void intrusion), Naran spent some time studying the strange portal books they'd found on their journeys, and Ganthet, Ronin, and Helios discussed a venture up to the now-floating B Dome...

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Lost Comrade

Thursday August 16, 2018 at 8:45pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- With the Marauder's arrival, Aralakh's recon lance now found itself severely outgunned.  Needing to drop some heat, Steiner maneuvered his Blackjack around some rock formations to avoid line-of-site to the big guns.  Unfortunately, this left Riley and the Hatchetman totally exposed and the only viable target for the Marauder as well as the Vindicator.  The 45-ton 'mech could normally survive a round or two of that sort of barrage, but one of the Marauder's PPCs landed a direct hit on the unit's head, totally destroying it.

- Instantly down another unit and believing Riley to have been killed, Steiner gave the order to retreat.  The Marauder's pilot demonstrated impressive skill by continuing to score solid hits against the fleeing units, but the remaining three were able to escape with their info.

- Meanwhile, Rip and Toulonne visited the small, run-down port town of Urngen.  There they noted some FWL sympathies and a certain hesitance by the locals to engage certain topics of conversation: the two eventually determined that sections of the town showed signs of 'mech presence and damage, but no one was talking about it.  As they left the town to drive back to Lysida City, they could see the tell-tale thruster glow of a pair of dropships descending to the south...

No Thank You Evil: Fear Factory - Wanted Hobgoblins

Saturday August 11, 2018 at 10:00am no thank you evil, fear factory, game session notes Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Pirate Hannah and her little sister Olivia get a call for help from The Inspector.  He had too many cases and needed someone capable to take over one or two of them.  Hannah took a look at the wall and grabbed the 'Wanted' poster.  A pair of Hobgoblins had stolen a bag full of coins from Big Bucks Bank and were hiding out in the Fear Factory.

- On the way to the Factory, they met a goblin salesman who tried to get them to buy a few things, but he didn't seem to have anything they wanted.  The lock on the door to the factory didn't pose much of a challenge for the crafty pirate, and they ventured inside.

- After wandering through a few rooms of the abandoned toy factory, they encountered a Blunderbus who tried to steal a couple of coins from them.  When confronted he told them that "they" made him do it, and he led them to the interior room where the Hobgoblins were holed up.

- Hannah's "Good Blaster" broke through the hobs' armor and made them feel very guilty.  She tied them up and brought them back to The Inspector who told them that the theives were wanted by Lucy Lawful...

Aralakh Company: Familiar Faces

Friday August 10, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Steiner took his Blackjack with Riley in the newly-acquired Hatchetman, Orion in his assassin, and Morgan in the Jenner into the western badlands to look for signs of 'mech activity related to the terrorist cell they'd been hunting.

- After some time in the badlands, they began picking up weak radio transmissions and began to notice sensor interference in their 'mechs.  They ended up in a boxed canyon where they found a Flea and a Clint and a few semi-permenent structures.

- Engaging the units was more difficult than it should have been, largely due to whatever was causing the sensor scrambling.  As they fought with the lighter units, Steiner realized that their foes were painted with obvious FWL colors, rather than the hodge-podge, bandit schemes they'd so far encountered on this contract.  Further, the area they were occupying was almost certainly a dropship LZ.

- The lance managed to take out the Flea, but the threat increased significantly when reinforcements showed up in the form of a Vindicator who landed a couple PPC hits right out of the gate.

- Morgan turned his attention to the building the suspected of housing the sensor-jamming device in an attempt to remove that edge from their enemies.  It was pretty heavily armored, but with some help from his allies, a couple rounds of sustained fire destroyed it and the interference they'd been experiencing cleared instantly.

- It was then that Steiner's sensors pegged their biggest problem: a 70-ton Marauder closing in on their position...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Burning Out

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- As Ronin attempted to cover Ravri's escape from the merkadian, Helios suddenly appeared between them and a large margr (Glaan) emerged from the chaos behind it.  Helios and the margr engaged the spike assailant while Ronin fired at it with his bow, eventually piercing its chest and causing it to explode in a burst of green, electrical energy.

- While Kelon and Ganthet attempted to occupy the surrounding margr, Naran made her way to the controls of the large, wheeled cannon artifact as the a loosed crag worm bore down upon them.  Naran was able to take control of the device and decipher the controls enough to get it moving in a direction away from the rampaging beast, driving it away through the chaos of the camp and out the other side.

- After taking a few more shots into the skirmishing margr with his numenera polyp weapon, Ronin sensed that they had done what they could and assisted the injured Ravri away from the encampment.  Noticing the telltale signs of his brother's lightening abilities, Helios waded into the camp to help cover his escape.  The warcamp now thoroughly consuming itself, the parties from Arable disengaged - each making their way back to the town by their own route.  Only Kelon and Tala did not return.

- The townspeople were happy to be reunited with Naran and Helios, and there was more celebration on their return.  Once she and Olim arrived, Piper spent some time with Polious fixing the dozen or so perplexing "bugs" that seemed to continue to plague the Weathervane, despite their efforts and what the Aeon Priest was sure should have worked.

- After some time had passed, Polious gathered them all together with some troubling news: the Weathervane was dying.  A number of major components were shorting out and could not be replaced without depowering the entire system, but the burnout of a number of regulatory systems and the malfunctioning of interfaces meant that they only way they had to shut it down would also burn out the entire thing.  On top of that, its power output seems to be much less than the core the group had recovered should be providing - and it's continuing to drop.  He gives it less than two years of reduced operation before it burns out completely, and he has no contingency plan...

- +2xp

GM's Note: For the first time since Mar 6 2017, the party is completely reunited!!

Aralakh Company: Regrouping

Friday August 3, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Drevan, Toulonne, and Braeggan flipped over the steel table and took cover behind it, returning a few shots with their pistols as they decided what to do.  The building was on auto-lockdown, but the back door had been opened moments before the alarm was raised and wouldn't seal until it closed again.  They attempted to give some covering fire while sending Braeggan out the door to (relative) safety.

- Moments later, the truck that had rammed through the wall exploded violently, killing many of the attackers while the rest ran away further into the building.  Drevan and Toulonne pursued one down the hall and discovered that the stairwell doors - which should have been locked - were open.  When they returned to the mess hall, security teams and medics were already on site.  As the incident wound down, the two were asked some questions and allowed to leave.

- When the rest of the company returned, they found out from Riley that about 20 minutes after they left the battlefield continuing their escort mission, a Marauder and a Cyclops arrived on the scene.  They all spent some time doing field repairs (enough to get the Whitworth moving again), and the group of them headed off to the west.  Consulting the satellite maps, to the west was largely plainsland.  Beyond this was a rugged badlands region, the compound of a wealthy noble, and the small port town of Urngen.

- The group also got word of the Bluesabres returning to the city and decided they wanted to find out what they knew.  Steiner and Orion caught up with a couple of them at The Militiaman, and learned they'd found little in the mountains to the north, but that they had intercepted a Hermes II heading east and were currently working to salvage it.  They figure the Hermes was heading into the forest, and they're planning to hit that area next.

- The company did some quick repairs to get a deployable recon lance and sent them to the badlands to the west while Rip, Toulonnne and a couple of crew went to speak with the noble.

Mysts of the Ninth World: The Ravaging Horde pt. II

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran returned to where Helios had been, only to find him missing.  Looking around, she noticed Ganthet and Kelon in the camp below her, freeing the worms and fending off a merkadian.  Still invisible, she made her way down the slope to some cover and began zapping the spiked man with sunbeams.

- Ganthet used his electrical affinity to awaken and prod the sedated crag worms, who lunged into the camp, adding to the chaos unfolding there.  Kelon attempted to keep the merkadian's attention, which quickly devided between him, Ganthet, and whatever was searing him with bright yellow light.  The three of them kept him unable to focus on a single target, and Naran was eventually able to finish him off.

- Trying to keep Ravri's quarry from spotting her, Ronin fired a couple of polyp canisters in his direction.  The merkadian spotted him almost immediately and charged up into his hiding place.  Not wanting to be cornered, Ronin leapt away into the darkness, but this turned the merkadian's attention elsewhere and he spotted Ravri just before she was able to backstab him.  Ronin returned and began firing arrows and canisters into the resulting skirmish, but neither he nor Ravri seemed to be able to do much damage to the merkadian threat.

- The warcamp itself was quickly devolving into internal conflict.  The margr gathered there were only loosely held together by merkadian control - and most of them resented the outsiders.  One tribe leader in particular called Glaan, saw and opportunity as things began to unfold and made her move against the one called The Eye.  As the duel began, the margr gathered, uncertain of what to do, waited to see how it would turn out - and thus who to side with.  The resulting struggle was brief and brutal, but Glaan ultimately came out on top, crushing the merkadian's head with a final blow that dislodged its numenera eye.

- After killing the merkadian, Naran, Kelon, and Ganthet had a brief conversation about what to do next.  They had killed a probably leader, but they still needed to do more to reduce the threat posed by this band.  Seeing a large numenera machine powering up and rolling through the camp, they decided that would be their next target.  Though outnumbered dozens to one, the three waded into the camp, fighting off abhumans as they went, until they reached the device.

- Ronin and Ravri, both beaten down signficantly, began to make a retreat to the north, away from the fight.  Ronin used his numenera device to put as many polyp growths between them and the merkadian as possible, but it was only slowing him down.

- Glaan, having wondered through the camp in search of the other oppressors, finally spotted the green numenera discharges of the one called The Fist.  She shoved her way through the intervening chaos, emerging to see the merkadian wading through a growth of red polyps toward some unknown attacker in the darkness...

- +1xp

GM's Note: This situation turned into a rather lengthy and complex encounter.  Because Piper is not present - and is, in fact, weeks further in the timeline than the others - I decided to give Keara an NPC to play in this engagement.  Indicating she wanted to do something a bit different, I decided I would give her one of the margr of the camp - the leader of a sub-tribe who chafed against the merkadian's cowing of the others.  While this character was created just prior to this session, the idea of characters like Glaan present in the warcamp was always there, so it was easy enough to flesh out one of them and hand it off.  Keara really enjoyed the change of pace, and getting a different perspective on the chaos of the encounter was interesting for everyone.

Mysts of the Ninth World: The Ravaging Horde pt. I

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Pursued by a patrol of margr, Ronin, Ganthet, and the others scatter into the rugged landscape, forcing the enemies to split up and losing some of them in the process.  A few isolated skirmishes resulted, with somewhat varied outcomes.

- Ganthet and Kelon regrouped and decided that something must be done about the greater tribe.  Neither had a solid plan, so they decided to go for the desperate one that seemed to have the best chance of doing some good: if they could release and prod the juvenile cragworms, the beasts might be able to do enough damage to significantly weaken the horde.

- Ronin had a brief fight with the one margr chasing him and made his way to a nearby skirmish where he found Ravri being attacked by several - including an obvious leader.  The fight took a toll on them both, but with some good fortune they take out the big guy and took off before too many more could arrive.  Deciding that the game is up, they also made their way back toward the encampment - Ronin decided that freeing the cragworms they'd seen earlier was their best bet at keeping the tribe from attacking Arable, though Ravri seemed dubious.

- Meanwhile, Naran and Helios were attacked by another patrol as they wandered unknowingly into the margr's territory.  They fought off their attackers, but lost their pack animal in the process.  Gathering the remaining supplies, they continued on their way - only to stumble upon the encampment from above.

- As Ronin and Ravri made their way around the camp from the north, Ronin caught sight of Ganthet sneaking in and cutting the ropes tying the beasts down.  Noticing another group of margr approaching the area, he fired his red-polyp numenera weapon into their midst, creating confusion and buying his companions some time.  Taking note of the effectiveness of the tactic, he maneuvered into a different position and fired again into the camp as Ravri moved off in another direction.

- Above, Naran and Helios spotted a patrol heading their way.  Naran made herself invisible and teleported to the far side of the patrol in a bright flash of light, startling and disorienting them.

- Ganthet and Kelon managed to cut the cables on the worms without being seen, and the most agitated of them lunged into the camp, devouring whatever margr it came across.  As he carefully pulled back into the shadows at the edge of the camp, Helios, who had been watching the scene from above, recognized his brother.

- Ronin took notice of the figures in spikes investigating the chaos happening in the camp with a bit more focus than their abhuman counterparts.  As one moved closer to his position, he saw Ravri, all but in the open, creeping up behind it with her knife drawn...

Black Foxes: Spectre Thieves

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- The Foxes decided their next move would be against Drave's rival - a witch called Quellyn.  She had apparently bound a ghost which was now haunting Drave in an attempt to get him to free it.  They did a little legwork in Crow's Foot prior to the operation, but didn't manage to get much more than some dirty looks.

- The gang made their way into the sewers and tunnels near the witch's tower where they found a boarded-up hole in its basement wall protected by some sort of ghost ward.  Drave was able to dismantle the magical protections and Erik quickly pried the boards out before they could be spotted.

- Inside the tower, they made their way toward the upper chamber Drave had seen in a vision.  They were caught by a mad, howling spectre which injected their minds with horrific visions before Drave managed to drive it off.

- Finally making their way up the brittle iron staircase into the upper chamber, they found the hanging dolls exactly where they expected them - and they could also hear Quellyn's voice chanting upstairs.  Peering into the ghost field, Drave was able to find the ghost he was trying to free and identify the doll anchor binding it to the witch.  With Erik's help, they cut the anchor down intact and made off before Quellyn could catch them - though the only loot they found was a small wooden box full of gold teeth.

- The Foxes returned to their neighborhood to discover that Flint, one of their contacts, had been questioned by the Bluecoats and may have let slip a couple of details about the Foxes' operations.  The crew did manage to do a little recruiting - picking up a small gang of rooks to help them cover their territory.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Here We Are

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios met up with some scavengers outside the Empty Machine and followed them back to the quasi-permanent encampment nearby.  They bartered for food, water, and a shelter from the supply caravan that had arrived from the north and set out toward Arable.  Late in the evening of the 4th day, as they wandered through a badlands region, the found themselves surrounded by a small band of margr...

- Ronin and Ganthet discussed their situation with the other hunters and made some decisions.  A few of them attempted to pursue the margr that had fled from the battle but were ultimately unable to catch it.  The others moved into a recon position to survey the larger tribe.  They found an unusually large group of 200+ margr, possibly being led by a couple of spike-covered humanoids, that had apparently captured a few juvenille cragworms.  As they talked about what they'd found, margr nearby were alerted to their presence...

- Piper, Olim, and Jumis made their way through the scrublands toward Arable.  They happened upon some machinery surrounded by deep, black oil on the way through.  When they reached the city, they were greeted by Neen - deputy Urshan's pet seskii.

Mysts of the Ninth World: The End In Sight

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper and Olim made their way into Luigolamis.  They spoke to a couple of guardsmen who gave them some tips on navigating the city.  They were able to acquire supplies from the lakeshore markets, but had little luck finding suitable components for their damaged airship.  As they made their way out, an alarm sounded throughout the Twinned Cities and the energy barrier was activated - apparently a bandit army was closing in and the city needed to be sealed.  Piper and Olim used a cypher they'd acquired and a makeshift zipline to escape.  Once back to the airship, they set out once more for the Beyond.

- Ganthet began climbing the numenera device that had risen from the sands in an attempt to reach the top before the margr as Ronin fired arrows at the remaining enemies.  Ganthet managed to knock the climbing margr from the device and, continuing to its top, found another numenera objcet being created within teh energy bubble at the top.  As the hunters closed in on the remaining margr, Ronin gained the leader's attention.  As the massive, two-headed margr charged at him, he pulled and fired the weapon he'd taken from one of the others.  His shot was perfect and the leader was consumed from the inside by toxic fungal polyps.  Their remaining foes had fallen, but they knew at least one had escaped in the fray - certainly heading northwest to the larger tribe.

- Naran and Helios rejoined Drokkan at the bunk house.  After a a bit more rest, Drokkan agreed to take them to the machine he'd found as promised.  On the way there, he became increasingly wary - and when they arrived he found a glyph that unnerved him.  As he warned them that they shouldn't remain in the area long, Naran began to examine the complex device.  The center of the room seemed to contain a bubble of space somehow "pulled" from another location.  She discerned that, if one were to break the containment field, that person could enter the bubble and be transported to the place displayed.  In a stroke of considerable good fortune, she not only located the controls to alter the location displayed, but found several "presets" that showed floating obelisks - one of which she recognized from Polious' stories as the Amber Monolith.  From there, she was able to adjust the location eastward until Helios recognized the Empty Machine - a landmark not more than a hundred miles or so northwest of Arable.  It was at this point they ran out of time.  As a greenish mist began to fill the room, Naran activated to device and she and Helios jumped into the portal - telling Drokkan he could come with them, but that it was a one-way trip.

- Piper and Olim traveled slowly but steadily on their airship for several days - through the Black Riage via the Garl Knave, westward to the enormous Ba-Adenu forest, and then north to the plains of Kataru.  They saw distant lights in the impossibly-tall black mountains, the great mass of the largest trees either of them had ever seen, a massive automaton with a glass-like spherical head, a landscape bent down by the inexplicably-sustained gusts of hurricane-force winds, and a silver thread reaching all the way into the heavens in the eastern distance.  After a few days, however, their craft began to experience various levels of malfunction.  They worked tirelessly to keep it stable, in the air, and continuing north, but it became apparent that eventual failure was inevitable.  For the last several miles, the all but scraped the surface of the barren landscape before the craft dug into the dull earth and came to a stop.  In the distance, however, Piper could just make out the point of what appeared to be Aglarion's Watchtower - and landmark only a few miles south of Arable.

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Highwaymen pt. V

Thursday June 21, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (1) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh managed to keep the advantage in their struggle against the raiders, but as the trucks pulled away and the enemy force split they were forced to make a decision: would they stay with the trucks and ensure they arrived safely at their destination, or would they fight it out and try to recover their downed Panther?  They ultimately opted for the former, bringing their mission success/failure record and units gained/lost both to 1:1.

- Meanwhile, Drevan and Toulonne were back at the garrison at Lysida City talking with Braeggan (their master tech) in the mess hall about repairs to the Grasshopper, when they suddenly found themselves attack as an armored vehicle smashed through the wall and automatic gunfire sprayed into the room.

Mysts of the Ninth World: More Than Bargained For

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper and Garrot load up Jumis and what supplies they had and manage to get the craft off the ground and some distance from the city before they came under attack by the perimeter defences.  They took a hit to the craft's secondary propulsion systems, which Piper was able to patch while dangling from a makeshift harness.  Once away, they discussed their overall plan.  They decided they would stop in the Empire's "Twinned Cities" of Jargolamis/Luigolamis for supplies and components, and then make their way to the Garl Nave to cross the Black Riage into the Ba-Adenu forest and make their way northward from there over the Beyond.  This would mean they'd have little hope of aid should their craft break down, but it also meant they would have little in the way of political trouble.

- Ganthet, Ronin, and their companions continued their fight against the margr band, slowly gaining the advantage.  The holograms that had been shifting overhead suddenly vanished, and some sort of numenera device emerged from the ground - crowned with a bubble of pulsing energy.  The leader and a couple of others broke off their fight with the intruders in order to interact with it: the leader seemed to activate certain controls while one of the others began frantically climbing the structure toward the energy bubble.

- Helios was awakened by a sudden tremor that knocked him out of the bunk and frantic pounding on the door.  It also seemed to be "snowing" inside the building.  Looking out the window, he saw some chaos in the Scavengers' Wreck, but nothing obviously corresponding with the cries of "let us in, it's going to kill us!" coming from the people outside.  He poked his head through the door and told them to calm down, but they just ran off screaming.  Seeing no apparent threat beyond the crazies outside, Helios barricaded the door and went back to sleep.

- Naran and Martylla had been making their way to the DataVault when the snow storm hit.  Naran found that contact with the crystals caused vivid hallucinations and disorientation, but Martylla and the other skeane seemed unaffected.  She made it to the DataVault only partially conscious and the next they she knew she was in some distorted facsimile of Arable.  Uncertain of her surroundings but following the cues provided, she and Martylla navigated the construct, spoke with some of the "people" there, and eventually emerged with 3 marker keys.  Taking advantage of the chaos created by the storm, Martylla was able to get them to an unattended "lift" within the vault where they could use their keys to access the correct data-drives to get the information they were after: where was Helios?  The data in the vault seemed to answer their question - as well as a few more unasked.

- +2xp

No Thank You Evil: Trouble In Space

 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Pirate Hannah and her Pretty Pony got a job offer from an alien called Opik: he needed someone to accompany the child alien Zot on a space ship back to his home planet.  He would give them 3 coins when Zot arrived safely.

- Shortly into the trip alarms began sounding.  A message from Opik said there was some distrubance in the engine room.  With some help from an android called Sassy, Hannah opened the hatch covering a secret ladder down into the workings of the ship.  She made her way to the back of the ship, encountering some space rats, a bubble-gum making bird, and other strange creatures.

- The engine room was being devoured by a metal-eating creature called a Lacer.  When she couldn't talk it into leaving, she tried to scare it off and then beat it up, but it proved too tough for her.

- In the end, Hannah lured the creature out of the engine room, and though it conked her out, Sassy arrived and was able to convince it to eat some of the junk in the storage room instead of gnawing on the engine.

GMs Note:

This scenario from "Uh-Oh Monsters" was REALLY tough for a single PC - and that's AFTER I dialed it back a bit.  In hindsight, instead of using deus-ex and having Sassy talk the Lacer out of eating the engine, I should have had the ship crash on a nearby planet and then Hannah would have to fix the ship to get Zot home - which would have been awesome.  Unfortunately, I didn't think of that at the time.  We'd been going for a while, and I could sense Hannah was running out of ideas, so I was trying to wrap it up.  I'm also not super practiced at running published scenarios.  Oh well, live and game and learn.

Black Foxes: Stone Cold

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- Finding themselves threatened by rivals on apparently hostile turf, the Foxes did their best to play off the situation as expected.  They told the leader of the Stone Club gang that they had come to patch things up and even suggested that the two crews should be working together.  Their proposal got them a foot in the door (with help from some coin), but they got a bit demanding in the delivery and their "suggestions" were ultimately not well received.  Before the situation could erupt into actual violence, they took their leave.

- Deciding to continue their search for a fence, Erik went to speak with his friend Telda, a Six Towers beggar.  The woman initially told him off for his line of questioning, but later sent word to him about a hunched man with silver-gray hair called Zant who hangs out near the Black Circle Tavern.  

Mysts of the Ninth World: Decisive

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper and Garrot were led by Quince into the Court of Rarmon where they spoke with Lord Gyre.  They were asked to explain the afternoon's "malfunction" and to give their opinion of ongoing threats.  Some of the conversation began to sound accusatory when Quince made a proposal to the Lords to move all "significant and mysterious" numnera artifacts to the control of the crown by way of the city government.  A few of those gathered took issue with this "overreach", but most seemed contentedly unaffected.  Following the hearing, Piper returned to the Orrery with Garrot in order to help return it to a (more) stable condition and then made her way back to Olim's tower to find the airship almost ready for launch.  After a brief conversation with him and some hurried preparations and last-minute checks, they decided the time had come to make their move - the test flight of their newly-completed airship would be a flight from the city's powers-that-be and into the Beyond.

- Ganthet, Ronin, and their company continued their fight against the margr as the holograms flashed and shifted overhead.  Ronin attracted the attention of one of abhumans weilding a slug-thrower weapon and Ganthet engaged with the large, two-headed creature that seemed to be the leader while Tala, Ravri, Oorum and Shynd waded into the fray with other specimens.  After being disarmed, Ganthet set off an electrical detonation cypher, which shocked and stunned most of those within the camp as a powerful energy beam from somewhere outside burned into the margr leader's chest

- Naran, Drokkan, and Helios attempted to hide as a band of well-equipped skeane descended upon the area.  Their efforts were only partially successful, and both groups decided to leave the area rather than engage them.  Helios, unsure of the location of his companions, set off toward the membrane gate leading back into the city of Rust and, once there, made his way to Drokkan's dwelling in the South Loop.  Naran and Drokkan were trying to conceal themselves in their hiding place, but searchlights suggested they'd been spotted.  Naran was doing her best not to let the growing dread become panic when she suddenly found herself back in the City of Rust.  She set the injured Drokkan up in one of the public bunkhouses and went to speak with his skeane "friend" Martylla to see if she could find a way to determine Helios's wearabouts.  Martylla suggested they check the DataVault.

 

No Thank You Evil: Icebreakers pt. II

 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- When the bubble teas hit the frozen ice rink, the froze solid into balls and rolled away - being chased by the Argle Bargles.  Since she found herself trapped in the basement, Pirate Hannah decided to let them have the bubble teas for now and concentrate on getting back up the slide.  She managed to talk the Argle Bargles into helping her up the slide, and they even gave her the rest of their (now frozen) bubble teas.

- Next she needed to get a clean pillowcase.  Crystal Noele told her she could find one in the laundry shed behind the hotel, but when Hannah got there, she found it was full of Gunks who were busy dirtying all the clean laundry.  She was able to get the only remaining clean pillowcase away from them, but got pretty 'gunked' herself in the process.

- The last component she needed was a room key.  Cyrstal told Hannah that all of the keys were in use, and that the guests with them were trapped on the 3rd floor!  Talking to the gardener gnome, Hannah borrowed a growing ladder and climbed into the 3rd floor window where she was able to talk a cat-person into giving her a room key.

- Once all the components were gathered, Hannah recited the incantation and the Jinn and Dragons went back to work, freezing the thawing hotel.  Cyrstal Noele was so happy that she told Hannah that she and her Pretty Pony could stay at her hotel for free anytime.

No Thank You Evil: Icebreakers pt. I

 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Pirate Hannah came with her Pretty Pony to stay in a famous Ice Palace Hotel in Into the Closet.  When she arrived, however, she found the place to be melting.  The owner, Crystal Noele, explained that the Jinn and the Snow Dragon that usually keep the place frozen had stopped working.  When Hannah investigated, she found that the Jinn and the Dragon were under a 'Lazy Bum' spell, and to reverse it, she would have to gather some specific components.

- The first was "two partially-drunk glasses of bubble tea".  Serios, the mouse who runs the hotel's cafe, told her he'd sold the last two to a couple of Argle Bargles, which had then gone down to the ice rink in the basement.  Hannah found them there, and was able to steal the teas from them, but as she tried to escape back up the slide leading to the basement, she slipped and landed back in the rink as the Argle Bargles closed in...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Cornered

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper and Garrot discovered the huge electromagnet that was part of the Orrery had malfunctioned, possibly as a side effect of their interface with the Atlas, and had pulled nearly all unanchored metal within a wide radius up to it.  After considerable effort, they were able to disengage the magnet and release the objects it had collected in a relatively safe fashion.  After this, they were escorted to the Sunken Palace, which they found still spinning, to speak with city authorities.

- Ronin and Ganthet met with several of the hunters of Arable to plan some action against the small abhuman margr band that had strangely taken up residence nearby and was, reportedly, harassing some of the outlying farms.  Wanting to remove this threat without drawing the ire of the large tribe further northwest, they decided they would attack at night, allow none to escape, and leave no trace of their presence.  As they launched their attack on the dozen or so margr and their two-headed leader, a number of large, holographic images of various people, places, and objects appeared within the battlefield.

- Naran and Drokkan contined to work to shut down the machine emitting the corrosive bubbles.  The glowing fish began harassing them as they attempted to disable the device, some of which seemed to siphon energy from it to become larger and more menacing.  Their efforts ultimately overloaded some part of the device, and it sent out one last shockwave that somehow encased every living thing in its path within an egg-like, red sphere.  Naran cut her way out and made her way over to free Drokkan.  She was able to cut him out as well, but he seemed to have faired more poorly and was barely concsious.  It was then that they noticed lights from a craft overhead.

- Meanwhile, as Helios bargained with the two eleen tribemen for the spoils of the room they had discovered, a third eleen hurried into the room with a warning about kenlem in the area.  Before they could make any real preparations, large, two-headed spiders began phasing into the room through the walls and ceiling.  Helios grabbed what he could, and hurriedly forced himself back through the wall toward his home dimension.  He emerged just in time to be hit by the bubble-machine's shockwave and found himself trapped in a spherical "egg" as well, from which he escaped by phasing through the solid shell, nearly exhausting his energy.

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Highwaymen pt. IV

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Though slowed and badly damaged, the trucks made it back to the road.  Both Aralakh and the attackers have sustained significant damage from the continuing firefight, but both sides seem determined not to back down...

Black Foxes: Lady Molfon's Jewels pt. II

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- As the room continued to warm unnaturally and the ghost began its operatic song, Drave decided it was time to go - prying open the window and jumping out back into the courtyard.

- Meanwhile upstairs, Erik bolted after Lady Molfon, grabbing her arm in order to keep her from escaping with her armfuls of surely-illgotten jewelry.  The ghost's song rattled something loose in his mind - visions of an icy gem that wouldn't go away - but he retained his hold and ordered her to give in.  When she surrendered, he gathered up the jewels and bolted for an exit.  Two of the guards caught sight of him as he made his escape, but he and Drave were over the wall and out of sight before they could engage in any sort of pursuit.

- Over the next few days, the crew got their payoff from Adelaide and made some efforts to reduce the amount of heat they were taking from this last operation.  After taking some personal time as well, they met and decided that if they were going to be doing this sort of thing a lot, they'd need someone to help them move their goods.

- Drave's friend Flint could only give them the barest lead, and the two made their way to Doan's, a tiny backstreet bar and gambling den, to ask around -only to find themselves confronted by local rivals, the Stone Club...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Partial Success

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper spent some additional time in the Atlas with Garrot attempting to interact with the device in an intentional way.  With considerably effort, she was able to activate the device again, focusing it on their area and where she believed her home town of Arable might be located.  Using the device seemed to be physically taxing, however, and the intense pressure-headaches it triggered ultimately became unbearable.  Believing she had adequate - if not abundant - guidance for where to direct their course, Garrot opened the hatch to descend back into the Orrery's control room, but stopped when he noticed something wrong...

- Ganthet used his lightening ability to jump to the entrance of the power vault to sever the liquid-like tentacle grasping his friend and the power core.  As he hacked through it, Polious threw an electrical detonation cypher into the vicinity.  Their combined effortes ruptured the tentacle, sending black acid all everywhere.  The three were able to get the power core back into position and reconnected, but were not 100% satisfied with the resulting operations: Polious was concerned that the core was outputting too much power, but had to admit that any additional manipulation of the setup was likely to make things worse and not better.  Above, they found that the Weathervane had stabilized closer to its "normal" operation, but that it's area of influence has shrunk considerably and Polious was concerned about a pinhole that had appeared in the perpetual clouds directly above the device's point.  Over the next few days, townsfolk began making plans for clearing land and moving farms that were no longer under the influence of the artifact while Ronin, Ganthet, and the town's hunters discussed the growing presence of margr in the area...

- Helios, Naran, and Drokkan found a nearby area to rest before sending Helios back into the vault.  Just before he began phasing through the metal door, a woman appeared among them asking to accompany him.  It took them a few minutes to realize that this woman was a manifestation of the Sisters they had met in Mekel - she was apparently some sort of artificial construct housed within the numenera cube they had given to Helios and Naran.  She wanted to find a place more suitable for herself, and believed the place Helios had found within the vault might offer more promise.  Helios took the cube from Naran and phased through the door again.  While looking around the room, he was met by two pale-skinned humans(?) who had some claim on the area he had discovered.  They agreed to give him 1/3 of the contents of the room, which seemed fair.  Meanwhile, Naran and Drokkan found themselves beset by dangerous bubbles issuing from what remained of the propulsion artifact they'd been examining when the whale awoke as well as a large rock-creature...

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Highwaymen pt. III

Thursday April 26, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- As the engagement continued, both sides traded pot-shots as they attempted to maneuver for better position.  When the firefight resumed, it was the heavier mechs that were in the fore.  The Wolverine and the Phoenix Hawk both took significant armor damage over the following exchanges, though neither has yet lost internal structure or critical systems.  The trucks continued around the hill back toward the road as Aralakh did its best to keep their lighter adversaries from damaging them further.

Black Foxes: Lady Molfon's Jewels pt. I

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

- The ghost who appeared in the Foxes' coal-mine lair intruded upon Drave's mind, showing him a tower in another district of the city containing the ritual components binding him to the witch Quellyn, before something pulled him back into the Ghost Field.

- Erik scouted the guard situation at the Molfon Estate ahead of their score attempt against it.  Their noble contact Adelaide - through her servant Marta - had told them of a particular piece of jewelry she wanted from the Molfon family. 

- Though they started off well, their plan to sneak into the house quickly went sideways as they were spotted by two guards who raised the alarm.  After knocking one out, Erik intimidated the other who ran for help.  Their cover blown, the two smashed a window to get inside but set off a security measure in the process which lit up the entire house with electroplasmic light.  Drave began grabbing anything of value while Erik cowed a servant girl into telling him where the jewels were kept.

- Erik hurried upstairs into the master bedroom where he found a jewelry chest open and mostly empty.  Suspecting someone hiding in the room with the missing jewels, he opened the closet door whereupon Lady Molfon shot at him with her husband's pistol and bolted for the open door.

- Drave found a couple of coin worth of valuables on a mantle and eventually ended up in the music room when all of the lights in the manor went out and the ghost of an old woman appeared at the piano...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Awakening Giants

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Nearing completion of the airship project and still in need of a bearing on their destination, Piper went to speak with Garrot at the Grand Orrery about something few know to be concealed within it: The Atlas.  Though he was initially dismissive, Piper eventually convinced him to let her see it.  The Atlas turned out to be some form of VR planetarium showing all of the major solar system bodies.  Upon viewing this array, Piper's subconscious was able to manipulate the device - though, afterward, she was unsure how or why she'd done so.

- Black, liquid-like "tentacles" slipped themselves into the power vault where Polious, Ronin, and Ganthet were attempting to restore stablility to the Weathervane.  The tendrils flowed themselves around people and objects as Ronin and Ganthet tried desperately to sever them while keeping the newly-connected core from malfunctioning.  The grasping strands of darkness ultimately found the power core and began leeching energy from it.  As Ganthet attempted to hack it away, a surge of will from somewhere in darkness beyond strengthened its hold, tearing both Ronin and the core from the wall and pulling them toward the abyss.

- Naran, Helios, and Drokkan immediately began attempting to depower the propulsion artifact they had inadvertently awakened even as the whale and the city on its back lurched forward toward the seabed.  The giant creature with its ring of lights floated back toward them, seemingly curious about this new source of activity and extendended rigid, vine-like tendrils into the aft of the ship.  Naran and Drokkan were able to deactivate the machine after only a few attempts and, as the whale-city began drifting to a stop, they all felt for a moment as though disaster had been averted.  It was then that the static energy build-up made its presense known - growing to an intensity that resulted in a powerful arc between the propulsion device and the bulbous eyes of the looming creature trailing them.  The creature reacted instinctively, ripping its tendrils from the aft of the city and shredding much of the surrounding structure in the process.  This dislodged the massive propulsion artifact, which fell some distance toward the sea floor before it was caught by some sort of cabling which tore free down the starboard side, swinging the heavy device out in that direction and causing the whale to roll along with it.  Just when the rotation had nearly inverted the city, the colossal creature finally awoke.  Startled by the sudden activity behind it, it immediately began swimming toward what it believed to be the surface, smashing its back into the ocean floor beneath its entire mass; crushing the settlement that once perched atop it.  The titanic creature thrashed about as it attempted to right itself - splintering wood, synth, and steel - before it finally succeeded in rolling over and ascending from the rubble.  Naran and Helios had managed to get clear of the whale before the impact and avoided being buried in the waves of sediment kicked up from the sea floor by the flailing beast.  They found Drokkan amidst the rubble, unharmed and smiling - standing before the partially buried vault.

- +1xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: The Murky Future

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper went to speak with Ryse and the other Aeon priests at the Embassy of Truth, telling them about the transdimensional device she found in The Pipes.  She also spent some time in the Embassy's library looking over the available maps.  Ibe and a few of the other priests suggested some courses of action to determine the location of her home.

- Ronin and Ganthet went down into the ruins beneath the Weathervane with Polious to finally repair the artifact with the power core they'd recovered.  Upon reaching the jury-rigged setup in the vault-like power room, they determined that the connections on the replacement core weren't going to make the project overly easy - and nor were the black tentacles reaching in after them...

- Helios began phasing through the vault door to see what was inside while Naran and Drokkan continued exploring the hold.  They didn't find much else of interest in the vast storage areas of the ship-city - aside from a massive creature with a ring of lights around its head investigating the structure they were in.  They pulled Helios back out just after he'd seen that the room on the other side of the Vault door was not at all what he expected.  They talked for a minute about whether to address the creature, but decided not to chance agitating it - though they'd have to wait for it to leave before feeling it would be safe to reenter the vault.  In the meantime, they decided to investigate the device Naran had previously discovered in the aft.  They began scavenging it for numenera components when a portion of it unexpectedly powered up - and began pushing the whale-city forward, toward the sea floor...

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Highwaymen pt. II

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Though initially outnumbered, a stroke of incredible good fortune allowed Aralakh to completely incapacitate the opposing Whitworth with a pair of lucky headshots.  The Wolverine managed to mostly return the favor a bit later, however, when it blasted off their Panther's right leg, taking it down.  Both sides having downed units on the field has upped the stakes on this engagement considerably. 

- Meanwhile, the Commando continues to harass the trucks they're escorting and their Phoenix Hawk is only now catching up to it.  The company's Jenner is also running hot after continued attempts to swat the Wasp buzzing around it.

Aralakh Company: Highwaymen pt. I

Thursday April 5, 2018 at 8:45pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Meanwhile, Steiner, Riley, and Morgan were escorting an overdue shipment to a neightboring city when they, too, were attacked by the bandits.  Deficits in units and overall tonnage will make this a tough fight, but they are so far holding their own.  Whether they can keep the attackers from destroying the trucks might be another question entirely.

Black Foxes: Made Manifest

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

Characters:

Erik [Tony] : Lurk

- Drave [Tim] : Whisper

New Contacts:

- Telda : a roaming beggar and a good source for info on the street

- Flint: a spirit trafficker with a shop in the Foxes' territory

- Kobb: a gambler and broker who takes bets on the fights at the Broken Anchor

New Rivals:

- Quellyn: a witch who holds a grudge against Drave for interrupting a ritual and the resulting injury and scar

- Darmot: a Coalridge Bluecoat who seems to have it in for Erik

- Candra: a sailor/boxer who underestimated him once and now takes special pleasure in beating him down

Session Highlights:

- As they finished setting up their operation, the crew got two score opportunities: one from their noble contact, and the other from the Circle of Flame.  The first was to steal a particular antique necklace from a rival noble, and the second was to obtain an artifact from a carraige about to move through their turf.  Since the latter was more time-sensitive, they decided to act on it first and risk the noble's impatience.

- Drave decided on a setup action to scout the likely routes and find a ghost that he could push to manifest and distract the Spirit Warden driver of the carriage.  He was successful, but the spirit took an interest in him: it's apparently being controlled by another and it seeks release.

- While the driver was distracted, Erik entered the carriage and found it coated with ice.  He managed to free the box containing the Soul Gem from its containment and made a run for it before the Warden could catch him.

- The Circle of Flame was impressed by the Foxes' daring success and gave them the 6 coin payoff promised.

- The crew took a fair bit of heat from the operation as they were both spotted and the Spirit Wardens are a high-profile faction.  Erik attempted to pin the deed on some local rivals, the Stone Club, but only managed in further agitating that gang.

- The two had spent a day or to trying to unwind from the stress of their score and were planning their operation against the Molfon Estate for Adelaide's necklace when the spirit Drave and previously coerced appeared in their hidden lair...

Mysts of the Ninth World: The Primary Objective

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet return to the illusory forest they'd encountered when they'd started their quest - though it had definitely moved further north from its previous position.  They made their way through the hologrammatic trees as quickly as possible, though it took several hours.  Somewhere near the center of the wood, they found a giant, tangible tree surrounded by large, translucent pods.  A nearby pool of water allowed them to refill their canteens for the remainder of their journey, though something about the place felt 'off'.  When they finally reached Arable, they were greeted with desparate pleading and endless questions - particularly about their missing companions and the success of their mission.  They learned that the Weathervane's function had been steadily deteriorating since they left and would need attention soon if the settlement is to survive.

- Naran and Helios continued exploring the wrecked whale-city with Drokkan.  Naran found a sort of command or navigation room while Helios phased through a pressure-sealed bulkhead to enter the captain's quarters, which were still dry.  Inside he found numenera devices and a chest of shins amid the mess of papers and objects thrown from shelves and tables.  Naran found some interesting maps for which she went to some lengths to salvage and preserve, as well as a metal safe which she cut from the surrounding equipment.  After giving the remainder of the bow a once-over, the three proceeded into the cargo holds where they found some metal plates that superheated when they came in contact with one another, a crate of pearls that seemed to repel water, and a large metal vault which promised their real payday...

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Struggle for Power pt. III

Thursday March 8, 2018 at 8:45pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- The Thunderbolt survived long enough for the pilot to regain consciousness and become a threat, but a lucky shot to the machinegun ammo cache caused a massive explosion which ripped the unit apart.  The Hermes II, meanwhile, had managed to take out one of the Assassin's legs before changing its tactics.  Its heavier support gone, the Hermes began destroying the repair trucks still working on the damaged facility.  Using the terrain and speed to its advantage over Aralakh's remaining heavier units, it was able to destroy all three trucks and escape the engagement area - securing a technical victory.

- Aralakh's objective to protect the crews repairing the power station was a failure overall, but they did manage to salvage the remains of a Thunderbolt chassis.

Mysts of the Ninth World: A Hitch in the Plan

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet fought off the trio of margr, who turned out to be sentries for a massive encampment further into the northern badlands.  They were able to outrun the pursuing band, eventually arriving at the oasis they had visited some weeks before.  Once more, the glowing purple diamond appeared above the well at the site, and individuals seemingly from different worlds or realities wandered in.

- Piper and Olim cleaned up the tower and made some plans to carefully limit what they divulged about their project.  When the inspection came, however, the Queen herself was leading the examination.  Unfortunately, she was able to determine the nature of the craft they were restoring and, as Olim feared, had in mind several uses for it.  To prevent the commandeering of his new vessel, Piper suggested they finish repairs on the ship and then use it to leave for her home of Arable - if they could determine the precise direction.

- Naran, Helios, and Drokkan split up and began exploring the whale/ship/city.  Naran located a large numenera device at the aft surrounded by glowing fish and Drokkan found what he believed to be the "captain's quarters" but was unable to get inside.  Helios, however, ran afoul of a giant black eel-like creature and some dangerous plants.  The group managed to fight it off and resumed their exploration of the strange place.

Black Foxes: The Crew

 Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix
Artwork © Evil Hat Productions and Square Enix

System: Blades in the Dark

Setting: Doskvol, the Shattered Isles

Players: Tony, Tim

Schedule: Occasional Weeknights


Starting a small, experimental Blades in the Dark campaign.

Tonight, we made the crew: the Black Foxes.  A pair of disgruntled ex-miners from the district of Coalridge got together and decided to start a more lucrative, less legal enterprise.  With the help of some chance relationships they've set up a hideout in a disused corner of the coal mine and have their sights on an area of the declining Six Towers district still possessed of some unjustified wealth.

Crew Type: Shadows (theives/spies)

Contacts: Adelaide Phraoig (noble), Lerrin (toolmaker), Mirage (Circle of Flame contact), Ulf Ironborn (gang leader)

Allies: The Circle of Flame (Occultists), Ulf Ironborn's gang (Bravos)

Enemies: The Stone Club (Bravos), The Dimmer Sisters (Occultists)

Mysts of the Ninth World: Keep It Together

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet headed east across the desert plains, but their not-quite-domesticated aneen kept driving them north.  Ronin noticed the brilliant-purple object above the oasis they'd seen on their original journey west and reoriented their course but from their northward position, this took them through a badlands region.   They found themselves under attack by margr and are now attempting to fight off the abhumans while keeping their wild pack animal from running off.

- Piper and Olim's meeting with magistrate Quince was interrupted by the Angulan Knight Yal-Sara as she "delivered" the body of a man she'd been sent after.  Once the magistrate regained his composure, he decreed that Olim must provide documentation on his efforts and agree to an imspection.  On their way back to the tower, he voiced to Piper his concern that the queen was angling to seize control of his services and the airship he was restoring.

- Naran and Helios followed Drokkan through the crowds gathering around the return of Vareallius' ship to talk with a skeane friend of his about some deep water equipment for his new companions.  Once this was acquired, the three headed up through the membrane gates and into the cold, dark waters.  They jetted along the sea floor to the place where the deeping martelling was sleeping and then up into the city on its back and made plans to split up and see what they could find in the time.

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Struggle for Power pt. II

Thursday March 1, 2018 at 9:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- As the battle continued, the Assassin chased after the HermesII which had maneuvered behind the facility and was preparing to attack the repair crews.  This left the Centurion and Crusader to engage the Thunderbolt.  After a few rounds of concentrated fire, the Thunderbolt made a dramatic charge at the Crusader, inflicting brutal damage to its center torso and damaging its engine shielding.  In so doing, however, the T-bolt took some unexpected damage to the head which KO'd the pilot!

Aralakh Company: Struggle for Power pt. I

Thursday February 22, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- After pulling out of Holt, Aralakh continued on to their original destination in Lyran space: the Lysidas Barony in the Fianna system.  They met briefly with Baron Hepstein who informed them on the particulars of their issue with a local terrorist cell.  He'd already hired another small merc company which was currently engaged in the north - the first company to eliminate the threat would get a significant bonus.  The most pressing outstanding objectives were to establish a visible presence within the city, to escort a shipping convoy to a neighboring city, and to defend repairs to a final power station outside the city - so Aralakh distributed their forces across these areas as they saw fit.

- The company's Crusader, Assassin, and Centurion had been dispatched to protect repair trucks at a previously-attacked and severely-damaged power station about 10 miles northeast of the city, where they engaged a Hermes II and a Thunderbolt who'd come to disrupt the operation.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Pulled In

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios continued into the darkness of the South Loop.  After getting pulled deeper in to the Rustways by a strange current and encountering some massive monsters that seemed to repeatedly appear and disappear, they found their way back to the corridor and on to the Scavengers' Wreck, the more inhabited portion of this dark ruin.  There, they eventually found Drokkan, the many they were looking for who they were told found something in the ruins that might be able to transport them elsewhere.  Unfortunately, he insisted he was pressed for time at the moment - so the two agreed to go with him to help with whatever he was doing: which turned out to be exploring the remains of a deeping martelling whale settlement...

- Ganthet and Ronin evaded the monstrous metal automaton that emerged from a doorway on the far side of the large chamber they'd decended into when it unexpectedly powered-down.  In fact, the entire complex seemed to be powering up and then losing power at regular intervals.  Ronin led them further into the ruin where they found various control rooms and eventually a vertical shaft lined with glass pods, some of which contained creatures that had seemingly been grafted with plants. - one of which, a margr, was still alive.  The ladder in the shaft gave them access to the hatch at the top, and they emerged back onto the plain above.  The aneen Ganthet had left tied up had eventually worn itself out trying to escape, and was now calmly resting.

- An explosion blew out a wall at the top of the tower and sent Piper falling down the stairway into the room below, where Olim was still trying to catch the escaped threviars.  The two pursued the darting creatures downstairs, where they apparently repowered an automaton friend of Olim's and then animated a giant pile of junk which began harrying Piper as she continued her search for some sort of containment device.  It was about this time that there was a pounding on the front door and a voice demanding that Olim come out.  Piper and Olim managed to break apart the junk pile and collect the remaining threviars about the time the door burst open amd one of the Rarmon guards came in and insisted they come with him to speak with the magistrate...

Aralakh Company: Scorpion's Tail pt. II

Thursday February 15, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- The company engaged the bandit forces, but it quickly became apparent that fortune wasn't on their side.  They established a new set of LZ coordinates with the contingent returning to the site, and made to lift off.  The ship's aft suffered structural damage when the bandits detonated the mines that laced the area, but critical systems remained intact and they were able to pull away.

Aralakh Company: Scorpion's Tail pt. I

Tuesday February 6, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh finished their resupply and left Hassad for the Fianna system in Lyran space.  On the way, however, they decided to stop at Holt to meet with a potential buyer for their stolen experimental weapons.  They realized a little too late they'd been set up, however, and now their forces are split and their dropship is under attack.

Aralakh Company: Expanding Operations

Wednesday January 24, 2018 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- After concluding the mission, the company jumped to Hassad back in FWL space to regroup.  Aralakh claimed a Grasshopper, Hatchetman, and Jenner from the pool of salvaged 'mechs recovered from the operation - an impressive haul.  They regrouped, repaired, made a couple of new hires, and settled on a fairly well-paying contract in the Lyran Commonwealth as their next op.

Mysts of the Ninth World: What Lurks Within

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper returned to Olim's tower and resumed helping him on his airship restoration.  They encountered a large number of mysteriously burned out components related to the man's previous attempts to restore functionality to the craft.  As they worked, snakes seemingly composed entirely of electricity leapt out of the craft and began causing havoc with other nearby devices whie the two tried to recapture them...

- While attempting to climb up and out of the opening from which he was dangling, Ronin mistakenly grabbed a vinelike plant and his weight ripped its shallow roots from the structure until it snagged on a piece of machinery.  While he climbed the rest of the way down, Ganthet descended into the chamber himself.  As they surveyed their surroundings, the blocky tower that jutted up from the center of the chamber lit up and the entire structure began a small but intense vibration.  A number of nearby panels powered up, while other areas began to pop and spark with shorting circuits.  Ronin noted a number of broad holes that had been punched through the walls of the chamber from outside just before a pounding sound of metal-on-metal began...

- Naran and Helios spent some time speaking with Thuriss and Marna at the now-emptied Great 'Leens tavern before setting out through the city toward the South Loop.  The pair's persistence with the guards at the gate eventually yielded results and the door was opened for them - revealing the dark, tunnel-like passage into this newly-opened section of the Rustways...

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Glass Cannons pt. III

Wednesday January 17, 2018 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (3) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Jyun and Orion continued their guerilla tactics against the badly-damaged Capellan remnant, avoiding their biggest guns and pressing each tactical advantage until they were able to disable all of the resisting units.  They emerged by no means unscathed, but the job was completed successfully enough to score a followup contract offer from the FWLM (should they choose to continue in its employ), and the salvage haul should be worth it.

Mysts of the Ninth World: An Entrance or Exit

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper awoke and continued attempting to find her way through the caverns and back to the surface.  She found a spiraling passage heading downward which led to a chamber full of crystals and eventually a room full of complex machinery.  She was confronted by a glowing banner-like entity which asked her a number of questions before asking if she wished to return to the surface.  After answering in the affirmative, the next thing she knew she was on the crowded streets of Rarmon with her back to the Obstinate Door. 

- Thruird blasted the Great 'Leens with bursts of ice from her mask while panicked bystanders fled.  Naran was temporarily frozen to one of the pub's machines and Helios attempted to tackle their assailant and cover her face.  The attempt failed, but it did distract her long enough for Naran to free herself and engage the Russet in conversation.  The unexpected turn confused the girl enough that she dissipated the mask and left - obviously still angry but no logner violent.  In the remains of the bar, the two spoke for some time about how to proceed in finding a way back to the mainland.

- Ganthet waited for Ronin for some time before leaving the power core in a "safe" place and heading north after the herd.  As he approached a watering hole next to a cliffside, Ronin found him - now human but covered with smears of blood.  The two made their way to the water's edge, where they were greeted mentally by some unseen entity.  When they were unable to comply with its requests for a "clearance code", the ground began to shake.  Ganthet hopped on a nearby aneen before it bolted away, but Ronin fell into the water and was unable to escape before the bottom fell out of the pool into a massive underground chamber.

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Claim Jumpers

Friday December 15, 2017 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Meanwhile, Drevan hacked his way into the Phoenix Hawk and carry out some of the Lostech weaponry he'd found along with it, but its sensors detected some approaching units.  He decided to walk it all the way back to the safety of their dropship, but by the time he returned, he found his powered-down Warhammer being approached by an Orion and a Vindicator.  The ensuing firefight was brief but brutal; in the end the Orion was forced to withdraw and Aralakh was able to claim the remaining movable Lostech, as well as report a Vindicator for additional salvage.

Aralakh Company: Glass Cannons pt. II

Thursday December 14, 2017 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Knowing they are outgunned but not necessarily out-armored, Aralakh adopted a strategy of long range sniping from deep woods positions, hoping to draw the Capellan units to them and gambling that they can eliminate the biggest threats before they get close enough to be a problem.  Damage is significant on both sides, and while the Capellan mechs are running hot, they've still got some big guns - and Aralakh's Centurion is feeling the loss of its AC/10.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Fragile Rage

Wednesday December 13, 2017 at 8:00pm numenera, mysts of the ninth world, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- While trying to trap an aneen to use as a pack animal, something inside Ronin was overcome with hunger.  He transformed into an enourmous red serpent and began tearing open the scattering animals.  His ravenous feast was interrupted by the sudden arrival of a cragworm, which fought with him for territory - nearly dragging Ganthet off after being greviously injured.  Ronin, still a giant snake, pursued the fleeing herd beasts to the northeast while Ganthet recovered.

- Piper was attempting to find her way up and out of the cavernous depths when she encountered a small hive of crab-like creatures seemingly composed of the cast-off junk around her.  The brushed them off and eluded their pursuit for some time, before stomping on one that surprised her.  It let out a piercing sustained shriek, which awoke something giant behind her in the darkness.  Whatever it was bellowed and pounded the walls and floor of the cavern, causing underground earthquakes that nearly buried her.

- Naran and Helios entered the "Great 'Leens" tavern and learned something about the place and its odd games, as well as the city at large and some possible ways back to the surface.  The most apparent seemed to be Varealius' craft or a gateway found by a man called Dokkan, but they were also told they could speak with the Deephunters (skeane that know the area outside the city well) and/or consult the Datavault for more information.  Their conversations were interrupted, however, when the bartender called for a drinking game and unwittingly insulted a teenaged girl - who then revealed herself as Thruird, the Russet, and began ripping appart the tavern with blasts of ice from her conjured mask...

- +3xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: This New Strangeness

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- After being "decontaminated", Naran and Helios received a brief orientation on the city, including information about the "Four Scylines" (the machine gods that "rule" the city), the "florrine" concoction they were required to injest daily, city service, layout, and basic services; after which, they were given their "passtags".  They asked the skeane they were speaking to about access to the surface and the mainland and it told them they were a long distance from shore and many miles beneath the surface, but that there was a man called 'Varrealius' who owned a submersible craft that made voyages to such places.  He was currently away but expected back at any time.  From there, the two ventured into the city.  They found one of the marketplaces in the Rustways where Helios encountered an imposing octipoidal woman in search of a new "servant" - one of 7 human males carrying an odd array of objects in trance-like states.  She was becoming increasingly agitated and insistent when Naran shot a flare which distracted her enough for Helios to use one of his abilities which caused her to forget the past 5 minutes.  Confused, she withdrew back into the city and Naran and Helios proceeded into a nearby tavern which seemed to be engaged in a variety of strange games...

- Ronin and Ganthet managed to slay the towering beast assaulting them, but in so doing ruptured some internal organ that drenched Ganthet in acid.  They proceeded to the edge of the plains below the Black Riage before camping whereupon the cypher levitating their cargo finally burned out for good.  Fortunately, they could see a promising herd of aneen on the plain below that might well serve as pack animals if they could be subdued.  UNfortunately, the presence inside of Ronin was becoming active again - and insisting that he feed on the creatures' flesh...

- After recovering a bit, Piper got up and began exploring the darkness into which she had fallen.  Her only light source was herself, as she still retained a faint green glow from the Numenera incident above.  She found numerous piles of cast off bits of old devices - and even one or two usable objects - before a tall and skeletal automaton took interest in her.  After going through her possessions, he took her burned-out headband artifact and strode back into the darkness.  Piper followed, finding her way to a place where the ground and walls no longer seemed to be stone, but rather a pulsing, squishy, reddish substance.  She recovered her headband from where the automaton had placed it (on one of the piles) and found nearby some sort of transdimensional device embedded in the stone.  She studied it for a few moments before setting out to find a way back into the more populous tunnels above...

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Glass Cannons pt. I

Tuesday December 5, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Upon engaging the crippled units, Aralakh's Assassin and Centurion found there were several others nearby.  They destroyed the Jenner outright and have hammered a few other units over the ensuing exchanges, but they still face the Wolfhound and the mobile turret as well as a Clint that came in from the Northeast as well as a Hunchback and a Rifleman that were powered down in nearby woods along with some geurilla forces.  Their opposition is badly damaged, but it remains to be seen whether they can withstand its firepower long enough to neutralize it.

Aralakh Company: Cleanup Crew

Thursday November 30, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh made some hasty repairs to their units in preparation for their second, cleanup mission - a sweep across the surrounding countryside looking for stragglers and salvage.  Most notably, Drevan found a cache of Lostech - including a pristine Phoenix Hawk - while chasing a pair of crippled units into a thick forest.  Meanwhile, Jyun and Orion happened upon a limping Jenner, a mobile turrent, and a Wolfhound undergoing field repairs...

Mysts of the Ninth World: On Into Darkness

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper was on her way to convincing her assailant that he had mistaken her identity when malfunctioning machinery distracted them.  Arcs of electricity infused her with some form of energy and hideously mutated the madman. She continued deeper into the Pipes and was jumped by a thief attempting to steal her pack.  Piper managed to hold onto her belongings but not her footing, tumbling down a pit into darkness...

- Ronin and Ganthet were able to jumpstart the gravity cypher again, allowing them to push the power core down the mountain toward the plain.  Wanting to make the most of whatever time it had remaining, they pushed on into the night and found themselves ambushed just after twilight by a tall, fierce, and 6-limbed creature...

- Having returned to the relative safety of Rethirra, Naran and Helios chose a new book - this time, one of the small volumes labeled with 'Alaeta' - a place they suspected might be associated with Earth.  Linking through the book into a dark alleyway, they found their environment was filled with liquid rather than air, and in attempts to recover attracted the attention of one of the creatures dwelling.  It quickly led them into the city to a place where they could be "decontaminated".  In the subsequent conversations, Helios and Naran were pleased to discovered that they were, in fact, back on Earth - even if the specific location turned out to be a sealed city on the in the black depths of the ocean..

- +2xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Brutal Necessity

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper decided she would see what progress she could make toward the task the Order of Truth had set for her.  Finding the storm-drain entrance the priests had told her about, she decended into the underworld known to the citizens of Rarmon as "the Pipes".  She had a chance encounter with a strange fortune-teller with a glowing third eye who offered strange visions, wandered into some dark warrens, and eventually made her way into a surprisingly populated area before being accosted by a large man demanding she keep her end of some unknown bargain...

- Naran and Helios bolted back up the stairs as the doors burst open and two avian heads on long, serpentine necks surveyed the room and a cloud of thick, blue fog billowed outward.  They were pursued by 3, smaller, 4-legged, bird-like creatures with two heads - presumably the large creature's offspring.  The mind-altering fog they produced proved confusing to Helios who had some difficulty escaping it even while Naran called to him from outside while using her cutting light ability to keep the creatures at bay.  When his escape was ultimately made, the two ran the final distance back to the top, barricaded themselves in the large office, and linked back to the library on Rethirra using one of the books they'd brought with them.

- Ronin and Ganthet found the town of Urnmoll was in disarray.  A massive, whale-like creature floated over the town, raining shards of black crystal.  The townsfolk seemed to be gathering possessions in preparation to leave - all except a handful trying desperately to repair the Hydrosource, and Seluxii who was preocuppied with Rell who seemed to be ill in some way.  Their nejavin companion Vlorrex, seemingly able to understand the villagers' language to some extent, ended up staying to help them while Ronin and Ganthet proceeded to the place they'd stashed the power core.  They attached the cypher Vlorrex had made for them and covered the large device with coats and bedrolls.  The two somehow managed to keep the few villagers that attempted to speak with them on their way out from discerning exactly what they were doing - all except one particular old woman who simply eyed them suspiciously while suggesting they might not be on the right track.  They got the device just outside the town when Vlorrex's device malfunction and the heavy core dropped unceremoniously to the ground.

- +1xp

Of Dragons, Tables, and Podcasts

Monday November 20, 2017 at 12:17pm podcasting, gaming, thetabledragon Comments (0) »
Of Dragons, Tables, and Podcasts Image

"Oh man, if I had an hour..."

So Rucht, a gamer friend of mine who runs an RPG group I play in (not to be confused with the group I run), happens to head up the tabletop games track at DragonCon.  Rucht was also the guy who introduced me to gaming podcasts via Fear the Boot, and is someone with whom I somewhat regularly have interesting discussions about the various facets of this hobby with both like so much.

A while back (maybe a year ago?) he approached me about doing a podcast of our own on some of this stuff.  He said he's often been asked questions at the con that he just doesn't have time to answer, and he thought it would be cool if there was some resource he could point people to on some of this stuff.  Also, since the two of us are rarely at a loss for gamery things to talk about, he thought we could produce some pretty substantial content that others might find useful (or, at least interesting).

Lanching a 'Cast

The goal was to launch the podcast - which we dubbed "The Table Dragon" - for this year's DragonCon.  We were *mostly* successful (I might have been up until ridiculous hours editing episode 1, and subsequently thinking I lost said editing work).  The site was plain and boring, but the basic content was there.  We don't have (read: "I haven't found time to make") a dedicated site yet, but the libsyn feed is so far "adequate".

Solidifying the Project

This weekend I took a couple of so-so photos so we could have some basic imagery (which doesn't look great at every resolution on the libsyn feed, but...), finished editing Episode 2, and published that stuff.

Now I'm starting to be a little proud of this thing.  It looks decent, and I think our two episodes are actually pretty good (even if I hate listening to myself talk on recordings).

We have recorded a third, and we have some interesting plans for something cool and different for our next episode.  So we'll see where this goes.

 

~PS

Aralakh Company: Urban Jungle pt. V

Friday November 17, 2017 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Though their Warhammer got caught out away from the heart of the firefight, some good fortune allowed Aralakh to not only come out of the engagement on top, but also to earn some impressive salvage on the operation.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Forward Progress

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet fought off the murden ambush and then decided to take shelter inside the wreck once again so they could rest and Vlorrex could finish work on their gravity-negation cypher.  Once completed, the trio set out for Urnmoll.

- Piper returned to the tower with Olim, and, after spending a couple of days examining the project, began work once again.  At the end of the second day, their efforts were rewarded with some success as they were able to activate the machine's console on temporary power.  Satisfied with this progress, Piper decided to take a bit of time off to learn more about the Pipes - where the Embassy wished to send her in search of a dormant device.

- Naran and Helios spent some time examining their options, and ultimately decided to use a linking book called 'Anumos'.  On the other side they found what appeared to be the remains of a sprawling building used as some form of academy, along with linking books with similar titles.  Near the lowest part of the complex, they found a chamber which Helios recognized as the area viewed through another book they'd seen weeks ago - but this thought was interrupted by the crash of something impacting the other side of a set of sturdy doors...

- +2xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Available Resources

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios fought off some sort of discorporating, glass-breathing lizard creature and search the ruined study - finding several more of the books presumably capable of transporting them to other locations, in addition to a note referencing a crumbling civilization and a man they once met in some sort of time-distortion field.

- Piper followed Olim to the Embassy of Truth.  After some explanation, the priests were able to restore her material state - at least temporarily.  The priests seemed interested in Piper and her experiences, and suggested there was something she could do for them.  Olim, however, pointed out that she'd already "promised" to assist him with the restoration of his "airship".

- Ronin and Ganthet made their way through the wreck back to the pod bay where they had Vlorrex begin work on the device they needed.  Before he could finish, however, something in the pod ship they'd taken refuge within activated and automatons became active outside in the bay.  They decided they should run for it, narrowly escaping the pod bay before the bay doors above opened and the pod ship lifted off.  They made their way out of the larger wreck - only to find themselves under attack...

- +4xp

Aralakh Company: Urban Jungle pt. IV

Monday November 6, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh took out the damaged Jenner and continued to inflict significant damage to the Hatchetman, which is now barely operable.  The Grasshopper and Dervish still remain significant threats, but they, too, are wearing down and nearby friendlies are keeping additional units from venturing into the sector.  The FWLM trucks continue to load supplies from the located munitions depot, apparently safe from major threats.  

- While they remain largely in control of the battlefield, Aralakh is anything but unscathed.  Their next challenge will be in securing the area and completing their objective before one or more of their own units is crippled by enemy fire.

Aralakh Company: Urban Jungle pt. III

Thursday November 2, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- The encounter with on-world Capellan forces continued as Aralakh engaged the newly-arrived Grasshopper & Dervish more directly, while the damaged Jenner circled back around and began harassing the trucks that had arrived to clear out the munitions depot.  Several exchanges resulted in critical damage to both sides, and it became apparent that clearing the sector wasn't going to be as easy as they'd hoped.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Impediments

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios spoke with the old woman for some time, learning a bit about the ancestors who created the portal books - which she seemed to regard as foolish and overly ambitious.  As they were intent on finding their way home, she told them of the ruin of a library far to the south which may still contain some of these books preserved in unusual blocks of glass.  After some discussion, they decided traveling there would be their next move.  Upon arriving they quickly found the glass structures and their preserved objects - as well as a large and apparently-agitated lizard-like creature...

- Ronin and Ganthet made their way back through the ruin toward the pod where they'd left the nejavin.  As they hurried through the ship, they were accosted by some form of mechanical humanoid which attempted to steal some of their gathered components, until Ganthet's electrified fist finally connected, damaging it enough that it withdrew.

- Intent on getting the inventor's attention, Piper began throwing his equipment around the work room - causing him much confusion as to what was happening.  She was finally able to get his attention and explain her situation by writing on some nearby schematics.  The inventor - whose name was Olim - told her that their best bet for reversing her condition would be to speak with the priests at the Embassy of Truth...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: Urban Jungle pt. II

Thursday October 26, 2017 at 8:15pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh continued their push into the city, destroying a weapons factory, locating a power station, and pushing back the mounting resistance.  They destroyed one tank and crippled the harassing Jenner, which fled the field.  A Dervish and Grasshopper arrived in the sector causing them to regroup, but a lucky shot blew off the advancing Hatchetman's leg, further securing their advantage.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Uncontrolled Interface

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet continued their exploration of the crashed vessel, eventually finding a shaft-like structure they believed to be part of the craft's power generator.  They were beginning to harvest some components from the structure when it suddenly activated, sending a blue energy pulse down the tube, accompanied by some form of energy being that complicated their escape.

- Naran and Nimerun, having climbed back out of the hole where they'd activated the device, watched the bright blue beam firing up into the sky.  As they were about to return to the old woman's cave, they heard a distant sound and noted another beam firing up into the sky a great distance away.  Then a third.  More sounds followed.  When they returned to the old woman, she seemed to have all but forgotten the errand on which she'd sent them, though she was glad to hear they were successful.  Their conversation was interrupted by a great roar, and Naran decided to go check on Helios...

- Helios and the girl made their way to the dormant "leviathan" with instructions on how to put it back to "sleep" or possibly keep it from waking.  As Helios climbed up onto the creature toward its head, the girl began singing a strange, unnatural "song" and aggressive plants immediately began erupting from the cracks in the creature's hide.  Helios arrived at a massive, opening eye and jammed the injector device into it.  The girl began shrieking as the enormous creature stirred to life, partially lifting itself from the swamp.  The dazed creature flailed after them for a few moments before the old woman's concoction did its work and the beast collapsed back into the water, once more unconscious.  By this time, Naran had arrived and was already pulling the incoherent girl to saftey.  The three of them returned to the village.

- Piper was still with the Angulan Knight and the priest when a man called Quince arrived.  The Knight's patience barely tolerated the man, but ultimately they came to an agreement: she would be permitted entrance to the city in exchange for pursuing a man wanted for the murder of a local noble.  Piper, still seemingly invisible and intangible, followed them into the crowded city, but decided to go her own way once inside.  While heading further in, she happened by a tall, misshapen tower when some sort of "incident" happened inside causing thick, blue smoke to issue from all visible windows.  A man appeared at the door, coughing, and was quickly accosted by two guardsmen who seemed to chastise of threaten him.  The guards left, but before the man withdrew, he made brief eye contact with her.  Piper decided to follow him inside - moving through the door in her immaterial state.  Finding him working on some device at the top of the building, she attempted to get his attention.  He seemed to be able to see (if not hear) her - that is, until he removed his goggles...

- +2xp

Appalachian Renaissance Faire 2017

Saturday October 14, 2017 at 10:40pm renaissance festivals Comments (1) »
 Lords of Chivalry joust - Appalachian Renaissance Faire 2017
Lords of Chivalry joust - Appalachian Renaissance Faire 2017

We spent most of the day at the First Annual Appalachian Renaissance Festival in Piney Flats.  It was fairly small, but a great start - and the Lords of Chivalry put on an enjoyable show, as always.  We met some friends there, looked at the booths, watched a couple of shows, saw the joust, and Hannah got to shoot a bow.  She and Micah had a good time as well.  We'll probably be back next year.

Edit: Posted a bunch of photos from our time at the event here. Lords of Chivalry actually asked if they could share some on their page, which was cool.

~PS

Aralakh Company: Urban Jungle pt. I

Thursday October 12, 2017 at 8:45pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- As they made planetfall, Aralakh was briefed on their objective: they would be entering a sector of an urban industrial area looking for targets.  Any supply depots were to be held until they could be cleaned out.  Production, research, and repair facilities were to be destroyed to cripple the Capellan war effort in this region.  Resistance was expected to be light to moderate; mech forces were known to be on-planet, but probably not in large numbers.  As they approached the edge of the city, engagements had already begun elsewhere.  Thus far, resistance was a bit more than anticipated, but not problematically so.  They were also warned of incoming contacts to their position, and that guerrilla forces had been observed.

- In their initial advance, Aralakh located a factory and a munitions depot, destroyed a 20-ton Stinger and a building concealing a laser weapon, and maimed a retreating tank.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Sating the Beast

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet continued deeper into the wreck they were exploring, coming upon a processing bank of some kind.  While scavenging for parts, the scattered debris began assembling itself into towering construct which assualted them.  A purplish, tentacled creature then approached them, finally convincing Ronin to take a bite from its bread-like outer flesh.  Consuming this part of the creature seemed to sate it in some way, but Ronin the last hour or so of his memory replaced by a scene of burning wreckage.

- As the caravan awaited inspection outside the city, Piper witnessed an heated exchange between the town guard and a well-armored woman who'd flown up to the city on a large, reptilian creature.  The Xi-drake seemed able to see Piper, and made some movement toward her as if to investigate until the disagreement at the gate became physical.  An Aeon Priest arrived on the scene and had some success diffusing the situation.  The caravan was permitted entry, but Piper decided to stay and listen to the conversation between the priest and the Angulan knight.  Apparently, she had come from Dynafel in search of a varjellan fugitive.

- Naran proceeded through the village after the spick whom she'd been sent to assist by the old woman.  The two of them dove into a large circular pool and made for a metal artifact protruding from its center - apparently the source of the painful pulses that were emanating through the settlement.  After some doing, the two were able to stop the pulses by more fully activating the device, which was now firing a bright blue beam up into the sky.

- Helios, meanwhile, took a small boat out of the village to the south and was gathering red flowers for the old woman when he noted some bubbles in the water moving in his direction.  As he was rowing himself back to the village, a massive, plant-like creature erupted from the water and began flailing about.  The creature made his escape difficult, but he ultimately returned with the needed blooms.  The woman mixed into the concoction she was making, loaded it into a strange, gun-like device, which she handed to Helios - sending him and a strange girl into the swamp to the south, telling him they must put the "Leviathan" back to sleep...

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Nest of Vipers

Friday September 29, 2017 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh met up with the so-called "Capellan Insurgency" holding their crew members hostage.  The situation clearly being under their foes control, the company decided to go through with paying the ransom after ensuring their crew would be returned and they could all walk away.

- After resolving that situation, the various merc companies being employed by the FWLM forces were briefed on their mission: they would be lifted to the Yunnah system where they would be looking to destroy newly-developed research and repair facilities on a backwater world 2 jumps into Capellan space.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Unexpected Turns

Tuesday September 26, 2017 at 8:00pm numenera, mysts of the ninth world, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios continued south along the waterway, eventually arriving in Quei after a brief encounter with some gate-keeping automatons in the canyon.  The town occupied a series of docks and platforms suspended over a swamp.  The townsfolk were less than helpful, but the two eventually found their way to The River's cave, where she immediately set them to work on some seemingly-urgent task with no explanation.

- Ronin and Ganthet rested, further discussed their next action, and spoke with Vlorrex.  They decided their best bet was the power core they'd stashed outside of Urnmoll, and if Vlorrex could cobble together some form of null-gravity cypher to make transportation easier, they could probably managed to get it out of town.  Vlorrex then sent them out into the wreck to scavenge for parts where they came upon some sort of lab containing large tanks of reddish liquid and a mass of malfunctioning, mechanical manipulator arms.

- Piper survived the explosion but found that she had somehow become invisible and insubstantial.  No one was able to hear or see her, and interacting with objects had become difficult.  The caravan reassembled after the ordeal, made camp, and spent a considerable about of time scavenging the remains of the beast and the Hearth before setting out early the following morning.  Piper decided to continue on with the caravan and, after about another day an a half, they all arrived at the gates of Rarmon.

- +1xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Opening Doors

Tuesday September 19, 2017 at 8:00pm numenera, mysts of the ninth world, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios spoke with their otter-man friend again as they rested in preparationg to dive into the 'forbidden waters' in search of a way to access a starship they'd been told of by The Sisters.  He showed them a book he'd taken from a fallen Yefort raider - one that contained a black view-panel like Helios' "broken" volume.  He suggested they go to Quei and talk to "The River".

- Ronin and Ganthet explored the vault-lined hallway connected to the cargo hold of the small crafted they'd found within the wrecked carrier.  Among other things, they found a small by exceedingly heavy coin, a jacket and some wood and metal staves, and a strange rectangular book containing a viewport overlooking a rock-lined pool in a redwood forest.

- Lengthy discussions on next moves insued.

- +2xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Upheaval

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Agan emerged from the crowd around Naran and Helios, claiming they had brought ruin to the village and accusing Eufren of aiding in the destruction.  When it became apparent public opinion was going south and Agan and his henchment wished to do them harm, Helios pried up some floorboards inside the central ruin and the two escaped by diving into the waters beneath and swimming out.  At Helios' direction, they made for the woodlands containing the otter-man's home.

- While Ronin and Vlorrex attempted to activate the consoles to reconstruct the nejavin's body, Ganthet took a look around in the surrounding chambers, and found they were directly above a massive bay containing some sort of space-faring craft.  When Ronin engaged the final switch to activate the equipment, a short set off a power surge in the craft accompanied by a dramatic shift, which pitched the vessel downward a further 20 degrees.  Making their way to the craft bay once the floors stilled and the nejavin's head was once again reunited with its body, the trio made their way into the ship they had found within the ruin.  It contained a control room in near-perfect condition, obviously-nonhuman crew quarters, some unusually empty pods, and a large hold with a loading door open to a large hall lined with vaults...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: In The Red

Friday September 1, 2017 at 9:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- As the Centurion joined them, the company took a quick look at the destoyed tanks.  Finding nothing salvageable, they decided to withdraw and chalk up the win instead of pressing their luck by assaulting the compound in the mountains above.

- Short on funds, the company sent a priority message to their next prospective employer, a FWLM division, saying that if they would spot them the c-bills, they could take it out of their paycheck.  After some brief negotiation, they agreed.

- Aralakh arrived at a military base on the world of Ohrensen some weeks later.  They were advised to stay on the base as the city outside was known to have some problematic criminal elements.  Their ship's crew, however, wanted to take the leave while they could get it, and convinced them to go into town.  

- The evening went well for most of them, but a few disappeared as the night wore on - only reappearing later in hostage photos of the so-called "Capellan Insurgency", delivered to the base with a demand for ransom.  The irate sergeant told the company to "handle this" or their contract would be terminated.

- Meanwhile, Rip arrived at Galatea and met with Magistrate Brandt about the dispensation of liquid assets from the defunct Buller company.  While not a negotiator by nature, Rip managed to dig up a few pieces of info that helped his cause, and ultimately left the meetings 1.75 million c-bills richer.

Mysts of the Ninth World: It Can Take You There

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet followed the nejavin's head to the wrecked craft wedged into giant crack where the mountain had split open.  They navigated its interior until they found the place where the creature's body had been trapped.  On the way, they encountered a colony of mouse-like creatures which seemed to take some interest in them - until they reached a room with strange puddle of a viscous, acrid substance and some rotting, tentacle-like appendages protruding from it.  They glitterbombed the room with a detonation Ganthet had been carrying and hurried through.  When they reached their destination, they found the nejavin's body separated into several pieces and suspended in the air, but apparently functioning as though it were still whole.

- Naran and Helios met with The Sisters who told them of a craft in planetary orbit that might be able to return them to their homeworld - and also that a means to reach it might be found in the "forbidden waters" of the valley outside the village.  The two were then presented with a small, translucent cube and told that it would be necessary if they wished to use the spacecraft, but when Naran took the device, the Sisters vanished and their chamber transformed from the white stone building it had been to a plain, sandstone ruin that more closely resembled the rest of the village.  When they emerged, they found Eufren wide-eyed and demanding to know what they had done...

- Piper and one of the hunters attempted to destroy the rampaging beast with a cannon-like numenera device the caravan had been carrying, but it malfunctioned after discharging only twice, though that was sufficient to attract the creature's attention, and it smashed into the wagon - splintering the vehicle and sending the device flying.  Seeing their one method of injuring the creature lost, the hunter retreated, but Piper had another idea.  Short-circuiting the damaged artifact and bypassing its power regulators, she caused it begin building up a catastrophic charge.  With the help of some others nearby, she loaded it onto a wagon and shoved the unstable device toward the monster as the others fled.  The resulting explosion was more powerful than she had anticipated, however, and ripped through the beast, the landscape, and the remainder of the camp before she had time to react...

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Glory Reclaimed

Saturday August 26, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- After a couple of months of rests and repairs, the group sends Rip to Galatea to pursue his share of the defunct Buller Company's liquid assets.  Needing to replace their lost unit, the company decides to pursue Jyun's suggestion of travelling to Phact where he happened to know of a Centurion posted just for show.

- On arriving in-system, the plan was to use a small mech force to draw out the compound's conventional defense forces while Jyun and a small contingent approached stealthily on foot to climb into and steal the mech.

- The tank forces Aralakh's Panther and Assassin encountered were more competent than expected, and they took some significant damage before they could adjust their tactics.

- On visual, Jyun was surprised to find someone preparing to take the Centurion down to engage in the ongoing battle - and moreso that he was speaking to the pilot of the Whitworth standing across from it.  Knowing that these pilots would not only keep them from acquiring the Centurion according to their plan but would also be seriously bad news for the battle raging below, Jyun and his companions opened-fire on them.

- After quickly felling the pilots with some fortunate shots, Jyun ran for the Centurion, activated, and escaped with it - though not before losing an arm and his heavy weapon to AC/10 fire from the compound's turrets.

- By the time he met up with his companions' units below, the Panther and Assassin had gained ground and the tanks had withdrawn.  Though they took some pretty significant damage, the mission was overall a solid success - their first in some time.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Raids and Respite

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios helped defend the village of Mekel against the raiders and their presence now seems to be generally accepted by most of the settlement.  Eufren suggested that they speak to The Sisters, who they're told are leaders of the community.

- Ronin and Ganthet managed to force the murden to retreat further up and in to the nest.  While Ganthet watched for a coming ambush, Ronin freed the skull-like creature who told them of the ruined craft further up into the mountains which the murden had been scavenging.

- The caravan Piper was accompanying arrived at a waypoint with a large crystal that radiated significant heat.  As camp setup was completing, she left the site with a few scouts who found a small caffa swarm and decided to go hunt for goldgleam.  As they were heading back, however, they became aware of a huge creature terrorizing the encampment...

- +1xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Not From Around Here

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin and Ganthet set off to find the murden.  The hike up into the mountains was arduous, but eventually lead them to a small plateau tucked into the cliffs where they found dozens of rough columns of various diameters but all about 75 feet tall.  Between the columns were stretched various hides and insect carapaces, forming a sort of multi-leveled nest.  They approached to attempt to speak with the abhumans, but were ultimately ambushed when they entered the area.

- Piper had some time to rest and was eventually retrieved by a humanoid that had sets of tentacles in place of arms.  He lead her from the room...and that was the last thing she remembers of that place.  The next thing she recalls is being awakened by a group of travellers atop a column-like structure somewhere in the south of the Pytharon Empire - a name she happens to recognize as being a kingdom in the Steadfast, which lies across the Black Riage and hundreds of miles from her home.

- Helios attempted to communicate with the otter-man who had invited him in, but didn't have much luck.  The creature's responses were unintelligible and somewhat odd.  Eventually he fell asleep, only to awaken a short time later with the otter-man standing over him.  He then began asking Helios questions, apparently in The Truth(?), about where he came from and what he would do.  When Helios told him he was trying to find his friend and return to their home planet, the creature took him to Mekel - which was under attack.

- Naran spoke for some time to Eufren and Motof about the books, the planet they're on, and the surrounding area, before an alarm from somewhere in the village startled her hosts.  Racing outside, they found much of the settlement already in flames as a raiding party from the nearby, sinking village of Yefort descended upon the town...

- +2xp

Corruption Arcana: Ghosts in the Wood

Saturday August 12, 2017 at 2:00pm fate core, corruption arcana, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Artwork © Jason Coates and Evil Hat Productions
Artwork © Jason Coates and Evil Hat Productions

This is a new game we put together for my brother-in-law Michael.  He wants to run a Fate game himself, but is having a difficult time getting people together.  Also, while he's read the book, he wanted to see how it plays out at the table.

Game

We had already decided on a "traditional" fantasy genre, but we set up the remaining game aspects collaboratively as suggested by the Fate Core rulebook.  What we came up with was a high fantasy setting, based on a lost civilzation, where magic is being corrupted and the PCs need to find out why - or at least how and stop it.

Characters

[Michael] Jace - Soldier without a Kingdom

[Jese] Cassia - Quick-witted Huntress

[Sheri] Talia - Itinerant Historian

[Tony] Cooper - Acquisitions Expert for the Second Dawn

Session

The group heard rumors of a cult that was speeding the corruption of magic in the world - and that they might be based in the ruin of a small keep in a forest some distance to the south.  Upon arriving, they were met by a group of goblins fleeing from an angry ghost.  Cassia was able to catch one of them and get from it that they were working for a sorceror, mining gold beneath the keep.  Goblins inside the structure itself were more hostile than terrified, however, and the group had to fight two of them off before they could proceed deeper into the ruin...

Aralakh Company: Brothers In Arms

Thursday August 10, 2017 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- While the two stranded 'mechs managed to escaped their pursuers and made for the designated LZ, Aralakh's desperate bid to clear the zone for the battered dropship took a turn for the worse.  As damage mounted, Steiner attempted to intimidate the opposing units into surrunder, but they knew they had the upper hand.  Riley's Trebuchet sustained critical damage to the reactor core - which exploded catastrophically - and Jyun's Panther took some unfortunate leg hits which all but remove it from the field.  Fortunately, the forced-retreat of one of the Clints and the massive damage the enemy Archer had taken were enough for the opposing force to reconsider the assault and withdraw.

- Aftermath: Riley's Trebuchet was a total loss, though Riley herself was able to survive the incident (albiet in poor spirits).  Steiner is having some growing doubts about the viability of the merc company long-term.  That said, the beneficiaries of their rescue have brought a Union dropship to Aralakh, as well as a Crusader and an Assassin with their pilots and techs.  In light of this, the company has decided to release the Leopard from their service on good terms.  They are now going to spend some time resting and repairing before taking on a new contract.

Mysts of the Ninth World: So Many Questions

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Through some cleverness and good fortune, Ronin was able disuade Seluxii from pushing them out of the village of Urnmoll.  The group of them proceeded to have a conversation about recent events and the party's goals (hopefully without giving too much away).  The key points discussed were the murden that raided the village and (likely unintentionally) summoned the craft that took Piper, and a man said to be the foremost expert on power supplys residing in the steadfast.  After a rest, Ronin and Ganthet decided to go after the murden in hopes that they can learn something of what happened to their friend.

- Unable to find a suitably hidden location in the floating village, Helios decided to swim to a wooded shore to the north.  There he found an otter-like humanoid who invited(?) him into its dwelling for food and rest.

- Naran used her cutting light to stab at the octopoidal creature pursuing them while she and the boy escaped the remaining distance to the surface - which turned out to be under some section of the floating settlement.  He led her to a building where another man was apparently waiting for them.  The man gave Naran some sort of potion that rendered her unconscious, but when she awoke, she found she could speak to and understand them.  She was in a village called Mekel, and the man's name was Eufren.  He seemed very interested in the fact that she was an outsider and where she came from.  He told her that their ancestors had once traveled between worlds very easily, but he didn't know how they had done it.  Naran's stories about the books that had transported her and her friend fascinated him.

- Piper decided to spend some time attempting to repair her burned-out headband artifact while waiting to see what would happen next.  After several hours, she was interrupted and lead (apparently) out of the craft she was in and into some other structure.  There, she was taken to a massive chamber where several entities locked deep within some sort of crystal asked her a myriad of questions about herself and her world.  Her responses were clever and informative, and so The Seven (as they called themselves) took a particular interest in her.  After some time, they suggested that they would speak more, but that she and they required rest...

- +4xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Cages and Snares

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Multiple drones and automatons (or possibly, armored entities) emerged from the cylindrical craft and began a sort of harvest of the surrounding village.  Using stunning and tranquilizing weaponry, they subdued Piper and Ganthet, though only the former was actually taken.

- Helios made a quick exit from the chamber where the robotic entity was tending to the thirsty machine.  He hadn't made it very far when he heard the sounds of the reptilian cats pursuing him.  Upon reaching the pool where he'd entered, he once again encountered a strange, hovering being with heavy robes and one large, mechanical eye.  It asked several questions of him before sinking back into the pool.

- Naran resisted the octopoidal creature's pushing for her to use the linking book it was presenting to her, and after it left in frustration, attempted to swim to freedom.  The distance and pressure of the water soon proved too much, however.  Fortunately, she found another "pocket" of air near the point where panic was starting to set in, and managed to reach it before blacking out.

- Aboard the craft, Piper suddenly found herself in her room back in Arable - or, at least, a very close approximation.  The door and window were impassible and everything felt slightly "off".  She was missing any functioning cyphers or artifacts that appeared technological, but otherwise seemed unharmed.

- Helios leapt into the pool after the his questioner, and began swimming "down" and away from the cat likely still pursuing him.  It was a long, hard swim back to the surface, but he somehow was able to succeed.  He happened to notice a boat lurking in the shadows some distance from him before swimming for the village.

- As she recovered Naran was briefly visited by a boy in some sort of swimming gear.  They had a brief "conversation" in which little was communicated (due to the language barrier) before he left again.  A couple of hours later he returned, however, this time with an additional breathing apparatus.  As the two of them made the long swim for the surface, the octopoidal creature found them...

- Having taken Piper, the cylindrical craft lifted slightly before de-materializing.  As the panic in the village began to calm and Ganthet regained consciousness, Seluxxi approached he and Ronin, demanding they leave the village - declaring to those around her that these outsiders would not help their village as some had hoped, and that they cared only for what they could take...

- +3xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Where To Go From Here

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Helios became disoriented in his dive and surfaced, but found himself in a dark cave. Using an electricity artifact for light, he found his way into a chamber where some sort of robotic automaton was apparently "feeding" human blood to a massive machine.  He spoke for a while with the robot .

- Naran chose not to struggle against the man who was threatening her, and instead watched the faces of the growing crowd he was addressing - their expressions seemed to vary between fear, anger, and uncertainy.  As his address resolved, someone else grabbed her and put something over her face.  She had the vague sensation of splashing into water before she lost consciousness.  She later awoke in some sort of air pocket within a small room in a ruined building surrounded by water.  After some time, she was visited by a large octopus-like creature that produced another of the strange books - this one overlooking golden spires piercing upward above a sea of clouds - offering her a means of escape for a vague "price".

- Piper and Ganthet spoke some more with Seluxii, though her suspicion continued to increase.  A few of the townspeople seemed convinced that these outsiders might be able to help their dying village and, on their behalf, Seluxii somewhat-disingenuously asked them if this was so.

- Ronin finally arrived in the village and was greeted with obvious fear by the villagers - parly due to recent events, and partly due to his now-more-monstrous visage.  The presence in his mind urged him to react violently, but he fought to refrain.  Ronin was able to calm the villagers somewhat and ultimately rejoined his companions - who were shocked to see him alive, and moreso at his somewhat-disturbing change of appearance.

- It was at this moment that a massive, cylindrical craft appeared in the sky above the village projecting a column of bright blue light downward into the streets.  Several of the villagers - ones with orange tags like the one on Piper's arm - seemed to think heading toward this light would be a good idea...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: And Into The Fire

Thursday June 22, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Having successfully captured assets for NAR, Aralakh was finally released on so-so terms.  Their most pressing concern was treating Drevan's injuries, so they took their chances staying in-system and going to the hospital.  The company repaired what they could, but were short on supplies.

- A few months later, they jumped back into Free Worlds space to a more populous planet where they were hoping to repair and resupply.  On their way in-system, however, they picked up a distress call from a merc dropship in orbit around one of the system's planet's moons.  

- In exchange for the distressed company's remaining liquid assets, Aralakh agreed to get the company's surviving units out of trouble on the planet.  They made a few low-passes in the target area before directing the survivors to a promising LZ northwest of their position.

- While the survivors continued to fight off the pursuit mechs that had been hunting them for the past few days, Aralakh attempted to clear the landing site - which, unfortunately, contained a hostile presence formidable in the face of Aralakh's severely-damaged condition...

The Dark Spiral: Follow Your Dreams

 Little Fears artwork © Jason Blair & CaiquePituba
Little Fears artwork © Jason Blair & CaiquePituba

- Dee Dee, Lexi, Sheri, Mandy (and her little brother Mace) made a new friend on their neighborhood playground - a boy about their age who was new in their part of town.  

- While playing tag, they realized too late that this boy didn't know something: you do NOT go down the old, metal, spiral slide on the edge of the playground unless someone is waiting for you at the bottom - if you do, you don't come out.  The slide takes you to the Bogeyman's dungeon - where you stay until he eats you.

- As the new kid dove into the slide while running from Mace, they saw dozens of gnarled claws reach out and snatch him out of this reality.

- Mandy's mother took the children back to her house for their sleepover, but something dark was following them, and stephen seemed to be calling to them from wherever he was taken.  Shadows of goblins harassed and grabbed at them in the basement, and the girls ended up huddled in Mandy's room - slowly falling asleep.

- They found themselves next in a shared dream, at the base of the slide, before a yawning maw of a hole with a rickety wooden stairway.  From its depths, they heard a muffled cry and a malicious laugh...

Aralakh Company: Character Creation II

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

Adam is joining our game, and we spent this evening making two PCs for him to add to Tim's company: an experienced former House Regular who pilots a 45-ton Assassin, and a newbie Noble who has a 65-ton Crusader.

These characters will a fragment of a decimated merc unit looking to join up with someone else - and Aralakh will be the convenient choice.  They will be bringing their 'mechs as well as a beat-up Union dropship into the company's assets.

Aralakh Company: Storming the Castle

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Drevan's strike team invaded the dropship.  They sustained some casualties, but were ultimately successful in capturing the ship, as well as the damaged Hatchetman in contained, and the two incapacitated Jenners outside - making for a pretty respectable salvage haul.

Continued playtesting on personal scale combat this session.  How I ran the session aside, the system behaved well and played out the way I would want.  That said, it's a little bit too clunky and I think I'm going to make a few more tweaks to it.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Perilous Waters

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper and Ganthet found themselves amidst a murden raid on the village of Urnmoll, also involving a large, crab-like, mechanical contraption smashing its way through the village.  The murden were eventually driven off, and the robot, after sustaining some damage, folded itself into a small sphere.  The two considered making a break out of town, but decided to stay to see what they could learn.

- Ronin found his way out of the cave he and his friends had originally entered and decided to continue through the mountains toward the village.  On his way, he began to perceive a beckoning presence which led him to a small, glowing cave.  Upon seeing his reflection in a pool, he became aware that he was no longer alone in his head.

- Helios and Naran fought with the aquatic predators, attempting to drive them off.  Naran found her way into one of the boats and was brought back to the town built on the ruins protruding from the lake, but Helios had dived back into the water in an attempt to find one of the missing villagers.  About the time Naran realized Helios had not come back, she was grabbed from behind - and found a knife at her throat...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: Holding the Line

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- NAR continued the defense of their compound, eventually destroying 3 out of 4 of the attacking units - unfortunately causing two of them to catastrophically explode, leaving no usable salvage for the Resistance.  Hopefully Aralakh's attempts to capture the attackers' drop ship produces a more tangible gain...

Adam continued this encounter with us, and will likely be joining this game on an ongoing basis.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Making Waves

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin awoke, alive but debilitated and surrounded by silver insectoid creatures.  Over the next day or so, he made his way back out of the ruin, slowly recovering strength.  During this time, he noticed that patches of his skin all over his body had been replaced by red scales.

- Ganthet spoke with the apparent leader of the village of Urnmoll, a woman Seluxii.  Her suspicion of his activities in the region seemed to increase as he answered her questions with partial-truths.

- Piper spoke with the old woman for a while, learning that the town's water-producing artifact had recently ceased functioning, and that many in town were worried.

- Naran and Helios toppled from their perch above the rushing river when the bird-man from the previous world followed them through into this one, sending all three of them into the river and over a tremendous waterfall.

- Ronin reached the cave in which the group took shelter from the glass storm, and found himself attacked by a black puddle - apparently the remnants of the tentacled creature that had previously harassed them.

- The relative peace of Urnmoll was suddenly disturbed by shouts, screams, and mechanical pounding and whirring coming from one corner.  Piper was ambushed by some form of avian humanoid, and Seluxii left Ganthet apparently trapped in a room with a vanishing doorway.

- Naran and Helios found what appeared to be a fishing town built on partiall-submerged ruins in the valley into which they'd been deposited.  As they swam for the approaching boats, they were attacked by some sort of aquatic reptile...

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Attack on the Resistance

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Using assets "borrowed" from Aralakh, NAR attempts to fight off the mercenary lance sent to destroy them while Aralakh furthers its efforts to capture the merc's Union.  The Resistance managed to take out the crippled mercenary Clint and the enemy Whitworth has virtually no armor remaining, but Aralakh's Warhammer is severely battered and the Trebuchet is now out of missles...

Adam joined us for this session, so we decided to play out the latter half of the previously "off-camera" engagement of mercs vs. NAR in order to introduce him to the defining mech combat aspect of our Battletech campaign.  After this encounter resolves, we will return to Aralakh's attempts to capture the dropship, which have now moved into the personal-scale boarding of the vessel.

There Is Something Fundamental I Misunderstand About Photo Editors

Tuesday May 16, 2017 at 8:19am photography, post-processing, problems Comments (0) »
 Another screenshot; another What You See Is Not What You Get; another serious frustration.
Another screenshot; another What You See Is Not What You Get; another serious frustration.

Or "Why Do All Photo Editors Suck?"

Similar to a previous post, the above is a screenshot showing a RAW preview and an exported JPG of inferior quality - only this time, it's in Adobe Lightroom.

Isn't the point of a photo editor to tweak photos to the point that they're "perfect"?  If what I'm seeing in the editor is not what I'm going to actually get, the thing is utterly useless.

So, apologies to Canon, I guess - it's not DPP necessarily, it's probably everything.

Question: Why is it so impossible to simply get a JPG that looks identical to a RAW preview.

If it's not impossible, what hoops do I have to jump through (and, just as importantly, why)?

~PS

Mysts of the Ninth World: New Domains

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios continued fractured communication with the birdman, who seemed intent upon fixing some part of the inner workings of the tower and/or island, and reacted negatively toward any action they took that might even superficially damage it.  Deciding there was nothing remaining for them in that place, they made their way back to the book Naran had previously found, using its viewport to travel to the world on the other side.

- Ganthet and Piper made their way through the ruin to the lowest exit they could find.  Waiting till dark, they lowered the power core before descending themselves.  Concerned over what the townfolk might say if they were found with the artifact, the two hid it in a cleft of rock nearby.  As they approached the only way out of the rocky depression, Ganthet was spotted by the two guardsmen and taken down to the village - Piper followed along behind.

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Forced Entry

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh neutralized the mech defenses of the merc dropship and blew open one of the loading doors.  The lance then called in their strike team, led by the temporarily dispossessed Drevan, who proceeded to board the vessel for capture.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Into the Depths

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- After Naran and Helios finished their rest, Helios suggested they investigate the bubbling pool which he found to be breathable while Naran did not.  While Naran spent some more time investigating the machinery in the hollow of the island, Helios ventured down into the water-filled chambers below where he found what appeared to be a city populated by enormous frog-people.  He also met up with the bird-man they'd first encountered, who returned to the chamber with him.

- Ronin, Ganthet, and Piper, meanwhile, attempted to cross the gravity-less chasm with their power-core while avoiding harassment and attack by the vanishing and re-appearing serpent.  Unfortunately, their counter-attacks eventually agitated the creature to the point that it disrupted the null gravity field, sending objects plummeting into the chasm.  Noticing the signs, Ronin managed to push Piper and the power core to the relative safety of the far wall, but in so doing failed to reach it himself - and fell into the darkness below...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: Union Jacking

Thursday April 27, 2017 at 9:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- As NAR began engaging the mercenary force sent to take them out, Aralakh's partial lance emerged from their concealed location, making their way to the merc's LZ in an attempt to capture their Union-class dropship...

Battletech: It's Hard To Be a Mechwarrior

Wednesday April 26, 2017 at 12:14pm gaming, battletech Comments (0) »
Battletech: It's Hard To Be a Mechwarrior Image

Some barriers to break down.

Battletech has a pretty significant "barrier to entry".  This fact is pretty well-known amongst gamers.  The rules of the tabletop game - even if you don't get into some of the advanced/optional stuff - are crunchy and fairly complicated at first blush.  There's like 3 different steps to do anything.  Also, the fiction and history of the setting (which is awesome) is pretty vast and somewhat convoluted.  And there's just so much stuff out there pertaining to Battletech, that it can be intimidating to anyone wanting to pick it up (I know, I was there a couple years ago) - I mean, where do you start?  But there is another aspect to this barrier that I hadn't previously considered.

First time in the cockpit.

Tim and I introduced Rucht & Tony to this wonderful world of giant robots last night.  It was our usual night to play Rucht's D&D 5e game (which is fantastic, by the way - we're a party of halflings!), but a few people had to cancel and we didn't reach critical mass for the game to occur, so I brought my Battletech stuff and we decided to blow up some stuff.

I set up a map with my spiffy hex terrain, some of my best painted units (color coded by teams), and got out the sheets, dice, etc.  I have a pretty solid setup, I think.  We played 2-on-2: Tony and I against Tim and Rucht.  A Catapult, Enforcer, Rifleman, and Dervish, respectively.  I think our side had a slight edge in battlefield value, but I've found balancing lances in Battletech to be really, really difficult, so I don't usually agonize over getting it perfect, and I didn't choose the sides.

Rucht likes minis games and, I think, enjoyed this one about as well as any other.  He would probably play it again on occasion, but didn't seem super enthusiastic.  Tony tends to like games that are a bit more straight-forward.  He really liked kicking Tim's Rifleman in the shins of course, but I think he would have prefered a bit less computation in order to do so.  He said he had a good time with it, but wasn't something he'd be interested in as an ongoing thing.  We only got through about half of the engagement, but we all had fun and I think it was a decent intro.

After the game, Tim and I were talking about how it went.  Tim is, so far, the one person I've introduced to this game who is really into.  He and I have been doing a kind of single-player strategic-level merc campaign - Aralakh Company - using some companion rules I made to handle non-mech-combat stuff.  We're about 15 sessions in, and we've been absolutely LOVING it.  We got to talking about why the game didn't seem quite as fun to our friends as we think it is.

And then, we remembered.

Before you walk, you have to crawl.  Really, really slowly.  Over gravel.

It could simply be that the game is just not their thing, but I think there's a little more to it than that.  

Here's the thing we decided about Battletech: You have to like some crunch in a combat system for sure, and you have to have some guidance as to where to start (thanks to Dan, Chris, and Fear the Boot, by the way), but you ALSO have to have a fair degree of patience.  You just have to really like the idea of Battletech in order to get far enough into the game to fall in love with it.  

Many games become increasingly fun to play as you get to know the rules, but Battletech takes this to a certain extreme.  Not only does the game not reach "peak fun" until you know it well enough that the phases and calculations come somewhat naturally and chart-referencing is an "only some of the time" event, but learning it that well takes a while, and the game can be almost oppressive before you get to that point.  I totally get how many people would feel that the slog just isn't worth it when there are so many other games out there that are a bit easier and more fun up front.

Tim and I both agreed that when we first started playing, the games were slow and clunky and not nearly as much fun (even if we were playing with people who knew the rules pretty well), but we both loved the concepts around the game so much that we put up with the less-than-smooth gameplay long enough to get to the point where we knew it well enough to enjoy it as much as we do now.

Unfortunately, if you're not truly enamoured with the ideas from the start, you're probably not going to stick with this game long enough to really enjoy it.  If the game has a flaw, this is surely it.

~PS

Mysts of the Ninth World: Bugs in the System

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios investigated the top of the tower, where they found an hive of bugs averse to bright lights and some control panels that seemed designed to operate the tower's machinery.

- Piper, Ganthet, and Ronin escaped from several pursuing monstrous centipedes and found some time to rest.  Attempting to find their way back out of the ruin, they happened upon a vast chasm which seemed devoid of gravity - and also contained some form of ephemeral, shape-shifting serpent...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: Compound Raid

Friday April 21, 2017 at 9:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- NAR prompted Aralakh to go raid a Capellan noble's compound for much needed hardware and supplies.  The group was only able to send a few mostly-repaired light mechs as the others were still in bad shape, but their target was not believed to possess mech forces.  They engaged a trio of tanks, a pair of helicopers, and some turrets.  As they finished loading up their plunder, however, they were pressed by a pair of aerotech fighters and a pair of approaching mechs.  In the end, Aralalkh took significant damage but managed to escape with most of the desired equipment.

 

This session was the first to use my simplified Battletech vehicle rules mods.  Tim and I both thought it went very well. 

Mysts of the Ninth World: Grasping for Power

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Ronin, Piper, and Ganthet found their way up into a chamber containing what they believed to be the complex's power core - the device they had come to retrieve.  As they approached it, however, they found themselves confronted by a monstrous, transdimensional, crustacean-like entity guarding and feeding off the power source.

- After Naran's discovery of the portal book, she and Helios decided they should find their way to the top of the tower to try to reactivate the dormant machinery.  The managed to open the iris at the top of the underground chamber, granting them access to the tower once more.  What they did not notice, however, were the two bird-men lying in wait.  The ambush jolted them both with electricity, and caused Helios to fall back onto the platform at the top of the chamber, which began wrenching free of its supports due to the impact.

- The monstrous creature the group had found by the power core began attacking the intruders with its massive claws and spewing a burning, plasma-like substance from its dozen or so eyes.  The group used several artifacts and cyphers they'd acquired since entering the complex to fight back, shattering bits of its thick armor and occassionally punching through.  Ganthet decided to use the green detonation artifact Polious had given him, which caused a thick and animated forest to suddenly spring up in the area.  The aggressive plant growth slowed the creature down, but proved to be more dangerous to the adventurers - especially to Ronin who was moving amongst them - as the group had to contend both with the hostile plants and with the fires set by the crustacean's dripping red-hot plasma.

- While Helios attempted (with some difficulty) to climb back into the tower from the failing support, Naran did her best to fight off the bird-men, trading bright blasts of forceful light with the electrical arcs firing from the avian's energized spears.  After Helios managed to re-enter the tower and Naran had incinerated the last of their foes, they looked up at the large vine/tree structure and the crystals growing from it, suspecting that it could be used to gather energy from the world's hot suns if they could figure out how to reactivate it.

- Just as Ronin was stabbed by some sort of poisonous plant which rendered him unconscious, Ganthet's final shots against the monster managed to penetrate the armor under its head.  Shrieking, the beast collapsed to the ground, spewing plasma from its eyes - which in turn further ignited the plant matter beneath it.  

- Ganthet and Piper darted past the growing flames into the area beneath the power core.  Ganthet made some efforts to revive Ronin, but seemed only to make his fallen friend's condition worsen.  Acting quickly, Piper successfully connected a power regulator she had constructed to the conduits feeding the power core, and then began the delicate operation of detaching the core from the surrounding eqipment.  Unfortunately, the group didn't have time for "delicate".  Piper did what she could to prevent any instability due to the disconnect before slicing through the adjoining cables.  She held her breath for several moments before the dim blue glow returned and stabilized in the core's interior.

- +2xp

No Thank You Evil: Dead Center's Missing Flowers pt I

Sunday April 9, 2017 at 3:00pm no thank you evil, game session notes Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group entered Under The Bed and met Lady Von Snoot, an old ghost who asked for their help entering her home (the cemetery called Dead Center).  They also heard some strange, distant voices that turned out to be the mountains they were on asking for help finding their third twin.

- Upon arriving at the cemetery, the group found it to be the site of an ongoing investigation.  Inspector Grumbles told(?) them that all the flowers had been stolen from the graves (this had upset Ms Schnauser horribly).

- When they looked around, they found some paperclips, thumbtacks, bent stables, and a post-it note that read: "Bob - Bob bob bobob bob bobobobob bob bob. - Bob"  

- The inspector recognized this as the work of Bobgoblins.  He asked(?) them to go to the goblins' corporate HQ to talk to Big Wig and get the flowers back.

Aralakh Company: Allies and Enemies

Saturday April 8, 2017 at 9:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Then things turned ugly.  An LRM volley from Riley's Trebuchet destroyed the Hunchback completely, but Steiner's Blackjack was too close to avoid damage from the reactor explosion it triggered and it fell when it lost its gyro.  Aralakh then attempted to negotiate a mutual withdraw, but were unable to convince their attackers.  The Banshee's continued press on the damaged Trebuchet took down the smaller mech with a kick that obliterated one of its legs and then charged over to finally incapacitate the fallen Warhammer - which was still firing PPC blasts - with a kick to the head.

- Seeing little alternative, Aralakh surrendered.  It turns out that their attackers were self-described freedom-fighters attempting to liberate the planet and remove the nobles' predation on the world's resources at the expense of its atmosphere.  

- The New Andrin Resistance press-ganged Aralakh into their service - promising that if they helped the rebels kick the Capellan nobles off-world, they would return them their mechs and the two could part ways.

Aralakh Company: Knocking Down, Dragging Out

Saturday April 1, 2017 at 4:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- As the exchange continues, it becomes clear that neither side can keep this up for long - but neither side has a clear advantage either.  The battle has moved away from the Warhammer such that it has some difficulty engaging, and the Blackjack is greviously wounded.  On the other side, the Banshee is pretty beat up, but its toughness is keeping it at the top of the threat list.  The Hunchback now has only a small laser, but the relatively-untouched Wolfhound has started to have an impact on the fight.

Aralakh Company: Battered and Bruised

Thursday March 23, 2017 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- The company continued to trade blows with their assailants.  The Banshee's luck improved only briefly, and Aralakh's opponents may have been considering retreat before the Hunchback, its AC/20 now destroyed, got a lucky laser shot against the Warhammer's already badly-injured leg, taking it down.  The Cicada has already met a similar fate, and the Hunchback and Banshee both have significant injuries that have greatly reduced their damage output.  Unfortunately, Steiner's Blackjack isn't looking much better, Riley is only just starting to land some hits with her LRMs, and Jyun's injuries have made him less effective.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Further Up, Further In

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Naran and Helios attempted to communicate with the earnest-seeming bird-man, but were ultimately less than successful.  He did lead them to a hidden chamber full of devices he'd gathered but, apparently, had no particular knowledge of.  He left by way of a bubbling pool, and the two decided to get some rest.

- Ronin, Piper, and Ganthet continued into the ruin they'd found, soon encountering a vast area overgrown with blue plant growth.  The sweet smell of the plants seemed to affect the minds of the party, causing Piper and Ganthet to seek out and activate machinery with visible but indecipherable results.  They also encountered several giant centipede-like creatures.  

- The bird entities apparently gone, Naran and Helios spent some time exploring the interior of the island and its machinery, eventually finding that some of it seemed to "connect" to a 'portal book'.

- Attempting to outrun their insectoid pursuers, Ronin, Piper, and Ganthet ended up at the top of a large cylindrical vault, where they found another portal book, some arms and armor, and a room that simpily glowed for no obvious reason.  At the bottom of the chamber, they found a passage leading deeper into the complex from which they could hear a dull hum, as well as one final vault door smeared with some kind black, pitch-like substance...

- +2xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Guardians' Ire

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- After some brief discussion, it was decided that Helios would follow Naran into the book and the others would continue into the ruin to locate the power core.

- Naran and Helios found themselves on top of a small island about 400 feet above the surface of an unknown ocean.  Two suns blazed overhead, making it difficult to see through the brightness.  The island contained a tower full of machinery and a strange vine-like plant growing crystals.  As they investigated, they were attacked by some group of bird-people with spear-like weapons that projected arcs of electricity.  They fled up the tower, but found themselves trapped until another one of the bird-people "flew" them to a large cave-like entrance at the base of the island where they discovered it to be mostly hollow and full of ancient non-functioning machinery.

- Ganthet, Ronin, and Piper continued up into the ruin above the overgrown library.  As they made their way through its interior, they encountered some sort of automaton guarding a sealed doorway.  Apparently they triggered some condition in its programming, and the machine attacked.  The resulting battle battered, burned, and froze the three, but they were ultimately victorious.

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: Luck of the Dice

Thursday March 9, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh engaged in combat with their assailants.  Steiner in particular has been extremely fortunate that the Banshee's pilot is having a run of bad luck.  He was less fortunate with regards to the Hunchback's AC/20.  Riley has yet to prove herself, and Jyun is hurting enough from his near-death experience that it is severely hampering his performance.  Still, the group has given at least as good as they've gotten thus far...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Gaining Entry

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Discerning that the tunnel of ferns proceeded in the direction they were attempting to travel before the glass storm hit, and believing that the ferns themselves may indicate the presence of a ruin similar to the one at their home, the group decided to leave the aneen in the cave and follow it.

- The picked their way through the winding tunnel for almost 9 miles, encountering a few caverns (including a large one with a tree and clouds) and several other passages.  There was a faint, warm breeze blowing through the tunnel - all the tunnels proceeding southwest toward its source were overgrown with purple ferns whereas other passages were not.

- Having pursued these phenomena all the way to its source, the group found part of some kind of buried building, broken and overgrown with the purple ferns itself.  One of the chambers had a large hole in the corner of the ceiling, through which various wires and conduits hung loosely which opened into a set over chambers and corridors reminiscent of the "B Dome" they'd explored.  

The room they were in seemed to Piper to be some sort of library.  Beneath the ferns were shelves containing the remains of many strange, rectangular books.  She couldn't read them, but her ability to decipher suggested they described locations in great detail.  A few of those in the best shape had window-like screens on their first pages, showing a specific, unfamiliar location.  The glowing panels gave odd sensations when you touched them.  While attempting to discern some sort of use or a way to "activate" the one of the books, Naran placed her palm over the glowing panel and suddenly vanished.  Looking down at where the book fell, Ronin could see his friend standing in the scene depicted through the window...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: In the Crosshairs

Saturday March 4, 2017 at 5:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (2) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- A few weeks after the processing plant sabotage, a group calling itself the "New Andrid Resistance" attempted to assassinate a couple of the members of Aralakh company.  While the overall attempt failed, it was a miracle that Jyun survived.

- About two months later, the company gets an alert while on patrol: a lance of 'mechs is approaching the compound.  They load up and head out, facing a Wolfhound, a Cicada, a Hunchback, and a Banshee...

 

This was the first session to feature my Mechwarrior Basic rules for personal-scale combat.  It is very lethal (as I wanted it to), but it played very well.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Swallowed

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group ran south behind the herd of aneen, fighting their way through the fleeing beasts and the larval worms pursuing them.  When the adult worm caught up with them, Piper scarred it with a plasma cypher, but the monster killed one of their pack animals as they attempted to flee.  It was Ganthet's "liquid air" artifact that enabled them to finally escape.

- Once in the mountains, the group was beset by a violent storm of glass.  The group took shelter in a shallow cave, along with several dozen dog-sized beetles apparently native to the area.  During this time, Ganthet fell deeper into the cave, where he found an underground stream, a tentacled monster, and a tunnel lined with the same purple ferns that grow around their home of Arable.

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Sabotage

Thursday February 23, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh arrived on the mining planet and took up their garrison duty.

- One night about 5 months into the job, a few of the small security team Aralakh had subcontracted witnessed an odd exchange between one of the compound locals and some outsiders.  Following them, one of the men saw the outsiders give the local a large backpack.  The man then proceeded to his job in a refinery.  About 20 minutes later, alarms sounded and the place was evacuated.  While authorities were attempting to determine what had caused the alarm, there was a tremendous explosion and the building collapsed.

- The Baron who'd hired Aralakh was furious at the sabotage, but the company was able to maneuver around his accusations.

- With the help of the subcontracted team, Aralakh was able to track down and capture the saboteur, who had apparently been paid to place the explosives but knew little of his benefactors.

- Aralakh stepped up internal security in response to the incident.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Time and Place

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- After treating their wounded aneen as best they could, the group gathered the remainder of thier possessions and set out again.  The animal slowed their progress significantly, however, and it was after dark before they reached their destination: the on oasis on their route through the desert.

- As they approached, they noticed two things.  The first was a brilliantly-glowing, blue-purple, diamond-shaped object floating above the oasis.  The second was the fact that the oasis was occupied by several different groups of people.

- As they refreshed their animals and made their camp for the evening, the group spoke with several of the others there and learned that each of them had a wildly disparate understanding of the surrounding world - to the extent that Naran and Ronin suspected that perhaps the area occupied some confluence of time and/or reality.

- Just before dawn, the diamond-shaped object began to pulse and vibrate.  After a few minutes, the object collapsed in on itself - seeming to draw everyone and everything else occupying the oasis into itself before vanishing.

- Observing how much their wounded aneen had slowed their progress and believing speed to be essential, the group voted to use Helious' healing artifact on their injured animal.

- Packed up again, the group continued their westward journey for the next couple of days - approaching the gathering clouds near the looming black mountain range and fighting the oppressive heat.

- As they neared the foothills in the shadow of the jagged mountains of the Black Riage, they happened upon a sizable herd of wild aneen making its way north along the edge of the hills.  The clouds above were beginning to arc with purple lightening.  The group was still approaching, intending to pass the herd to the south, when an enourmous cragworm erupted from the earth ahead of them, bellowing its hunger...

- +3xp

A Brief Interlude

Thursday February 9, 2017 at 5:56pm sick, photography Comments (0) »
A Brief Interlude Image

Well, was gonna play some Battletech tonight, but instead, I decided to get sick.  Really enjoying the game I'm playing with Tim - pretty bummed not to get to continue it tonight.

Our Numenera campaign is going well also - might work on that some tonight since no 'mech 'splosions.  I've got a couple of new Numenera books (Into the Night and Into the Deep) on the way.  They were supposed to be delivered today, but got shipped to Colorado Springs by mistake.  Insult to injury.  Sick, no Battletech, no new gaming books.  Hopefully I can sleep tonight and feel better tomorrow.

In unrelated news, here's a picture I took of Hannah a week or so ago. 

~PS

Mysts of the Ninth World: Of Beasts

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group set out to the west, crossing the northwestern region of the Gathmund Scrublands before exiting them into the wide, flat expanse of the desert flat that lie between them and their destination.

- On the second night, the group awoke to suddenly find themselves in a dense forest.  Margr fled through their camp and something large was approaching from the north.  As they attempted to calm the aneen, a massive bison-like creature emerged from the surrounding trees.  It was gushing blood from a wound in its side, making thick red pools wherever it stepped, and the creature held a miniature-sun-like fireball in its mouth which licked flames out toward anything living.

- The group grabbed what supplies they could and attempted to flee, but the aneen Piper and Ronin were riding was panicked and uncooperative.  It fell on its side, throwing Ronin off before bolting the opposite direction.  Unfortunately, this took it right past one of the lingering margr, which put a nasty slice in its right leg - causing it to fall again and Piper to lose her tenuous grasp on the animal.  The giant buffalo plodded onward, seemingly unaware of them.

- Piper and Ronin were able to make short work of the lingering margr still prowling the area, while the others rejoined when the beast had passed.  As they gathered their now-blood-covered supplies, the group discussed what should be done with their injured animal.

- +2xp

Aralakh Company: Bait and Switch

Thursday February 2, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh took their payment and left world, deciding to jump into Capellan space to avoid potential political issues selling "acquired" Free Worlds' military hardware.

- A baron met with them under false pretenses - not interested in buying their mechandise, but wanted to hire them on retainer for guard duty on a secondary planet in-system.  

- The group negotiated up to 500k for the year, plus the baron will cover all repairs and normal expenses.  Additionally, the baron agreed to hire a broker to aid them in the sale of their unneeded merchandise.  The group also has 50% salvage rights, but as there are no other mechs on their world, it seems unlikely they'll get much.

- Aralakh took the opportunity of having a benefactor to bring on a new mechwarrior: a woman called Riley who pilots a Trebuchet.

- Overall, while not especially lucrative (or exciting), it seems like a nice, easy contract...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Looking Ahead

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group continued their discussion with Polious about their upcoming journey and some of the potential difficulties they may encounter.

- The following day was the third day of the yearly Eves festival - the evening of the big feast and a time for making important announcements about the upcoming year.  Among others of various kinds, Polious announced his assistants' journey to a far-away place in order to recover desperately-needed components for the town's faltering artifact.  The group enjoyed the feast and spent some time talking to various townsfolk about their upcoming quest.

- After the Eves, the group spent a few days preparing for their journey before heading out.  As they left the town, accompanied to its edge by various family, friends, and well-wishers, they noticed that the farmland looked noticeably parched...

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Pirate Moon pt II

Thursday January 26, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Both sides continued to pound each other for several rounds, severely damaging multiple units.

- Ultimately, the pirate leader proposed a deal: they would leave the system and not return - and would leave the merc a prize of valuable military equipment - in exchange for an end to hostilities.

- After considering the situation carefully, Aralakh agreed to their terms.  The pirates proved true enough to their word.

- The company's employer was not completely satisfied with their results, though they had technically fulfilled the contract and the pirate threat was gone (at least for the time being).  Compensation was renegotiated for half.

Aralakh Company: Pirate Moon pt I

Thursday January 19, 2017 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- After taking the contract, Aralakh headed out to the mine abandoned moon where the pirates were said to be hiding out.  Not liking the hemmed-in approach from the main road to the south, they decided to put their dropship down on the plain to the north even though it meant more rugged terrain between them and their target.

- As they approached the mine from above, first contact was made with the Jagermech perched atop a hill.  The Commando entered as the mercs engaged, with the Dervish and Stinger arriving after a couple of exchanges.

- Aralakh took some hard hits early in the confrontation, but have so far managed to avoid being crippled.  The destruction of the Commando has evened the playing field somewhat, but they still have an uphill battle.  If they don't get a break soon, they may need to pull out or risk more than their contract...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Losing Power

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Piper, Naran, and Ronin headed down into the guts of the Weathervane while Ganthet and Helios remained with Polious in the control room, attempting to keep things from getting out of hand.

- The three descended into the structure, noting more and more of a strange, acrid-smelling black oil as they made their way toward the inward.  Outside the vault itself, a large stream of the stuff poured down the wall over wires and conduits - among which were dozens of eyeless rat-like creatures.

- A couple of townsfolk approached the Weathervane, looking for Polious to address an issue in town involving a strange device, and hostile spreading plant growth.  As he was still unable to see and Helios had been more weakened by the day's events, Ganthet was sent to address the problem.  He found some sort of artifact producing a thick fog and causing shrub-like plants to grow.  When he activated it, the ground began to vibrate violently.  He found himself outside of the town by several miles, and watched as large sections of earth some distance to the north rose out of the ground and floated above it.

- Once inside the vault, Piper found the Weathervane's power core and attempted to disconnect it.  Unfortunately, this seemed to cause a runaway reaction resulting in the core's explosion.  Piper somehow managed to escape the brunt of the blast.

- The explosion of the power core radiated energy throughout the town, instantly burned away the stormclouds, and ultimately resulted in a total blackout as all power drained from the ruin.

- Over the course of the next few weeks, Polious, the others, and the rest of the town attempted to pick up the pieces.  Polious managed to cobble together a replacement power source for the Weathervane and once the rain cycle resumed - even though it was irregular and somewhat less than sufficient - the townsfolk began to relax.  Polious and the others, however, know that the current arrangement is underpowered and anything but stable.

- A few days later, the Eves festival begins.  This is marks the new year in Arable, as well as the first few days of the planting season.  The group spends the first day of the celebration with their individual families, spending time together and exchanging gifts.  Polious also visits each, giving them gifts of his own.

- The second day of the Eves is a time of planning for the new year.  For most, that means talking about what crops to plant in which fields, which animals to breed, and other such things.  For Polious and his associates, however, this conversation looks very different.  Polious tells them he's learned of yet another ruin similar to Arable and the "B Dome" (which is now known to be a sphere, and is floating about a hundred feed above the ground along with some chunks of nearby landscape).  This one is about 10 miles into the mountains of the Black Riage, near a village called Urnmoll.  It, reportedly, even shows signs of continuing power.  Arable needs a new power core.  The Weathervane will not survive without one, and if the Weathervane doesn't survive, the town is doomed.  Further, Polious is unable to leave the town - the artifact is too unstable.  The others are going to have to do this on their own...

- +3xp

What's Been Up

Thursday December 22, 2016 at 12:53pm state of the penguin Comments (0) »

Lately this blog has mostly been a gaming session log - that one function having basically become its primary use.  It's not that nothing else is going on, it's more that nothing else makes for very good posting.

It's been a year - not a particularly great one.  I find myself at a point feeling like things aren't bad for us, they're just not good.  Perhaps I'm just less content than I ought to be.  But...what can you do?

On The Typical Fronts

Web Dev: Still working at AAM Piney Flats; like my job, love the people I work with. We're getting by. Think about reworking the front-end of this site from time to time, but I'm pretty happy with it as-is.  I'm sure it'll get a new look at some point.

Gaming: It has been a good year for gaming.  Wrapped up my awesome World of Darkness campaign, started a fun Numenera game that's starting to pick up steam, and I'm even running a strategic-level Battletech game for Tim (which I'm loving).  My games-i-really-want-to-run queue has been reduced to a Mouse Guard game.  I'm also playing in a friend's 5e D&D game, though I've missed the last few sessions for a small variety of reasons.

Photography: I've found a way around my screen sharpness issues, but I'm still irked that I need a workaround at all. No, I haven't contacted Canon phone support yet.  I haven't been shooting much lately except when I "have to".  I really need to.  Need to do some stuff that reminds me why I got into it.

Music: Every now and then, I work a little on music stuff - just not enough that I have anything to show for it.  I have an idea for a record I want to make, and I've done quite a bit of concept development, but that's about as far as I've made it.  Supposed ambition outstrips time & energy these days.

Etc

Geocaching: Haven't done enough this last season - just been a little too busy somehow.  Really need to get back into it next, though - if only for the exercise.

Model Painting: Got a few more Battletech minis to paint.  It's been a while since I've painted anything and I've been wanting to do some more.  It's relaxing...in an exhausting kind of way.  Also intending to repaint my halfling paladin mini for Rucht's game.

Reading: Got a new Battletech novel that was recommended to me to read.  I enjoy reading, I just don't do it all that much.  I often have a difficult time with passive forms of entertainment.

Writing: I'd also like to take a shot at writing a book myself.  I do a lot of writing for RPGs; I'd like to try my hand at some kind of short genre novel.  I mean, I don't have enough time for all of my other hobbies, why not add another pet project with an overwhelming work load?  Right?

~PS

Mysts of the Ninth World: Downpour

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group hurried toward town, only to find the north gate held closed by a massive mutated plant.  When the group attempted to cut the struggling gate mechanism free, they found that deformed plant also possessed bladed tendrils and often emitted psychic shriek when injured.  As the group fought with the plant creature, an errant shot from Ronin deactivated the gate completely and a massive tendril grappled with and ultimately once-more panicked Naran's aneen.

- As the others hacked and burned away at the plant, Helios worked on phasing through the door to assist from the other side.  He successfully reached the other side, but not before sustaining further injury to his already battered body and mind.  Though significantly debilitated and possessed of only a rudimentary knowledge of the Numenera, he somehow managed to reconfigure the gate's controls to bypass the circuit destroyed by Ronin's arrow and opened the gate.

- The group reunited and reached the malfunctioning Weathervane, but the situation was quickly worsening.  Even with help, Polious was unable to stabilize the artifact.  His blindness preventing him from doing himself what was quickly becoming obviously necessary, he handed Ronin the key to "the Vault" and sent the group into the guts of Weathervane to shut it down...

- +1xp

Aralakh Company: Another Payday

Thursday December 8, 2016 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Though their new recruit gave them an in-system raid target with a decent opportunity to steal a solid battlemech, the company commander decided the timing was wrong and instead ordered repairs to begin on their damaged mechs as they made their way back to the jump point to head out of system.

- Upon returning to their employer, they collected the rest of their pay, finished their repairs, and received two offers for new contracts from others: one involving eliminating a pirate lance in a nearby system, and another recruiting merc units for a larger campaign offensive assaulting an undisclosed Capellan world.

- After some discussion and weighing options, the company decided to go pirate hunting...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Out of Control

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group decided it would be best to recover the panicked aneen before heading back, but Polious and Helios were in no condition to assist.  Being somewhat beat up himself, Ronin volunteered to stay with them while Ganthet, Naran, and Piper pursued the animal.

- The chase led them back up into the forested hills a couple of miles away, where they encountered a giant, fin-shaped ruin and some hostile, hovering automatons n addition to the few hounds pursuing their pack animal.

- Meanwhile, Polious, Helios, and Ronin encountered a strange being completely covered by thick robes except for its large, mechanical eye.  The entity babbled in several different languages in addition to the Truth, and spoke seemingly random bits of information or observations before disintegrating before their eyes.

- Naran manged to grab the harness of the panicked aneen, climbed up onto it, and managed to calm it down while Piper and Ganthet fought off the remaining hounds - the automatons having apparently disengaged.

- The group rejoined at their camp - now with all of their animals - and made their way back to town.  They were approaching the edge of Arable's farmland when the storm that had been gathering finally unleashed...

- +2 xp

Mysts of the Ninth World: Broken

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Seeing the growing agitation in the chance moths, the group began attempting to scramble up the rope.  Outside they were confronted by a pack of broken hounds - one of which was massive and seemed to twist and distort as it growled.

- The moths triggered something in the chamber which began causing strange environmental effects.  While Ronin climbed the rope, Piper investigated the surrounding machinery and found that shorts in the controls seemed to result in her ability to terraform the immediate area.

- As the group fought off the smaller hounds, the huge one closed and happened to pick out Polious as its first target, grabbing and flinging him aside.

- As the situation with the hounds outside worsened, Polious called for withdrawl.  Piper had a more difficult time escaping the ruin as the rope which had been worn on the jagged edge of the hole finally snapped.  Ronin threw a rope down to her but wasn't able to tie it off quickly enough and Piper would likely have pulled him in if Ganthet and Naran hadn't come to his aid.

- Polious recovered from his tumble and, seeing the severity of the situation and the massive hound threatening his companions, raised his damaged rifle.  The weapon discharged but seemed to overload, radiating explosive energe outward.  The great hound was severely burned, but so was Polious - badly enough on his face that he was blinded.

- The group left the site as the hounds fled.  They returned to their camp to find that one of their aneen was about half a mile across the plain, being harrassed by a few other broken hounds.

- +2 xp

Aralakh Company: Load Up

Thursday November 17, 2016 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- After a few intense exchanges and significant damage to both sides, Aralakh succeeded in bringing down the Awesome.  The pilot of the mech survived and turned out to be an exiled noble of some sort.  He offered them information that would aid them in exchange for a place among their company.  Aralakh agreed to this on a "trial basis".

- The company bribed and called in the strike team that had been sent with them to round of the remaining personnel at the base.  The noble had warned them of fanaticism, but the team still took some losses while performing the task.  The group stripped some supplies and equipment from the base and then returned to the primary objective at the R&D facility.

- The strike team recovered 3 experimental/prototype "pulse lasers" from the facility.  The leader of the strike team, having been bribed already, offered to sell Aralakh up to two of the lasers recovered for the Duke.

- The company used its Warhammer to carefully (if inelegantly) salvage the fallen Panther for rebuild & refit.

- As they were preparing to leave the system, their new "recruit" informed them that there was another ripe target in-system...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Burnout

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Polious activated his transmitter artifact, sending a message to Piper and her companions to join he, Ronin, Naran.

- On their way, Piper, Ganthet, and Helios were ambushed at the top of the descending shaft by abhumans of some sort, apparently living in the bowels of the structure.  The creatures were savage, gaunt, and where their faces should have been was only the base of a writhing tentacle.

- While Polious began examining the glowing power-artifact, another trio of the abhumans attacked him, Naran, and Ronin.

- The insuing battles were chaotic, as their assailants attacked in an uncoordinated, frenzied fashion.  One of the abhumans attacking Ganthet and his companions activated some sort of gravity cypher, which caused anyone and anything within the shaft itself to become weightless.  Another assaulting Naran and the others in the room below activated a cobbled artifact which missed her, sending a bright, white beam into the surrounding structure, exploding several metallic "pods" the group assumed were capacitors of some sort.  This seemed to adversely affect the power-artifact, increasing the instability of its already dangerously-overloaded state.  

- At Ronin's insistence, Polious set to work attempting to stabilize the pulsing blue power source while the others fought off the remaining attackers.  Just as the battle concluded, Polious released the power build-up in the device, sending power out into the ruin.  To his dismay, however, the core itself burned out - the pulsing, blue-sun-like glow collapsing in on itself, leaving the cylinder an empty, glass shell.

- The group spent some time gathering components from this room, as they had specifically come for power-distribution parts.  When they were finished, they made their way back toward the "entrance" area, noticing that many of the rooms and passages were now lit and active with various buttons, screens, panels, and other, more incomprehensible controls or interfaces.  They noted much that could be salvaged and investigated, but time was against them as they suspected more abhumans may be emerging from the depths of the complex.

- At the entrance, they noticed the Chance Moth hive was now very active - flying around the room, feasting on the enegies provided by the newly-supplied power.  As they made ready to ascend the rope back out of the complex, they heard the unfortunately-familiar keening of a pack of Broken Hounds from outside - and something very, very large slam into the top of the structure...

- +2 xp

Aralakh Company: Awaken the Sleeping Giant

Tuesday November 8, 2016 at 8:30pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Aralakh pursued the fleeing light mechs back to the mostly-decommissioned military base.  After a few brief exchanges, they managed to take out the Locust and the Hermes - but about that time, they detected an engine power-up in one of the hangers.  After a few moments, sensors were able to determine it was an assault mech - an 80-ton Awesome.  Despite - or maybe because of - the fact that they couldn't get much salvage from the Hermes after its ammo explosion, they decided to stay and see what they could do against this new foe, particularly when they noticed it didn't seem to be operating at peak performance...

Mysts of the Ninth World: Apprenticed to a Scavenger

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

- The group journeyed with Polious to the "B Dome" - a secondary site which seems to be very similar to the structure around which their town of Arable is built.  As such, it is a trove of spare parts.  They were looking for "crystal fuze couplings" to replace some key components relating to the Weathervane's power distribution, but are always on the lookout for anything else that might either be of use or able to be made into something useful.

- Upon descending into the ruin, Ronin encountered a rather large hive of Chance Moths, attracted to a numenous light Naran had created.  At Polious' instruction, the lights were put out and the group carefully moved away from the entrance further into the dark while Naran distracted the hive by illuminating a large metal panel in the opposite direction.

- After a brief discussion in the corridor, the group decided to split up to cover more ground: Helios, Piper, and Ganthet continued down in that direction, while Polious, Naran, and Ronin went back through entrance area and through a partially-open doorway.

- Helios, Piper, and Ganthet found a grassy area in the metal ruin which also contained a large tree with glowing geometric designs on its leaves.  It seemed to interact with nearby machinery in some way - affecting the immediately-local plant life and/or weather/environment when they interacted with it.  In addition, they discovered a stone chamber full of shelves and charred, rectangular books.  Piper found 4 seemingly untouched and took them with her, and discovered at least one of the mostly-burned volumes seemed to have some kind of static charge within it.  After investigating the area, Piper set to work disassembling sections of the machinery, salvaging several promising objects before she began inadvertently triggering it.

- Polious, Naran, and Ronin found a large laboratory area.  Polious set to work scavenging the equipment for useable parts while Ronin and Naran looked around the room.  Ronin found a bank of large, cylindrical, glass tanks (only one of which was still intact) and Naran soon discovered pools of liquid on the floor and ceiling which were dripping into each other.  While she marveled over this, a pseudopod from the lower pool grabbed her, and pulled her up off the ground.  Ronin worked to free her and Polious shot the creature with his powerful rifle-like Numenera weapon - which, instead of evaporating it, caused it to harden into a pink-white crystalline material (from which Ronin cut a section to take with them).  From there, the three proceeded deeper into the complex.  At the bottom of a 170ft shaft, they found a black door behind which hummed some sort of impressive, glowing artifact...

- +3xp

Aralakh Company: The First Job

Tuesday November 1, 2016 at 8:00pm battletech, aralakh company, game session notes Comments (0) »
 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

- Tim's company was hired by a Free Worlds League duke to hit a small Capellan military R&D facility on an otherwise-insignificant border world.  Intelligence indicated the nearby military base was all but decommissioned and they expect no more than a few light mechs and a pair of turrets as in terms of resistance.  Aralakh is to neutralize defenses and allow a strike team (they're transporting) to enter the facility and extract technology.

- Tim rolled rather poorly during contract negotiations and is only being compensated with a forward of 45,000 for operating costs, 25,000 for mission success, a potential 50,000 bounty on significant tech recovered - BUT, they do have full rights to any salvage they have time to pull out, which could pay off nicely.

- The jumpship transporting them says they will remain in-system for 17 days.  At the standard jump points, the target world is about 8 days travel at 1G.  Aralakh pays the captain an extra 5,000 to jump just a little closer to the ecliptic, shaving a day off the interplanetary travel.  They should have up to 3 days on-world.  Extra time comes at 10,000/day.

- Upon reaching the site, they found it defended by a Locust, a Panther, and a Hermes II - which is actually a medium mech.  After a brief skirmish, they took the Panther down and the two remaining units retreated.  Seeing no evidence of additional resistance, the unit held off on calling in the strike team and instead decided to pursue the fleeing units for more potential salvage.

Mysts of the Ninth World: Character Creation

 Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games
Numenera artwork © Monte Cook Games

System: Numenera

Setting: The Ninth World, The Beyond, Arable

Players: Sheri, Tony, Adam, Tim, Keara

Schedule: Near-weekly

 

Finally starting a Numenera campaign!  Been waiting for this for two years!  Very excited!

The party is a group of young adults from a small town in the Beyond called Arable - a wasteland farming community based around a weather-control artifact.  They will begin as assistants to an Aeon Priest called Polious, and tasked with assisting in the maintenance of the Weathervane, scavenging for parts, and generally discovering the Numenera.

Characters:

Narangerel "Naran" [Sheri] is an Inquisitive Nano who Possesses a Shard of the Sun

- Helios [Tony] is a Stubborn Jack who Exists Partially out of Phase

- Piper [Keara] is a Manipulative Delve (Seeker) who Makes Something out of Nothing

- Ronin [Tim] is a Wasteland Jack who Explores Dark Places

- Ganthet [Adam] is a Weird Glaive who Rides the Lightening

Aralakh Company: Character Creation

 Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes
Battletech artwork © Harebrained Schemes

System: Battletech / Mechwarrior Basic

Setting: The Inner Sphere

Players: Tim

Schedule: Occasional Weeknights

 

Aralakh Company will be a strategic-level Battletech RPG/playtest that Tim is helping me with.  I loves me some Battletech and I haven't been able to get a full group together to start a game (not for lack of trying) - so, instead, Tim and I are playtesting a "Mechwarrior Basic" RPG companion ruleset I've developed as well as feeling out the logistics of a Succession Wars era mercenaries campaign.  Since it's just me and Tim, it will be light on the RP and mostly focused on game mechanics, battletech map combat, and strategic level decision-making.

My version of the Battletech universe is about .5-1 steps removed from canon.  I leave most things as-is, but there are a few minor alterations to "the way things are" that improve the setting in my view.  In addition to using my own Mechwarrior ruleset, I've made a few minor mods to the tabletop wargame and have come up with my own simplified versions of some other game-relevant areas.

"Aralakh" was the name Tim gave his merc company, having stolen it from a video game.

Characters:

- "Steiner", a guy born into a merc family who inherited and/or split off to form his own company;  Pilots a Blackjack.

- "Drevan", a friend of Steiner's who comes from the family of a house regular; Pilots a Warhammer.

Additional:

In addition to the two "PCs" and their mechs, Aralakh also has a leopard-class dropship owned by the hired captain, a few techs for upkeep on the mechs & vehicles, and some light support equipment.  They're also starting with a small supply stockpile for repairs and reloading, but it won't last them forever.

Notes:

Character creation rules seemed to work reasonably well, especially the random aspects.  The "average" starting character might be *bit* too skilled out of the box, but we'll see how this develops.

World of Darkness Redux

Thursday October 13, 2016 at 12:37pm gaming, new auburn chronicle Comments (0) »

I recently concluded my New Auburn World of Darkness game that started a bit over a year ago.  Despite the fact that it lasted more than twice as long as I'd anticipated and I was really ready to move on to a new game (Numenera here I come!), I thoroughly enjoyed it the entire time.  I'm going to talk a little about some things I got out of this game.

First off, it's always nice to have a game that actually resolves instead of just "ending".  I've done this a few times, but this game might be the one that was most neatly packaged.  I don't think I did a "perfect" job (I'm not sure that's possible), but this one was pretty close, if I do say so.  I also set up a future sequel in the epilogue, which will be pretty cool - but not for a while (see also: so many games, so little time).

I learned over the course of the game that mystery is difficult to run - at least for my group.  You don't want to be too obvious, but you don't want to be too obscure.  When the game is about the investigation and putting pieces together, there is a very, VERY, fine line here - and you're going to go back and forth between being heavy-handed and letting the group spin their wheels as they try to figure out what to do next.

By that same token, though, it was fascinating to listen to them speculate when they were into it.  So very often they would be right and wrong in an even 50/50 split.  I lost track of the number of times I said "Well, that's not wrong...it's just not...quite right either." while talking about their theories after a session.  Those were some of my favorite times.

I got pretty good at juggling multiple groups of PCs in different places doing different things.  Also, I failed miserably at this from time to time.  I think the group was all together less than 10% of the time over the course of this game.  The particular flavor and setup just made that unlikely or downright impracticle from a narrative standpoint.  It wasn't a "problem", per se, but it did make GMing challenging, and it often meant some percentage of the table was off-screen.  Fortunately, this doesn't bother many in my group.

Like many of my games, this one was a total sandbox.  Unlike many, however, it was all set in the same place.  This might be the first game that really wasn't location driven to any significant degree - so that was a challenging for me.  The shifting environment and the various NPCs and mysteries kept things plenty interesting, though, so that helped.

Along that same line, I set out to be very receptive to the players'/PCs' ideas.  For most of the game, I just had "the situation", I didn't really have "a solution" to the problem(s) - I figured I'd let them come up with that.  This approach worked quite well, and might be the only way I could run a game like this.  The group's ultimate "solution" to the big problem in town was one they came up with - not one I'd pre-planned.  It had to make sense, of course, but if they'd come up with a different "solution" they could pull off, that would have been just as viable.  I really let them drive how this was going to go down, which I try to do in every game,  but, in this one, it was taken to a further degree.

I also think I did a pretty good job presenting a game and setting that was both creepy and intriguing - the way World of Darkness should be.

There's probably other things, but those are the big ones coming to mind.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Save Our City

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

There's a time to pray / and there's a time to fight / anything can be a weapon / if you're holding it right

- Emory, Carter, and Sara began heading north - back to the marina to get their cars and hurry to the train station Aaron had described.  On their way, they encountered a deformed Leon Catch, obviously corrupted by some dark influence.  Not wasting words, he immediately attacked them, proclaiming they must die.  He had a fairly strong upper hand until Sara was able to find some manifestation of his corruptor lurking in the Twilight.  That connection disrupted, Catch burst into flames and burned to ash in seconds.

- As Jordan hurried through the woods, he found himself running with deformed, ghostly wolves.  Slowly converging on him, they somehow warped space around themselves, leaving Jordan in front of the train station.

- Aaron had a brief run-in with "Jason" - the supernaturally-influenced many Carter, Emory, and Sara had spoken with before.  He criticized the groups interference in things over their heads and eventually headed off to the north as Aaron continued south to the nearest bridge over the river.

- Aaron and Jordan met up at the train station and sneaked inside.  They spied several gang members hanging out - and one that had, apparently, been shot by the others on the platform.  They found the main hall of the station covered in webs, and 11 skeletons suspended in them.

- When Aaron, Emory, and Sara arrived, the 3 gang members present became aware of the group's presence and a brief firefight insued.  One gang member was gunned down, and the other two fled in short order.

- The group converged on the main chamber, where the massive, distorted spider appeared - clearly agitated.  Some of the group engaged it with gunfire - Jordan's "blessed" bullets offering some aid - while others attempted to dislodge the skeletons.  The spider's attentions seemed clearly divided.  The group eventually killed it, but Sara warned them that it was only its physical form that was destroyed.  To keep it dead, they would need to recover and bury the skeletons as they had done the other two.

- By this time, the police were arriving.  Sgt Bryonson seemed interested on keeping most of them out of the way, however.  The group was escorted to the station, where questions were asked and answered.  After a long night, they were released, and they set about making sure the spider demon did not return.

- 10xp

Epilogue:

Having rid the city of the beast at the heart of the drug problem and the spider transformations, they were, perhaps, surprised that their lives did not significantly improve.  Most lost their jobs over the next few weeks or months, always on shaky reasoning, and they continued to observe hints of the supernatural haunting them.  Also, the Man in the Pin-Striped Suit was still out there somewhere, with his inscrutable motives.  

Eventually, they all received a letter:

"We have been observing your activities for some time, and you show some promise.  Welcome.  Stand by for further instructions."

The letter was "signed" only with the logo of a black bird with one, large, human-like eye - overlayed with the single word: SCARECROW

End Chapter 1

New Auburn Chronicle: Bury The Past

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- As the black clouds above began to pour cold rain on them, the group set to work attempting to quickly dig some sort of grave in which to bury the bones they'd recovered, believing the lack of a proper burial for them is contributing to the spiritual unrest in town.

- As they made progress, the storm picked up and 4 wolves emerged from the forest.  Believing the wolves to be connected to other events, the group attempted to avoid fighting them even though they displayed hostile behavior. Aaron got some sort of message from the wolves suggesting that something the group was doing was weakening them.  When he petitioned for more information, something in the wolves changed - three of them ran off to the northeast, the other turned and retreated to the south.

- While Aaron and Jordan pursued the wolves, Carter, Emory, and Sara buried the bones.  The Man in the Pin-Striped Suit appeared again, asking if they were sure that's what they wanted to do.  He told them their actions would make them powerful enemies.  The group largely ignored him, but he didn't interfere - disappearing after giving a final warning that there was no "going back".

- Jordan pursued the wolf to the south and encountered the ghost native the group had seen several times previously.  Attempting to commune with the spirit, he began to meditate.  The action seemed to engage the ghost, who passed on several impressions of the past.

- Aaron followed the other three wolves north to a place in the most run-down area of town at the heart of the storm which had moved over New Auburn, watching the shadow in the clouds above descend into an abandoned train station.

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Out Of Your Depth

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- The group met at the marina the next morning with the intention of locating and recovering bones/skeletons that believe have some connection to past events.  Jordan had rented a pontoon boat for the day, and had brought a number of "supplies" designed to combat or subdue any supernatural dangers that might present themselves.  Once the others arrived, they set out onto the lake in their boat.  They quickly found themselves driving in and out of thick pockets of fog being driven by the wind.

- Near one of the deepest parts of the lake, they found a mostly-whole skeleton floating on the surface.  It began to break apart as they gathered the bones into the boat.  As they attempted to maneuver the boat to gather the remainder of the small bones, they noticed they were drifting toward a patch of lake water deep in the fog that seemed to be bubbling.

- As they drifted into the bubbling water, the boat's engine died and bone fragments began to fall from the sky like rain, gradually increasing in side.  As Emory and Aaron worked to get the boat running and others attempted to gather more bones they found floating in the water and scattered around the deck, shadows began to appear in the distance around them and overhead.  The boat began to corrode and fall apart around them.  The depth-finder read 9999.

- Emory managed to get the boat running as the indistinct form of a massive, spider-like creature emerged from the fog above them.  Its carapace writhed and dripped with some dark liquid.  It's round maw shrieked behind monstrous fangs and the eight, translucent yellow eyes that hovered in a ring above its head seemed to burn with yellow flame.

- Aaron managed to force the boat backward out of the bubbling water and away from the creature even as it tore the canopy from the craft.  More concerned with escape than direction, he ran the boat all the way up onto the shore - the same place Carter had found himself after his hospital blackout.

- +2xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Leaving Bad Enough Alone

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- After taking a couple of weeks to recover, the group once more began investigations.  Carter, Emory, and Sara went to the run-down lower-east side of town to ask questions of the guy that found Carter in the lakeside park and took him back to the hospital.

- Locating the man took some time and "negotiation".  When they did found him, he at first seemed unimpressed and uniterested in the their conversation.  After moving to a somewhat more isolated location, he began to talk to them a bit more openly.  

- The group learned little from the man regarding the questions they had - they did learn, however, that he himself had something of a supernatural nature.  He told them that he had laid low for decades, doing his best to avoid the supernatural darkness that seeped into various corners of the world.  In his experience, engaging that sort of evil only made things worse - and he strongly advised the others to follow his lead.

- Meanwhile, Jordan did his best to obtain any useful objects or materials that research and folklore suggested might be helpful in confronting the perils of the supernatural - and rented a boat in preparation to attempt to recover the floating bones Carter had seen on the lake...

- +2xp

New Auburn Chronicle: The Hunter and the Hunted

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Whle Sara, Jordan, Emory, and Carter were all receiving treatment, Aaron decided to go back to the West Tenements to speak with Bethany about buying some of her charms.

- Bethany was quite intoxicated and seemed to have been crying.  She became fixated on Sara and the watch and pleaded with Aaron to convince Sara to give her the watch.  While they were still talking, Aaron heard gunshots.  He arrived outside in time to see a man hurled through a glass tile wall by a massive, glowing humanoid wolf.  The creature did not give chase, but Aaron and the man - who turned out to be the fugitive Elijah Sims - decided to leave the area anyway.

- Back at Sims' hideout, they talked over the things that had been going on.  Sims knew nothing about "spiders" or "Niatha", but did know the local gangs were up to something bad.  He had been hunting a small werewolf pack in the city for some time - his success in killing three of them so far had earned him a reputation as a serial killer.  Sims agreed to offer whatever help he could as long as Aaron didn't tip off the department as to his whereabouts and activities.  He did stress, however, that he had his own problems.

- Aaron returned to the hospital and told the others about his early-morning adventure.  The group took the next week or two to fully recover.  Nothing major happened while they laid low, but small incidents which they felt were related to the "problem" continued to bubble to the surface.  They needed to form a plan.  They would have to act on something - anything - and soon...

- +2xp

Games of the Present and Future

Friday August 19, 2016 at 12:34pm gaming Comments (0) »
 Marauder - probably my favorite 'mech.  This one had to be pretty heavily repaired, but it turned out pretty great.
Marauder - probably my favorite 'mech.  This one had to be pretty heavily repaired, but it turned out pretty great.

'Splosions

Been trying to play Battletech whenever I get a chance.  Love this game.  I didn't do a post-mortem on Trogland 2016 this year, but the one game I ran at that event was a Battletech scenario that lasted from about 11am-5pm on saturday.  Yeah, turns out lance-on-lance (plus extras) with 5 players takes a while, especially when there are some heavies on the field.  Next time, I think I might run a 2-on-2 game that might not go forever.

Paint Schemes

A while back I bought a copy of the 3rd Edition box set from Ebay, which included plastic models of 14 of the "unseen" mechs, several of which I really wanted.  This set was made back in '94 and the plastic models aren't great quality.  I actually had to use modelling putty to repair a couple of my favorites - the set was in great shape, it's just that the plastic casting was bad.  That said, I think my paint jobs on the ones I painted turned out "decent" to "great".  Still need to clear-coat them before they're ready to go, however.  I did decide not to paint a few of them for aesthetic reasons.  Some of the old models look straight-up goofy (I'm looking at you, Thunderbolt), and with other's I'm not a big fan of the "backpack" and/or (to a lesser extent) the "handheld weapon" looks.  I did paint the Phoenix Hawk, Stinger, and Battlemaster that fall into that latter category, but the Griffin and Shadow Hawk look more like space marines than battlemechs IMO.  The Wolverine I *might* have painted, but its head is extremely poorly cast and mangled.  Anyway, they didn't make the first cut.  I'm up to 34 painted models now, and I think they've generally improved over time.

Compiling an Arsenal

I also went to Kinko's and printed out 114 pages of mech sheets - one copy of each common variant for each model I have painted.  I've got these sorted in a binder now.

And I've completed my first draft of what I'm calling Mechwarrior Basic - a companion RPG system and set of Battletech mods to play the game as a ttrpg.  It takes some elements from Mechwarrior 2nd Edition and a variety of other games.  It's intended to be simple and quick, specifically to contrast the methodical crunch of the wargame aspect.

The reason for all this is that I'm still hoping to run a Battletech campaign at some point...  

...or, as soon as I find another player.

Still Current Campaigns

As you can probably tell from this blog, our World of Darkness game continues - and it's going quite well overall.  This has been a really solid game.  I like the characters, the setting is good, and the mystery is interesting.  And maybe a little too involved.

The WoD game is great - and I'm still having a lot of fun with it, but I'm really looking forward to starting a Numenera campaign after this one resolves.  Looking back at the blog, I can see that I've been trying to resolve WoD and start Numenera since December.  I'm not good at ending things.  Even when I want to.

Maybe someday.

 

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Fight or Flight

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Carter dragged Emory back into the room and pulled out the gun she still had on her as the man burst in.  As the nurses and doctors followed him in, Carter decided to engage the massive guy in hand-to-hand instead of shooting.  They traded a couple of blows before Carter tossed the gun on the bed where Emory picked it up and shot the man and he collapsed.

- Things weren't going much better back in the alleyway where the giant spider had attacked Jordan, Sara, Aaron and the injured man.  The group strugged to get away, and were cut off from the injured man in the alleyway.  They had mixed results fending off the persistent spider, but eventually made it back to Aaron's patrol car - though Jordan had to be carried.  The creature attempted to stop the car from driving off and nearly succeeded in prying the roof off the vehicle before Aaron was able to drive them all to safety.

- Back at the hospital, the group reunited - several of them in pretty rough shape.  After some treatment, Sara got a phone call around 4am.  It was Owen.  He told her he'd found something - some clue about their situation.  He told her the only way to free an individual or environment from a demon's influence - short of somehow destroying it - was to close the door it came through...

- +1xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Monsters Among Us

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Sara, Jordan, and Emory had an interesting conversation with the priest Owen and his sister Crista.  They had experienced some odd things themselves, and Owen showed them some photocopied pages of some old, partiall-burned documents that his predecessor had left him - documents that seemed similar to the occultic 'book of prophesy' Sara had found references to.

- Meanwhile Carter was visited again by the man who'd given him a ride back to the hospital.  He said he'd gone back to the shore where he thought Carter had come from - and he saw some of the same disturbing things.  He cautioned Carter not to pursue any of that too far, only saying that it was 'bad stuff'.

- Aaron went to meet his mysterious caller later that night.  He was picked up in a limo and driven around a bit while "Sam" talked to him.  Apparently, this man was a rival of Leon Catch, and wanted the police to know whatever was going on with the new drug Leon had been selling, they weren't involved and wanted the cops concentrating on Catch's territory (the East side).

- When he returned, he re-joined Sara and Jordan who'd been watching from nearby.  Sara had heard something in an alley and was making her way to investigate.  She found an injured man who seemed strange in some way.  As they approached asking if them man needed help, the group of them were ambushed from above by a large, spider-like creature.

- Carter and Emory were awakened at the hospital by some commotion in the hallway.  Emory stepped outside and saw a crazed and massive man pushing his way down the hallway against the efforst of nurses, aids, and doctors to restrain him.  When the man saw Emory, he became enrage, grabbing a nearby metal cart and hurling it at her.

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: The Demon Within

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Jordan, Emory, and Sara made their way to the St Monessa Catholic Church at 8550 Newfield.  After entering and looking around, Jordan and Emory decided to go up and talk with the priest while Sara hung back to observe.  Jordan had been experiencing minor but worrying "reactions" since they entered, but these drastically intensified when he caught sight of a girl sweeping up in a corner of the sanctuary.  At that moment, something seemed to trigger in the building resulting in the sound of a high-pitched, howling blowing through the building and the numerous candle flames becoming much taller and agitated.  The young priest was momentarily shocked by this, exchanging a looking with the janitor, before pulling a gun on Jordan and demanding to know what he was.  The two tried, now much more urgently, to explain some of what had been going on.  The priest directed them out of the sanctuary, through the building, and into the crypt beneath it.

- Deep in the crypt, the priest was accompanied by two faintly-glowing men in white robes - one of whom was sent for the janitor.  The other pushed Jordan into a small circular room and bound him to a worn wooden board with silver manicles.  The janitor returned with two of the men in white robes and took up a position in the room, pulled out a small book from her clothing, and began singing.  Emory demanded answers, eventually pulling her own gun on the priest who was now standing behind a sort of podium.  When he began reading aloud in a strange language, Emory fired over his head.  The priest remained focused on his task, but the shot did startle janitor who briefly faultered in her song.  It was then that Sara, who had been stealthily observing from the shadows, emerged to place a hand on Emories arm.  "It's an exorcism..."

- +2xp

New Auburn Chronicle: The Dark Past

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Jordan's call to Sara telling her he's on his way woke her from unconsciousness.  She was soaked with lake water, but the building appeared intact.  Sara took another look around the now-peaceful house.  She didn't find the book she was looking for, but did locate some volumes on the Arapaho containing burial practices, and a scrap of paper mentioning Father Brogan at St Monessa Catholic Church.

- After Emory got off work, the group met at the hospital in Carter's room.  They had a lengthy discussion on what to do next, during which Aaron received another call from the dispatch telling him that somone had just called from the same payphone.  Aaron called the number back and, after identifying himself, was told "here, 2am".  Jordan, Sara, and Emory decided to go to the Catholic Church, leaving Carter alone in his room to recover.

- As Carter slipped into sleep, some part of his subconscious nearly panicked, recalling that sleep in this hospital has rarely been peaceful.  He woke up to find himself in a log cabin with an elderly native woman who asked if he would listen to her when his grandfather had not.  She told him that the "demon" must be stopped; banished; destroyed.  It had preyed upon the community for too long, and many of them could not rest peacefully in their deaths.  He saw a brief glimpse of what must have been the past from his window before his hospital room light came on and the vision faded.

- +3xp

On Recency: Vacation Return 2016

Monday July 11, 2016 at 12:53pm vacation, gaming, golf Comments (0) »
 just relax
just relax

Well, just got back from vacation.  That was a great time.  Spent the week with Sheri, Hannah, Micah, Mom and Dad.  Also my brother Joe, and saw sister Jamie, too.  Went to a family reunion where I saw relatives I haven't seen in years.  Got to hang out a little with friends Justin & his family and Kevin & his family.  Played golf, kubb, flimsee, Sushi Go, wii golf, and other things.  Went to the Zoo and the Indy Children's Museum.  Enjoyed some quiet evenings around a fire pit in my parents' peaceful backyard.

Again, great time.

 

Current things I'm working on or looking to do:

- Successfuly wrap up our New Auburn Chronicle game and start a new Numenera campaign

- Finish a Mechwarrior rules set I've been working on, create a killer character sheet, and finish painting minis for a Battletech campaign

- Play some golf with Tim, as I've inherited (at least temporarily) a set of nice clubs from my dad

 

Oh, and then there are all the things I "need" to do...

 

~PS

No Thank You Evil: Rus Tee & the Eye Buglars

 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

[new players Ken, Terri, Erica and Zach]

- Angel and some *other* new friends were summoned to Princess Strike's Castle Alley on account of a horrible noise keeping everyone awake.  The terrible moaning sounds was coming from somewhere in the junkyard behind the castle.

- While investigating, some of them encountered large bug-like creatures that tried to steal things from them - one of them made off with Terri the robot's arm!

- The group followed the sound to a little cave house in one of the piles of junk, where they found an old, broken robot called Rus Tee sobbing and crying loudly.  He told them that he was upset because one of his eyes was missing.

- Suspecting the bugs, the group followed them to their hive where they found a giant robot bug being powered by the sad robot's glowing eye.  Erica the spy snatched the eye and made her escape while Zach "Fast-Speeder" wrestled one of the bugs for his toolbelt.

- After fending off the rest of the bugs, the group returned dthe eye to the robot, who stopped moaning so everyone could get some sleep.

No Thank You Evil: Professor Wizbang's Time Machine

Saturday June 25, 2016 at 1:46pm no thank you evil, game session notes, trogland Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

[published NTYE adventure; new players Amanda and Jared]

- Angel and some new friends were invited Out the Window to Princess Strike's Bowling Ball.  They arrived early to find Professor Wizbang demonstrating his time machine, only something went wrong and it summoned a dinosaur, a pirate, and a robot from different time periods - and each of them made off with a piece of the broken machine!

- The group tracked down the fugitives and the missing buttons and managed to put all to right before the ball.

No Thank You Evil: Merfaerie's Mischief

Tuesday June 21, 2016 at 7:30pm no thank you evil, game session notes Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

- Angle, Maria, and Markus made it up to a room full of treasure chests, where they discovered a merfaerie had swiped the wand and was causing trouble with it - she animated the treasure chests even turned Markus into a giant crab!

- Stacking the treasure chests, they chased the sprite up into the top floor bedroom of the coral tower, where Maria grabbed her. 

- The group returned the wand to the fish, called Marlin, who poofed his tower back to the sea and apologized to Woodlynn, who gave him some special honey to help with his cough.

New Auburn Chronicle: Tracing Spectres

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Carter took stock of his surroundings, noticing a partial(?) human skeleton on the shoreline amongst all the dead fish.  His best guess placed him somewhere on the eastern shore of Lake Meijer, at least several miles from civilization and exposed to the elements.  Seeing little option, he started on the hike back to the park where he talked his way into a ride back to the hospital.

- Sara took Carter's car and staretd on the drive out to his place.  On the way there, she called Bethany who all but demanded the watch from Sara, but wouldn't exactly say why - only that it belonged to someone important to her.  Sara wondered why she didn't seem to be so desparate when she'd first seen it.  She made it the rest of the way to Carter's house, where she encountered the restless and angry spirit of a native american woman.

- Emory was called out to a house near the college, to what seemed to be the aftermath of a large house party.  Kirk was already there talking with the landlord.  The paramedics had been called to the scene for a young woman who was, by this time, lying dead in the kitchen of the house - her hands covered in black paint where she had drawn multiple, large eyes on the wall.

- Jordan made some phone calls to the others in the group, and then headed over to the house Sara had found in Kim's notes.  The guy he met there seemed mostly interested in getting rid of him, but eventually divulged that he had once been a sort of middle-man in the employ of Leon Catch, taking money and arranging meetings between customers and Catch's dealers.

- Aaron remained in the hospital, still quite injured.  He did get a phone call from the station, however, indicating someone called "Sam" was trying to get ahold of him...

- +3xp

No Thank You Evil: All Wet

Wednesday June 15, 2016 at 6:30pm no thank you evil, game session notes Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

New Character:

Markus [Tim] :: An Astronaut

Session Highlights:

- Angel, Maria, and Markus are called by Queen Woodlynn to investigate a tower that suddenly appeared in the Honeypot Ballroom.

- They are teleported inside (with some minor side effects) and soon discover a fish-wizard with a cold.  He didn't know his tower had been moved and asked them to fetch his wand so he could fix the problem.

- The wand was missing, and the kids suspect it might have been taken by mischievous hands.

- While searching for the wand (or whoever has it) in the laboratory, a giant octopus suddenly appeared - and it thought they were lollipops!  They managed to escape up to the next floor with some bumps and bruises.

New Auburn Chronicle: A Haunting Past

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Unaware of other events taking place around town, Jordan continued looking into his family history, finding record of a man named "Albert Fitzgerald", who was a turn-of-the-century newspaper editor in town, and perhaps something of a historian.  Jordan wanted to look at some of the old papers, but had trouble finding them online.  He did happen to know, however, the the Public Library had reproductions of the city's papers going back over 100 years.

- The situation Emory and Aaron found themselves involved in continued to deteriorate.  Officer Tamara began to transform into a spider creature after having been attacked by the looming mass above them, and the original deformed man attacking Aaron continued his assault.  They decided to withdraw, most of them making their escape in the ambulance.  Back at the hospital, there seemed to be some discrepancies between what the others saw and what Aaron and Emory knew had happened.

- After seeing to her studies for a while, Sara got distracted.  She decided to do some online research into whether events similar to those occuring in New Auburn had happened before.  She eventually discovered some ravings by a german doctor speaking about "a Corruption" - a patient and "spider-like" demon that erodes the hearts of "men closest the edge of the abyss", and "changes them into itself".  When she returned to her room, she found it was a wreck, and words written in what looked like blood on the wall read: "I have new friends now, Sara...  ...and they are angry."

- Carter awoke once again in the hospital to find all of the lights out - this time to something pushing its way through the drop-ceiling over his bed: a massive spider was looming above him, emerging from the ceiling.  He ran out of his room into the darkened hallway and found two grotesque beings hunched over what looked like the body of a nurse.  As he ran away, he caught site of Kim Jones - a dead student from the college - and, turning around, found himself face-to-face with a native american woman who's skin was pitted and rotting and who's hair and clothing seemed to float unnaturally around her.  She reached out, placing her hands around his throat and sqeezing.   Carter lost consciousness and, when he awoke, found himself on the shores of a lake, hundreds of fish floating dead in the water before him...

- +4xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Piercing Shadows

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Aaron and Emory arrived at the scene they were called to, shortly discovering the situation was still quite volatile.  Aaron, Bryonson, Kirk, and Tamara engaged several fleeing suspects.  Aaron encountered a deformed, spiderlike person in the allyway as something large loomed overhead.

- Emory and her partner were attempting to keep some distance from the scene until it was secure, but when one of the officers was injured, Bryonson called for them to come over.  Emory began to have odd emotional sensations with no apparent cause, and the wounds on her back began to burn.  She noticed her partner wasn't in the truck anymore, and thought she saw him heading out to the back of it.  When she got there, she found the Man in the Pin-Striped Suit instead.  He only spoke to her briefly, but her sourceless sensations intensified.  When she looked up again, her partner was where the man had been, and they made ready to go assist the officers.

- On the way back from the gym, Sara had a brief conversation with a floor-mate, who told her that someone matching Bethany's description had been banging on her door, looking for her.

- Carter was resting in the hospital, when he noticed all of the power in his room had gone out, and he heard a scratching sound coming from a dark corner.  Shining the light from his phone over there, he caught a brief glance of something silvery and ethereal fade from existence, leaving behind a silvery web.

- +2xp

New Auburn Chronicle: The New Normal

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- The group made it back to town.  Carter spent some time recovering in the hospital, as he was pretty severely injured.  Sara and Jordan spent some time researching SCUBA thinking they may need to check out some odd mentionings about the lake.  Emory and Aaron, however, went back to work.

- Aaron was called in to Lt Gray's office, and was assigned to Sgt Bryonson's unit which was canvassing neighborhoods and talking to potential witnesses to gang activities.  The police department is currently stretched very thin with the somewhat sudden increase in gang and drug related violence in town.  On one call, they happen upon a domestic disturbance which Aaron suspects might be related to the drug they'd previously encountered.

- Sara met with a student who gave her a rundown on how basic SCUBA diving works, but didn't have any equipment to loan and admitted he was fairly inexperienced.

- An emergency call went out to both Aaron & Bryonson's car and Emory's ambulance, describing an active situation in east-central New Auburn: describing gunfire and at least one body in the street...

That Time We Made A Cake For A D&D Session

Tuesday May 10, 2016 at 9:52pm gaming, friends Comments (0) »
 A terribly decorated real cake based on a terribly decorated imaginary cake.
A terribly decorated real cake based on a terribly decorated imaginary cake.

This was a first for us.

I'm part of two regular gaming groups: one I run, and one I play in.  It's nice to be able to do both.  Our friend Rucht runs the group I play in, and right now he's runing a 5e D&D game.  On a side note, 5th Edition seems to be a solid system.  I like how they've simplified and streamlined the system but kept it feeling very much like Dungeons and Dragons.

In this game, Tony is playing a halfling barbarian.  Edie's character, his sister, was trying to help with his "anger issues".  They decided to try cake decorating as therapy.  This did not go well.

The really hilarious thing was that Tony's dice knew exactly how well a halfling barbarian should be able to decorate a cake, and out of 4 or 5 rolls, I don't think he rolled higher than a 5.  The whole session was hilarious, I don't think I've laughed that hard during a game for a long time.  The die rolling, the RP, the descriptions of everything that was happening - even when the bakery was attacked by monsters - everything was cracking us up.

Then Tony got an idea: we should make a cake, decorated as badly as possible, and bring it for Rucht at the next game - down to the black-icing (mostly illegible) "this sucks" Tony said his barbarian wrote on it.

So, we did.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: A Narrow Victory

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Jordan awoke in his jail cell covered in sweat, as if from a horrifying dream he couldn't recall.  He found the Man in the Pin-Striped Suit sitting in his cellmate's bunk with a newspaper.  The man told Jordan that things were getting worse - that he should have accepted his offer.  Jordan said he didn't believe him.  The man's eyes glowed a vibrant yellow.  

- As he dissolved into spider-like shadows and dissipated, Jordan heard his voice in his mind: "Will you save them, Fitzgerald? Can you do what must be done?"  Jordan began to feel a tearing sensation in his forearms.  Looking down, he saw strange, black writing gouged into his flesh: "The Hour Is Late" was on his left arm, and "8550 Newfield Lane" was on his right.

- Back at the hilltop cemetery, time seemed to freeze around Sara, and she began having a mental conversation with whom she believed to be the Man in the Pin-Striped Suit.  He said he could tell her how to eliminate the monstrous spider creature that had nearly killed them if she would do something for him.  The conversation got somewhat muddled, however, and Sara seemed less than cooperative.  When time resumed, Sara grabbed the watch and ran away from the hilltop.  The spider gave chase, but had some difficulty navigating the trees and undergrowth.  As Sara pulled away, it returned to the others on the hill.

- Aaron and Emory were just barely able to "kill" the creature before it reached them and Carter, who'd be severely wounded and was unconscious.  When they did, however, it seemed to explode into hundreds of cat-sized spiders that seemed to be quickly fleeing the area, but also striking out at anything they happened upon.

- When Sara reached the parking area the next day, she found that several days had actually passed. She called Kristine Cannon and convinced her to meet her and the two returned to the others in the woods.  She seemed dubious of their claims of the events that had transpired, but did see the abundant webbing and the whole group noticed that some strange time distortion was happeneing in the area.

- The group headed back into town - most of them, to the hospital, though Emory went to meet Jordan to discuss recent events.

- +4xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Rebirth pt. I

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Aaron held out the pocketwatch for the ghost to take - asking if it wished to destroy it - but there seemed to be some sort of spiritual friction.  The man held out a flickering, unnaturally-distorting hand toward Aaron and suddenly vanished.  The watch began to burn Aaron's hand, and he dropped it. 

- The watch burst "open", spewing something like blood and tar out across the clearing as a monstrous, spider-like creature pulled itself out of it.  The creature seemed to grow larger and larger by the second, and the group opened fire at the unnatural creature.  

- As it was injured, Sara found the pocketwatch and assessed it to be some sort of portal.  She attempted to hold it closed, but it seemed to be pushing open against her and its surface burned her hands fairly severely.  She and Emory finally managed to force it to stay closed.

- The now-massive demonic spider managed to thickly encase Aaron in webbing and mauled Carter before tossing him aside.  Emory had sustained severe burns from the watch and was only semi-conscious.  It was then that Sara saw the world seem to freeze in place and she heard a familiar voice just over her should: "So, this is interesting..."

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Haunted pt. II

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Fearing being arrested for murder, Jordan ran for it.  Unfortunately, his car happened to be seen heading out of town.  After a brief chase, he was apprehended.

- Aaron went to speak with Steve Carrol (the man who'd opened fire at the Sixth Street Bar some weeks earlier).  He learned a little more about Leon Catch and the man in the pin-striped suit.

- While incarcerated, Jordan awoke in the middle of one night to find ghostly figures in his cell.  The scenes seemed to have the flavor of an earlier time.  Disturbed by the imagery, Jordan covered himself and attempted to blot out the wailing sounds - ultimately falling back to sleep.

- Aaron, Carter, Emory, and Sara went to find the place indicated by the map Carter had found on his grandfather's computer.  It took them several hours to arrive, and while, they began to notice time seeming to slip away from them.  At the site, which was said to be a cemetery, they found 13 stones bearing odd symbols with several smaller stones "connecting" them.  Though only 4pm, darkness was falling, and they began to hear and see glimpses of wolves around the hilltop.  It was here that a ghostly, half-wolf/half-man form appeared - distored, emaciated, twisted.  It lashed out at the group, but Aaron, having pulled out the pocketwatch Sara had previously taken from the cave, called the beast to stand down - and this, shockingly, seemed to work.  The ghostly wolf coalesced into the form of a native man - one they had seen before...

- +4xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Menacing Eyes

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Group further discussed what to do before splitting up.

- Carter found a pieces of information on his grandfather's computer network account at the college - an article about the New Tree Monument vandalism, a couple of emails relating to whatever project he was working on, and a map showing a mysterious location in the wilderness.

- Aaron and Jordan went to try to speak with Steve Carrol, the "Sixth Street Shooter", but he declined to see them.  They sent him a letter the following day saying they wanted to talk about the man in the pin-striped suit.

- Sara and Emory went to speak with the witch, Bethany in the West Tenements, hoping she could point them toward Sims.  Unfortunately, Bethany only had a brief encounter with the man a few weeks previous.  She did seem interested in the pocketwatch Sara had found when it was mentioned, and later went to Sara's dorm room to search it for malevolent spirits.

- Sunday night, Aaron got a call from an officer buddy, Kirk Johnson, who wanted to meet him at the Saint Monessa Catholic Church.  This seemed odd, so Aaron was wary.  His friend told him that, while the police report said they didn't find anything in the cave, he saw something - a mutilated spider creature.

- Monday morning, Jordan was called into the radio station to talk with Cecil Perkins.  This quickly took a turn for the worse when Perkins pulled a gun on him and insisted that he get "it" out of the station.  As he got more and more agitated, a large bulbous shadow emerged from the walls just before the lights went out.  Jordan could see eight glowing, yellow eyes and could feel Perkins struggling against him - and he was bitten.  When he managed to get the door back open, a half-transformed Cecil collapsed onto the floor in time for Mark Wallace to see him laying motionless in a puddle of goo at Jordan's feet - and call the cops.

- +3xp

No Thank You Evil: Missing Max Mixer

Tuesday March 15, 2016 at 6:00pm no thank you evil, game session notes Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

New Character:

Lily [Pat] :: a Super-Smart Spy with Dino, the brontosaurus

Session Highlights:

- Angel, Maria, and Lily make their way to Hex Kitchen after receiving an invitation.  Outside, Angel's fox, Ocean, was kidnapped by gingerbread men.

- The Kitchen Witch says they've been getting out of hand and also that her best mixing spoon, Max Mixer, is missing.

- The group tracked the gingerbread men to a melting caramel castle a short distance away.  They were confronted by gingerbread guards, but fought there way inside where they found Ocean.  The king of the gingerbread men appeared and the group noticed he had the mixing spoon.

- During the confrontation, a giant raccoon appeared and began eating the castle.  They grabbed the spoon and tried to get away.  Lily was climbing up on Dino when the raccoon knocked her down and took the shiny spoon.

- The group returned to Hex Kitchen and got a shiny fork.  When they returned, they found the raccoon asleep nearby.  The group was able to successfully swap the fork out for the spoon without waking it.

- The Kitchen Witch baked them some Marshmallow Chops and Mashed Lollipops as a reward, and passed on an invitation to Angel to attened Woodlynn's Birthbee Party.

Mini Weather

Tuesday March 8, 2016 at 10:27pm gaming, battletech Comments (0) »
 Painted & clear-coated - ready for action!  Also, shiny Battletech faction dice!
Painted & clear-coated - ready for action!  Also, shiny Battletech faction dice!

When I got home this evening, I noted that the temperature was still above 70 degrees - and that meant it was time to clear-coat some miniatures!  I got a couple of coats on all but two of the minis - one because I wanted to do some additional highlights, and another because I somehow got brown paint on it.  The others should be ready to go, though.  Looking forward to playing!

~PS

Micah Photography

Tuesday March 8, 2016 at 10:21pm photography, family Comments (0) »
 Micah Sleeping - exported via screenshot
Micah Sleeping - exported via screenshot

Still having some issues with Canon's Digital Photo Professional, as I've mentioned before.

But Micah is super cute.  Just over 4 months now.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Death Comes

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Aaron ambushed the radio station intruder, who ran for it after a brief scuffle.  Aaron gave chase, but the guy - whom he recognized as one of the men from the park - was too quick.  Aaron saw a black car nearby pull out and past the station before speeding down the road.

- Sara, meanwhile, had been further investigating the pocketwatch she'd taken from the cash box in the cave at the park as it had some odd properties.  The jeweler she'd spoken with told her that it wasn't working, but she had noticed that it always seemed to have the correct time.  The inscription inside turned out to be a passage from the book of Job.  When she pried open the back, however, she found the object seemingly full of blood and viscera, which poured out from the opening she'd made, along with the hot smell of death.  The room, which had been subtly darkening for the past hour, began to pulse red and just before her light went out, she saw the shadow of a man in an old-fashioned hat and suit near the door to her room.  Sara grabbed her things and ran out through her suitemate's room, calling Emory to come and get her.

- The group convened at Emory's house to discuss what to do next.

- +2xp

No Thank You, Evil!

Sunday March 6, 2016 at 6:04pm gaming, family Comments (0) »
No Thank You, Evil! Image

Kickstart

Back in May of 2015, I backed a Monte Cook Games project called No Thank You, Evil.  This project was to be a tabletop roleplaying game aimed at kids for families to play together.  It sounded awesome - awesome enough to get me to, after considering it for several other projects, actually make an account on Kickstarter.com an contribute some money to making it happen.  It has thus far been my only kickstarter experience, and I have been really impressed with the whole process.  MCG does a good job.

Yes Please, Adventure!

Just about a week or so ago, I got my copy in the mail - having been eagerly awaiting it.  The production value of the game is amazing, and the guts of the game itself did not disappoint.  It uses a simplified version of the Cypher System, and does a great job tayloring its mechanics and flavors to a young audience.  The game is beautiful and solidly designed.

We - myself, my wife, our daughter, and Tony - just finished our first adventure in the world of Storia, and, I have to say, it was a blast.  My 4-year-old daughter actually picked up the concepts pretty quickly, even if some of the minutia is still a bit over her head.  She took to the roleplaying elements quite well, and seemed to catch on to the "game" parts with only a little coaching.  We all had a great time with it, and she's excited to play it again soon.  

My Storia

Like any game I touch, though, I had to make some adjustments.  I'm sure a person can quite easily run the thing as-is, right out of the box, and have a great time.  As any of my friends can tell you, though, that's just not me.  I have to tinker.  I have to tweak.  I have to make it my own.  This ability is what I love about TTRPGs.

I did a little cherry-picking of the mechanics for our first game - we kind of played something between the "triangle" and "square" levels - but mostly left it as-is.  I do think that some additional differentiation between characters could be acheived by introducing one or two special "skills" that the characters can have - allowing a possible of three factors that could lower a Goal number - and I may do this in the future.  

Really, the most significant considerations for game tweaking were focused on setting and plot.  The setting is brilliant, but some things aren't clearly defined in the books and a couple of other things seemed like they would be a lot cooler if I changed them just a little.  I actually didn't change that much of the game, but I think what I did tweak added a lot.  What I had in the end was a solidified structure for an awesome game taylored to my tastes.

~PS

No Thank You Evil: Mirror Mirror

Sunday March 6, 2016 at 1:00pm no thank you evil, game session notes Comments (0) »
 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

New Character:

Remmy [Tony] :: a Kind Creature (dog)

Session Highlights:

- While trying to find her friends again, Angel heard someone calling for help.  She found a big dog (who was sort of like a kid) hanging upside down as some kind of carnivorous plant tried to eat him.  Angel ran and jumped up onto the dog and, after a few attempts, managed to break the vine holding him and the two escaped.

- Unable to find their way to Maria and Edwin, Remmy (who had been in the wood hunting mushrooms for the Kitchen Witch) used his Witch-Way to find their way back to Hex Kitchen.  Meanwhile, Edwin and Maria happened upong a whispered story about Angel and a dog going to the kitchen, so they all met up there.

- The group then proceeded to Mirror Mirror, spoke the rhyme, and entered the palace.  Before they could get far, however, Maria and Remmy were detained by Mirror Men while Queen Me anxiously questioned them.  Angel, having escaped, continued in, eventually finding the Princesses on the upper floor.

- Maria and Remmy eventually manged to distract the Queen and escape.  They found Angel and the princesses, and the group of them fought their way back out of Mirror Mirror in time to get Edwin and Snow White to the Flower Petal Ball!

No Thank You Evil: Princesses in Peril

 No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games
No Thank You Evil artwork © Monte Cook Games

This is a loose campaign started for my 4-year-old daughter, Hannah.  Sheri will be playing in it as well, and others may come and go occasionally.

Characters:

- Angel [Hannah] :: a Powerful Princess with a stuffed fox

- Maria [Sheri] :: a Super-Smart Pirate with a stuffed rabbit

Session Highlights:

- Angel was awaked by her stuffed fox, Ocean, talking to her.  He said her help was needed.  Not sure what was happening, she hid at first, but eventually noticed the green light coming from under her closet door and, upon investigating, found that a gateway in her closet now led into a forest in a mystical land.

- Angel met with Maria and a teddy bear named Edwin and was told that the Princesses were trapped in a palace called Mirror Mirror, and that one of them had promised to go to the Flower Petal Ball with Edwin.  Someone needed to get them out.

- After some discussion, the group decided to go to the Whispering Wood to see if it would tell them any stories about how to get into Mirror Mirror.  Maria and Edwin discovered a rhyme that would open the way, but Angel saw something that frightened her, ran off into the wood, and got lost!

New Auburn Chronicle: Licking Wounds

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Fearing the approach of sirens, the tow assailants fled the scene.  Carter had made a valiant effort to detain them - or at least keep them off his friends - but the double-team ultimately proved too much and a serious blow to the back of his head all but removed him from the fight.

- Jordan pulled Emory's medical supplies from her trunk and, acting mostly on instinct, managed to stop her profuse bleeding.  Seeing Carter still standing, Jordan decided to leave and get Emory to the hospital ASAP.  

- Police and ambulances arrived next and, after questioning him, took Carter to the hospital as well.

- Sara fought with Damon's laptop a bit more - recovering no more information, but changing the password so as to keep others out.  She then left the complex a reasonable distance, and quietly observed the aftermath of what was going on in the street where the shootout had taken place.  She then walked to a nearby convenience store and, after distracting the owner, used the phone to leave some anonymous tips for the police about Damon and his drug ring.

- The group spent several days recovering.  Aaron got hold of some copied police file info on Elijah Sims (whom Sara now recognizes as the man responsible for the shotgun damage to Emory's car) and Dakota Flores.  

- Jordan went to plead his case to the station manager and, after a bit of persuading, managed to keep his job.  Fearing that at least one of the gang knows who he is and where to find him, Jordan had Aaron accompany him on his first night back.  At about the second commercial break, Aaron stepped outside the booth and noticed an approaching shadow in the hall...

- +2xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Fire Flight

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- The party disbanded for the evening - Sara stayed with Emory, Jordan went with Carter, and Aaron went back to his place.  

- Aaron, being pretty beat up, decided he needed a day to recover.  The others decided the next day to head over to an address for the gang member who'd run away from the cave which Sara had acquired from the registration for his yellow jeep.

- Upon reaching the run-down apartment complex and determining the man wasn't at home, the group engaged in some misdirection to cover Jordan's picking the lock on the door.  Once inside, they noticed the interior was nicely furnished for a run-down place.  Sara found a laptop, which she was busy searching for information on "Catch" or her friend Kim when Carter told them someone was coming.

- They hurred out, running - almost literally - into the man who's apartment they'd been searching.  Recognizing them from the cave before and seeing he was outnumbered, he turned and ran.

- The resulting chase took them up an neighboring alley and on to the adjascent street where the yellow jeep was parked.  When the man reached the jeep, he reached inside, pulled out a pistol and fired it at his pursuers - about the time a nearby black sedan started and peeled out onto the road.  Carter, who'd gone back for the car they'd come in, came barrelling up the alleyway in it, expertly skidding out onto the street. 

- Carter slammed the car into the back of the jeep, and leapt out into the fray, the man in black sedan pulled around the other side began spraying the area with submachine gun bullets, injuring Emory and Jordan, as the man they'd been chasing tried to fight them off.  

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Waiting in the Weeds

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Made aware of the approaching vehicle and guessing it was probably the man who'd fled during the confrontation in the cave along with more companions, the group made to hide.

- Just before the gang arrived, Aaron turned to find a tall, Native-American-looking man standing behind him.  Startled he went to tackle the man, but found he passed right through his target, tumbling some distance down the hill.  During a brief interaction with Jordan and one of the prisoners (who were halfway up the hill), the rest of the group was alerted to the approaching vehicle.  The rest of the party, at the bottom of the hill, heard the sound of howling int he distance.

- Due to some impressive and convincing half-truths (and outright falsehoods) by Jordan, the rest of the group managed to get their two prisoners to hide with them, convincing one of them that they're buddy had betrayed them and that the approaching men were from a rival gang.

- From his position, Aaron was able to see a dark man in a coat with a heavily-bandaged head in the vehicle the gang had arrived in.  He seemed to be calling the shots.  More disturbing, however, he kept hearing a rustling in the leaves and brush getting closer - eventually growling the word "Niatha" in his ear.  When Aaron finally turned the flashlight behind him, though, he found nothing.

- Carter had sneaked around to get a view of this area as well, and was keeping an eye on the situation form a position across the pathway from Aaron.  He heard the rustling around him, too - though nothing more.

- The group left one of their prisoners who was injured, irritated, and had become belligerently uncooperative.  The other they took with them back up to the shelter house and continued to talk with him, ultimately letting him go - convinced, for the moment, that the group was actually working for his emplyer - a man they'd heard of, known as "Catch". 

- After the gang had gone, Aaron and Emory went down to check on the abandoned prisoner.  They caught sight of the tall Native-American, heading toward the cave - this time, he seemed to be licked with flames.  Shockingly, they found that the man they'd left had been brutally mutilated in the few minutes of their absence - his body showing deep claw-like gashes and his chest having been torn open.  They think his heart may have been missing.  

- The group also pulled out, having found out what they could from the park.  They returned to Emory's place (Jordan's place being compromised as he was recognized by the prisoner they'd be talking with).  On their way out, they heard on the radio that the downtown courthouse was burning down...

- +4xp

New Auburn Chronicle: The Devil's Cocktail

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- The group got what information they could from their captives, who were less than cooperative - one, because he was cold and critical, and another, because he was pretty heavily drugged.  Still, they managed to learn a couple of things about the drug operation and how it related to other things they'd been encountering.  They weren't quite finished formulating their next move when Aaron, having hiked back up to the shelter house for cell reception, noticed the headlights of a vehicle heading that way...

- +2xp

Awakening Force

Wednesday January 20, 2016 at 12:45pm movies, star wars Comments (0) »
 © Star Wars: The Force Awakens
© Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I don't go to the theatre often.  Before last night, the last time I'd seen a movie in a theatre was the summer of 2012.  I actually have to be in the right mood to even want to watch a movie (though, the theatre experience does make it come much more easily).  I kind of have a hard time with passive entertainment like moves, books, tv shows, etc.  I can do it for a while, but I tend to want to do something creative more often.

But this was different.  This was Star Wars.

Like a lot of people, I always loved Star Wars - especially when I was a kid.  Also, like a lot of people, I thought the "Prequel" movies were, at best "meh" and, at worst, "awful".  Honestly, I'm pretty easily amused, and I can enjoy watching pretty much anything when it comes to Sci-Fi.  I can seriously nit-pick, too, however.

When this latest movie came out, I heard a lot of positive things - with many people saying that it felt much more like the original trilogy than the prequels.  And that was the reason that I was excited about it.  So, a month after release, Sheri and I finally went to see it.

First off, the movie was good.  We had a good time watching it, and talking about it thereafter.  If you like this sort of thing and you haven't seen it yet, you should.  Really.  Also, you should stop reading, because I'm about to spoil some things.

 

Things I liked (read: "Yay!"):

- In terms of narrative and screenplay, it did feel quite a bit like the original trilogy.  This was probably the most important thing to me, and I think it did a good job.  The directoral and visual style/feel was a bit more modern, however - but, though this did degrade the consistency in feel a little for me, I think it would have been a mistake to have shot it in an older style.  Also, there may not actually be any more difference between 6 and 7 than there was between 4 and 5.

- Inclusion of characters and actors from the original trilogy - and that those characters were totally consistent with their prior selves.  This was a simple but effective means of series cohesion.

- The new characters were well-developed and compatible with the setting.  Particularly love the "fallen" storm trooper.

- The action scenes were dynamic and exciting (my favorite was the escape from Jakku in the Falcon).

- Visuals were stunning but without an in-your-face, look-at-our-fancy-effects attitude.

Things I didn't like (read: "nit-picks"):

- The nominal goal of the story/protagonists: trying to recover a "map to Luke".  Really?  A "map" to a person?  Seemed a bit...trite.  Also, that the Resistance should be convinced that this one person is critical seems kind of dubious.

- R2's sudden awakening seemed to come out of nowhere, yet nothing was made of it suggesting that there might have been a cause beyond ex machina (e.g. even someone saying "what could have caused that to happen?") - and, of course, he has the rest of what they were looking for all the time. 

- The scope-creep of the ever-larger super weapon that must be destroyed.  Also, some of the other direct, plot-level duplications: the droid that has the missing piece, the nobody from the sand planet, the villain related to a protagonist, the "cantina scene" etc.  Don't get me wrong, all of this was well done, it just didn't win prizes for originality.  Also, I don't know what I would have preferred in its stead - it all was very "star wars".

- I would have ended the movie with Rey and Chewie flying off in the Falcon.  While I just complained (a little) about things being copied from the originals in terms of plot, that would have been a nice nod to the end of Empire.  The scene with Luke I found to be a little...meh...and it didn't really add much.  Though it might have dissappointed some people, I think they should have started with that on 8 so they could develop it.

- Also (biggest spoiler) Han Solo's death.  No no - the scene was dramatic and well done.  And really, it was the only way someone like Solo could die.  My reasons for disliking it are simply that I hated to see the character end.  If it was a character I hadn't known since childhood, I'm sure I'd have applauded it.  But I just...can't.  :(

 

There is probably another thing or two on each side of the ledger, but I think those were the big ones.  Though perhaps not perfect, it was a great time.  Definitely worth going to see.

 

~PS

Numenous

Sunday January 17, 2016 at 8:02pm gaming, numenera Comments (0) »
 Obelisk of the Water God by Kieran Yanner, © Monte Cook Games
Obelisk of the Water God by Kieran Yanner, © Monte Cook Games

I really want to run this game.  Yes, I know.  

I have been fascinated by Numenera since my first encounter with it over a year ago.  I don't know that it's a "perfect" game for me (such a thing probably doesn't exist), but it might be very close.  The setting is fascinating and unique, borrowing from science and sci-fi as well as fantasy in a way that doesn't feel like a clumsy genre-mash.  It also has some of my favorite tropes built-in in an inherent way - I always love worlds with forgotten histories, and I love how exploration and discovery are main themes.  There is even a solid, in-world explanation for "adventuring" as an occupation.  The real genius of the Ninth World as a science-fantasy setting is that it can contain pretty much anything and yet still make sense. The rules system for the game is simple enough to be straight-forward, but sophisticated enough to be interesting - and has a uniqueness itself.  Plus the artwork in pretty awesome.

So, instead of re-ordering the Mouse Guard book I returned (and with some additional cash I was given for my birthday/christmas), I have added a few more books to my Numenera collection.  I usually don't buy additional/supplement material for games these days - sticking to core-only and letting my imagination do the rest - but I found myself making an exception for this game for two reasons:

- First, because this game has totally captured my imagination.  So, good job, Monte Cook Games.  

- Secondly, because the setting is so unique, I think some additional material might actually be necessary as I try to wrap my head around how the Ninth World actually works enough to run it.  I've looked through the Ninth World Guidebook, the Technology Compendium, and the Ninth World Bestiary a fair bit since I got them, and they've been helpful.  Also, I've been pretty impressed with them as creative products.  The books' mechanical aspects are pretty simple and straightforward, and the overall foci of them seem to be more on flavor and feel than on mechanics and rules.  This is always a win where I'm concerned - expanded world/setting material is always my favorite part of any RPG supplement.  I've found quite a few interesting ideas to use so far, along with some ideas borrowed from other sources to supplement my own material. 

I'm looking to start a Numenera game after our current World of Darkness campaign reaches some resolution.  I'm loving the WoD game, but I also can't wait for this one.  Yes, I know.  I got the core book for Christmas last year and I still haven't had a chance to run it, much to my chagrin.  Now, however, I'm a bit more prepared.

 

...and now, with the previous post, my brain is considering the Mouse Guard Territories 1 billion years in the future.  So that's odd.

 

~PS

Another Look at the Same Mouse Territories

Wednesday January 6, 2016 at 1:13pm gaming, mouse guard Comments (0) »
 The Mouse Territories © David Petersen
The Mouse Territories © David Petersen

Sheri got me the second edition Mouse Guard RPG book for Christmas, though I decided to return it - for two reasons.  One reason (the main one), is that it had a binding flaw where a section of pages toward the end actually wasn't attached to the book.  The reason I won't be re-ordering the book, however, is that it isn't much of an "upgrade" from the original edition.  It does contain a bunch of new, cool artwork - but that alone doesn't carry it for me.  It has clarified a few things that might have been ambiguous, but the only thing it really seems to be significantly altered is how Wises work.  I like the update, but it wasn't something I had a gripe with before, and I could probably sum up the change in a few sentences.  

I, personally, was kind of hoping they would more fundamentally alter the system (I really don't like the "turns"/"checks" system), but that doesn't seem to be the direction they want to head - which is fair enough.  I personally apply quite a few house rules to the game as-written, but that's just to suit my tastes

What I'd really like to see is a detailed Mouse Guard rpg setting book - something full of tons of places, entities, and potential plot hooks.  David Petersen told me via Twitter that this sort of thing is on his long-term plan.  I responded by saying I would buy that thing in a heartbeat.

I still seriously love Mouse Guard - the comics as well as the RPG - and really want to run a Territories campaign one of these days (my queue of games to run is getting...lengthy).  It is a fantastic setting and concept, neatly uniting grit and charm in a way I wouldn't have thought possible.  If you, too, are fascinated by mice with swords, totally pick up the current edition of the game.

 

~PS

Pages of Holidays

Monday January 4, 2016 at 12:32pm family, friends, books, geocaching Comments (0) »
 Zach (and also, Bravery) at Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park - doing some geocaching
Zach (and also, Bravery) at Ogle Lake, Brown County State Park - doing some geocaching

Holiday Trip

Had a great Christmas this year in IN with my parents.  Bunguins #1 and #2 both handled the trip car pretty well, and everyone loved getting to see them.  

I got to do pretty much everything I was looking forward to with my family, which was a lot of fun.  Didn't make it to the new Star Wars movie, but that was pretty low on the list, really.  Spent a lot of time relaxing, enjoying Christmas festivities, reading, playing cards, playing wii golf (Tiger Woods '10) on my parents' projector, and geocaching.  

Spending time with family - Mom, Dad, Joe, Jame and my Uncle Dave & Aunt Roxie was great.  Wish I saw them all more often.  I got to catch up with my friend Justin, too - first when we introduced him and his two older boys to geocaching (seen above), and then on New Years Eve wherein we changed an alternator and played Settlers of Catan.  More surprisingly, I got to chat with another old friend, Scott, for a while at church last sunday, too.  We did miss my sister and brother-in-law this year, but they were off having fun with his family.  

All in all, it was a great trip.

Additional Reading

I actually read quite a bit over the break.  Tony gave me the Welcome to Night Vale novel for my birthday and Sheri got me Randall Munroe's What If? book for Christmas - and I read all of both of them (and recommend to any like-minded oddballs).  I wished I'd brought the Battletech book I'd been reading as well.  I normally don't read that much (at least from non-gaming/non-reference books), but something about the relaxing week seemed to be conducive.

The Welcome to Night Vale book is pretty good - it does a good job of preserving the feel of the podcast.  I did find myself reading sections of it in radio host Cecil's voice/cadence.  Actually, I think that particular affectation enters my own speech patterns in certain circumstances if I've been listening to it a lot.

What If? is also great.  I started reading the articles on the website quite a while back, and they're all fantastic.  There are quite a few in the book that aren't on the site, too - though there are many more on the site that couldn't fit in the book.  A few of my favorites accessible here are Drain the Oceans, Into The Sun, and Interplanetary Cessna.  And also, many, many, more.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Venomous

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Carter descended into the ravine to do some scouting, finding a cave from which a loud, motor-like noise and the strong smell of dead things were issuing.  Seeing no sentries, he called the others down.

- The group proceeded into the cave one by one, but sticking fairly close together.  They followed the sound and hints of light down through some steep and narrow passages.

- At the bottom, they found several tables full of marijuana plants with sun lamps powered by a lound gas generator.  The three men they'd seen earlier where all at the far side of the room near what seemed to be a gaping crack in the floor of the large cavern - they were pulling something out of it with chains.

- The group entered the cavern and were spotted.  One of the men pulled a pistol and began firing on them, but another seemed to be trying to stop the shooting.  The thing they were dragging out of the pit at first seemed human, but as they got a better look at it, had obviously inhuman qualities.  When it finally emerged entirely from the pit, they found it to have a massive, spider-like abdomen protruding from a humanoid torso.  The three men seemed...surprised...by this.

- What insued was a collection of uncoordinated and conflicting attempts to control the situation.  The spider creature attempted to free itself from its chains and set upon its captors, one of the three men seemed to be attempting to subdue the creature with a tranquilizer gun, another, panicked, grabed a submachine gun and began wildly spraying the room with bullets, while the third seemed intent on firing upon the interlopers.  The party divided its efforts between keeping the creature at bay and subduing the three possible human assailants.  

- Due to the latter's state of disarray combined with some good fortune, the group was actually able to come out ahead with little harm.  Aaron subdued the man attempting to shoot at him - having successfully shot his gun arm and then bludgeoning him with his baton - his bulletproof vest doing a sufficient job of keeping him from mortal injury.  With some additional fire support from Emory, Carter put several good shots into the spider creature with his hunting rifle as it attempted to free it self such that, by the time it had, it seemed to prefer retreat rather than combat.  Jordan tackled the man wildly shooting an automatic weapon, which Sara relieved him of.  The blonde man attempting to tranquilize the creature, seeing it about to free itself and his comrads subdued by the intruders, hesistated for a moment before dropping the gun and running.  Sara pursued him, but he seemed to know the cave well and was much too quick.  By the time she reached the base of the ravine up to the shelter, he was already in his jeep heading down the road.  Sara was, however, able to prevent the other man - the one who'd panicked - from escaping when she intercepted him on his way out.

- The group was left with two "prisoners" and the remains of some kind of drug operation.  It looked fairly standard at first glance, but upon closer inspection, they found that joints being manufacturered from the growing plants were additionally being soaked in a red-orange goo.  They found a few more mason jars full of the stuff in a nearby safe.  Before it had retreated, they had all seen the same substance oozing from the creature's mouth and abdomen...

- +5xp

New Auburn Chronicle: A Fake Smile

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- The group packed up and headed out to Pine Rock State Park around noon.  They noticed the road and shelter were not on the current maps given out by the park.  They found the old road on their way to the campground - it was overgrown and had a rusted yellow gate barring vehiclular entrance.

- Once they set up at the campground, the drove back down to the gate and hiked up to the pavilion.  When they were getting close, Sara sneaked ahead and found that there were three men - probably in their 20s - present with a grill, a cooler, some paper cups, and other such things.

- The group as a whole then emerged and greeted the three, and were subsequently told that there was about to be a bit of a private party in an hour or so - with a thinly veiled suggestion that the intruders leave.  Being a bit suspicious, the group proceeded to pry a bit - both directly and indirectly - and examined the area.  One of the men in particular seemed a bit more jumpy than the other two.  Several behaviors from all three seemed odd, but there wasn't really any hard evidence that they were doing anything nefarious.  Sara did notice a worn pathway leading down into the ravine behind the shelter.  

- The situation almost turned ugly when Aaron, successfully baiting one of the men, attempted to open the cooler to get a beer and was met with a degree of aggression not quite in keeping with a minor social faux pas.  Carter successfully difused the situation and the group ultimately withdrew amid lingering tensions.

- Deciding something was definitely up, the group decided to stage a stake-out.  Carter, in full hunting camo, made his way to the hilltop above the shelter just before dusk.  He wasn't able to see into the shelter much from his vantage point, but he was able to keep an eye on the area and could hear the general sounds of conversation.  No one else ever arrived for the "party", and, just after dusk, the group of men left the shelter, heading down into the ravine...

- +3xp

A Friendly Desert Community...

Friday December 11, 2015 at 12:58pm podcasts Comments (0) »
 © Night Vale Presents
© Night Vale Presents

... where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep ...

While painting some of my recent Battletech minis, I started listening to another podcast.  It's called Welcome to Night Vale, and was suggested to me some time ago by my friend Tony.  This is only the second podcast I've ever picked up and listened to for more than an episode or two - the first being, of course, Fear The Boot.  It's been around for a while, but like many things, I'm just now discovering it.

The show takes the format of a quirky community radio show from a very, very strange and (presumably) fictional, town.  Since I tend to think of fiction in terms of gaming, the setting - defined almost exclusively through fascinating implication - reminds me of some cross between Numenera and World of Darkness.

The show is seriously messed up, in a wonderfully fantastic way.  If you haven't already, you should check it out.

Probably.

~PS

Lately, Again

Friday December 11, 2015 at 12:46pm bunguin, family, gaming, music Comments (0) »
 Micah ~ 1 month old
Micah ~ 1 month old

Bunguin II

So, I've been busy with nothing lately.  Well, not "nothing", just nothing exceptionally interesting to write about.  Little Blue is now approaching 2 months old, and gaining weight nicely.  He (thankfully) doesn't have Hannah's issue with eating.  Like Hannah, however, he sleeps pretty well at night.

Minis & Mechs

I've been continuing to paint my Battletech miniatures.  I've gotten a bit better at it, and I'm almost done with the ones in the original set.  I'm planning to pick up a couple of the Alpha Strike lance packs to get a few models the intro set doesn't come with.  And Catalyst told me over Twitter that they just might have some plans to bring some of the reseen 'mechs out in plastic form - I'll definitely be getting a few of those if and when that happens, too.  I've actually got to play the wargame a few times, and that's been fun.  I'm still really hoping to run a mercenaries campaign in the future.

Current and (Far) Future

I'm trying to gently nudge our World of Darkness campaign toward a conclusion, and getting ready to start a Numenera campaign.  I think the campaign I'm planning to run will in some ways might run smoother for this group.  Also, Crackle Nights are, in some ways, getting...difficult...as game nights.  Might need to try to move this back to the weekend.

Mus(ic)ing

I've actually been trying to do a little songwriting lately.  My list of hooks and inspiration notes is growing.  I've got a solid set of ideas.  I'm pushing the boulder closer to the edge.  At some point, I'll be ready to push it over and we'll get this rolling.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Eyes to the Mountains

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Jordan had been somehow abducted, apparently by a man in an odd, old suit who definitely did not have yellow eyes.  They had a...pleasant...conversation wherein the man told Jordan he had been cursed and that the only way to remove the curse was the eliminate an old spiritual presence.  Jordan, unsure of this man's motives, basically told him thanks but no thanks, and that he would address his...situation...himself.  Upon leaving, he found himself outside a cabin deep in the forest north of the city.  He fought his way through the forest and back to the city over the next 24 hours.

- The group took a couple of days to recover from injuries and collect some thoughts.  During this time, Sara met with a friend of the missing sculptor of the New Tree Monument and acquired some of Kim's old school notes.  Aaron received a call from Kristine cautioning him about being too vocal about his more "interesting" theories.  Carter got a voicemail from the history chair at CSU Fort Collins who'd found out he'd previously tried to contact the late James Hannelbrock.

- The group met on friday night to discuss things again.  They decided they were going to go and investigate the shelter house marked on the park map Aaron found in the abandoned apartment building.  They're making ready to go on a "camping trip" - they'll check out the place during the day and, if they find nothing, head back at night...

- +2xp

Bunguin The Second

Thursday October 29, 2015 at 10:24am bunguin, family Comments (0) »
 Bunguin The Second: Micah William Shoemaker
Bunguin The Second: Micah William Shoemaker

As of 11:29am on Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, we have a new family member: Micah William Shoemaker.  Mommy and baby are doing well, and recovering here at JCMC.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Bullets and Teeth

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Sara was listening to Jordan's late-night radio show when it returned from commercial and went to dead air.  Concerned, she called Carter and the two of them decided to head over to the station to see what was up.  As they were arriving, they saw a young man break into the building.  When they went in to investigate, they found themselves cornered by a werewolf.  A brief encounter resulted, ending when the wolf creature fled the building.  There was no sign of Jordan, but the radio booth was full of spider webs.

- Aaron got a call from Kristine saying that she thought their best bet for getting back into the basement of that abandoned building was to try sooner rather than later - and decided they were heading back right then.  When they arrived, they found that the place was inhabited by one of the thugs from earlier.  They set a bit of a trap to catch him, which didn't exactly work and he escaped.  The two found their way into the basement where they found the remains of a drug operation that was no longer present.  Aaron did notice some anchors in the walls and some dried orange-red goo.  As they were leaving, he also found a map of Pine Rock State Park which had circled a remote shelter house.  On their way back to the car, they were ambushed by a larger group of thugs with automatic weaponry, from which they narrowly escaped.

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Once Bitten

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Emory and Jordan begin noticing increasing webbing in the closet they're hiding in, though they see no spiders.  Emory is brushed by something a couple of times and ultimately "attacked", receiving two, painless puncture wounds coated with an orange-red goo - accompanied by sudden hallucinations of eyes, a strange warmth, and some senses.  Jordan frantically re-jimmys the door to permit their escape, slamming it shut behind them.

- The group re-assembles back at Jordan's apartment, where Aaron and Sara try to assist in treating Emory's wounds under her direction.  They turn out to be much worse than suspected, however, and the efforts cause Emory to weaken dramatically.  They do manage to get her somewhat stabilized and decide it's time to go to the ER.

- While Sara and Aaron take Emory to the hospital, Carter and Jordan head to the City Square Park to look at the New Tree Monument.  Carter notices that the negative spaces between the branches of the stylized tree form symbols associated with the tribes that once inhabited this area - and that one of them was slightly mis-formed: the sculpture had been vandalized about a year and a half ago and "restored" about six months later...though, apparently, not completely.

- Jordan heads to the studio around midnight to do his show, which he gives a spider theme for the evening.  Several interesting stories are called in, including a china doll that wraps itself in webs, an abandoned building full of webs containing dead animals, webs appearing in hospital rooms seeming to indicate a sudden patient death, and a kid who said he saw a giant spider "belonging" to an old man in a suit.  As the show is concluding, he notes a strange web in the corner of his studio and the reflection of a large shadow behind him...

- +3xp

Canon's Digital Photo Professional and My Image Quality Issue

Thursday October 15, 2015 at 1:14pm photography, canon, problems Comments (0) »
 CLICK TO ENLARGE: A screenshot composite of three images in Digital Photo Professional, submitted to illustrate a problem I perceieve in the program's JPEG export process.  The differences are subtle (depending on the dot pitch of your monitor), but are visible at the top of her hair, her eyes, mouth, and a few other details.
CLICK TO ENLARGE: A screenshot composite of three images in Digital Photo Professional, submitted to illustrate a problem I perceieve in the program's JPEG export process. The differences are subtle (depending on the dot pitch of your monitor), but are visible at the top of her hair, her eyes, mouth, and a few other details.

Ready The Canons

So, let me first say that I like Canon.  Quite a bit.  Especially their cameras and lenses.  I've had my EOS 40D for almost 8 years now, and I still love it.  Sure, it's a bit dated at this point, but it produces great images (at least when you don't need high ISO).  I've also greatly enjoyed using the office's 5DmkIII (it is so beautiful it makes me cry...because it's so expensive) and the 7DmkII I rented last summer was a lot of fun as well (even if it didn't quite live up to my hopes).  My 50mm 1.4 continues to impress me, and my 300mm f/4L is a thing of long-reach beauty.

Unfortunately, I have a bit of a time using the images I so enjoy making.

I first noticed this problem...maybe a year ago?  And honestly, with everything else going on, I haven't devoted large amounts of time to the post-processing aspect of my photography hobby over the last couple of years.  Not that I've ever done that much, mind you - I prefer a simple set of tweaks and enhancements, and then, done.  I'm usually loathe even to crop images - I try to get them composed right on camera.

Digital Photo Professional is a nice program.  It's simple, it's clean, and it has all of the features I would use to enhance my photos to the point that I think they're beautiful.

At least, that's what it shows me.

Comparing What-You-See To What-You-Get

The image above shows a composite screenshot, unresized but with distracting elements such as window borders stripped out.  The image on the far left shows what the RAW file looks like in the editing window of DPP with the settings I wish applied.  It looks perfect.  The center image shows a full-resolution JPEG (dynamically scaled in DPP to exactly the same viewing size as the RAW) that was exported by DPP with those settings applied.  As you can see, it is noticeably mushier.  The third frame, for good measure, shows a JPEG that has been actually resized to exactly the resolution of the scaled viewing size of the previous two frames with the same settings applied.  It is virtually indistinguishable from the second frame.

Here's the thing: I am a stickler for sharpness and clarity, and, especially for screen-view 72-dpi images, I like them over-sharp.  With lines that really pop.  When I open a RAW photo like the one above in DPP and I adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, and (most notably) sharpness, it looks fantastic in the preview window.  And I think "Wow, this image is great.  I could totally do this professionally*."  

However, when I use DPP to resize this image to about what it is on the preview screen, and I export it as a JPEG so that I can actually use it on this site, on facebook, or wherever else, the image it produces looks significantly less crisp - even with export quality set to max.  Details become mushy, and it loses the crystal clarity I was seeing just moments before in DPP.  And I think "Wow, this image really isn't much better than the smartphone pics my friends with a shred of composition sense take.  I kinda suck*."  Now, I can take a JPEG screenshot of the crisp image, I just can't get DPP to make one.  If my monitor was larger, I just might start doing that to get the images I want.  Heck, I might end up doing that anyway, and the fact that I'm considering that as a workflow strikes me as, well, completely ridiculous.

* The accuracy of these thoughts is not the issue here

Anyway, all of this makes no sense to me, and I would really like to know why it is the case.  

I am amazed at how difficult it is to communicate this.

The Ongoing Saga

At first, when I began positing this question I was hoping that I was simply doing something wrong.  Maybe I forgot to turn off the "suck" setting, or there was some step in the process I was performing incorrectly.  Now, however, I'm beginning to think the program is simply flawed and cannot do what I require of a photo editor.

I first posted this issue to the Canon Community Forum thinking "surely I can't be the only one who's noticed this" (I still think that, but evidence is lacking).  Maybe someone will tell me how to fix it, or maybe they'll just tell me to buy Lightroom.  Either way, maybe I'll learn something about what's going on.  This seems so basic...

No dice.  I got a handful of responses, none of which quite answered my question.  My last post made for "ridiculous clarity" went unanswered.

So, a few months go by and I volunteered to take some photos at our church on wednesdays for an ongoing program.  Even though the images are primarily used on a projector screen and the coordinator assured me that "whatever" would be completely fine, I like to present my best work, because it says something about me and my skills.  So naturally, this issue comes up again.  This time I contacted Canon's support via email.  Sure, I could have called them, but my foray into the support forum taught me that, simple as it seems, this issue requires some explaining.  It also requires that a person see the image quality disparity - something a telephone is ill-suited to accomplish.

So I go back and forth with Canon's email support for several messages, talking with at least 4 different people.  I explain and re-explain things - no problem, I understand how support systems work, and I don't mind bringing someone up to speed.  I am given a few suggestions that don't really solve the problem, and a couple more that deal only with tangent issues that really aren't relevant to what I'm asking. 

In the last message I sent, I outlined everything - again, for "ridiculous clarity" - just to make sure I'm being understood and the reader doesn't get side-tracked.  The response I got today told me only that, since I'm having "extended issues", "we" recommend calling the customer support line.  Yeah, reading a URL over the phone is going to be...fun.  I wonder if the poor guy just saw my wall of text and decided he'd rather pass it off than answer, but that assessment is probably overly cynical and unfair.

When I call, I might just point them to this post - that might actually be easier.  Though, I'd have to wait for them to read it.  Which I guess means the more I type here, the longer I have to wait.  If you're from Canon Support and you're reading this, I'm sorry.  I know it's not your fault.  I'd just really, really like my images to look as good as the program tells me they should, and it doesn't seem anyone else can point me in the right direction.  Help me, Obiwan Kenobe, you're my only hope, etc.

Non-Explanations

Here are the things I have been told in various correspondences.  None of them really answer the question of why a JPEG screenshot of the editor window looks better than an exported screen-resolution JPEG.

Now, my knowledge is not at all perfect on anything, and digital photography is certainly no exception.  I may be misunderstanding some aspects of how things work.  However, I am a programmer, I have studied digital photography for 8 years, and I haven't yet been told that my understanding on any of this is incorrect (and, in fact, I have tried to gently correct a couple of respondents on some things), so I feel like I'm on pretty solid ground.  

I also accept that these explanations were offered in good faith and intended to be helpful - and, though they didn't directly answer my concerns, I was most appreciative of them.  The first time I got them, anyway.  After the 3rd or 4th incarnation of the same or similar suggestion, however, I started to tire of going in circles, so I passed all of these on in the last message I sent to Canon Support in an attempt to explain what has been considered so far and how these didn't really address my problem.

So, here we go:

Non-Explanation #1: "JPEG is a lossy format, so the exported JPEG is going to look worse than the RAW preview"

Why I don't buy it: A JPEG screenshot is capable of showing the image as I want it.  JPEG as a format is not fundamentally incapable of the IQ I'm looking for.  I'm using max quality for the export.  The point of photo editor is to show you what the final version will look like.  A JPEG can look this good, and a good photo editor with the RAW file to work from should be able to produce it.  As another tangent, I have also been told I should export as a lossless TIFF and that that would look better, and it does not: TIFFs exported look virtually identical to the JPEGs to my eyes.  Even if it WAS significantly better, I don't have much use for TIFF files.  And again, a JPEG can look this good, and it should.  I've also been told, when showing RAW preview and exported images side-by-side, that a full-res JPEG being dynamically scaled down to fit the screen won't look as good as the RAW being dynamically scaled because of the format.  This I could totally believe, except that, as seen above, I see basically no difference between an exported JPEG being dynamically scaled, and a JPEG exported at the window-size resolution being viewed at 100%;

Non-Explanation #2: "The low-res JPEG is lower resolution, so it has less information, so of course the RAW file which has more information from which to sample is going to look better"

Why I don't buy it: The images in both cases are being viewed at screen-resolution - 72dpi, and exactly the same number of pixels.  Resolution alone does not account for the discrepancy.  DPP has *exactly* the same information available to it when it creates the JPEG as it does when it creates the on-screen preview, ergo, both should look the same at a given resolution.

Non-Explanation #3: "You're not viewing the files at 100%.  When you export the JPEG at 100%, it looks the same as the RAW at 100%"

Why I don't buy it: This might actually be true - I'm not terribly good at comparing 100% images.  The on-screen dot pitch is too large for me to notice the kinds of details I'm examining.  That said, this is still completely beside the point: While it would be good news for the rare occasions when I print a photo, in general, I don't want a 100% image that's thousands of px on a side, I want a screen-resolution image.  DPP can show me a screen-res image in the preview that looks perfect.  I can take a JPEG screenshot of it.  Why can't it export a JPEG that looks like this?  The case that 100% JPEGs are perfect would be completely irrelevant to my observation that scaled JPEGs are not because it is possible to have a low-res image that looks perfect.  That, and if I export the image at full size and then use Photoshop or some other program to scale it down, it doesn't look any better than when DPP scaled it, so I'm not sure the claim is true to begin with.  

Non-Explanation #4: "When you edit a file, it changes the file.  (Lots of successive) edits result in a loss of image quality"

Why I don't buy it: This seems irrelevant to my case, but ok.  My modus operandi is to open images in DPP, apply a standard set of edits, export, done.  I don't do a lot of post work, that's not what I love about photography.  I generally only edit photos once - MAYBE twice if I notice something later.  I have not edited the files enough to cause image degradation - in fact, I know for a fact the image of the boy in the chair [referenced in a previous message] was edited exactly once.  Though I know it to be true of repeated edits to JPEGs (which is something I never do anyway), I'm not actually sure the statement is accurate with respect to RAW files in the first place.  DPP seems to save the *settings* you're applying to the RAW file separate from the RAW file itself, though perhaps I am mistaken.  Also, the *kind* of quality difference I'm seeing isn't consistent with what I have seen in JPEG/image degradation, though my experience there is less than vast, and I would be hard-pressed to articulate the difference.

Non-Explanation #5: "There must be something wrong with your computer/software or your camera."

Why I don't buy it: I thought this for a while, too.  I guess it sill could be the case.  However, evidence points to the contrary.  I have observed this problem in two different versions of DPP (3.11.x, 3.13.x) on my macbook using files from my 40D as well as the office's 5DmkIII, a different version of DPP (3.14.x) on a different PC using files from both of those cameras, and DPP 4.x on still another PC using files from a 7DmkII.  I believe the problem is in the program(s) - and apparently a core aspect of it that does not change from version to version - and not in any hardware or software I'm using.

My Suspicions

I have spent some time speculating about the actual cause of this issue, since it doesn't seem there is an easy solution.  I'm wondering if that fact is why I've been given a bit of a run-around.  I passed these on to Canon Support as well.  Well, except the first one.

Possible Explanation #1: I'm insane.

Ok, this really isn't an explanation, but I'm starting to feel this way.  Except when I look at my images, then I remember that there is a problem and the puzzling fact that no one else seems to acknowledge it starts to seem less significant.

Possible Explanation #2: DPP fails to apply certain settings.

If, when viewing the RAW image, I remove the applied sharpness (and possibly contrast) tweaks, the image looks basically identical to the JPEG resulting from an export made with those settings theoretically applied.  I have also exported images with no sharpness tweaks and found that they look virtually identical to the ones that supposedly had those settings applied.  I have not done an intense side-by-side comparison on this, however, and comparing two "meh" photos is more difficult than comparing one "meh" and one "good".

Possible Explanation #3: DPP applies certain settings before scaling, and, due to how DPP scales the images, their impact is being dramatically lessened because of this - whereas, in the editing window, perhaps it is dynamically applying those settings to an image that is already scaled to the screen and so they are more visible on the displayed image.

This is just speculation, but as I have been told the 100% full-res images RAW & JPEG look the same and I have to assume this might be true, this eventuality might explain why the resized images that I want to actually use might not look as good.

Possible Explanation #4: DPP's conversion method(s) and/or resize/scaling algorithm isn't all that great.

There is an obvious lack of quality with no obvious cause.  On its face, the program simply seems to do a poor job producing images for use.  I really hope this is not the case, but no one has offered proof to the contrary.

 

So, there you have it.  Pretty much the beginning and end of my problem that no one can answer.  We'll see what (if anything) happens when I find time to give them a call.  Maybe I'll find out I'm wrong about everything.  I don't really care as long as I can get my photos to pop.

 

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Follow the Trails

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Aaron met detective Kristine Cannon to check out the address on the mysterious note with a killer's fingerprints he'd received.  They found that, despite the building's 'abandoned' status, there were signs of recent passage and habitation.  They found that the nails boarding up the door to the basement were new, but Kristine was accosted by some local thugs while retrieveing a crowbar from her vehicle.  The thugs made a show of threatening them to leave the building, which they did.  Someone is apparently watching it for some reason.

- Sara went to the Lake Meijer Marina and talked to Jennifer about the late Eric Riley.  She told Sara that he was an avid outdoorsman, and they found a record of a cancelled pontoon and "extended guide services" reservation for Hector Hall originally made for the day after Riley's untimely death.  There was nothing else on record indicating the purpose of the outing, though Jennifer did recall that his personal SCUBA gear was later found in one of the storage lockers.

- Carter went home after their meeting to look through his grandfather's things a bit more thoroughly.  In doing so, he came across a bit of a shredded document to the Society for American Archeaology talking about a new site, some print-out bathymetry with some marks on the deepest places, a newspaper clipping talking about the delayed repairs to the New Tree Monument, and a note about the Algonquin word "mahigan" in the margin of an unusual book on Arapaho dialects.

- Jordan and Emory decided to take a look at the basement where Sara had encountered some apparition that resembled Kim Jones.  They were accosted by one of the professors who, not recognizing them, asked what he could do to help.  They played off their presence as looking for an old professor of Jordan's from when he took classes at the college - an effort which was partially successful.  When the managed to make it to the basement, they found that it looked very different from what Sara described: namely cleaner, well-lit, and possessed of a completely different layout.  Though they did notice one of the odd spider webs in a corner, it wasn't until Jordan picked the lock on a utility closet that they discovered anything that matched Sara's story: an old, beat-up classroom desk.  Among the graffiti, they noticed the words "help me" gouged into one corner.  They were trying to photograph the desk when the door at the top of the stair openened and Emory pulled Jordan inside.

- +4xp

Painting and 31st Century Combat

Sunday October 11, 2015 at 4:52pm battletech, gaming Comments (0) »
 This Panther looks SIGNIFICANTLY better in person, if only because the macro shows every tiny flaw in my paint job...
This Panther looks SIGNIFICANTLY better in person, if only because the macro shows every tiny flaw in my paint job...

Brushing Up

So, I haven't painted minis in a long time but, due to a series of extremely fortunate events (and a guy I don't really know being generally awesome), I ended up with a copy of the Battletech introductory box set and the 26 mech figures that come with it.  And a painting guide for painting them.

I'm not really very good at this, but I think I'm getting a little better.  It's one thing to read the guide, it's another thing to be able to actually paint well.  I've painted about six of these now, and I've learned a bit.

Battling

The Battletech tabletop wargame is a lot of fun - not that I'm good at it, mind you.  I've even taught the quick-start rules to a kid I mentor at a local elementary school (...and he's beating me).  The tabletop wargame is only part of my nefarious goal, however.

As I have mentioned before, I have wanted to run a Battletech tabletop RPG campaign for for ever.  Now that I have minis, the actual tabletop game rules, and several sources of setting info, I'm a few steps closer.  I even actually have a copy of Mechwarrior 2nd ed (the published rpg component), but it strikes me as a bit clunky and dated at this point, so I'm working on my own companion rpg system to run in tandem with the wargame for an RPG campaign.  It needs to feel like an extension of the wargame, but encompass the plushier parts of character and role.

My one last reservation, however, is that I might not have the right group for this game.  It is a pretty heavy military sci-fi setting, and doesn't exactly fit with the "plucky adventurers" feel my group tends to have.  What I want to run is a mercenaries campaign wherein the PCs will comprise a mercenary outfit which will have to balance allegiances and personal goals with the bottom line - and all that that entails.  There are times that I think my group could have a lot of fun with this, and there are times that I think maybe I should pitch it to someone else.  The jury is still out, but there is a better-than-not chance I attempt to get them to at least give it a try at some point in the future.  Remember people, if your GM is into it, it's going to be a good game.

~PS

I've Always Wanted To Do This

Tuesday October 6, 2015 at 1:11pm geocaching, kayaking Comments (1) »
 kayaking in the rain on Fort Patrick Henry Lake
kayaking in the rain on Fort Patrick Henry Lake

Yak, yak, yak

So, last thursday I met up with some local cachers at a waterborne event at Fort Patrick Henry Lake.  Ever since one of them told me that they always have extra boats at these things and that someone would let my try kayaking, I was just waiting for an event to show up.  The fact that the "ideal conditions" did not present themselves was insignificant as far as I was concerned.  I have always wanted to do this.

We met up around 6p hoping the rain would hold off.  It did not.  Oh well, we were going to get wet anyway.  I was quick to claim one of the extra kayaks one of the guys had brought.  We paddled upstream quite a ways, hitting 4 caches along the way.  Being on the water with cool people was awesome, and I think the rain and the current from the generating dam made it more of an adventure.

That was a BLAST.  I've had some great adventures caching, and this was definitely one of the best.  Can't wait to do it again.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Considering the Evidence

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Aaron and Emory explained to the arriving authorities what had happened - leaving out certain details.  They said that the dead druggie had attacked them in a frenzy and that they were forced to shoot him in self-defense.  Their story was convincing, but they still spent most of the rest of the day at the Department.  Aaron was placed on "administrative leave", though he still received a call from Kristine Cannon asking if he was still joining her at 1101 Harriet Avenue.

- Jordan took a walk down the street from the "General Store" and found some unusual evidence at the entrance to a boarded-up post office: bent window bars, large slash marks, and silvered buckshot embedded in the front door.

- The party met later in the day to discuss what they'd learned and to determine what to do next.  They suggested visiting the Marina to see if they could determine for what Dr Hall had needed Eric Riley.  Sara considered contacting Kim's parents to see if she could acquire any journals or notes.  Carter is going to dig into his grandfather's artifacts.  Jordan is planning to run a "spider themed" show tonight.  Emory is sure there is some connection between some of what's going on to the drug problems in New Auburn, but isn't sure exactly how to pursue it.

- 2xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Corruption

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- The group headed to the "west tenements", a poor and isolated area of the city.  After pulling off to take a look at a dead dog lying in the middle of the street, they decide to continue on foot.

- Most of the group move on to talk to an old man sitting on his front porch.  He seems reluctant to talk to outsiders, but eventually tells them that "the witch" at the "general store" is responsible for the dreamcatcher-like charms hanging from many of the buildings - charms that bear a pattern identical to the strange spider web Jordan saw.

- The group then proceeds to the old general store, which is now full of strange charms, talismans and totems.  They call for the proprietor - when she finally arrives, she seems most unhappy to see them, calling them outsiders and telling them their auras are "out-of-phase" with this locale.

- Aaron stays back, he notices another of the strange spider webs.  This leads him to the basement of one of the buildings, covered in them.  After calling out, he hears someone upstairs who seemed as though he might be in some trouble.  Emory arrived to join him at this point, and they find a man collapsed upstairs injecting something into his arm.  They start to call 911, when the man begins to convulse, sprouting spider legs, fangs, and 6 additional yellow eyes.  The creature is hostile, but seems un-accustomed to its form.  As it springs upon them (biting Aaron a few times), they fire on it, eventually bringing it down as it is stuck in the doorway - at which point, its monstrous appendages begin to dissolve into goo, leaving a man with multiple bullet wounds.

- 3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: First Steps

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- After having discussed the experiences themselves, the group moved on to examine the histories, contexts, and possible meanings and connections between them.  After some consideration, they decided to follow Jordan's suggestion see what they could learn in the "west tenements", a poor corner of the city, which they plan to do in the late morning the following day.

- +1xp

Some Truly Epic Caching

Saturday August 22, 2015 at 10:46pm geocaching Comments (0) »
 Captain Dobie's Treasure Map
Captain Dobie's Treasure Map

So Tony and I went out to do some geocaching today, and we found what is probably my favorite cache to-date.  It was a multi-cache (a cache with multiple "stages") called "Captain Dobie's Treasure".  The GPS coordinates lead you to a container which contains the pictured amazingly-crafted map, which, in turn, directs you to a small cave located in a small pocket of TVA land near Boone Lake. 

When we got there, I secured my 100' of paracord to a tree above the cave, and, after we defeated the large spider guarding the entrance, Tony put his headlamp on and went in.  It took him a few minutes to locate the cache, which he brought up for us to examine.  I then put on the headlamp and went down to put it back.   The cave actually goes in/down quite a ways - at least 40', from what I could tell.  It even had cave crickets!  Pretty cool.  The place where Tony had pulled the cache was only about 15 or 20' in and I was seriously tempted to take it considerably further down - I could see a spot that levelled out and seemed open up just a bit - but I refrained.

Tony was ready to call it a day after that - not because it was a gruelling task, but because really, we weren't going to top that.  I knew he was right, but I still had plans.

It was a great day, and this was definitely the high point.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: In The Eyes

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Jordan recieved a phone call from a strange woman asking to meet and talk to him about strange happenings, having heard about him through his radio show.  They decided to meet at the Sixth Street Bar.  While there, one of the guys at the bar cracks and pulls a gun on another man - a gentleman in an old-fashioned-looking pin-striped suit.  Shots were fired, and chaos broke loose.  Aaron had been walking his beat nearby and heard the disturbrance.  He and Jordan eventually talked him down.  The man seemed convinced the other gentleman was some kind of "monster".

- On the way to the "meeting", Sara and Emory had an encounter with a large man who ran into their car, and another guy who was chasing after him with a shotgun.  They attempted to intervene in the scene, but after a brief exchange, the chase continued away from them.  They called 911 to report the incident and continued to the meeting.

- The group convened at Jordan's place to discuss recent happenings including the break-in at Carter's office, "ghosts", hallucinations, transformations, dreams, unusual injuries, spiders, and some odd historical documents.  They're now examining all of this for patterns or clues as to what to do about it.

- +4xp

Achery Picnics & Photography

Monday August 17, 2015 at 12:42pm work, picnic, photography Comments (0) »
AAM Archery Picnic My coworkers shooting at flying targets.  Or firing on infantry advancing across the Scottish moors.  One of the two.
My coworkers shooting at flying targets.  Or firing on infantry advancing across the Scottish moors.  One of the two.

AAM's company picnic was this last saturday afternoon, and that was a lot of fun.  I like my coworkers, so hanging out with them is always a good time, but this year Tim also presented us with a pretty awesome activity: archery.  There's apparently a mobile service in the area that comes out with basic equipment and sets up for anyone and everyone to shoot.  We did archery skeet shooting and a ball-target competition.  I personally found it was very easy for me to come very, very close - but I hit basically nothing all day.  Still, I haven't shot a bow in more than 20 years.  It was a lot of fun, regardless.  Enough that I've even wondered if there's anywhere in my yard I could set up a target.

I also enjoyed taking quite a few photos of everyone shooting.  I'd brought my camera along, but didn't know if I'd use it.  I don't own a lens wide enough to capture any kind of "group" event, and in the past there hasn't been much of interest to look at going on.  The archery thing, however, provided a cool and interesting new subject, so when I wasn't shooting with a bow, I was shooting with my camera.  Sheri commented that I was less likely to "miss" with the latter.

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Haunted

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Jordan found his way into the room with the PC controlling the security cameras.  Perkins apparently isn't especially tech-savvy, so gaining access to what he was searching for was pretty simple.  The videos showed a strange man in the booth with him that night, and a black smoke pouring out of his headphones and eyes.

- Meanwhile, Carter Hall had arrived home after a days' work to find what appeared to be a journal belonging to his late grandfather sitting on the coffee table, a pen sitting next to it.  Most of the entries were mundane and somewhat boring, but toward the end - about 6 months or so before his death - they became disorganized and unexplained.  The last entry contained the current date with words scrawled across the lines in Hector's handwriting: "They're watching me.  They've always been watching me."

- Aaron sent a text message to the others saying that he thought they ought to get together a bit sooner than originally planned.  Most of them agreed.

- The following morning, Aaron talked with Kristine Cannon, New Auburn's homicide detective.  She told him that they were going to look into the location described in the note he'd received, and Aaron asked to be involved.  After a minute or two, Krisitine suggested that they go check it out the next evening.

- Sara saw Kim Jones - her ghost, or someone that looked just like her - going into the basement of the Richardson Building, and followed.  Downstairs she found a dark and damp room containing pipes and conduits, with Kim sitting at a single desk in the middle of an opening.  When Sara finally got close enough to get the girl's attention, the being turned on her with milky white eyes, distorted features and over-long limbs.  Sara fought through the darkness back up to the first floor, where she found large spiders crawling on her.

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Missing Pieces

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

- Aaron got a strange note indicating the address of an old, abandoned apartment building.  He had someone at the station check it for finger prints and they found a partial match - that of a wanted serial killer in a case 10 years cold.

- Jordan got strange call on his radio show and now only remembers pieces of the rest of the night - though a co-worker said he saw him chased out of the building by a big guy.

- Sara looked up some info on Dr Hannelbrock - the colleague who'd sent the package to the late professor Hall - only to discover that he died in a car accident right around the time the package was postmarked.  Later that night, she was awakened by sounds in her bathroom: the faucet & shower were on, and she heard talking.  Sara recognized Kim's voice inside, speaking in an increasingly agitated tone, punctuated by the sounds of objects flying across the bathroom and slamming into the walls.  The door was locked; by the time she got inside, whoever it was was gone.

- Carter contacted campus security in order to see if the cameras caught any images of the man Sara had seen coming from his office when they discovered it had been trashed.  Only two cameras showed images of the man - it's as if he came from nowhere and disappeared when he left that one hallway.

- Emory and her partner got a call for a collapsed man in the middle of an east-side street and advised that he might be intoxicated.  When they arrived the man looked deformed, had some odd injuries, and seemed terrified out of his mind.  He pulled a gun and shot, winging the paramedic, but subsequently collapsed and stopped breathing.  He was disarmed by Sgt Bryonson who was at the scene.  The emergency responders tried to revive him, but it was too late.

- After being denied by Cecil Perkins, the station manager, Jordan and Aaron consider how to get access to the station's security camera footage.

- +3xp

New Auburn Chronicle: Glimpses

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

Finished character creation/tweaks, cooperatively devised scenario wherein the group met and began investigating these things together.

- Sara sees a strange man coming from Carter's office; the two of them find it trashed.  Carter receives a package addressed to his late grandfather containing a fragment of an unusual 19th-century letter.

- Aaron and Emory are present at a gang-shootout aftermath, finding a mostly-dissolved body in addition to three men shot to death.  While they give chase to a man fleeing the scene, someone lights the dissolved body on fire.

- 2xp

Game schedule has been decided as "most" mondays, looking at a start time between 7:30pm and 8pm.

Return of the Family Vacation

Thursday July 16, 2015 at 12:43pm family, vacation Comments (0) »
iPhone pano Cliff Tops on Mt LeConte iPhone pano of the Cliff Tops on Mt LeConte.  One of the many times I wish I owned a wide-angle for my real camera.
iPhone pano of the Cliff Tops on Mt LeConte.  One of the many times I wish I owned a wide-angle for my real camera.

Last week, we got to go on vacation with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my brother.  Only the older of my two sisters couldn't make it (which was sad) - the rest of us were all there.  It was awesome - and the first time we'd had a family vacation in....maybe 17 years?

We all met at a condo in Sevierville, TN, to hang out and do things together.  Highlights included:

- a new lawn game (Flimsee), which is thoroughly bizarre, but great fun.  I've now made my own set, and I think it'll be good for the meetup next year.

- pontooning/skiing/tubing.  I actually got up on skis with no problems this time!

- disc-golf (fun fact: there are very, very few courses in the area.  We had to drive ~30 min to find an out-of-the-way 9-hole course, but it was a great time)

- Ripley's Aquarium and the Titanic Museum.  The most touristy things we did, but they were both pretty cool.

- swimming and pool/ping-pong at the activity center.  Swimming was Hannah's favorite part of the week.  Also, I'm solid 'ok' at ping-pong and pool.  Also, also, I have learned that cue with a loose/broken tip will do crazy things to where you think your shots should go.

- board/card games: we played Catan, Time's Up and Dominion.  Good times.

- an epic hike up to the top of Mt LeConte which, all-told, was about ~14 miles and 3400ft of elevation.  The top was spectacular, though, as you should be able to see from the photo above.  Was probably the best place to rest & have lunch in the park that day.

Most of all, it was great just to spend time with everyone.  We don't get to see everyone enough, what with us all living in different states and all.  It was a truly amazing week - we all had a fantastic time.  Many, many thanks to my parents for putting it together.   

~PS

New Auburn Chronicle: Character Creation

 World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing
World of Darkness artwork © White Wolf Publishing

System: World of Darkness

Setting: New Auburn, CO

Players: Sheri, Tony, Adam, Tim, Keara

Schedule: Near-weekly

 

The New Auburn Chronicle is a (New) World of Darkness campaign set in a small city called New Auburn, located in the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado.  It is intended to be a short-to-medium length campaign.

The PCs are a group of people who have witnessed the supernatural to some small degree, and are on the lookout to protect the city of New Auburn from its influence.

We did character creation for this game tonight.  There are still some lingering details to be filled in, but most of the mechanical creation has been done.  

Characters:

- Sara Cruise [Sheri] :: a history/literature student at New Auburn College

- Aaron Taggert [Tony] :: a local police officer with a minor reputation as a nut due to some supernatural reports

- Carter Hall [Adam] :: a history/archeaology professor at New Auburn College

- Jordan Fitzgerald [Tim] :: a local radio dj who hosts a late-night show on the paranormal

- Emory Tate [Keara] :: a local paramedic

The current plan is to play this game on monday ("crackle") nights.  We'll see how it goes.

Canon 40D vs 5DIII vs 7DII (ISO)

Wednesday July 1, 2015 at 1:24pm trogland, photography, camera gear Comments (0) »
Mid City Grill Taken with EOS 7DII + Sigma 8-16mm ISO 6400
Taken with EOS 7DII + Sigma 8-16mm ISO 6400

So last weekend we had our annual Trogland meetup.  As I do every year, I spent most of the meetup taking pictures.  As I did last year, I rented some gear from lensrentals.com (another great experience, btw) to test drive.  This year, I got to play with a 7DII along with the Sigma 8-16mm APS-C ultrawide I rented for my 40D last year - two pieces of gear I have been considering purchasing.

I've had my 40D now for about 7.5 years, and I love this camera.  It's a bit old at this point, and doesn't have the stats of newer models, but I love the way it works and, aside from some processing issues I've been having, I love what it produces.  I've also spent quite a bit of time shooting with the 5DIII, particularly at our company's annual members' meeting (where I play photographer), and I've now spent a solid weekend+ shooting with the 7DII.

The 7DII is a solid camera, and I had a great time shooting with it.  It's shutter is one of the quietest I've ever heard - which is great if you're shooting over someone's shoulder.  It outperforms my 40D in every way, but it still works the way I'm used to.  I also like that it has a lens focus microadjustment as I've been having some backfocusing issues with my 50mm 1.4 close at wide apertures.  It is a worthy upgrade and I may be looking to pick one up, but I'm not completely sure.

I think the main reason I'm still on the fence is the camera's high ISO performance.  I was hoping for parity with the 5DIII.  I don't have a side-by-side comparison, but it feels like the 7DII doesn't handle, say, 12,800 quite as well as its big brother.  It's definitely a lot better than what I have and it's quite possible my expectations were a little too high.  It's even possible that the 7DII does every bit as well and it's only my perceptions that are skewed.  As the 5DIII ages its price continues to come down, so at this point I'm considering jumping to that instead - though that would mean a change in the lenses I'm looking at.

As I mentioned last year, the Sigma 8-16mm is a pretty solid lens for a consumer-grade, crop-frame ultra-wide.  Images are nice and sharp, particularly at the wide end of its zoom range (where I generally want it anyway).  People do look a bit skewed at that focal length - an effect that is sometimes interesting and cool, and is somtimes a bit too "carnival fun house mirror".  In addition to the meetup (where I mostly shot people with it, for better or worse), I also went on hike out to Laurel falls and took just a couple of nature shots with this lens and the 7DII.  Those look beautiful.  If I do end up going with the crop-frame, I think this is the lens I'll end up with - unless canon makes a not-ridiculously-priced 10mm f2.8 before I get around to it...

~PS

Simon's Things

- A group of kids tries to contain a dark presence coming from a house at the edge of their neighborhood

Hooray! Pronouns!

Monday June 22, 2015 at 1:34pm little two, photography Comments (0) »
it's a boy Hooray!  Eight points!
Hooray!  Eight points!

Sheri saw this idea somewhere (on Pinterest maybe), and thought it made a cute announcement.  Bunguin the second is 21 weeks, and Hannah will have a little brother come the end of October.

~PS

I Always Get Into Stuff...

Monday June 22, 2015 at 1:17pm games, music Comments (1) »
pirates collectible strategy game well, you would have hit me, but you fired that broadside in 2007
well, you would have hit me, but you fired that broadside in 2007

...just as it's finishing being cool.  Or maybe that never was "cool".  Or maybe it's still cool to some people?  Whatever.

I have noticed a strange trend with interests of mine: I tend to "discover" things that came out years ago.  For example, the Tripod song I reference in the title was on a record that came out in 2006.  I think I happened upon it about a year ago.  There's something ironic there.  Tony & I just got into geocaching in 2013 - about 11 years after its inception.  I recently bought a couple of disc golf frisbees.  I got into D&D in 2000.  Let's face it, I'm not really on the "cutting edge" of much.

I recently bought a few Moxy Fruvous CDs online, because very little of it is available on any streaming/download service in the states.  They broke up in 2000, and most of their best stuff was from the early/mid 90s.  I discovered most of their stuff about a year ago.  I also just now discovered that one of the members of this defunct group has since joined Great Big Sea, a group I've mentioned before and techincally still exists, but hasn't produced much this decade.

Tony, Adam, Tim and I have recently played a couple of games of Pirates, a collectible strategy game that went out of print in 2008.  I hadn't played it until this year when I was looking for something that might interest a nine-year-old.  This game is pretty sweet - and I *love* the little ships - but it can drag a little here and there.  We've been discussing ways we might alter the game or rules to be a bit more fast paced.  

I played the much newer "X-Wing" miniatures game last night with Rucht & Patrick.  That game has some great mechanics, moves nicely, and is quite a bit of fun - probably the best miniatures game I've played IMO.  Given my timetable, I'll probably start buying stuff for it in about 10 years.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: The Head Of The Beast

Saturday May 2, 2015 at 8:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (1) »
 Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 
Dungeons & Dragons artwork © Wizards of the Coast 

- Several groups of NPCs present managed to hold off the demon hordes long enough for the group to engage and defeat the massive, half-demon hydra and close the portal in an epic battle.  Taryn was slain in the fighting, however, and the number of other casualities is as yet unknown.

End Chapter Two

At Face Value

Saturday April 25, 2015 at 8:34pm photography, geocaching Comments (0) »
Hannah on the Tweetsie Trail bridge Hannah on the Tweetsie Trail bridge; desaturated and cropped for aspect
Hannah on the Tweetsie Trail bridge; desaturated and cropped for aspect

Tweet, Tweet

Had a great time out on the Tweetsie Trail today with Hannah, doing a little caching and taking some photos.  At 3 years, she's not exactly a "stable" or "coorperative" subject, but I did manage to get some good ones.

Not All Smiles

I'm not sure why, but some of my favorite photos of her are ones where she has a neutral to serious expression.  Don't get me wrong, her smile is adorable and so rarely captured in a truly good photo that I love it when I get it (see entry below), but these are something else.  Something different.  Something real.  I just find them interesting, especially a bit desaturated and with a lot of contrast.  Maybe it's because that's not usually how you see children depicted.

~PS

A New Season

Thursday April 23, 2015 at 5:14pm family, little two, photography, geocaching, gaming, trogland Comments (0) »
Hannah on her swing set Swing, swing!
Swing, swing!

No blog entries for a while basically means I haven't had much to write about that would be interesting to anyone (not that much of what's here is, so I don't know why that would stop me).

But stuff goes on.

And hey, it's spring.  I was more than ready for some warm weather.

Bunguin The Second

The most "significant" development is the news of the eventual arrival of Little Two - Sheri is pregnant!  Hannah will be a big sister!  Coming this Halloween!

Photo Season

Now that the weather is warming up, I'm shooting a bit more again.  Still have my eye on some gear that I'd like to get pick up before Little Two arrives, but don't know what I'll be able to manage.

Some Premium Caching

Still been out caching.  Had some great experiences this year so far - actually went out hunting with a guy we met through the hobby last weekend.  That was a blast.  The AT is always fun.  I have upgraded to "premium" membership now (and Tim bought me another year), so there are a few we didn't know about lingering in places we'd previously cleared.  That just means we get to go back!  I've added a few more things to my gear pack: some rope (see: Pride Rock Hampton), a battery charger for my phone, and a walking stick.  I've also placed a couple more caches on the Tweetsie Trail, and Tony and I have plans for a series.

Games & Cons

Our D&D game is still going...I guess because it won't end.  Heh.  Actually, it continues to be pretty awesome.  I don't think I've ever run a game that wasn't pretty unweildy by this point, but this one remains solid.  Still want some variety though, and we may set it aside again in the relatively near future to play something else for a while.

I ran a pretty awesome FATE game at RuchtCon last month.  I think the card print-outs added a lot and helped out the players with aspects and rp.

Trogland 9 is fast approaching!  63 days!  I still have a lot to do for this.  Need to get the badges designed and ready for printing, and need to plan my game sessions..

~PS

Penguinsushi.com Version 12

Thursday April 23, 2015 at 12:44pm web development Comments (0) »
Penguinsushi.com Version 12 Screenshot Recursion II!
Screenshot Recursion II!

An Even Dozen

As of today, we're on the the 12th incarnation of Penguinsushi.com over the course of the last decade.  As always, I think the designs get a little better each time.

This version is very simple (and I haven't added all of the features to it quite yet), but I think it has a very nice feel.  This is also the first version of the site to be truly responsive, so hopefully it renders well on mobile devices.

So, here we are.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Many Eyes, Many Teeth

Monday April 20, 2015 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (1) »

- While the group was still investigating the safehouse they'd found, a local street gang arrived and attempted to give them some trouble.  They failed.

- The group learned from the gang's leader that a man called Dralt seemed to be behind a few recent incidents.  Dralt told his gang to "take care of" anyone messing with this house.

- The group returned to the main part of the city and met with Respina, the Watch Prime.  During the conversation, the group Many Eyes, Many Teeth came up.  The Watch was aware of a gang that used that symbol (and that they'd been responsible for some festival vandalism in previous years), but didn't know anything that made this group any different than any other group of troublemakers.

- The next day, the final processions began with Tyrrox playing the part of Cyrus Thorn (an honor he'd won by winning the tournament).  Lily found Gable Magnar at a table with Phicious Vallane and, having finally cornered him, found out a bit about his previous association with Many Eyes, Many Teeth.

- They were still talking when "Cyrus" and the illusory hydra representing Lockthuun arrived in the town circle.  People were beginning to crowd the area, anxiously anticipating the final drama and the banquet to follow.  When the hydra reached the top of the hill, however, it winked out of existence.  There, a gate opened and out came a massive, demonic hyda - all too real.

Cyrran Reaches: Gone Sour

Friday April 17, 2015 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The group spent the evening partying and celebrating the victory, though Lily left a bit earlier than the others.

- The second day of the festival was a massive collection of street parties characterized by large amounts of inexpensive food and drink and accented by flashy illusions.

- During the festivities, the group noticed certain individuals contaminating the drinks of the party-goers.  These seemed to coincide with unexplained bursts of anger and street brawls.  The helped to break up the disturbances and relayed what they knew to the Watch.

- The group pursued a couple of the perpetrators, but failed to capture any.  They did discover a chest and magic circle in a condemned building in the northwest area of town.

Cyrran Reaches: Hail the Champion

Friday March 20, 2015 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The Festival of Thorns began.  As the first day progressed, the street party became more and more active, but the main attraction was the Knight of Rolessi tournament held that evening.

- Tyrrox entered the tournament, which was an officiated series of duels that were more and more augmented by magical/illusory "special effects" as the rounds progressed.  Tyrrox won the tournament, defeating a local half-orc bouncer by a narrow magrin.  Due to his victory, he is to play the part of Cyrus Thorn in the upcoming reinactment on the third evening.

- The rest of the party spent most of the day relaxing and enjoying the festival.

Venus Flytrap

Saturday March 7, 2015 at 8:00pm fate core, venus flytrap, game session notes, ruchtcon Comments (1) »
Venus Flytrap Image

RuchtCon V, Retrograde, FATE Core

In which a team of explorers venture to the second planet to re-establish contact with a wayward botanical research station and discover a damaged satellite, energy-eating plants, violent lightening storms, a german u-boat, an enourmous predator, and hallucenogenic wasps.

Cyrran Reaches: Follow Up

Friday February 27, 2015 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Lily and Tyrrox went to meet with high priestess Heldrith Gedra about recent events and to ask about the Marked Man (whom they'd learned had met with her).  She told them that he'd been asking about the nature of 'godhood', specifically how gods ascend and/or fall from godhood.

- Taryn and Kael went to the Black Bottle & talked to a card shark about the fight (which had involved the Marked Man) that had happened a few months previous.

- The party learned from Phicious Vallane that, if they wanted to talke to Gable Magnar (a "black sheep" of House Magnar whom they believe may have had connections to the Marked Man and/or Many Eyes, Many Teeth), their best bet would be at the banquet held on the last night of the Festival of Thorns.

Cyrran Reaches: Following Leads

Friday February 13, 2015 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The group fought off the wyverns and met a man called Xerxes Palias, who was apparently a griffin-rider associated with Rolessi's forces.  He invited them back to a place called the Armsyard, which was something like a permanent army encampment / training ground outside the city.

- The group met Anthaan Vallane and Silas Wilhelm there, and the group talked about recent issues and current concerns.

- The party then continued into Rolessi.  They met up with Ubrus Marc at the Temple of the Golden Sun.  He hadn't seen the Marked Man, but his "friend" at the temple said he'd come to discuss some theological issues a few months back.  The party also spoke to the Watch and learned that the Marked Man had been involved in a nasty fight at the Black Bottle, which resulted in three deaths.

- Kael visited the House Vallane Adventurers' Guild and has decided to join it.

Cyrran Reaches: Scavengers & Predators

Monday February 9, 2015 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (2) »

- Feeling the time had come to follow their leads toward Rolessi, the group finished up with their immediate concerns in Igveston and set out, leaving some advice to a few in the now politically-unstable settlement.

- They had been following the road south into the night when they came upon a two-headed giant sifting through the remains of what was probably a caravan.  They had a brief encounter with its "piggy", and ultimately circumvented the scene rejoining the road further south.

- The party continued travel for another day and a half when they came upon an injured griffon-rider trying to fight off a small group of wyverns...

Cyrran Reaches: Unravelling Loose Ends

Saturday January 24, 2015 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- After pursuing a couple of individual goals, the party decided to return to Nephrim Keep the following evening, looking for the old man they'd met previously.  They didn't find him, but they did find a black cat that turned out to be one of the bird people.  She told them that House Meric had instructed her associates to kill all members of House Xerus.  Taryn had reason to suspect that they might not all be dead, and the bird woman suggested that perhaps her sister had used "the artifact" to transport them to another plane instead.  The party has no particular way to determine where that may have been, however.

- The next day, the group rescued a very intoxicated but alive William Xerus from the dungeons below the burned-out estate - doing so invisibly so as not to attract attention.  He was brought to House Dyn'Talor at the Academy as well.  After pastries.

- Feeling pressed for time on other fronts, the party decided to leave Igveston in a couple of days.

- Tyrrox was asked to help rebuild morale at House Briglau after the werewolf attack had resulted in the deaths of several important figures.  He was later honored with a give from the founder's armory.

- Taryn had a somewhat awkward reuinion with Celia at The Corner House - a dining establishment for very private meetings.  She continued to try to convince him to stay in Igveston and became fairly upset, but ultimately resigned to his departure and attempted to enjoy the evening.

- Lily was asked to perform at The Silver Stag (a social club of the nobility of Igveston).  She managed to convince the performers' liason that she had very limited time, and he made some drastic cuts in the schedule to fit her in the following night.  Lily performed amazingly well, and her fame in the city continues to grow.

Never pass up an opportunity to walk to an island!

Monday January 19, 2015 at 1:52pm geocaching, hiking Comments (2) »
An Island in South Holston Lake The location of the Island Girl cache - an island in South Holston Lake that's currently a peninsula.
The location of the Island Girl cache - an island in South Holston Lake that's currently a peninsula.

New places, new caches.  Found the infamous Echolocation.  Broke 200 finds.  Hiked for miles.  Solved some crazy puzzles.  Resurrected a cache after 3.5 years.  Conquered some mountains.  Enjoyed more adventures with friends.

Still having fun.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Up In Flames

Saturday January 10, 2015 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Lily and Tyrrox talk with Valthious who tells them of the difficulties in curing lycanthropy.  While they're talking, a bell begins ringing and they go to investigate, seeing many of the guards heading back to House Briglau.  They get there in time to stop a wounded werewolf from escaping from the estate - suspecting that it may be guard who was previously feverish.

- Kael and Taryn are with Miala Xerus at her estate, and find that it is on fire and crawling with fire elementals and assassins - one of which was a humaniod bird of some kind.  As the three tried to escape the burning keep, the bird-woman managed to stab Miala in the back.  There was a green flash and she burst into flames, leaving behind only a few ashes.  After this happened, the attackers began to disperse, leaving the keep in flames.

- The party reassembled and discussed what to do next.  Valthious is concerned about the political turmoil these recent events will cause.  He suggests keeping Tievain's wereabouts and the existance of William a secret.  Kael seeks vengeance, and Taryn seems inclined to agree. Lily and Tyrrox however, are still keen to follow the tenuous lead on the "marked man" that they recently discovered.

As The Year Ends

Tuesday December 30, 2014 at 8:27pm family, holidays, geocaching, friends, gaming, music Comments (2) »
Hannah Out Caching Hannah, waiting for me to re-hide a nearby cache.
Hannah, waiting for me to re-hide a nearby cache.

Holidays

Had a great trip to AR last week, though I still haven't recovered.  Was good to see Sheri's folks over the holiday.

Got to go caching a couple of times while out that way; that was pretty awesome, too.  I've now been all over the parks around Bull Shoals, AR.  Was cold and somewhat wet, but I was 11 for 11.  Hannah and I went on a short trip in Branson, MO, too.

Didn't play *quite* as much minecraft over the break this time around.

Sheri got me the Numenera core book for Christmas, and I've been reading through it.  I think it might be the system/setting where I finally actually do something with my ideas for a Myst-like game.  Got some other cool stuff, too - some old movies I wanted, a penguin hat and 7 Wonders to name a few.

Went up to IN over Thanksgiving (just realized I haven't posted anything since then), and that was a good time, too.  Got to see family, and dad & I had a great time out caching again this year.

Now You're Older Still

So I guess I'm 35 now.  Had a birthday back in there somewhere (probably on the 18th - that's when it usually is).  Adam gave me a pretty sweet geocaching shirt, and Sheri got me a walking stick, a headband/ear-cover and some other caching stuff.  Hannah gave me a new set of dice.  Also, "birthday crackles" is a great tradition.

At The Table

Our D&D game continues to go strong, though I've been working on at least 3 other games here and there as well.  Steve - our remote player - had to drop out due to work-related busyness, unfortunately.  I like how I'm running this game in particular, though the layers of causality get a bit dizzying at times.  That's not a bad thing, though.

Talk of RuchtCon V has begun as well.  I decided a while back I was going to run a game of Retrograde (FATE Core) this year.

A Tune In My Head

I'm hoping to do something with music in the coming year.  I've been kicking around some ideas for a while now, but I haven't yet made time to really flesh any of them out.  That, and my "space" in the office is in...disarray...to say the least.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: The Curse

Friday December 19, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party arrived in Igveston, where they were greated by Alphast awaiting his report on the mine, as well as some of the House Briglau guards were informed Tyrrox that the captain needed his help.  Tyrrox and Lily went with the guards, Taryn and Kael went with Alphast.

- Taryn and Kael reported what they knew of the mine, and enjoyed some hospitality at House Alphast

- Tyrrox and Lily learned of some problems at Nephrim Keep and some strange attacks elsewhere in the city - some creature which they were to hunt down.

- As the evening wound down at House Alphast, Miala Xerus interrupted and requested the presence of Taryn and Kael.  Once at their estate, she told them that Lord Tievain had been missing.

- While investigating, Lily and Tyrrox were attacked by a beast, which Lily recognized as a werewolf.  They eventually brought it down, and, realizing it was a "person", Lily suggested they take it to the Academy (which was nearby) to see about restoring it.

- At House Xerus, Taryn and Kael investigate a wrecked room where Tievain was last known to be.  When the absence of signs of struggle prompted Kael to suggest that perhaps Tievain became something, Miala told them of the house's lycanthropic curse.

- Miala, Taryn and Kael were in the dungeons talking about William (who'd been comfortably confined there for his and others' protection).  When the were heading back up, they found the house on fire...

Cyrran Reaches: What's Ours Is Mine

Friday November 14, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- As the group surveyed the mine full of troglodytes, they encountered another trog hunting party returning to the caves.  There was a brief skirmish during which one of the trogs yelled to the others that they were under attack.

- A dominant troglodyte figure appeared at the mine entrance telling whoever was out in the woods to leave or be hunted down and devoured by his tribe.

- There was brief, shouting exchange of questions between the party and the troglodypes, during which the tribe came under attack by a giant, black worm-like creature.

- The party decided to assist in killing the beast to aid in parlaying with the trogs.

- After killing the worm, a brief conversation ensued (mostly with a shaman of the tribe called Mikka).  The trogs had been lead to the area by the dragon Mishveera and, while they weren't particuarly thrilled about it, they weren't in a position to make the long journey back to their homelands (even if they wanted to).

- The group told them of human interest in the mine and suggested some future bargain could be made, but got no commitment from the trogs who still seemed decidedly unfriendly if not outright hostile.

- The party decided to return to Igveston.

Adventures Continue

Sunday November 9, 2014 at 4:26pm geocaching, gaming, photography Comments (2) »
Ring The Bell Cache at the top of the mountain.
Cache at the top of the mountain.

Cold Hard Cache

Went out hiking/caching for the first time in a while yesterday.  My usual cohorts weren't able to make it, but fortunately Robb joined me for what was probably the most arduous adventure so far.  Seriously.  The ascent was brutal, and some of the descent amounted to something I would call "leaf skiing".  We were 5 for 5 though, and I found an unactivated travel bug in the ammo box at the top.

So I've been doing this for just over a year now, and I've had some pretty great adventures with Tony, Tim, Robb, and my dad.  Think I'll probably keep it up.  I'll probably "upgrade" to a "premium" membership sometime soon.  Tony has already.  The premium membership gives you access to "premium members only" caches.  This originally struck me as unnecessarily elitist, but I've since heard at least one compelling argument for this practice: anti-theft.  Especially when the containers are nice, if the cache is easily accessible to anyone on the internet for free, it seems that they have a tendency to go missing with greater frequency. 

The 200 Mile Tabletop

My D&D game continues to go well.  In fact, those have been the only entries here on the site for a while.  Not all of the sessions have been awesome, but in general, the momentum continues, and I'm still enjoying it - which is good, because there's a lot of it left.  I've been kicking around several other campaign ideas (like I always do), but none of them have manifested the "new shiny" effect where I want to drop the current game to pursue one of them.

Steve has now joined us for a few sessions via Skype.  I've decided that that works "ok".  One of the minor problems is that the built-in laptop speakers don't have enough power to amplify Steve enough to compete with the table (read: Me and Tim) and I don't have a good speaker to use yet.  I'm wanting to get a decent bluetooth speaker anyway; just haven't gotten around to it yet.  

The bigger hurdle for me is more inherent to remote play, though.  During the course of a game I'm observing the table and trying to make minor adjustments to how I present aspects of the game based on what I see.  It's a bit difficult to read body language through a computer screen, particularly when, due to camera placement, you don't even get eye-contact.  I guess this is to say "hopefully its working out well", since I can't necessarily tell.

On Camera

So Canon's long-awaited 7D mk II has begun shipping, and I continue to read good things about it.  This will probably be my camera upgrade of choice.  Don't know when I'll be able to do that, though.  I've still got a wide angle lens and some stuff for off-camera flash on my wishlist, too.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Scouting Party

Monday November 3, 2014 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Paks arrives in Velgrin and meets up with the rest of the party

- The group ties up loose ends in the village and then heads north through the dense, swampy forest toward the site of the mine Reynold Alphast had tasked Taryn with investigating.

- A few miles from the mine, they are attacked by a small troglodyte hunting/ambush party; the group fights them off without too much trouble.  Lily spots one running away into the marsh.

- The party arrives at the mine and, from a distance, is able to see that it is now inhabited by an entire tribe of troglodytes.

Cyrran Reaches: Fortune and Glory

Sunday October 19, 2014 at 3:08pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (2) »

- The party reunited in Velgrin, each glad to see the others were still alive.

- Lily organized a grand performance of the tale of their defeat of the dragon Mishveerra.

- The group examined the treasured they'd recovered from the dragon's hoard

Cyrran Reaches: From The Depths

Monday October 13, 2014 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Taryn, Kael and Tyrrox were confronted by the leader of a tribe of some sort of amphibious creatures who seemed unhappy with their presence.  The group agreed never to return if the creatures assisted them in returning to the surface, though that meant leaving some of the treasure behind.

- From the caverns, Lily found her way into the buried ruin of an ancient elven city.  There she was confronted with some bitter elvish ghosts.  Lily was able to talk her way out of any hostilities and told them of some recent events.  Nearby, she met up with Voru - the great cat they had seen previously - who guided her out of the caverns by way of passages beneath the lake, and into the Charothi Forest to the south.

- On the shore of Lake Eire, Paks met up with Orvia and her force who were pursuing the kobolds, driving them away from the elvin settlement.  She cast some blessings upon them and opted to wait at the shore that they may all return to the village once their work was done.  When nightfall came, however, they still had not returned...

Cyrran Reaches: Green Eye pt. III

Friday October 3, 2014 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (2) »

- Having fended off the kobolds, the party took some time to catch their breath and plotted to confront Mishveerra.  Working with a druid and a cleric of the village, they made preparations the following morning to descend to the dragon's lair beneath the island.

- On their way into the depths, they encountered a giant eel-like creature which offered information in exchange for a strong magical item.  The party gave it a magical dagger (the one that had been used to kill Elivius Morran) and it warned them of a "dark power" possessed by the human who was with the dragon.

- When they arrived at the bubble that encompassed the lair, they witnessed a gate opening to one of the lower planes and several vrocks came through.  As they engaged the vrocks, the dragon attacked them from behind.

- Taryn decided now was the time to use his orb, and successfully dominated the dragon, directing it to enter the portal.  When it crossed to the other side, however, his control over it was broken.  She called back through to a man called Lurathi.  The two agreed to some sort of deal, and the man appeared, shattering a black sphere on the ground just as Mishveerra leapt back through the portal.

- When it broke, the black sphere sent out a shockwave which created a massive anti-magic field.

- As Taryn, Tyrrox and Kael engaged the dragon - now all stripped of any magical or supernatural abilities - Lily chased after Lurathi, who left the bubble and began to swim.  She wasn't sure how she did it, but she swam for a great distance, eventually catching up with and killing him in a cavern above the submerged ruins.

- The group just managed to kill Mishveerra, but they are now trapped beneath the lake with no magical aid.  Curiously, the clearly supernatural bubble that they occupy has not collapsed, and is only very slowly leaking...

Cyrran Reaches: Under Seige

Friday September 19, 2014 at 7:30pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

New Character:

[Steve] Paks - Human Cleric of Pelor

Highlights:

- The party fought off kobolds while Mishveerra stalked Kael

- The dragon caught and attacked Kael, but by way of some considerably luck, he survived while the dragon believed him to be dead.

- Taryn had a brief altercation with the bard in the dragon's lair before swimming out to rejoin the others - with the dragon's crystal ball.

Cameras, Caches, Celts and Coercion

Tuesday September 16, 2014 at 12:47pm photography, geocaching, celtic festival, gaming Comments (0) »
Hannah and the Potter Hannah had a great time
Hannah had a great time "helping" this potter at Sycamore Shoals' Celtic Festival

Mark (II) This One

Ok, actually this isn't about the T4 caching adventure Tony, Tim and I had on Buffalo Mountain a while back.  This is about camera gear.

Canon (finally) announced the 7D Mark II yesterday.  It doesn't exactly blow me away, but it has basically everything I want in a body upgrade to my 40D.  I would have taken a little more resolution and ISO, but this camera seems quite adequate, and what I'm reading about it is largely positive.  At $1800, it's not exactly "cheap" (at $1300, I would have called this a no-brainer), but it's not ridiculously priced, and you tend to get what you pay for.  Several reviewers are calling this a "mini 1DX" in terms of build quality and performance.

This camera is everything my 40D is, improved.  My biggest beef with my camera's direct descendent, the well-liked 70D, as well as the full-frame 6D, is that both lack certain controls that my 40D has, and both use SD instead of CF cards.  Since these don't directly play into image quality, those complaints may seem petty or even irrelevant, but I have this thing about an "upgrade" not being a step backward in any way.  The last thing I want is to invest in a new body and find myself thinking "you know, this camera is great, but I really miss X or Y about my old one...".  The 7Dii looks good; unless some design flaw comes to light after it hits shelves, it will most likely be my choice for a camera upgrade.

A Tweet Cache

Ok, this has nothing to do with Twitter - although actually, I wonder how many people have "tweeted" from the new trail. 

Back on labor day, the Tweetsie Trail finally opened - and it's pretty cool (the parts of it I've seen, anyway).  One of my favorite parts is the Milligan Depot, a rest stop near where a rail flag stop used to be.

Ever since Tony and I heard about this, we decided this was the place.  We're both Milligan alum and we've been looking for a good place to hide our first geocache, so we found a good place near the depot to make the hide.  We wanted to include a "Flat Brutus" in the cache for people to take pictures with, but unfortunately, our container isn't big enough for it (though I do have this idea of making a tiny one to put in).  The container itself is handmade, and I'm a little proud of it.  As of now, there have only been two finds, but both said it was awesome.

Sycamore Celtic

We went out to Sycamore Shoals' Celtic Festival a while back.  It was cool, although the Lords of Chivalry didn't actually joust this year.  Apparently the festival wasn't paying them, so they were there on their own, doing some promotion, training and selling horse rides, etc.  Since they weren't being paid, they didn't feel comfortable taking the chance of someone getting hurt (their operation is a bit more authentic and a bit less for-show than some).  We go most years - and it's something different and fun - but my general take is that it's an "ok" festival that could be better.

There's Games and Then There's Games

Gaming lately has been some good stuff.  We've had a few firsts lately.  I don't think I've had a "big bad" coerce a PC into healing it before, and I'm endlessly amused that our critical hit variant has actually caused a lot of trouble for one PC in particular simply because his shot was a little too good.  Also, we're planning to introduce a 5th player, our old friend Steve, via Skype.  I'll be interested to see how this works.

Rucht's group has just started a Numenera game.  The setting for this game is pretty fascinating, and the mechanics are quite interesting.  I think this is one I'll pick up at some point.  I've also heard good things about the recently-released 5th edition D&D...but I'm still enjoying 3.5.  I might eventually buy Pathfinder or 5e, but, in general, I'd rather buy a different game than a new version of something I already enjoy.

Fair's Fair

As I did last year, I entered a few photos in the Appalachian Fair this year.  Didn't get any first place ribbons this time around, but did get a second and a third (which, according to the prize amounts, is equivalent?).  Also as with last year, I didn't exactly agree with the judges on their choices, but that's expected.  I don't think I'd have given me first on any either, however - though I might have disputed some of the 2nd/3rd choices, on my behalf as well as on others'. 

The two shots that I did get ribbons on were both taken on our Vacatiaverssary trip to Myrtle Beach in July.  In fact, the 2nd place ribbon went to this shot, which I posted here already.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Green Eye pt. II

Monday September 8, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (2) »

- The party talked with the people of Velgrin, trying to convince them to act against the dragon now that it was wounded.  Some seemed to agree, others seemed to think it was too risky.

- Meanwhile, the dragon, knowing Taryn was a cleric, was demanding he heal her - suggesting that he owed her for sparing his life.  After some stalling, Taryn did what he could, but when he was unable to repair her eye, she left in a rage.

- The party was preparing the town for an offense against the dragon when she suddenly arrived, demanding the town turn over the "hunter" that had shot her eye.  About that time, another scout came running into the gathering circle, reporting that the kobold tribe was, once again, launching an attack against the settlement.

Cyrran Reaches: Captive

Saturday August 30, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Not wanting to abandon the town, the party discussed what they could do about the dragon.  It seemed unwise to confront it directly.  They considered trying to convince it to leave - perhaps with tales of the treasures they had been seeking themselves.

- The party spent the next day looking around the town.  Unfortunately, spending so much time in the town, coupled with some particular things Taryn happened to say out loud gave away a certain secret.  They had just met a girl called Sedine at a place in the village called the Well of Shadows when the dragon crashed through the canopy and demanded the artifact from Taryn.

- The encounter started with some uncertainty, but, seeing few other options with respect to protecting his companions, Tyrrox began attacking the beast.

- Mishveerra - the dragon - largely ignored all of the PCs except Taryn until a Kael put an arrow through her eye.  Worn down, and now significantly injured, the creature decided the advantage was, surprisingly, no longer hers and remaining was a significant risk.  She had pinned her quarry to the ground, and so simply took the the air with her prisoner, and soon was out of sight.

- Mishveera dove back into the lake, and swam to her lair beneath the elven village.  When Taryn awoke there, he found himself in an air pocket within a large, ruined building with the dragon and two others: a sly-looking human musician, and a stern, elderly elven woman.

iPhone Pano

Monday August 4, 2014 at 1:28pm photography, iphone Comments (0) »
Highway bridges over Boone Lake iPhone 4s pano of a pair of highway bridges over Boone Lake.  Happens to be very near a geocache.
iPhone 4s pano of a pair of highway bridges over Boone Lake.  Happens to be very near a geocache.

So I have to say, I've generally been impressed with the iphone's (4s) "pano" function, wherein you can pan the device's camera and it will create an image from the entire scene.  It does a pretty impressive job of stitching photos together in real time to create one seamless image.  About the only "quality" issue is the tearing you can get from motion - either because the subject is moving or because you're panning a little too fast.  This is pretty easy to control in the latter case.  For the former, however, the process has issues if there are any significant movements in the scene (I've actually taken a single pano in which my daughter appeared twice).  Still, for landscapes and otherwise basically still scenes, it's a lot of fun.

One of the more interesting qualities of the pano photographs is how distortion manifests.  Due to the lens perspective as it moves, there is significant horizontal distortion as the processor stitches everything together, but there is virtually no vertical distortion.  The end result gives you fisheye-like curvature on horizontal aspects across the pan, but, unlike a fisheye lens, vertical lines remain straight.

Used correctly, the pano actually does a good enough job that it can be difficult to tell that what you're looking at is a distorted perspective and not simply an area from a much narrower angle of view if you're not personally familiar with the space pictured.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Green Eye pt. I

Saturday August 2, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party left the city of Igveston, heading to the elven settlement Velgrin which is located on a lake bordering the Charothi Forest.

- In the forest, encountered a kobold hunting party which had partially trapped a large feline.  Defeated the kobolds and freed the cat, which lead them to a kobold encampment on the lake shore.  Bypassed encampment, group was able to activate the "way" to the elven village - a path which rose from the water

- Settlement showed signs of recent damage, and many of the townsfolk seemed nervous or wary.  The group learned from a young priested named Sedine that only recently an odd, combined force of kobolds and troglodytes had attacked the village.  The elves were overwhelmed, but were saved in the end by a huge green dragon - who has since all but declared herself ruler of the settlement.

- The dragon soon came looking for the party, demanded they present themselves to her, and proceeded to interrogate them as to who they were, where they came from, what they were doing, etc.  The party told her they were looking for Kael's father (which wasn't untrue...).  The dragon told them they were permitted to remain in the village "for now"...

A Summer Break

Tuesday July 29, 2014 at 1:48pm vacation, photography, geocaching, gaming Comments (0) »
Brookgreen Gardens Night Heron Night Heron at Brookgreen Gardens aviary
Night Heron at Brookgreen Gardens aviary

Vacatiaversary

Sheri & I just got back from a vacation to Myrtle Beach we took for our 10th anniversary.  This was our first trip away from Hannah, which was nice (even if we did miss the little bug).  She had a great time with Oma and Opa.  It was a great time - we got to hang out on the beach, swim in pools, visit local parks and even hang out with some friends who live out there (thanks again to De & Gryf/Ryan!). We also got to hang out a bit with my sister Jese and brother-in-law Michael in Columbia on our way back.  Basically, Michael and I talked game stuff.  They need to come visit sometime so we can play lots of games.

Also, my dad is awesome and did a laundry list of jobs around my house while I was gone, including replacing the Jeep's radiator, replacing the cover over the stairwell, putting a storm door on the front of the house, mowing the yard a few times, cleaning the garage, taking the recycling and fixing a few minor things.  He told us he was "having fun".

The Long And The Short Of It

I had debated whether to take all of my camera gear, or just my primary lens - after all, the point of the trip wasn't photography.  Ended up taking the whole bag though, and was glad I had my telephoto when we went to Brookgreen Gardens.  Got a few really nice shots of birds and insects there.

I think I've gotten better at using my 300mm telephoto.  Even with IS, you have to know how to hold it still or shots will come out blurry.  It is a nice piece of glass once mastered, though.

I haven't decided exactly what I want to do for a wide angle yet, but since neither of the ones I looked at before were exactly what I'm wanting, I think I'm currently leaning toward the cheaper Sigma lens.  It performed well, and will give me the ultra-wide I was looking for - if I plan to stay with a crop-frame camera.  Canon is supposed to annouce the 7D II in september, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it will be.

A Little Cache

I even got to do just a tiny bit of geocaching while we were on vacation, picking up a couple in Myrtle Beach State Park.  One of the two actually had two parts - one of which was hiding in plain site behind the counter at the beach gift shop.  The park personnel also seemed supportive of the hobby too, which was pretty cool.  I recently hit find #100, and Tony and I are making plans to hide one or two of our own.

Just Out Of Reach

Last gaming session of the Cyrran Reaches was a little slow.  I've once again run into an age-old problem with the way I set up games: sometimes the players just don't know what to do.  In this case, they have encountered a lot of interesting "leads", they just aren't sure how to follow up on them.  The end result is that, though they've "done" and "seen" some stuff, they really haven't "accomplished" anything in several sessions.  I guess I need to be more conscious of that.  We've decided to move the game along to a place they've been planning to go for some time.  Hopefully I can make that a little punchier while still maintaining my sandbox approach.  Next game is this saturday - I suppose we'll see.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Refuse

Saturday July 12, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Kael found his wolf and a treent (who turned out to be a dwarven druid) fighting cultists in the Banshee's Wood.

- The group met an old, poor man claiming to own Nephrim's estate living in the sewers underneath the keep.  The party agreed to, at least mention the case to the local magistrates.

- Once confident the city has itself in order, the group plans to leave Igveston.

Cyrran Reaches: Almost

Monday June 30, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Taryn tried to salvage his date at Hilleston Hall, but was unsuccessful as he was called away.

- Lily exhausted herself fighting rogues and an illusory dragon at Nephrim Keep, holding them off just long enough for Taryn to arrive.

- Tyrrox patroled the Common Quarter for more basilisks, and rejoined the other two as they investigated a concealed passageway beneath the abandoned keep.

Cache Flow

Sunday June 29, 2014 at 3:07pm geocaching Comments (0) »
Old School Nalgene Bottle A New Life for and Old Bottle for an Old Cache
A New Life for and Old Bottle for an Old Cache

Please Remove Your Cache

So I've continued on with my new(est) geocaching hobby.  I blame Llama.  It's his fault.

Anyway, about a week ago, I went to pick up a cache we'd previously searched for, failed to find, learned was actually missing, and was subsequently replaced.  On my way around, I stopped in on another cache I'd found that had been de-listed from the site due to maintenance issues.

This one, dubbed "Tree Frog", has had a pretty long history of unfortunate happenstances.  When we found it the first time, it had been eaten through.  When I found it this time, the lid was off, it was full of water and its contents were scattered around.  Since it was in such bad shape and was no longer actively listed on geocaching.com, it basically constituted "litter", so I decided I'd remove it.  It wasn't "mine", but the owner had said he/she could no longer manage it (the container had already been replaced at least once by someone else) - so I felt I was doing a courtesy to the community and the park.  I posted to the cache's logs saying I'd removed it and provided some photos.  Alas, poor cache.

Resurrection

Speaking of dead caches, yesterday Llama and I went out for a few.  He wasn't up to hitting Buffalo Mountain again, so we decided we'd go back to the Laurel Park picnic area and find the two there we didn't grab last time - and we decided we would replace one that had been missing for a couple of years.  

The last time we went out there, we spent about 45 minutes looking for a cache that wasn't there.  I should have paid closer attention to the logs.  The last person to log the cache did find it, but it was in 2012, and they said they found "pieces" of it.  Well, we found nothing - and we were so disheartened by the whole experience that we decided not to go looking for the other two that were at that park (we'd already found 3 that day, and ALL of them were much harder than they should have been).

We took one of the old Nalgene bottles dad & I used to use when we went backpacking to use as a container, since it was solid and watertight.  I'm pretty sure that bottle probably has quite a few wilderness-trekking miles under its belt, so a "final" resting place as a geocache along a trail in the woods seemed appropriate.

After that, we hit the other two caches that were at the park.  Those hadn't been found in a year or two either, but they were fortunately still present.  One required some pretty serious up-hill bushwacking though....and deserved every bit of its 4-star terrain rating.

~PS

National Camera Day

Sunday June 29, 2014 at 2:21pm photography Comments (0) »


SnapKnot

Courtesy of: SnapKnot


So, apparently this is a thing.  I got this email through a photography mailing list I'm on saying that June 29th is "National Camera Day".  Maybe I should go take some shots?


"SnapKnot" is actually a wedding photographer site photographers can join, and couples can look them up for their services.  Not really my thing, but I'm into learning any aspect of "the craft" and I did have a good time talking to the photographer at my sister's wedding - was very impressed with his work, too.


Also, in the interest of full disclosure, they told me that if I posted the above image to my site, they'd put me in a drawing to win expensive camera stuff I can't afford as a hobbiest.  I usually ignore that kind of stuff, but the quote sounded cool, and I do like the idea of a "camera day" - so, deal.


~PS

Happy Valley: Into The Dark

Wide: A Tale of Two Lenses

Thursday June 19, 2014 at 10:06pm photography, photo gear Comments (0) »
A Tale of Two Lenses Sigma 8-16mm f4.5-5.6 DC HSM and Canon 14mm f2.8L II
Sigma 8-16mm f4.5-5.6 DC HSM and Canon 14mm f2.8L II

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

For some time, I've been wanting to add a nice wide or ultra-wide angle lens to my camera kit.  Usually, I look up what I want, do quite a bit of research, read reviews, examine user images, etc and then choose what seems like the best option for me.  This one, however, has been much more difficult, because what I want doesn't seem to exist.

I've mentioned this before.  What I would really like is a professional grade ultra-wide prime made for a crop-frame camera.  Something like a EF-S 10mm f2.8L.  Sorry, no dice.  Basically, what exists is a high-end canon 14mm prime (that would be "ultra-wide" on a full frame camera, but equivalent to about a 23mm on my camera body), and a plethora of "ok" ultra-wide-angle zooms (by Canon and various other manufacturers) made for crop bodies.

I'd previously been uninterested in most of the zooms.  For one, they're zooms.  I really want a prime.  For two, they all have various short-comings that bothered me: Canon's 10-22 doesn't have the best build quality, and a lot of others' offerings (Sigma, Tokina, etc) had optical issues to some greater or lesser extent.  When I discovered the Sigma 8-16, however, the reviews and user-shots seemed pretty impressive.

Compare and Contrast

I'd already planned to rent the 14mm f2.8L (if i'm going to spend the money on something that pricey, i'd better be pretty sure it's what i want), and so decided to add this Sigma lens as something to compare it to.

I realize that's a bit of an unfair - possibly "apples and oranges" - trial: one lens is a professional-grade ultrawide designed for full frame cameras, and the other is a high-end consumer grade lens designed for crop frame bodies.  Still, I feel I can fairly evaluate them on "fitness for my use".

Pros and Cons

Since the perfect lens doesn't exist, each of these has some good points and bad points:

Canon 14mm f2.8L II

Pros:

- Is a prime lens (quality)

- Is L quality optics, sharpness, contrast, clarity

- Fast glass: max f2.8 aperture

- Solid construction

- Has dust/weather sealing

- Virtually no wide-angle distortions

- For full frame (if i ever choose to "upgrade")

- Quieter/Smoother focusing

Cons:

- On crop body, not quite as wide: ~23mm equivalent

- Pricey

Sigma 8-16 f4.5-5.6 DC HSM

Pros:

- Ultra-wide: ~13mm equivalent

- Good reported optical quality

- Solid construction

- Very affordable

- zoom flexibility

Cons:

- Is a zoom lens (quality sacrifice)

- Some noticeable (but not terrible) distortion at the wide end (it's 8mm, what do you want!?)

- Slower than christmas (max f4.5 aperture, and that's only at 8mm)

- No/poorer sealing

- Vignetting or otherwise poor usability on full-frame (if i ever choose to "upgrade")

- Louder/rougher zoom/focusing

In The Field

So I received these two rental lenses yesterday.  (As an aside, I'll give a shout-out to LensRentals.com who, when they noticed I'd missed the attempted delivery, actually contacted Fed-Ex on their own and arranged for me to be able to pick up the package that same day and contacted me to let me know. Kudos for good customer service.)  I played with both of them for quite a while yesterday evening, and, I gotta say, the jury's still out.  My gut still says I like the Canon 14mm better optically, but the Sigma looks pretty darn good - I was actually pretty impressed with how sharp it could be.  Also, I like the ultra-wide abilities - 8mm is ridiculously wide.  Really lets you do some interesting things with perspective. 

If I like the Canon lens more, I'll really have to consider whether I like it $1600 more - that's about the price difference.  Usually my concern is quality rather than price, but if they're really neck-and-neck in terms of usability and results, it might become relvant.  Especially at that scale - i mean, i could get the Sigma and another L lens or possibly a new camera body for about the same price as the Canon 14mm.

This weekend is our annual Trogland Meetup, and I intend to put both of these through their paces at this event - we'll see what I think in a few hundred more shots.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Rocks

Friday June 13, 2014 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- party talked, spent a couple of days pursuing individual angles

- Taryn made preparations and took Celia Rynowen to the Hilleston Ball (as they had agreed).  Toward the end of the night, Taryn gets stabbed by the vengeful doppleganger that had taken her place.

- Tyrrox and Kael are accosted by the House Briglau guard as they needed assistance.  Found portion of common quarter that was too quiet and full of statues.  Encountered a feindish basilisk and evidence that it may have been summoned by the ritual of a few imps.

- Lily totally rocks the house at the Laughing Jack and makes money before she, too, was found by the Briglau guards whereupon she went to investigate some commotion at the Nephrim Keep.

Cyrran Reaches: Putting Pieces Together

Friday May 30, 2014 at 8:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party regroups.

- Lily assists with rebuilding the civic district and pursues mysteries surrounding Many Eyes, Many Teeth and the marked man - which she learns is called Aulthust.

- Tyrrox assists House Briglau with training and bolstering their militia - which is now the main military presence in the city.  His efforts result in the Caprinae, a sort of brotherhood within the house militia.

- Taryn boosts morale and his pockets, and impresses some locals.

- Kael unwinds and makes a "friend".

- The party talks to Celia - a psychometrist - about the unusual crossbow bolt that was shot at Tyrrox back in Ettaseph.  They find out that it was owned by a man called Maff, who seems to be connected to Many Eyes, Many Teeth as well as a group of bandits.

End Of The Line

Sunday May 4, 2014 at 5:03pm gaming Comments (0) »
Zero Line Game Note The Zero Line
The Zero Line

Mission Successful

So last night we finished up The Zero Line, a sci-fi RPG I was running using the FATE system.  Overall, I think it was a great success.  As I've said before, I really like the FATE system and its flexibility and focus on the descriptive over the numeric.  It's a lot different than a crunchier system such as D&D.  That's not a value judgement - I actually enjoy both approaches.  I'm glad to have the variety.

Since I wanted to run 5 sessions, I had originally thought that the Zero Line would last us into March.  As you may have noticed, it's May.  Apparently, we were all really busy this year.

Intro

The game itself was exactly what I wanted it to be - an sweeping overview of a sci-fi setting I created and intended to use in grittier/darker science fiction games.  While this game dealt with the Line itself and the Tetrani war fairly early in the intended-to-play time period, there are actually a lot of other themes in the setting that could be the entire focus of a campaign: periphery exploration, AI, transhumanism/Augments, and Delphi to name a few.  I think it has a lot of possibilties.

Over The Line

I think the players really enjoyed the game, despite the fact that I created their characters for them.  I think the newness of the system and setting warranted if not required it.  Still, I think this necessarily lowered their investment in the game, and they're ready to get back to our D&D 3.5 game.

~PS

The Zero Line: Behind Us

Saturday May 3, 2014 at 6:00pm fate core, the zero line, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The group helps some insectoid formerly-human locals repel a Tetrani attack and learns about the bizarre history of the research installation.

Drive-by Check-in

Tuesday April 29, 2014 at 1:49pm photography, gaming, house Comments (0) »

Just a quick note or two - not too much new to write about lately.

Continuing to evaluate possible new camera gear.  Now planning to rent a Sigma 10mm 2.8 fisheye in addition to the 14mm 2.8L II.  Also, office got a nice Tamron 24-70 2.8 lens which, on the 5D, gave me some sense of what the 14mm will be like on my camera.

Gaming has continued - still trying to finish up The Zero Line.  Kind of thought we'd be done with that by now, but our schedules have been really busy.  Scheduled to wrap it up saturday.  After that, probably going back to our 3.5 game.

Our office at home is in the midst of overhaul.  Painted, now just need to get Sheri's new desk designed & built.  Also, need to get my bookcase and comfy chair.

The Zero Line: Planetfall

Monday April 7, 2014 at 8:00pm fate core, the zero line, game session notes Comments (0) »

The party helped re-establish order on the Defiant, set out to discover the fate of a military research site in a larger crater on the planet Nago II, and were unexpectedly attacked by aerial Tetrani forces as they made their approach.

Placerville

Saturday March 29, 2014 at 9:00am placerville, game session notes Comments (0) »

RuchtCon IV Con Game


A varied group of 19th-century paranormal investigators discovers the causes behind fires and other mysteries in the gold-rush town of Placerville, CA.

The Zero Line: Warped

Saturday March 15, 2014 at 7:00pm fate core, the zero line, game session notes Comments (0) »

New/Guest Character:

Jim (Dave)

 

Highlights:

The group deals with some aftermath on the ship after crossing the Zero Line, including an emergent biomorph, some twisted monstrousities, crazed crewmen and belligerent computer systems.

Prospecting

Monday March 10, 2014 at 10:46pm geocaching, gaming, trogland Comments (0) »
Hannah, Geoffry and a micro cache Hannah, Geoffry the Geocaching Giraffe, and a micro find at Persimmon Ridge
Hannah, Geoffry the Geocaching Giraffe, and a micro find at Persimmon Ridge

In it for the Cache

Tony and I have already done quite a bit of caching this year.  We started early, often in the snow.  We've taken to going out on saturday mornings whenever possible.  It's been a lot of fun.  We've found some pretty cool hides and we keep talking about placing a couple of our own sometime.  We even succeeded at our first "puzzle" cache last weekend.  We're becoming pretty good at this little game - though recently, for the first time, we had someone find one we had previously failed to locate.  I blame snow.  And rocks.

We take Sheri & Hannah with us whenever we can, and so, ever since the abortive trip to Buffalo Mtn, I've been trying to find places with easier terrain for their sake.  Fortunately, I've found quite a few good locations that have been fun for all.  And we'll save the tough stuff for when we go out on our own - or if we can get my dad to come join us.

A couple of weekends ago, I added South Carolina to the list of states I've cached in.  My sister, who lives in Columbia, is getting married in a couple of weeks, and we went down so Sheri & Hannah could go to a bridal shower.  While they were doing that, Michael (her fiance) and I went caching at Saluda Shoals park.  Pretty cool for my first time meeting the guy.  He seems pretty cool.

One for the History Books

In other news, I was doing a bit of history reading (ok, so it was on wikipedia) the other night as I'm preparing for my game for Ruchtcon IV at the end of the month.  I'm running a gold-rush era supernatual game.  Just for fun, I'm actually using names and info from real historical people and places, and then morphing them a bit into my own fiction.  It's something I really haven't done before, and it's been quite interesting.  Hopefully the game will be as well.

Oh, and I've actually been reading a history *book* for fun, too - found one called 'Atlas of the Celtic World' at Books-a-million a while back.  It's interesting.

 

Speaking of cons, we've also started talking about Trogland 8.  I really need to get the site back up & running. O.o

 

~PS

Fated to Game

Thursday February 27, 2014 at 9:46pm gaming Comments (0) »

Getting The Ball Rolling

Gaming this year has been off to a bit of a slow start.  We picked up a new sci-fi game to run for a few sessions before we get back to our 3.5 game.  It's been cool and I love the FATE system, but it's been a little slow.  Unfortunately, I think that even though I crave variety in my games, I'm just not as at home in genres other than traditional fantasy.  Probably, that's a matter of practice, but still.  The game doesn't quite have the level of enthusiasm I'd like.  Maybe my expectations are too high, and/or maybe everyone's getting used to the system and barrage of ideas I threw at them.  The FATE Core system is really cool, though, and I think once the group gets used to it, we'll see some really creative stuff.

Drawing The Line

The working title for the setting I'm using for the game is "The Zero Line".  Basically, it's a game about emergent psionics amidst an impending galactic apocalypse.  There are quite a few other themes (typical to sci-fi), but those are the big ones.  Essentially, there is a shockwave emanating from the galactic core, traveling at almost the speed of light, almost completely wiping out anything it touches.  At the speed of light, however, for a society capable of faster-than-light travel/communication, there's still a gap of centuries between the time it was discovered and the time it will hit Earth.  I thought that was a pretty cool idea.  And the psionics thing is because I've always wanted to do something like the world described in Anne McCaffrey's "Talent" series.

 

Still gotta come up with something for Ruchtcon next month...

 

~PS

The Zero Line: Through the Gauntlet

Friday February 14, 2014 at 7:00pm fate core, the zero line, game session notes Comments (0) »

The group explores the derelict frieghter, discovers it comes from beyond the Zero Line, and reports to the captain of their ship, who, in turn, gives the unprecedented order to jump the Line.

The Zero Line: Redirection

System: Fate Core

Setting: The Milky Way Galaxy (Zero Line)

Players: Sheri, Tony, Adam, Tim

Schedule: Near-weekly

 

The Zero Line is a sci-fi setting based around emergent psionics in the context of an impending galactic apocalypse.

 

Characters:

Trya Bucchari (Sheri)

Malcolm Faulknen (Tony)

Kenneth Lockley (Adam)

Trenton Greaves (Tim)

 

Highlights:

Group is assembled by by the Galactica Humanus Navy, Delphi and the Periphery Initiative to explore a far-periphery system.  As they were about to set out, the GHN informed them their mission has changed and they were instead directed to investigate a derelict freighter which recently appeared in a coreward system.

Sum of the New Year

Saturday January 11, 2014 at 9:21am christmas, photography, geocaching, gaming Comments (0) »
2013 Family Christmas Photo 2013 Family Christmas Photo.  Camera controlled from laptop, laptop  controlled from cell phone.  Hannah controlled: barely.  Flash bounced  from left off a piece of foam board on a music stand.
2013 Family Christmas Photo.  Camera controlled from laptop, laptop controlled from cell phone.  Hannah controlled: barely.  Flash bounced from left off a piece of foam board on a music stand.

Ah, the new year.  2014 happens.  Looks like Penguinsushi.com is almost 9 years old.  Over Christmas I, once again, made the journey northward toward parentville.  Unquestionably a great time.  Tons of pictures on the Bookface (for those of you who find me there).

The Pro

I finally was able to meet Tony Vasquez, my friend Brittany's husband, who happens to be a pro photographer.  We had a great time talking.  He gave me a few tips on flash photography/lighting and post-production, and I was somewhat gratified that, during the course of the conversation, I actually did feel like I knew what I was talking about.  Since I've been back, some mention has been made of us going out and shooting together next time I'm up that way - which would be completely awesome.

Potential Gear

Christmas was also pretty good to my camera fund.  In theory, I think I have very nearly enough for my next purchase (though that's going to wait at least a while for a small myriad of reasons).  I'm still not sure what, exactly, I want to go with.  It's down to either an updated camera body, or a nice wide-angle lens.  Unfortunately, a perfect candidate for either of those doesn't exist at the moment - though there are rumours of developments throughout this year.  As of now, I'm planning to rent Canon's 14mm F2.8 L II later this spring to try it out.  I figured if I'm considering spending that kind of money, I want to be absolutely sure it's what I want.

Cold Cache

Ha! Another geocaching pun! 

So dad & I went out 2 and half times over the holiday.  Seems he had a lot of fun over thranksgiving, and wanted to do some more.  I say "and a half" because there was one time that we both went out, just not together.  On new year's eve we went out to a trail near Lake Monroe and hit 10.  Overall, we were 13 for 16.  Looking at the logs, a couple of our DNFs seem as though they, perhaps, weren't even present.   I've now found more caches in IN than TN (a condition my good friend the Llama wishes to rectify).

So Tony/Llama and I have been thinking about placing our own cache somewhere around here.  I've found some promising containers for "not-too-expensive", and been thinking about possible sites.  I, personally, am more a fan of the caches that are in parks, along trails, etc.  We still need to scout the locations, though getting permission to actually place one might be difficult.  Can't put my finger on why, but I get the general impression standards/restrictions may have become tighter in the last 5-10 years.

And A Happy New Game

Our Cyrran Reaches game wrapped up a chapter in mid-December, and it left off with 4 or 5 possible directions in which to proceed.  It has been a fantastic game, and we're planning to keep rolling with it...

...just not immediately.  See, we've been playing that game for almost a year now, and I find that too much longer than that and I start to get burned out.  I'm loving that game, but I also like variety.  We kicked a couple of ideas around and decided that we're going set up a brief interlude game: something different to play with for a few sessions before we get back to the "main event". 

We've done a lot of fantasy, so I'm planning to run a short sci-fi game for the group.  I've just actually ordered the Fate stuff I'd been wanting to pick up (I'd been planning to buy it ever since I downloaded the Pay-What-You-Want pdf and ran a game at Trogland 7), and I'm looking forward to playing some more with that.  I was talking to Sheri last night about the setting I have in mind, and she seemed pretty interested.

 

Cyrran Reaches: The Devil You Know

Friday December 13, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The group decided to make their way up to the place where they believed the current head of the Academy was being held.  When they found her, she suggested they should follow her to where Jekri had gone - to retrieve some kind of artifact that would help him use the Arch.

- The party decide instead to try to find the power source of the machinery, which now seemed to be operating out of control.  They found what would have been the power source swarming with Formians, which seemed to be colonizing the upper levels of the Academy.  A massive gear portruded from some sort of portal, but it didn't seem to be driving the machinery as much as the machinery was now pushing against it.

- Deducing that the machinery was now powering itself, they followed it back down to the Arch itself, where they found Jekri, the headmistress, and quite a few devils.  The arch seemed to be partially powered, but Jekri clearly wasn't happy with its progress.

- The party shattered a kind of spiritual energy repository which was a part of the machinery as the devils and Jekri began to engage them.  The portal deactivated and a massive and maddeningly deformed skeleton crashed through the wall of the Academy, collapsing around it.

- Seeing that his plan had failed, Jekri fled the Academy.  Reinforcements from House Briglau arrived.

- The next couple of days were spent doing cleanup on the city from the aftermath of these events.  Both the Academy and the Hall of Three were significantly damaged, and lost a number of notable leaders.

- Following, the party were guests of honor at a party held by Miala Xerus.  The noble houses seem to be gaining prominence in the city.

End Chapter One

ThanksGeoPhoto

Thursday December 5, 2013 at 6:07pm geocaching, photography, family Comments (0) »
Joe + his D3100 Joe, lying on the floor playing with his camera
Joe, lying on the floor playing with his camera

For the first time in quite a while, we made the journey up to IN for Thanksgiving.  Was quite a good trip - great to see a lot of relatives I don't catch up with often.

Caching On

I wonder how many more Cache/Catch puns I can come up with?  Anyway, inamongst the more typical festivities, I managed to do a little geocaching - mostly to place a travel bug I'd picked up here in TN.  I think I might have mentioned it before.  I even got my dad & my brother to come along with me, and the three of us had quite a good (if cold) time.  I'm up to 12 finds, total.  It's been quite fun.

Sibling Photography

Also, spent quite a bit of time talking to my brother about camera gear and photography in general - something I always enjoy.  Joe is learning to handcraft jewelry, and wanted a camera setup to take photos of his work.  He recently bought a Nikon d3100 and 40mm f/2.8 lens that has some decent macro capability.  I, personally, would have steered him toward Canon, but that's mostly because that's what I have and I might be able to help a little more with that.  Plus we could share toys.  But he found a deal on this one, so that's what he got.

It seems to be a decent camera  We had some fun playing with it, seeing what it was capable of.  It does have higher iso performance than my camera, though I haven't tested how well it performs at 3200+.  The close-focus/macro of the lens seems to work pretty well also.  I'll be interested to see what he does with it.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: By Its Cover

Saturday November 23, 2013 at 7:00pm cyrran reaches, gaming, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Lily and the others guessed that the key impression in the cover of the book they'd found was made for the key the mephit had given them.  When they put it into the book, an opalescent sphere enveloped them for a moment, but the only further effect was the sudden arrival of an ice devil.

- Certain this book was the key (ha!), Lily continued to try to activate it properly while the others held off the devil.

- The party eventually incapacitated the fiend, but, knowing it would soon revive, they decided to flee the library - taking the book with them.

- They eventually found themselves in a relatively secluded room with a large statue of a dragon holding a glass-like green orb.  Lily and Kael continued to examine the book, but Taryn was interested in what they'd found.  As he approached, the statue spoke, asking him if he desired the orb and warning him that, if he decided he did, it was a decision that could not be reversed.  Feeling they needed every edge they could get to combat the current threat, Taryn took it.

- It took both Lily and Kael a few minutes to figure out the book's function, but, when they did, they discovered that placing the attached bookmark in one of the pages (each of which depicted a very specific locale), placing the key in the cover would transport the book and those nearby to the place indicated.  Removing the key reversed the effect.  In discovering this, they traveled to an ancient dwarven corridor with some sort of distorted or slowed time effect.  Inscriptions suggested the place was "waiting" for some divine intervention.

- They studied the book for some time, trying to determine which place the professor they sought (an elf called Valthious) might be in.  Ultimately, it was Taryns luck that lead them to him.

- When he realized the group was not sent by Jekri, Valthious was very happy to see them.  He was being kept prisoner as and expert on cosomology and the interplay of the planes.  Jekri wanted to know if and how the Arch could be weaponized - specifically, made to catasrophically implode.

- Valthious lead the group to a good place to rest - one of the more peaceful locales in the book - and gave them a scroll that could be used to allow their weapons to overcome the resistances of the fiends they faced.

- When the group returned to the Academy, the situation seemed to have worsened.  The walls of the tower shook, and an unearthly shrieking could be heard echoing through the halls - over an above the relentless grinding and pounding sounds of infernal machinery...

 

***

GMs Note: I'm quite proud of the artifact I created and introduced in this session, dubbed the Book of Urzen'Tu.  The book is a large leather and metal bound volume, covered with runes and with a carved resting place for a key in its cover.  It has a large, finely-woven bookmark attached to its spine.  

Inspired by Myst (one of my favorite cosmologies), the book contains detailed descriptions of hundreds of very specific places - each of which composes/occupies a (relatively) small pocket dimension.  Placing the bookmark at one of the location descriptions, closing the book and placing the key in its place in the cover causes the book to instantly transport itself and those nearby to the location described.  Removing the key reverses the effect, transporting the book and those with it back to the material plane.

Cyrran Reaches: The Devil's Nest pt. III

Saturday November 16, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party left Jekri's presence and had a brief meeting.  While bringing others to "inspect" the premisis might be a good idea, they felt the situation was more urgent that that course of action (alone) suggested.

- The party decided to search for a person called Vex, who supposedly knew where to find a man called Valthious who was imprisoned.

- The group caught site of a person matching Vex's unusual description outside some sort of devilish counting house.

- Vex told them Valthious was being "kept" in a library of one of the other academy towers.

- The party found their way to said library, where they found a large book with a carved resting place for a bronze key...

Firelight Photography

Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 5:43pm friends, photography Comments (0) »
Nick Nick, while hanging out at his birthday party.  50mm f1.4 iso 3200 1/60, lightened about 1.75 ev in post.  No NR.
Nick, while hanging out at his birthday party.  50mm f1.4 iso 3200 1/60, lightened about 1.75 ev in post.  No NR.

A group of us got together at Nick & Jen's (current) place for his birthday party on saturday.  Was cool to hang out with friends - something we find ourselves doing less and less.

As I am want to do, I brought my camera along.  I didn't really have any good opportunities to take photos of the party in general (I didn't bring my flash, and we were mostly inside with relatively poor light).  When we adjourned to the fire pit outside, however, I decided to see exactly what I could pull off in that extremely dark situation - and, by extension, what I would need to do a better job.

I took a handful of shots using my 50mm 1.4 wide open - something I almost never do.  It's generally a little soft at 1.4.  It sharpens nicely somewhere between 2.0 and 2.8.  Still, I was already at "high iso" (3200 equiv.) and at 1/60.  I really didn't have anything else to open up on my rig.

These pictures actually look surprisingly good, all things considered.  They're exceptionally grainy, of course - accented by the fact that I lightened them about +1.75 ev.  I don't mind a little grain - in fact, if you desaturate them a bit, it can add an interesting feel to some images.  This is a bit much, however.  Still, the IQ is higher than i expected.

And if I had a camera body with a couple more stops of ISO, I think I could have done more.  Incidentally, I read today that the 7D mk II is supposed to be out first quarter of next year...

~PS

Caching Up

Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 2:24pm geocaching, friends, family Comments (0) »
Blue Skies Container A Hard-Fought Find
A Hard-Fought Find

Llama & I went geocaching again last saturday - this time out a Winged Deer Park.  Sheri and Hannah came along with us, too.  We all had a pretty great time.

We decided to start looking for the 7 or so caches hidden around in that area in the order of how close they were to where we parked.  The first one was within just a couple hundred feet.  One might think it should be a pretty easy find.

Not so.

It took the group of us about 45 minutes to find, largely due to two facts:

1) The GPS signal was pretty screwy in that wooded valley.

and

2) The "hint" was "at the end of a fallen tree".

That second one wouldn't have been so bad if there weren't about four thousand fallen trees within about 100ft of the site.  I might be exagerrating on that figure, but I'm not sure.

After nearly giving up a couple of times, we did finally locate it - and that was pretty rewarding.

The other two caches we picked up didn't give us any real trouble finding - we all but walked right up to them.  We did find a Travel Bug in one of them - which I'm going to try to re-deposit out of state.

All in all, it was a good day for a search.

~PS

Loosening the Reins

Saturday November 2, 2013 at 1:40pm gaming, friends Comments (2) »
Antagonist Pawns Pffffft.  Staged.
Pffffft.  Staged.

So last night's game was something of an experiment.

I'm usually pretty guarded with my game/story/plot settings.  Historically, I've liked to retain pretty tight control over what is and isn't present in the game world, and I'd say that, for the most part, that's still pretty true.  I don't think there's anything wrong with this, and its greatest virtue is that it guarantees a certain level of internal consistency.

In recent games, though, I've been a bit looser with allowing the players to "make stuff up" for me to incorportate into the world while keeping it a cogent whole.  Last night added a new level.

New Devilry

A friend of ours from our annual Meetups was in town for the weekend, and we asked him if he'd like to join our game for the night.  I'm usually pretty easy with letting "guest" players come in and out.  This time, though, I gave Reinholdt a choice: I told him he could either be a character that was basically in line with the party (and would be much more in the foreground), or he could play the part of the primary antagonist - which was going to be more of a puppetmaster role.  Since Reinholdt is, in fact, a cylon, he of course chose the latter.

So I had a new PC at the table playing the part of a character that I had carefully constructed and designed specifically for the situation the characters have been dealing with for about 10 games or so.  I tried to explain the character as best I could, but of course someone else is always going to interpret the facts differently.  It was interesting watching someone else interpret it, as well as giving control of the primary villain to someone else at the table.

Reinholdt did a great job.  He spent most of the game passing me notes telling me all the things he was trying to do behind the scenes to confound the PCs.  Actually, a lot of his suggestions made the game.  He did some things I wouldn't have, of course, but I'm prepared to roll them into the canon.

~PS

Fall Fun/Photo '13

Saturday November 2, 2013 at 9:38am family, photography, milligan Comments (0) »
Pumpkin Decoration Sheri, Hannah and the Pom-Pom Pumpkin
Sheri, Hannah and the Pom-Pom Pumpkin

Last weekend was some fun times.  Sheri helped Hannah decorate a pumpkin (with, I believe, 64 pom-poms), and then we went to Homecoming at Milligan.  This year was Sheri's 10th-year class reuinion (since she was a 5th-year senior).  It was a good time.

I, of course, had fun taking pictures.  Particularly at the parade, where I got to play with my 300mm.  I'm quite happy with the results I got.  I think the quality of the images is pretty professional.  So I now have really nice, candid photos of a dozen or so Millgian people I don't know.

Oh, and on a related note, my boss recently (self?) published a book, on the back cover of which is his instance of the ubiqitous bio photo.  Which, in this case, I took.

I really like autumn, but that particular season is rather abbreviated down here.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Machinations

Friday November 1, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

Guest Player:

[Brandon] Jekri - villain

Highlights:

- Deciding the machinery they saw was attempting to activate or power the Arch, they decided to try to hunt down its own power source.  After a brief altercation with a formian taskmaster and its servitors, the group began ascending the tower, following the machinery.

- The party encountered several more unusual rooms where mortals were engaging in a variety of distorted behaviors, carefully watched by devils.

- Eventually, the party found themselves in a great hall-like room several floors up.  It was populated with a number of well-dressed mortals, but no devils were seen.  The hosts of the room flattered and begged the party to stay and socialze with them.  Kael and Taryn seemed particularly persuaded, Kael by a man lauding his obvious leadership, and Taryn by a beautiful young woman who desired his company.  In the end, it was Lily that all by dragged the others from the room.

- It was on the 15th floor that Taryn happened upon an ice devil standing guard outside a significant-looking room.  He was accompanied by Jekri.

- Around this time, Lily had met a mephit who gave to her a key, asking her to "rescue" a professor by the name of Valthious.  It mentioned that a person(?) called "Vex" would know where to find him.

- The group parlayed with Jekri for several minutes - at a safe distance of about 70 feet.  Jekri told them he had no interested in Igveston itself, but that the Academy was rightfully his.  He also promised them his activities would not affect the surrounding city, and that, if they truly could not be persuaded otherwise, they could bring a small contigent in to "inspect".  Tomorrow.

Caching In

Sunday October 20, 2013 at 10:04pm geocaching Comments (0) »
Shoal Gonna Like This One first find
first find

I like doing interesting things, and I have found that there are many activities I'd be into pursuing if another, genuinely interested friend suggested we give it a try.  I think all of my current hobbies started because I had a good time participating in the activity and discussing the ins and outs with someone else.

Geo-logistics

So my good friend Tony was hanging out recently with a friend of his up in Michigan, who on this occasion introduced him to geocaching.  They had a quite a good time with it, and Tony thought it to be something I'd find interesting.  He brought it up to me as we were working on the goggles he needed for Casey & Steph's wedding (which was also quite a blast, by the way).  

I'd heard of this passtime before, knew the basic concept and thought it sounded neat, but never really looked into it.  When Tony came back a little excited about it, that was really all it took.  I don't do as much outdoor stuff as I used to, and this seemed an interesting pretense for getting out.

Between our usual weekly schedule and needing to prepare for the game I was running on friday (which I think went well), I didn't have time to do much more than register my alias on geocaching.com.  Today, however, was a beautiful day and, after texting back and forth for a bit, Tony & I decided to meet at Sycamore Shoals - where we believed at least one cache was located.

We made this first find after just about 15 minutes - pretty easily, actually.  It's a pretty good hiding spot just a little ways off the main trail.  The GPS app I put on my phone specifically for this seemed to work quite well (I'm not using the "official" app for a couple of reasons).  I signed the log and we left a couple of items before moving on.

There seem to be a few other caches in the area, but no other ones actually within the park itself.  Though we did happen upon a "rare flower".

There seem to be quite a few caches in fairly populous/urban areas but, for now, I think we're mostly into the more remote finds - in parks, trails and the like.  We've got our eyes on Winged Deer and the lower Laurel Falls trail next.  We discussed returning to the one at Sycamore Shoals as well to do the cache a favor: the gladware container it uses is all but breached and we've talked about replacing it with something more durable.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: The Devil's Nest pt. II

Friday October 18, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- as the angel, called Ceria, had burst in, the meeting erupted with outbursts, which continued until a new figure appeared - some kind of fiend called 'Lavarent' - operating as an ambassador for Jekri.

- Ceria's cohorts began to assault the newcomer once his nature was revealed, but Miala demanded Taryn and the others stop it - which they managed to do, after a fashion.  The fiend did little more besides warn those present that any attempt to interfere would be met with resistance.  This did little to shake Ceria's resolve.

- At this point, the meeting began to fracture.  Rothan, seeing little more he could do, departed after being confronted by Tyrrox.  Reynold and Miala were still unhappy about the interlopers, but recognized they could do little.  The PCs seemed inclined to, if not join the angel, at least operate in tandem.

- The angel informed them that she and her forces planned to march on the pit immediately.  The party then decided to try to find their way into the academy from the underground.

- Ona called for volunteers at the Hall of Three to aid in the assault on the pit.  It so happened the Batu, after being instructed to deliver a letter to the Hall, had managed to secure a room there for the night.  Upon hearing the summons, he eagerly joined the cause to show his strength.  

- Sensing some cunning in him, Ona discussed their strategy and the two decided a flanking maneuver would be most beneficial.  Since Ceria and her forces were drawing most of the attention, Ona, Batu and their guard managed to scale to the bottom of the pit from the opposite side - where they encountered the barbed lord devil the party had previously encountered.  He was standing near two, twisted bronze columns which had some sort of metal clamps fastened to them, with ropes trailing into some sort of mirror-like object.

- The party managed to break into the Academy from below.  Inside they found that it had been completely infested with devils who seemed to have forced or enticed the mortals within to engage in all manner of unseemly behavior.  In the main hallways, the encountered massive, infernal machinery into which some unlucky mortals had already been grafted.  Beyond it, in a large open chamber, they could see the Galdzuri arch, a golden-purple aura pulsing around it...

Angles

Saturday October 12, 2013 at 10:03pm photography Comments (0) »
goat at Fender's Farm got your goat
got your goat

Yeah, it's a goat.

I posted this picture because, as a photo, I actually think it's pretty fantastic.  I love the way its framed, and the perspective it gives. I've been playing a bit more with the wide end of my kit lens lately (i've mentioned before how i've been fairly impressed with the image quality of this lens, at least on my crop-frame camera) - this was taken at 28mm on it.  At ~45mm equiv, it's *barely* a "wide angle" shot, but it's a close enough approximation.  I have my eye on an actual wide-angle lens - probably my next camera-based purchase - and some of the experiments I've been doing with this lens have given me some ideas on what kind of fun i could have with a still-larger field of view.

The shot was taken earlier today over at Fender's Farm, which was stop number three on the day's crazy agenda.  It's been exhausting, but fun.

~PS

Penguinsushi.com Version 11

Wednesday October 9, 2013 at 2:24pm web development, web design Comments (0) »
Site Redesign (v11) Website Recursion
Website Recursion

And here we are.  Version 11 of my website, at just about the 8.6 year mark.

Design and Approach

Once again, I've decided to change up the look and feel of the site, since I get bored easily.  This one kind of harkens back to version 9 - with a kind of antiqued feel.  With this one, though, I wanted to have the content much more front-and-center, minimizing the space occupied by header, border and menu aspects.  I do think the designs have continued to improve.

The biggest difference in terms of interface is that the new site is much more unified: instead of dividing my site into different pages, I decided that I would just have everything posted in this one feed.  This approach really fits the way I've been using the site recently better than the previous incarnations.

Development

The backend of this version is much the same as version 10, with some minor tweaks.  In the same way that the front end is unified, the backend has also be redesigned with commonalities in mind: each content object on the site (entries, comments, quotes, etc) is now considered an "article", which may or may not have children or associated assets (images, files, etc.).

Through the Cracks

A few things have fallen off of the site with this version, but I'm not sure that's a problem.  The galleries were, at this point, basically redundant with the bookface.  The gaming resources are also missing, but I'm not sure how much they were used.  The music page is also gone but, despite the fact that I've spent quite a bit of time and effort working on that kind of stuff, I really haven't produced much lately.  Any of these things that turn out to be missed will be re-posted as new articles on this version as desired.  As I alluded to above, I have expanded the capabilities of what can be attached to an article/blog for this purpose.

Edit: Oh, and "The List" is still around, I just decided our random quotes would make a good footnote. ;)

Edit #2: Also, I'm a little proud of the nested website photo I have posted here.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: The Precipice

Saturday September 21, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

Guest Character:

[Kevin] Batu - Sylvan Elf Barbarian

Highlights:

- The party spent some time discussing what to do with Morran's body.  They quickly decided they wanted to use 'speak with dead' to try to learn more, but they were considering certain logistics.

- The group ultimately decided they wanted to use the spell in the presence of the Hall of Three as well as some of the local nobles in an effort to unify them against whatever was going on.

- After some doing, they convinced Miala Xerus to arrange for a midnight council meeting.

- The party asked Morran about what was going on at the academy and what it could mean if the devils' efforts were successful.  Most of this was stuff that the party had already learned, but they wanted the others to be able to hear it straight from Morran.

- While they were still talking, representatives from House Briglau burst in, lead by a wild and angelic figure - saying that if the local law would not cast out the devils, they would take matters into their own hands.

- Aside: An elf called Batu (Kevin) arrives in town, only to find the gates closed.  He has a brief altercation with a racist bartender and meets up with a dwarven cleric.

 

Next Session Theory: Friday, Oct 18th.

Cyrran Reaches: Cloaks

Saturday September 7, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party heard some hell hounds approaching and decided to split up and make their way back to the Laughing Jack

- Kael went to the temple to speak with Ona Macrath about what was going on in the Undercity (but not about Morran in particular).  On the way there, he met a young woman who seemed interested in him.

- After discovering where Kael was staying, the woman - actually a doppleganger - took on Kael's form and went back to the Laughing Jack, where it killed Elivius Morran.  Before it could escape, however, the party caught up and killed it as it fled.

Having Been Judged

Saturday August 24, 2013 at 2:51pm appalachian fair, photography, web design Comments (0) »
 Udvar-Hazy SR-71 Blackbird HDR at the Appalachian Fair
Udvar-Hazy SR-71 Blackbird HDR at the Appalachian Fair

Doing Something

Since I've spent a few years taking pictures of pretty much everything I encounter *and* since I've spent quite a bit of money on this hobby over the last 5 years or so (and plan to spend a bit more), Sheri told me she would like to see me "do" something with this stuff.  By that I suppose she meant "do something more than just share them with your friends".  Or something.

So anyway, at her prompting, I entered a few of my shots in the Appalachian Fair.

First off, their website needs some help.  It's a bit..."dated".  Or, some might say, "in need of a redesign".  Or, others might say simply, "ugly".  That really wasn't my beef with it, though.  My issue was that their website failed to communicate clearly.  It did convey the necessary information, but there were times it seemed to be contradicting itself with respect to deadlines, and it could have been a little more specific on a few steps.  I got the distinct impression - from both the site and personal interations - that the fair just seems to assume you already know what's going on.  If you're involved with this, you probably have been for some time and so we don't need to be overly specific.  And, on the off chance you're new, they'll just let you muddle through the affair without offering much direction (or even confirmation) along the way.

I entered 4 photos in the photography section at the fair.  That was an interesting day.  I'd actually started out to enter 6, but one of them didn't turn out as sharp as I would have liked, and I could only find 4 acceptable mats at Michaels.  I might have waited till the last minute on that one, but we've had a busy summer.  That fact might have contributed to feeling of "lack of direction" i expressed above, but I would still maintain that's not all of the cause.  But I digress.

The four photos I entered were one of a tropical bird (animals), a path leading to a beach (landscape), a butterfly on a flower (insects), and finally, a photo of the SR-71 Blackbird we saw recently at Udvar-Hazy (other).

So last night, we all went out to the fair.  And yes, I still find "carnival barkers" annoying.  Not that I was going to play any of their games anyway (I'm not especially good at them), but yelling at me actually makes me less likely to bite.  I wonder if that actually works on people, or if it is, at this point, simply a cultural artifact.  Perhaps other people like it specifically for that reason.  But I digress, yet again.

We knew Hannah would want to see the animals.  She was extremely amused by the duck slide, and I think she enjoyed petting some of the others.  She also told me she wanted to pet the person in the cow costume.  She had a good time.  In the next couple of years, she's going to start demanding to go on the rides though, and then I'll be less into it.

Apart from witnessing the adorable, I was primarily there for the photo exhibit.  We haven't really been to a fair since I've been into that sort of thing, and I really like to see others' work - both to mentally critique and to learn something from their styles.  Also, I thought it would be cool to see if I'd happened to win anything, and how much I agreed with the judges.

There were a lot of cool photos there.  The exhibit wasn't huge (and was laid out a bit awkwardly for someone trying to see all of it), but it was of a respectable size. From what I saw, I was proud of my shots.  Honestly, I do think they were among the best, though there were more than a few I'd call better, and those were very enjoyable to look at.

A Fair Shot

The first place "animals" photo was of a squirrel clinging to the side of a tree, poised not unlike a ninja, staring straight at the camera.  It was a good shot, framed well,  though perhaps not razor sharp.  It had an interestingly-narrow depth-of-field as well.  I didn't begrudge that one - it was as least as good as mine.  The second-place, however, I was less impressed by.  It was a female cardinal on a snowy branch.  It was rather small in the frame, as the bird was only about an inch tall on the 8x10.  The snowy environment was interesting and did add to the composition, however, so the small subject was, perhaps, acceptable (if not my style).  There was some rather odd intentional vignetting around the entire frame, which looked like it was trying too hard to be "quaint".  Apart from the fact that I think the shooter needed about another 100-200 mm of focal length, it just wasn't very sharp.  It was a bit blurry even from a distance, and the contrast was a bit dull.  It wasn't a terrible shot, but I didn't think it was as good as mine - or another I saw, which was a rather impressive shot of a barn owl.  The third place shot was considerably better, it was of a heron skipping across some shallow water.  Taken from an angle about 90 degrees to the left, it would have been amazing.  As it was, it was pretty impressive.  I wouldn't have begrudged it second place.

The first place "insects" photo was a butterfly as well, nicely composed, though not very bright.  I think it was as good as mine or better, and the variety of butterfly was a bit less common, which added interest.  The second place insects was of a banana spider.  It was decent, though the angle of the shot and its position in the frame could have been better.  The color and contrast were great.  Sharpness was good, though the abdomen was notable sharper than its head (which was facing away).  I suppose it was superior to mine in terms of contrast between subject and background and, arguably, interest of the subject - but I think my shot was as good or better in any other aspect.  Third place was a dragonfly.  It was also a good shot, though there was another dragonfly photo in the show I actually thought was better in terms of sharpness/color/contrast, and they were framed about the same.  I didn't compare them side-by-side, however, so maybe there was something technically superior to the winner.

As an aside, they hung my butterfly picture incorrectly - vertically instead of horizontally.  I don't mention this because I think it had anything at all to do with how it was judged (it actually looks fine vertically), but because I find it amusing since the woman I gave my photos to specifically asked how that one was intended to be hung.

So, landscapes.  I don't remember the first place landscape - though all of the first place shots were good, so I'm sure it was awesome.  The second place shot was of a mountain valley filled with rocks and scrub, with a nice blue sky.  It wasn't especially interesting in my opinion, but it was technically quite good, and I'd say it deserved second.  The beach path photo I entered isn't one I think is technically perfect: it's less than sharp in some places, a bit oversaturated and without enough contrast, but it's a shot I really like for some reason.  I don't recall the third place landscape, but I'm sure it was good.  I didn't really compare the winners with mine in this category since, though I really like my shot, I wasn't prepared to defend its technical merits against the others.

And then there was the Blackbird, for which I actually got 1st place in the "other" category.  Ironically, I wouldn't have given it to me.  The second place shot in that category was of a train moving down a track, puffing smoke with some people off to the left, waving.  Interestingly muted colors.  I think it was actually a better shot, and I probably would have given it first place and second to my plane (i don't recall seeing anything else in that category that amazed me).  Of the four I entered, it was probably my least favorite.  It was a good photo and all, and it was an interesting subject, but I liked the others more.

In general, I only agreed with the judges about 50% - but that's the nature of anything artistic, right?  Also, I think my criteria were probably different.

I've Been Framed

One thing I learned from this whole experience, is that I don't like prints.  At least not 8x10s  All of my photos I consider "good" are framed well as a whole.  Forced to chop off an inch and a half from the longest side, however, and some of them become... less perfect.  (Just for the record, I highly doubt this affected the judging of the photos I entered - this is a separate topic).  I've found that I don't shoot for this sort of cropping, and I don't particularly like it.  If I'm going to do more for prints, I may need to adjust my shooting method, perhaps shooting for what I want and then, if I think it's something I might want a print of, recompsing it with the cropping in mind.  Or something like that.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Wayward

Saturday August 17, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Tyrrox finished his community service and returned to the Hall of Three to retrieve his weapons that were being held.  Upon arriving, he was challenged to a duel by Aegus Rothan, one of the more militant priests of the hall.  After the fight, Tyrrox was invited to eat and drink with the hall soldiers.  During the conversations, Rothan mentioned that he'd encountered an ibixian before - a man he called Kiveg, who was supposedly Tyrrox's uncle.

- When the group reassembled, Taryn told them he'd had a dream about Morran in the undercity and thought he knew where to go - a place called The Junk Room.

- Kael helped the group find the market that was near the place.  When they arrived, they found the proprietor, and old woman, being harrased by a few armed thugs.  Taryn managed to talk them down.

- The group found out from the woman that Morran had come to talk to her, and that he wanted some help healing a kind of magical wound.  She didn't seem happy about the visit.

- Kael decided to see if he could find out where the thugs went.  The group caught up with them near their hideout in the Undercity, and a fight ensued.  After defeating the thugs, they found a familiar tattoo on their foes, and someone in an old cloak and fine robes tied up inside.

Cyrran Reaches: Regrouping

Friday August 9, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The group shut themselves in the tavern, hoping they weren't seen by the hell hounds and bearded devils running by outside.  In the back room, they found a crevince in the earth behind the loose wall paneling.  They began to tear off the boards and squeeze through the narrow passage when one of the bearded devils burst into the building.

- They managed to fight off the devil and escape into a vacant alleyway and head back to the nicer section of town.

- The group went to the Hall of Three and spoke with Ona Macrath about the devil incursion.  She says it will take a few days to prepare to march on the invaders.

- The group then dispersed.  Lily wanted to study some about an ancient arch Ona had mentioned, Taryn decided to try to divine a course of action, Kael decided to return to the Undercity to gather more information about the devils, and Tyrrox still needed to finish his "community service".

- They met with Ona the next afternoon, and she told them that there were some in the hall that were a little less hurried to engage the devil forces - so there may be delay as powers-that-be decide on an "appropriate" course of action.

Summer Vacation

Friday August 9, 2013 at 2:32pm friends, travel Comments (1) »
 Udvar-Hazy - Kitty Hawk fighter
Udvar-Hazy - Kitty Hawk fighter

Sheri, Hannah & I went on our first real trip in the "new" car we got back at the beginning of this year.  One of the nicest things about having it is (in addition to my getting much better gas economy), being able to go places more than 20 minutes away and be reasonably confident the vehicle in question will make it there and back.  Since our good friend Ginger couldn't make it down for Trogland 7 this year (much to our disappointment), we decided to work out a time to go visit them up in the DC area.

The trip was tremendously fun.  Ginger & William are great hosts, and it was so much fun to hang out with them.  We hadn't really done a lot with Ginger in several years and it was great to really have some time to catch up.  Also, William is a great guy - I really wish I knew him better.  Hannah and Liam seemed to get along pretty well and were really cute playing together.  William has decreed that, on our next meeting, there shall be more games.

In addition to some relaxing, we went to Udvar-Hazy and the National Zoo.  I, of course, I had a great time taking pictures at both locations.  I was particularly impressed with my camera's performance at Udvar-Hazy in terms of high ISO (was shooting at 1600 for most of it) and the 28-135mm IS kit lens I was using (generally at the 28mm due to the size of subject material).  That thing may be consumer-grade, but it has given me some impressive results (if not completely consistently).  At the zoo, I was using my new 300mm telephoto.  I'm not sure how high I rate that zoo in terms of how good it is for photography, but we only got to about 60% of it and several of the enclosures were possessed of animals that weren't exactly cooperative - so maybe i don't have adequate data to make that sort of call.  Still, it was a lot of fun and I did get a few really nice shots.

~PS

New Photo Gear

Friday August 9, 2013 at 2:26pm photography, gear Comments (0) »
Canon 300mm f/4L New Toy
New Toy

New Toys

So, after saving for several years, I have, at last, been able to buy another piece of camera gear: a nice professional-grade telephoto lens.  Specifically, Canon's 300mm f/4L.  It is a beatiful lens, and so far my only "regret" is the fact that I haven't had more time to play with it.  The thing is built like a tank (and weighs a ton for it), crystal clear and gives a respectable reach.

Along with that, I also picked up a set extension tubes which are a lot of fun to use with my 50mm (though controlling the depth of field is tricky).

Upgrade?

Prior to having bought that lens and running into the present, I've been looking at upgrading my faithful 40d camera body to something with some more expanded capabilties - particularly with respect to iso sensitivity & performance as I have found that flash tends to annoy people and I'm all too often wanting to shoot in rather dark situations.  Also looking at possibly (probably?) going full frame. 

I've got a good chunk saved toward a new camera body/kit thanks to a web development side project, but, unfortunately, the camera gear I want doesn't exist.

Prospecting

Here is, basically, what I'm after:

- Solid construction (at least on par with my 40d)

- Convenient controls (again, at least on par with my 40d)

- ISO 12800+ & the newest canon image processor (DIGIC 5+) at ~20mp

- A camera for which I can get a nice wide/ultrawide, preferably prime, lens

The Canon 5d Mark III meets all these requirements swimmingly.  It's a full frame, and probably the best digital camera Canon currently makes.  I have played with one of these, and it's undeniably awesome.  It's just so freaking expensive. So I suppose I should add "- cost < arm+leg" to the requirements.

The Canon 6d - also a full frame - has most of that for about $1500 less, making it somewhat more affordable.  No complaints on image quality (probably the most important thing), but it takes a couple of hits on the "controls" scale, missing some things my 40d has such as the thumb joystick and physical buttons for more controls on the top LCD.  I would miss those.  It also has a couple of other minor shortcomings, such as a 1/4000 max shutter speed, SD cards only (which seems to be an increasing trend), slower burst rate, and a few others.

The newly-announced Canon 70d is a more direct upgrade of my camera and is a crop-frame sensor, but I'm less sure on how its construction solidity compares to my 40d (i seem to remember thinking some of the later X0d models felt more "plastic-y" than mine) and it has the same controls shortcomings as the 6d, though a price tag about $800 less - its ~$1200 price tag making it almost "cheap" in the scheme of things.  I wouldn't really mind sticking with a crop-frame sensor (in fact, in some ways, I think i might prefer that), but I do eventually want a nice wide lens, and I'd really prefer a prime (such as the (pricey) Canon 14mm f/2.8L II) - though the relatively inexpensive and well-reviewed Canon 10-22mm may suffice.

The Canon 7d has the controls and features set I want - almost perfectly - though the ISO, image sensor and mp are all a (small) step down from the others.  Also a crop-frame, it is, at least as of now, about $500 more than the coming 70d.

You Get What You Pay For

...and, conversely, you pay for what you get.  The other issue here is that all of the above cameras have features I don't need and/or would never seriously use - most noteably among them: audio/video recording capability.  I'm a pretty serious still photographer, but I have absolutely no interest in video - at least, not in any capacity more than "look at this cute thing my daughter is doing", and I hardly need a thousand-dollar hd camera for that: I'm going for pure content, not quality.  I don't need that - nor do I understand why every new digital camera "must" have it.  Probably because it's a feature they can implement on a digital camera without too much trouble and still charge a premium for. 

I don't need in-camera editing functions either.  And I don't need direct print.  Built-in wifi and/or gps are cool, but I don't need them.  Built-in HDR would be pretty sweet, but also, not needed.  The 70d's flip-out screen might be handy for self-portraits at christmas, but I'd wonder about it's solidity and I don't need it - and I definitely don't need its touch-screen (i'd rather have physical buttons, thanks). I don't need a pop-up flash.  I actually don't need custom camera modes, because i don't like the "reset" that happens when the camera goes to sleep.  Not to sound "elitist", but I don't need the amateur camera modes (actually, I'd be happy with only M - though Av and Tv might be nice on occassion) OR "scene" based modes.  I don't *need* full frame, though I wish Canon (or anybody?) made a nice wide/ultrawide equivalent (10mm f/2.8, EF-S perhaps?) prime for and APS-C cropped sensor.  There are a host of other, minor features on any given camera that could go as well.

So basically, what I want doesn't exist - and, at this point, is probably unlikely to.  The 6d is probably still the best fit, though if I could find a used 5dIII for a good price I might go with that.  A 6dII or 7dII might be as close as I'll get to perfect also.  A 5dIV might bring the price of the III down to reasonable (assuming I don't decide I "need" some feature of the newer model).

It's down the road a ways anyway, but, as of now, only know I'd like a camera upgrade.  I have no idea what I'd actually buy.

Edit: Some rumours I've read suggest that Canon may be releasing some new cameras next year (including a 7d mk II) - maybe one of them will be closer.

~PS

Trogland 7

Friday August 9, 2013 at 2:02pm web development, trogland Comments (0) »
Trogland 7 Image

Well, it's August.

In The Works

I haven't been on here much lately, have I?  I have found that, generally speaking, when I'm working on a new site design, I tend to begin neglecting the current incarnation - even though I'm going to migrate everything to the new layout (so it's not as if anything would be "lost" or "wasted"). I'm not 100% sure why this is, but I suspect it comes from my subconscious desire to finalize framework and structure before I bother with such dressings as "content"...   ...even if that's the point.  I'm making a conscious effort to supercede this tendency now.

Trogland 7

So, about a month and a half ago, Trogland 7 happened.  As I mentioned before, this was our first year trying to be completely organized on the front-end instead of just "winging it" based on what feels right at the time.  I think we were 90% successful.  The registration site did it's job, funds were collected and adequate, and I think it was less stressful all-around for most people - perhaps myself excluded.

The meetup itself was, as always, a lot of fun.  I ran two games and, as is now expected, spent most of saturday taking photos of the event.

Fated

The first game I ran was something I dubbed "Gaslamp Vanguard", and was a steampunk-inspirted indiana-jones style adventure game using the new Fate Core rules set.  I really liked Fate when I played it in Dresden, and the still more free-form approach this new publication puts out is even better for someone like me who likes to "tweak" rules/systems/settings.  The game itself was a lot of fun, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  The scenario was actually the second game I've fun based on a young adult book called "The Door in the Dragon's Throat" - because I think the premise therein is awesome as an rpg.

Little Fears II

The other game I ran was a sequel to last year's wildely successful Little Fears game (once again, using my modified "v1.5" rules) - by popular demand.  I don't think it was quite the homerun of last year's (at least, I didn't actually scare people), but it was a different part of the story, and I think it was still a great game.  This session was less about the tension and fear, and more about realization and deciding on action.  It still had some pretty creepy moments though.  I plan the "end of the trilogy" next summer, which will probably involve the "party" diving headlong into Faerie.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: The Devil's Nest pt. I

Saturday July 20, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

New Character:

[Tim] Kael - Half-Elf Ranger

Highlights:

- The group catch sight of one of the men they'd overheard heading back to the Civic district.  They followed him back to the Knight's Chamber, but didn't directly talk to him.

- The following day, the group encountered him talking to one of the local nobles, and they spent some time chatting with an elderly man of House Alphast.

- The group decided to return to the Undercity in search of information.  They end up in a small hole-in-the-wall tavern, but find the patrons dispondent.  They were still trying to get them to talk when they were attacked by a pair of imps and their lemure minions.

- Taryn had taken the bartender outside for some fresh air, and happened upon a giant hole in the middle of the undercity - filled with devils and enslaved commoners.  The two hurried back to the tavern, but not before raising the alarm in the pit.  Back at the tavern, they were met by Kael, an old acquaintence of Taryn's - just before they heard the baying of approaching hounds...

Please Stand By...Again...

Wednesday July 10, 2013 at 10:28am everything Comments (0) »

Ah! I slept through June!

Good ol' Penguinsushi.com hasn't been used much lately.  I have been insanely busy.  The short list includes Bug, Trogland 7, a development side project, new toys, visiting family and various get-togethers.  Also, I've been kicking around ideas on another site-redesign.

It's not dead, it's just a tad neglected on the front-end.

~PS

References: Welcome Back.

Happy Valley: Return To Happy Valley

Saturday June 29, 2013 at 9:00pm happy valley, game session notes, trogland Comments (0) »

Gaslamp Vanguard: The Dragon's Throat

Friday June 28, 2013 at 8:00pm gaslamp vanguard, game session notes, trogland Comments (0) »

Cyrran Reaches: Secrets and Rumours

Saturday June 1, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party met with Miala Xerus, who paid them some gold up front and offered a bounty on any particularly relevant information they could uncover.  She wants to know what is going on in the city. 

- Miala has heard some interesting rumours - including that Morran was seen heading into the poor quarter and that the Hall of Three might have set up the bombing on their temple themselves.

- The group is to perform for house Xerus in 7 days - and deliever their news to Miala.

- After meeting with Miala, the party decides to start by heading to the poor quarter to see if they can get some trace of the schoolmaster.  They ended up at a run-down "inn" in the poor quarter called "Rest for the Weary"

- Lily overheard a meeting between two locals and someone from out of town mentioning Devric

Sidenotes

Friday May 31, 2013 at 10:39pm gaming, trogland, photography Comments (0) »

Been very busy, but not much for the blog.  Mostly, I've been working on my current campaign (Cyrran Reaches), gearing up for Trogland 7, and playing a little with my camera.  I've also been trying to get some creative ideas for some recording projects going, but it's been a little hit or miss.

Reaching

I think my D&D 3.5 game is going quite well.  Last session was a little slow, but there's been some great plot, some fun action, and some aspects I haven't addressed much in games before.  I've enjoyed developing the setting area as well, and there are a lot of possibilities for it, I think.

Troggin'

This year's meetup is coming up soon - we're just about a month away.  Today was the last day for pre-registration.  I built trogland.penguinsushi.com for this purpose, and I'm fairly proud of it.  Getting the meetup funded up-front this year has allowed us to do some new things with less stress.  Win-win all around.  I'll also be running a sequel to last year's Little Fears game - which was awesome to the point that I'm not sure I can possibly live up to it.  Still, it should be fun.  If I can get that together soon, I may also try to run something else on friday night.

Back Up

I've also, as usual, been playing with my camera.  I actually had a chance to play with the 5D mk III one of my coworkers uses at work...  ...and now I kind of want one.  It's pretty nice.  I would settle for a 6D though, and since that one is about 1.5k cheaper, it's a bit more likely than the former.  I'm also still wanting to get a nice telephoto lens.

Unfortunately, I also discovered my beloved 50mm prime has a bit of a backfocusing issue.  I'm not sure if it's always done this and increased experience now has me noticing, or whether it has developed the behvior recently.  On the good side, it is extremely mild - to the point that I can't quite tell if it always does it or not, and it's really only noticeable up close and at a wide aperture.  Also, if I do manage to get a newer camera, a lot of the nice digital bodies have the ability to compensate for this sort of thing.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Lingering Spectres Pt. II

Saturday May 11, 2013 at 6:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- After hearing the Hall guard was entering the premesis, Devric ran out of the room downstairs; Lily and Tyrrox followed him.

- Taryn lingered behind long enough to encounter the ghost they'd previously seen.  They had a brief conversation about the now-departing intruders, and it seemed to go well until Taryn mentioned a woman he'd seen in a painting downstairs.  This upset the ghost terribly and caused it to wail uncontrollably.

- Downstairs, Devric used some sort of potion to activate the arcane circle, and images of rocky prominences jutting up from a fetid sea began to take shape in the mists above the floor, eventually revealing a massive hydra and a pair of disembodied voices.  The barrier between the worlds seemed to weaken, and water began pouring onto the manor floor - along with several small demons.

- Meanwhile, the Hall guard arrived outside and were busy attempting to cross the courtyard while the keep's guardian seemed disinclined to allow them.

- Taryn caught up with the others downstairs in time to be mutated by corruptive energies which were now pouring from the circle.  Lily tried to convince Devric to end the ritual, but the man seemed to be becoming more and more mad.

- When the ritual did finally end a couple of rounds later, Devric collapsed on the floor, chuckling madly to himself.  The Hall guard finally gained entrance, searched the place and took all those present into custody.

- The party was taken to the holding cells in the basement of the Hall of Three, where they were held until trial.  The trials were held individually, and involved each of the accused accounting for his/her actions to a group of assembled clergy whereupon one was called to make a final and swift judgement.  In general, the judges agreed that the party's statements were basically true and that they were only guilty of breaking and entering. 

- After the trials, the group encountered Miala, a noblewoman who had previously attempted to contact them, and they agreed to meet with her later that evening.

Cyrran Reaches: Confronting the Unseen

Saturday April 27, 2013 at 6:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party followed the others' lead into the abandoned keep.  They avoided the treant guardian in the courtyard and made their way to the large manorhouse between the two large towers.

- Inside they found the place had been disturbed recently, but only on certain places.  A noteworthy feature of the entry/foyer area was the fact that the carpeting and furniture had been shoved to the edges of the room to make way for an arcane circle which had been painted in red on the floor.  There was also a red eye painted on the wall in once corner.

- The group was making their way upstairs, when they were ambushed by some invisible rogues.  They fought them off enough that the rogues retreated.  Upstairs, they found a room that was strangely undisturbed, clean and in good order.  Upon leaving the room, however, they were ambushed again, this time by a more coordinated attack.  The ensuing fight proved difficult.

- As the encounter was wrapping up, another man arrived upstairs.  He seemed startled to see them, but quickly regained his composure.  He seemed to be the "leader" of whatever was going on, and he offered them a considerable sum just to walk away.  While the party was still interrogating him, another man came running in, telling them that the Hall guard was coming..

Cyrran Reaches: Breaking In

Saturday April 20, 2013 at 5:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- A message had been left for the party from Miala Xerus, a noble of the ruling House.  She had something she wanted them to do and that they would be paid for the efforts.  The message stated they were invited to the Xerus Estate, but the Hall guards outside insisted that Miala was no present and that they would not be allowed inside.

- Encountered a bit of a commotion outside the the Hall of Three, where a priest or paladin called Ona was irate - insisting on taking a contingent of armed guards to the Magus Academy, forcing entry and demanding answers from those who were clearly responsible for the previous night's attack.  She was arguing with another priest she called Ivan, who insisted she should not act rashly.

- The party had written a letter to the Master about the magical crossbow bolt that had been shot at Tyrrox in Ettaseph - wanting to know more about it and if who had fired it could be tracked down magically.  They decided they'd go and see if they could get anyone's attention from outside.  They managed to attract the attention of an old priest called Occulous. He seemed a little crazy, but was generally conversive.  He apparently had nothing to do with the sealing of the grounds and was interested in the crossbow bolt, though the wards on the grounds prevented them from passing it through to him.  He did say he would try to get Master Morran their message, but he didn't expect it would be paid much attention.

- The party returned to the Xerus Estate to try again, but they were once more told Miala was not present and that they would not be granted entry.  They then decided to take a closer look at the unoccupied keep Bradley Durn had told them about (and where they expected the ghost they'd encountered previously had come from).  While looking around, Taryn witnessed some suspicious figures sneaking into the keep by way of the second floor of a neighboring house.

- The group entered the house and were attacked by some thugs with a tattoo of the symbol of the eye with the tooth they'd seen before.

Cyrran Reaches: Local Factions

Saturday April 13, 2013 at 5:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Spent some time at The Laughing Jack making friends with the proprietor.

- Did a little poking around town.  Planned to go to the Magus Academy, but discovered it had been unexpectedly sealed off following a heated argument at a counsel meeting the previous night.

- Talked their way into the Keep District of the town.  Escorted by a young guardsman by the name of Bradley Durn who seemed to be connected to House Briglau.  He told them some basic info about the estates in the district, and about the nobles who live there.

- Lily talked to a priest called Salemnor at the Hall of Three (a temple to St. Cuthbert) about getting some historical info on the town and its nobility.  He told her it would take a few days and told her of the fees required.

- Later that night, they witnessed a couple of large explosions at the Hall of Three.  They rushed to the scene and attempted to help the efforts to contain the insuing chaos.

In the case of a tie...

Monday April 1, 2013 at 2:09pm board games Comments (1) »
In the case of a tie... Image

We (Tony, Sheri and I) played two new board games over the weekend.

The first game we played was Thunderstone.  This is a game that I heard about at GenCon in 2010.  It's a lot like Dominion in terms of game play.  It's a deck-building game where the goal is to accumulate cards that give you points at the end of the game.  The primary difference is in thematics.  Instead of accumulating coins to buy Provinces and other victory cards, in Thunderstone, you fill your deck with hero and weaponry cards that will help you defeat monsters, which are worth points at the end of the game.  We had a good time with it, though we didn't actually figure out how it worked until about halfway through.

The other game we played was Steam.  This was a game that I got Sheri for christmas, and we've only just now gotten around to playing.  This game is somewhat involved - we only played the "base" game - and we only mostly figured it out.  It is something like a cross between Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne.  Essentially, you lay track tiles to connect cities in order to move trade goods to and from cities to gain money and points.  We didn't get all the way through the game we started, but what we played was a lot of fun.

~PS

Thistle & Thorns: Nareena's Curse

- A group of ferrets had been sighted north of Lockhaven near Thistledown, and a patrol was sent to expell them and to check up on Thistledown.

- As they entered the area and investigated the situation, they found that the town had had a rough year as unprecedented flooding had ruin much of their store, and a dramatic infestation of thorns which had grown quickly and relentlessly since early spring was interfering with life in the village.  Their bad luck seemed to have started after they expelled a crazy old witch-mouse, and some believe she placed a curse on the town.

- The group ultimately discovered that the flooding and thorns had been the direct result of intentional acts, and suspected that the witch-mouse had somehow enlisted the help of the roaming ferrets.

- The group was finally able to track down the ferrets and drive them out of the region, but the witch-mouse was nowhere to be found...

Cyrran Reaches: Lingering Spectres Pt. I

Saturday March 9, 2013 at 7:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- the party tied up some loose ends in Ettaseph after having aided in solving the treeant problem.  they stayed for a couple of days to help with some aftermath and to talk to a few more locals.

- one man they met was Ulbrus Marc, a cleric of Fharlanghn, who was traveling through the area.  By the end of their conversation, however, his jovial spirit had become worried and he informed them he was heading back to his homeland of Uldul Ferrik immediately.

- the party caught up with the cleric again the next day, whereupon he told them he was concerned about their description of the man with the two-headed-dragon tattoo.  Apparently there was some lore in his town related to multi-headed serpent - regarding it as an ancient evil.

- the group, however, continued to Igveston to see if they could find out anything about a man they'd heard of with a different mark: an eye and tooth motif, as well as to, perhaps, seek information about the lost dungeon they're seeking.

- shortly after arriving the in the city (late that night), they were accosted by a ghost who behaved oddly and was complaining about intruders in his house and insisting the group do something about it.

Late Imagery

Wednesday March 6, 2013 at 3:39pm photography Comments (0) »
Late Imagery Image

Portfolio Photos

Finally posted my 2012 photo portfolio.  I've noticed that the number of photos in my galleries are steadily increasing.  I'm not sure if my standards are lowering, if I have more good pictures, or if I just like too many photos of my daughter.  Maybe all three.

Anyway, they're up on the Photo page, for any who may be interested.

~PS

Cyrran Reaches: Gaining Notice

Saturday March 2, 2013 at 6:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- party returns to town and, with the help of a young woman called Relia, tells the tree lord what they had found, pleads that the humans are not responsible, and negotiates for the release of the remaining women the trees are holding captive.

- party enjoys and evening at Loreth's tavern, where they are harolded as heroes by the locals

- On the way back to their inn, Taryn and Tyrrox are attacked by a sniper using and explosive crossbow bolt and several shadowy goblinoid figures - all seeming to be orchestrated only to leave a message: "You have wandered into our midst; we are always watching"

- The party questioned some locals about some iconography they've encountered (an eye with a tooth), and also some involvement in recent events.

Web Dev, Gaming Cons, and the Wiki of the Penguin

Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:26pm website, gaming Comments (0) »
Web Dev, Gaming Cons, and the Wiki of the Penguin Image

Yeah, Whatever

I am pretty behind on doing anything on this site.  Meh.  I still need to post photos from 2012.  I've gone through them, I just need to make final selections & export them.  It'll happen.  At some point.

Also, i've been doing some work on the site engine and kicking around some new site design ideas.  Because that's what I do.

Also, also (and this is related) a group of us has started talking about this year's OotsCon, which is now called the Trogland Meetup.  It's becoming a bit more of a stand-alone entity.  We're expanding it a bit, due to past difficulties.  This year, we're going to have some hotel space for some of the events, and we're formalizing some of the other "goodies" - like con badges and 'schwag' items.  Due to this, we're implementing a registration fee as well, and I've been developing a registration site for us to use.  That's taken a bit of time.

Didn't Think She'd Mine

So I got Sheri into Minecraft.  I'm actually kind of surprised she enjoys the game as much as she does.  Also, due to some hardware replacements at work, she got a new computer.  It's the fastest currently in the house.  64-bit Windows 7 2.9ghz with 8gb of ram.  This machine - dubbed Pheonix as it was born from the ashes of a few dying pcs - replaced Lain, and it plays the game quite well.

The Savage and Fantastic

We brought our Savage Seas game to a pausing point - actually, a point just before a new leg of the adventure - and decided to pick something else for a while.  It is a good game, and we'll go back to it eventually, but I was really in the mood to do something different.  The group had wanted to play a high fantasy game for a while, so I started a new D&D 3.5 game at 10th level.  The setting I'm developing for it is called Cyrran Reaches, and it's a region in the corner of a kingdom with half a dozen settlements and quite a few interesting characters.  So far, I've only really developed the generalities of the place and the westernmost village, but the detail is awesome.

Take Note

Speaking of, I've been continuing my experiments in gaming notes.  I like to have gaming notes because I like highly-detailed setting creation, but I've never had a good way of organizing them such that it makes any sense.  I got a new idea while listening to Fear the Boot, and downloaded MediaWiki - which is the open source platform wikipedia is built on - and put it on a subdomain on this site for my personal use.  It is now my game note repository.  Since it's online, I can work on it from anywhere, and it's topical, internally-linked nature makes organizing things intuitive and effortless.  It is the best method I've come across so far, and I'm really loving it. 

MiceCon

I'm now kicking around ideas for RuchtCon III coming up in mid/late march.  Due to Hannah, I think I'm only going to be able to participate a little, but I told Rucht I'd run one game, so I'm now gearing up for some Mouse Guard.

Cyrran Reaches: Sweet Tooth

Saturday February 16, 2013 at 6:00pm d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

- The party learned from some of the townspeople that the bandits were suspected of having taken up residence in the exhausted silver mine a few miles outside of town.  That didn't make much sense for what was known about the bandits, but if the dryads were being held anywhere nearby, it seemed the most likely.

- They headed out to the mine to investigate, and encountered kobold traps and a small band of the creatures as well as some malnurished wolves they seemed to have been keeping.

- As they were finishing up, a dryad came stumbling out of the cave, begging them to return her to her tree far to the north.  They led her out of the canyon, but they became suspicious when she insisted on the group escorting her all the way to her home tree, refused to return to town and claimed to be too weak to use any of her own abilities.  Lily cast Dispel Magic on her, and her dryad visage dissolved revealing a hideous hag, which shrieked and then vanished.

- The party returned to the mine.  Inside, they were attacked by more kobolds before they stumbled into the mine's primary denizen - a massive, 6-headed hydra.

- The ensuing fight was viscious, but ultimately the massive beast was brought down, whereupon the hag came shrieking from one of the side tunnels, cursing the party for killing her pet.  Knowing they were in no shape to continue fighting, Taryn offered the hag a deal - he would keep her pet from dying if she would give them the dryads.

- The hag told them she only had one dryad, and, after retrieving it, she and the newly-revived hydra disappeared into a deep pool of water.  It wasn't until after they'd gone that the party saw pieces of finely-polished wood, punctured with massive teeth marks and oozing sap, scattered around the beast's lair...

Cyrran Reaches: The Balance of Nature

Saturday February 9, 2013 at 6:00pm new campaign, d&d, cyrran reaches, game session notes Comments (0) »

System: Dungeons & Dragons v3.5

Setting: The Cyrran Reaches

Players: Sheri, Tony, Adam

Schedule: Near-weekly

 

Characters:

[Adam] Tyrrox - Ibixian Fighter

[Tony] Taryn - Human Cleric of Olidammara

[Sheri] Lily - Human Bard

 

Highlights:

- Party traveling with small caravan (lead by a man called Ruglan), is waylaid by bandits.  After fighting them off, they arrive in the settlement Ettaseph

- Spend some time talking to people in town, learning some interesting things about the Old Oak Inn, Loreth's Tavern, the Orchard and the settlement in general.

- The town is attacked by treants, who seem intent only on capturing the women of the village.

- When the treants' leader comes to the village, it wants to speak with someone no knows.  With the help of a local druid, they learn that the person in question was a centaur who helped establish the old "accords" between the humans and the fey of the Charothi forest.  More pressingly, however, it seems that some dryads had been kidnapped and would soon die if they were not found...

Savage Seas: The Next Horizon

Friday January 18, 2013 at 6:00pm savage worlds, savage seas, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Concluded negotiations with goblins, humans granted right to settle on island under some conditions.

- After some time, talk resumes of continuing the expedition, to see what else is out there.  In all likelihood, the Wind's Wings will be sailing forth soon, while most of the expedition remains for rest and repairs...

Savage Seas: Perished Glory pt. II

Saturday January 5, 2013 at 7:00pm savage worlds, savage seas, game session notes Comments (0) »

- Met Elistanna, agreed to aid her in exchange for help negotiating with the goblin ruler, as the expedition needed more time before it could possibly leave, and might even prefer to remain.

- Organized a meeting with the goblins, offered cooperation, trade and exchange of information in exchange for the right to settle part of the island.

Mine All Mine

Tuesday January 1, 2013 at 12:22pm website, video games Comments (0) »
Mine All Mine Image

Whenever there's a gap in the blog, it usually means i've been working on the site in the background - this time trying to get some inspiration for a new look and trying to perfect a little back-end purity of style.

The Christmas Nothing

We got back from our trip to AR for christmas early yesterday morning.  Both ways we opted to drive over night so that Hannah could sleep - which she basically did.  I think it went as good as it could have, though yesterday I felt a bit like i "over did it".  Feeling a bit better today.

I also enjoyed doing basically nothing for a week+ - not really having anywhere to go or anything I had to be doing.  

Basically, I hung out and played video games on my laptop while Sheri and her mom watched TV and did card-making stuff.  Of course, we had our christmas festivities as well, and everyone enjoyed playing with Hannah - she was the entertainment, as usual.

I mostly played two games.  The first was Seiken Densetsu 3, a japanese sequel to the Secret of Mana (which is one of my all-time favorite games).  It many ways it is considerably wider and deeper than SOM.  The story is a bit more involved, there are more characters (and you get to choose who makes up your party), and the rpg mechanics are more sophisticated.  I actually started the game with two sets of characters as was playing through the first part of the game in tandem, noting differences in dialog and such, though most events unfold the same way.

Virtual Architecture

And then I got back into Minecraft.  That was the last thing I remember.

I like to build massive structures in Survival mode.  I built a huge tower (it breaks the cloud layer by about 4 floors) with many floors with varied interiors (bedrooms, balconies, a library, common rooms, etc).  Outside there's a workshop, pens for cows, sheep and chickens, crops of wheat and sugar cane and a cultivated oak grove.  I've also mined down to bedrock, found some gold and diamonds and created/harvested some obsidian.  Currently working on a courtyard wall.  I have no idea how long I spent on all of this, but I assume it was a fairly high percentage of every waking hour.

It was actually really nice to do a lot of nothing.

Savage Seas: Perished Glory pt. I

Saturday December 15, 2012 at 6:00pm savage worlds, savage seas, game session notes Comments (0) »

[auxilliary scene]

- Back on the Wind's Wings, the deck hands were hailed by a group of men in long boats approaching the vessel.  The approaching men claimed captain Collette had sent them to the ship to retrieve additional tools and blasting supplies from the ship's hold.  Once some were on board, they turned on the Wind's Wings' crew.  The ensuing battle was bloody and hard-fought, but the Wind's Wings' crew ultimately prevailed.

[.end auxilliary scene]

 

- meanwhile, the group in the goblin canyon decided to make a break for the surface.  being stealthy was going to be difficult if not impossible and they really didn't want to engage an entire civilization in combat, but options seemed limited.  As they darted down catwalks and through stone halls, they did their best to avoid groups of the goblins.  They didn't realize until too late that they were being intentionally drive downward - deeper into the hive.

- ultimately, the group ended up cornered and driven into a large cavernous hall filled with dozens of goblins.  These, however, had a very different appearance to those they had previously encountered.  Their skin was more of a blue grey, and they wore nice though exceptionally worn robes and exotic jewelry tarnished with age.  One sat on a large throne in the far corner of the room.  When they entered, he began speaking to them.

- the goblin "king" informed them that they - and their fellow "creatures" - were encroaching upon his territory.  He told them that they had three days to leave the island or else they would be annihalated.  One of the other goblins seemed to want to say something, but the king quieted her.  The group was then permitted to leave the hall through a tunnel that ultimately led them back to the forest on the surface.

- upon returning to the beach, they began telling the expedition leaders about the situation and that the island wasn't safe, when they were interrupted by some commotion further inland.  Making its way through the encampment was a small, hooded figure.  When it removed its hood, the group recognized the goblin from that had tried to speak in the king's hall.

Savage Seas: Into The Hive

Saturday December 8, 2012 at 7:00pm savage worlds, savage seas, game session notes Comments (0) »

- the creature that had emerged from the sunken city had only started speaking - in some language Zatara inexplicably understood - when skeletal figures began emerging from the water onto the building tops around the group.  The conflict escalated until the first creature was dragged back into the pool and a bright burst of light swallowed the room.  When it subsided, the skeletons were gone.

- the group followed the caverns and tunnels out of the city until they found themselves in a small cavern with a hole in the ceiling through which some light filtered - though it was occupied by a group of crazed goblin-like creatures.

- the group was eventually able to climb up and out of the hole, the wall near which seemed specifically designed to prevent it.  Above they found themselves in a small, hewn stone room which apparently acted as a kind of jail.  The room exited onto a wooden walkway attached to the cliff-side of a massive canyon wall.

- the canyon was honeycombed with hundreds of similar chambers, connected by catwalks, ladders, stairs and lifts.  A river of magma flowed out of the far canyon wall and plunged down to the canyon floor somewhere below - and steam billowed up from those depths.  Most concerning though, was that there were goblins everywhere.

Savage Seas: Asleep Beneath the Surface

Friday November 30, 2012 at 6:00pm savage worlds, savage seas, game session notes Comments (0) »

Guest PC: [Pat] Delilah O'Mari - Artisan/Smith

- the group had finished their conversation with Kilmer on the beach, and were following him through the crowd to speak with the ship captains.  Before they had made it off the beach, they ran into Caroline with a middle-aged woman - just as the ground shook with a tremendous earthquake.  The ground beneath them collapsed inward, and a torrent of water from the sea washed them down into a massive cavern.

- it took the group some time to collect themselves.  The opening above them had re-sealed itself in the cave-in, and it was completely dark.  Breeze and Zatara managed to catch themselves on a higher ledge, but Lucas and the woman, called Delilah, were washed into a larger pool further in.

- Lucas and Delilah began planning a way to produce a light source, while Breeze and Zatara tried to feel their way down to the others.  When Lucas called out for Caroline again, she answered him from some distance away, as a blue light began to emanate from her direction, illuminating a massive cavern - at the far side of which was the facade of a large, palacial building which had, apparently, been consumed by the cavern.  The architecture and design were unrecognizable.

- As Lucas approached the building, a large, mangy wildcat emerged and pounced on him - though it's diseased state was apparently ill-suited to subduing the sailor, and he eventually put it down.

- Deciding they could not return to the surface the way they came, they headed through the palace, hoping there was a way out the other side.  Breeze discovered a kind of workshop down one of the limestone-coated halls.  In addition to some unusual objects, the workroom also contained the remains of a mural which depicted a building similar to the one they were in as well as the bow of a great ship.

- While they were investigating the palace, they were attacked by some large insect-like creatures, which they managed to fend off without significant injuries.

- When the group managed to work their way through the building, they emerged into another massive cavern complex, which contained the buildings of a sizable city.  Near the center of the city was a large flooded area, which was bubbling and issuing steam.  As they approached, a strange, morphing being emerged from the pool and began approaching them, speaking in a strange, nearly-subsonic voice...

Some Auld Tunes

Monday November 26, 2012 at 2:38pm music Comments (0) »
Some Auld Tunes Image

Musical Energy

I've noticed that my energy level (particularly in the morning) is tied to what I am listening to in a somewhat dialectical way.  This is also why I don't listen to much Iron & Wine at work.  There is also a connection to the time of day and the ambient lighting.  Specifically, I've found that if it's light and warm outside, I want something upbeat - and the hotter and brighter it is, the more pronouced is this phenomenon.  On a hot, sunny day, I'll tend to put on something hard and fast.  The reverse is also true : on a late winter afternoon when it's starting to get dark, I'll put on something much cleaner a