Hello Squarespace

It’s been a few years since I did any serious blogging or podcasting.  Part of my reluctance to continue had to do with the difficulties of maintaining the web site upon which the blog was hosted.  WordPress does make the job easy enough but it could be simpler. 

While looking for a fully hosted system I came across Squarespace.  I love the WYSIWIG site creation interface.  It makes on the fly configurations and updates so simple and the best part is there is no software to maintain to keep it up to date.  As a technical professional, the last thing I want to do when I get home is upgrade my web site.

I’m going to give it a good run.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing some design work to customize the look and feel of the site.  I’ll also be adding back in some of the other services I’ve been using like My Blog Log.

I will also look into converting as many of my old posts as possible.  I’ve decided to strip out the digests as I don’t think they were really that relevant.  Let’s see how this goes.


OdioGo Performance Improvement

It would appear I’ve been neglecting my blog.  I was responding to a comment today when I started wondering about the performance issues I was seeing.  Using FireBug I tracked the issue down to my OdioGo buttons.

Wondering if perhaps they had released an update I checked my plugins.  It turns out that previously I was running a 1.x version and the latest is now 2.5.x.  I have no idea how it got this far but upgrading the plugin seems to have solved the loading lag for the blog and things look much better now.

Now if I could only solve the problem of not posting often enough.

Living with the Samsung Instinct

A little over a week ago I discovered I qualified to upgrade from my Razr V3m.  I’ve been a Sprint customer for a long time now and really prefer their network.  Being that I have family, friends, and work on the network makes the free Sprint to Sprint calling priceless.

I had been marginally interested in an iPhone.  I’ve seen them in action and found them to be highly functional devices. There were more than a few draw backs I considered to be show stoppers though.  So I had set out to explore the Centro by Palm instead.

As luck would have it, the Samsung Instinct was premiering the day I arrived at my local Sprint store.  The Instinct is not a PDA like the iPhone or Centro are but it is what I would consider a “smart phone”.  It also bears a lot of similarities to the iPhone when it comes to functionality.  I knew a lot about the Centro so as I started comparing features between the two devices, I found myself increasingly impressed with it.

Taken with the Samsung InstinctThe first thing about the Instinct that stands out is the highly efficient interface.  It’s backed by a decent processor so not only are applications easy to find but they start up quickly too.  A great example of this is the 2 megapixel camera.  Press a button on the side of the phone and the camera, or camcorder if you press and hold the button, starts up and is ready to use within a second.  Compared to my Razr which could take five to ten seconds just to activate the camera this is huge.  And when you take a picture, no long wait times before it’s ready to take another.

Hell’s Canyon Motorcycle Rally 2008

June 13th we went down to Baker City to attend the Hell’s Canyon Motorcycle Rally.  We left Friday morning before the birds started singing.  My son and I took the motorcycle while my wife and daughter rode along in a chase car.  There were three other bikes in the group and we put some of the excess gear in the truck.  The weather was great which was good news.  Just a few days before we left there was news of snow along the route to Baker City.

Instead of taking I84 all the way down there we turned off at Biggs and took the back roads instead.  As the day went on the weather just kept getting better.  It was really neat to ride among the gigantic wind turbines in the wind farms. It was humbling riding between the hills so close to them.

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The camp grounds was an RV park called Mountain View RV Park.  Their facilities were really nice.  Showers and toilets were in great shape and the staff was friendly.  Our camp site was located in the grass behind the toilet and shower building.  The grass was really well kept and it felt great to kick off the boots while we put up tents.  Once things were in place we took the complimentary shuttle bus downtown for dinner.

Demoing Changeling: the Lost

Last weekend I ran the demo from White Wolf of Changeling: the Lost. This was my first White Wolf game I’ve ever played and a first look at Changeling: the Lost for all of my players. In all fairness the entirety of our experience was based off the demo packet as none of us had source books to reference. This was intended to be an exercise to see if it would be worth purchasing the source books and if my gaming group would even be interested.

The demo was very well put together. I did have to visit the forums to clarify one or two details but I’d have to say that everything we needed to play was contained in the demo packet as promised. I do with they had broken the PDF into two separate files though so that I could send one to the players with the quick start characters and the rules without sending them the actual adventure. The rules were on the first five pages of the PDF while the characters were at the end of the PDF. It took a lot of work preparing primer documents to give the players without spoiling the story.

With that said, the story that comes in the demo was excellent. With only the smallest exception there was a good balance between block text and story information. The story did an excellent job of instilling paranoia in the players which is a hallmark of the Changeling setting.

The basic premise of the story is that the characters are recently escaped from Arcadia and living in Miami. The Summer Court has been controlling Miami well beyond their normal reign and refuses to hand over control to the other courts. The players are invited to a coup to overthrow the summer king and for their individual reasons they agree.

Over the course of the demo they players get a chance to experience combat, social manipulation, and the every day risks that Changelings face. It did a great job of running the gambit of the various aspect of Changeling: the Lost.

The thing we found wanting about it though was the game engine. We found combat to be far too lethal. Defenses didn’t seem to balance well with offenses so NPCs and players would die too quickly. It’s the nature of the setting that people aren’t running around in full armor like in a medieval fantasy. Unfortunately that would have helped.

I understand there is a realism aspect to the idea that a normally clothed person has no special defenses against a bullet or a knife. Realism aside, there isn’t a lot of fun factor in an NPC dropping a PC on the first round just because of a lucky roll either. Perhaps we weren’t understanding something correctly but I feel fairly confident we were running things the way the demo intended them to be run.

Everything considered we had a great time though. I think we’ll try another White Wolf demo in the future, at least to give the system a second chance. They have demos for a few of their games. Perhaps Mage: The Awakening next?

While I’m not quite sold on the game system the setting was a blast and I’ve got Monte Cook’s World of Darkness on order. Once that arrives and I get a chance to dig into it, I’ll be sure to post a review here.

My Son’s First Living Arcanis Game

Last Saturday was another Living Arcanis game with what has become my regular gaming group. The group consists mostly of same players I met back in Nerdcon when I first got back into gaming. The module was the first in a series that takes place in Plexus.

What made Saturday especially special is my son joined the game. Following his father’s great taste he brought an archer to the table. An Elorii Ranger with designs to become an Arcane Archer. That’s my boy!

I was a little concerned that he’d be able to follow what was going on at the table considering his age. He’s only 10. He did me proud though. Not only did he pay attention and follow the plot, but he managed to contribute to the party on a couple occasions. He’s still a little uneasy with role play, but I figure that will come in time.

It hasn’t been until very recently, thanks to the SpyCraft games I’ve been playing, that I’ve started to feel more confident in my own role play abilities. Now I even occasionally find myself talking to the NPCs directly from time to time. He will come around in time I’m sure.

It is my hope that this will be a landmark moment for him, a gateway for decades of role playing enjoyment. He is already excited about coming to the next game which sounds like will happen Saturday. If all goes well, we’ll be getting him his own set of dice too. My boy is growing up.

Happy Birthday To My Loving Wife

Time seems to always be in great shortage. I just wanted to take a moment to wish Happy Birthday to my loving wife. In spite of all my quirky ambitions she still backs me up.

Here is to many more Birthdays to come. May they be full of joy and laughter.

My First SpyCraft Adventures

At the end of GameStorm 10 I got to talking to one of my buddies I frequently play Arcanis with. Steve told me about a SpyCraft 2.0 campaign he was running that really caught my attention. Using the various expansions available he was running a fantasy campaign.

Previous to this every time I spoke to someone about SpyCraft, it was in the context of secret agents, espionage, and elite commandos. While intriguing, it wasn’t a setting I was in a hurry to jump on. Steve’s fantasy SpyCraft setting had some fascinating elements about it though. So when he invited me to join the game, I was anxious to do so.

The SpyCraft system is not at all like what I expected. I understand it had it’s roots in d20 but where it sits today seems far from it. There are still come common concepts such as difficulty checks, skill ranks, damage reduction, and the more armor the better. The real differences come in with the details.

Skill checks can be made with synergy from other skills. These are bonuses based on ranks gaining in the other skill. Many of the special abilities can be used on a per scene or per combat basis. This allows you to use your abilities much more often. The system also uses action dice which are a pool of dice from which you can add them to various rolls you make or spend them to further affect the outcome of some conflict as you see fit. The players are also encourage to take a more active role in the story telling aspect of the game too with rewards of action dice for especially well delivered scenes.

The game feels much more like an action film with the hero’s pulling off crazy stunts and the NPCs being categorized into grunts, characters, and bosses. The differences between the various levels of NPCs also affects their power. If you play World of Warcraft the difference is comparable to standard mobs, elite mobs, and elite boss mobs.

My character in the campaign is an Assassin Sniper. I came into the campaign at level seven. “Lucky Bet”, as my character is known, is a brooding rebellious trouble maker with a dark sense of humor. Dressed in casual attire he rarely goes anywhere without his ornate composite bow at his side. On those occasions you don’t see him with his bow your fairly certain it can’t be far away. When he is not on the job you’ll find him at a nearby Inn enjoying his two favorite hobbies, beer and women. While his goals involve making the world a better place, his methods leave a long trail of corpses.

We’ve played two sessions so far and I’ve had some wonderful movie moments already. Steve plans to wrap up the current story line and start a post apocalyptic one when it is done. I’m looking forward to starting a character from scratch.

I like the game system so much I’m currently writing a one shot to play with my son. Here is the basic hook I have in mind:

Your on the way to your bank to make a withdrawal when you notice a black van with opaque windows parked out front. You call to HQ to have them send the police but it sounds like they won’t make it in time as they are dealing with a bomb threat at the far side of town. HQ gives you permission to deal with them as you see fit.

If I take the effort to do it up right I’ll post the module here in PDF form for download. The game is weekly and I can’t wait for this weeks session. Steve is a great GM and we’re just starting to sink our teeth the latest mission.

Witch Hunter 101

Witch Hunter Dark Project LogoThis weekend I played in my first Witch Hunter game. This was another living campaign setting. It is produced by Paradigm Concepts who also make Living Arcanis.

Witch Hunter is very different from any role playing game I’ve played so far. Not only does it take place in a setting that is based on reality but it is heavy on the role play and uses dice pools instead of the more familiar d20 system.

Witch Hunter takes place in the seventeenth century. America is still young and colonial, the ocean is full of pirates, and it has been recently discovered that the things that go bump in the night are real. The Witch Hunters come from various organizations with a common goal. Their task is to deal with the abominations that threaten civilized society. Think Van Helsing meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

Each Witch Hunter got to where they are through some defining event in their past. It is the one key moment when their path became clear that they become a Witch Hunter. At our table that ranged from spiritual quests to personal tragedies. This aspect of character definition is important in Witch Hunter and even more so in the module we ran.

I was a bit skeptical at first about the dice pool system. I really need more practice role playing though as it isn’t an aspect I’ve delved into much in previous games. At the same time though I wanted to combat to still feel crunchy enough that I could enjoy the dice rolling too. I was surprised to see how well it all fit together. It really exceeded my expectations.

The nature of the dice pool flattened things out a bit so my newcomer to the table didn’t feel as out of place among the more established characters. Even though there were plenty of opportunities to roll dice, I also found it didn’t get in the way of good role playing either. There was even one conflict where role play resolved a combat scene where the players weren’t intended to survive otherwise. It was perhaps my favorite moment of our game session.

I’ve got to say I loved the system. I’m now looking forward to playing more.

RPGA Events at GameStorm 10

Living GreyHawkI played in my first RPGA event during GameStorm 10. I played a first level druid in the Living GreyHawk campaign. They had a few introductory modules running at the convention so I figured it was the perfect time to try it out.

The introductory modules are designed for first level characters only and I was a bit nervous that there wouldn’t be enough players for get a table started. The RPGA coordinator, Robert, did a great job though mustering the tables and when it was all said and done we had a full table for our first adventure.

The game had a little different feel to it than the Living Arcanis games I’d played. It’s difficult to put into words but I think I’d have to say it had a trace amount more adventure than role play compared to Arcanis modules. This could have been mostly due to the nature of a starting module but I’m not entirely convinced of that.

I did have a gripe though and I hope they address with the upcoming Living Forgotten Realms setting. For a character to advance to level two they need 1000 experience points. The introductory module gave 450 experience points. After discussing it with the other players it turns out that though some of the other modules will allow a level one character the chances of survival are slim. The common practice is to play in more than one introductory module.

To that end I played my Druid three times during the convention and all three times were introductory modules. I do now have a level two Druid which will help but it didn’t leave me enough time for some of the other things I wanted to do at the convention. In stark comparison a typical starting Living Arcanis module will give you enough experience to move right into level two and the meat of the story line.

GreyHawk was a great setting and I really did enjoy myself. I just wish I could have progressed a little faster so that I could have explored it more.