Monday, July 23, 2018

My Keyboard Endgame

I mentioned this in an earlier post about dice, wherein I found a set that feels like my personal "endgame"—the set of dice that I want to continue using for as long as I play tabletop games.  I had mentioned that the use of "endgame" in this context is a bit of slang that comes from the mechanical keyboard enthusiasm hobby.  In past years, I've posted quite a bit about my fondness for retro computers and game consoles and my efforts to collect them; but I don't think I've discussed keyboards very much, because my interest in the subject is relatively new.

Naturally, in collecting old IBM machines, I've come across my fair share of Model M boards with their legendary buckling spring key switch mechanisms: loud, stiff, and just a joy and a pleasure to type on.  At the moment, I only have one Model M, plugged into a Pentium IV machine that I have running Windows 98:


As much as I love typing on this board, though, I don't use it much with modern computers, because I tend to make copious use of the window key for all the handy shortcuts.

My Barrowmaze Campaign: Month Seven

As the end of July approaches, my Barrowmaze campaign's mid-game looms ahead.  Most of the long-running player characters in the game are solidly 5th level, with one of the longest pushing 6th and a couple of sporadic players and/or demi-human characters lagging back at 3rd or 4th.  Two new players joined the game about three weeks back and rolled up a 1st level fighter and mage respectively, and the mage has already made 2nd level.  The fighter might have as well, except that we had to end this past Saturday's game in the dungeon—not the Barrowmaze, mind, but the Caverns of Thracia.

Cool, right?

Friday, July 6, 2018

My Dice Endgame

So after I found out that Gamescience makes jumbo polyhedral dice, I had to get my hands on a set and see how they looked next to my beloved casino dice.  And as it turns out, the set that Gamescience sells includes a d4, a d8, a d12, and an icosahedral d10; but no d6s.  As if it were meant to be paired with casino dice. (And, after all, why bother making precision d6s with a mold-injection method when the gaming industry already makes far more precise machined d6s in droves?)

So I got a set, and sure enough they're just about the most perfect dice I've ever beheld.  I think this is it—my one true set.  Fans of mechanical keyboards often speak of the search for their "endgame," that one perfect board with just the right size, key height, click sound, physical feedback on a keypress, keycap set, and so forth.  (It occurs to me that I probably haven't written a blog post about my own keyboard collection; yet another note to file away for the future.)  I've found my dice endgame.


As I've mentioned before, when I run D&D, all I need are a pair of differently-colored d6s, a d8, and a d20; and maybe an extra d6 on hand for rolling characters and a d12 for the odd die check involving a 1-in-12 or 3-in-12 chance of something.  This set fits the bill while having the advantage of being large and easy for everyone to read (and I do very much like everyone around the table to see what I'm rolling as I run a game).  The d20 is a "0–9 twice" type, which means that I had to either ink it in two separate colors (making it kind of ugly) or ink it all in white and roll it with a control die; I've opted for the latter option, for now, as it's no big deal to roll a d20 and a d6 together and read the d6 as "+10" whenever the result is odd (as the 1, 3, and 5 faces on a pipped d6 have a dot in the middle of the die face, and the 2, 4, and 6 faces do not—making it a very easy visual shorthand, hardly any different of reading an old d20 with 0–9 twice and a "+" mark on half the faces).

I still don't see much reason to bother using that caltrop d4, though.

Friday, June 29, 2018

On the End of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

I've just finished Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and I have mixed feelings.  Sure, after watching these characters for seven seasons, you can't help but get a little choked up watching them all go their separate ways in the final few minutes of the finale.  Even if in some cases (like Odo and Capt. Sisko) it's for silly reasons and played off as a permanent, heartfelt goodbye when it could just as easily be a temporary absence for both.  Still, that final shot with the camera zooming away from the station while Jake and Kira watch the wormhole from the promenade was a fitting end.

Honestly, the whole thing was a bit of a slog, and not anywhere near as good as it's usually hyped up to be.  Sisko was a badass captain—and, man oh man, Avery Brooks sure can give Patrick Stewart a run for his money in the Acting™! department.  And, sure, the Defiant is a cool ship (even if it's no Enterprise).  But I just didn't enjoy watching this series as much as Next Generation.  Sure, it had more ongoing continuity, but not enough to stack it up against modern offerings like Farscape or even Stargate.  And it's left me more than a little reluctant to take the plunge into is primary contemporary competitor, Babylon 5 (not that I've ever managed to make it past the first episode of that show).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

DM's Bag-o-Tricks: Pipe Cleaner Templates

Here's an old mainstay that dates back to when I was a much younger DM.  I had some time to kill earlier today and figured that I'd put it to good use tying together a new set of spell and breath weapon "area of effect" templates from the kind of colorful pipe cleaner that you can find at any craft store:


They're handy things to have around, particularly if you like tabletop battles, and extra particularly if you like battles involving dragons or magic-users.  The above templates are, starting with the upper left:

The white square in the middle is for 10'×10' effects like web; the red 20'×20' square for bless and dispel magic; the blue 30'×30' for ice storm; the brown 40'×40' square for sleep; and the green 40'×50' rectangle for green dragon breath.

Top right, we have some circular templates—the pink 10' radius for, as you might guess, protection from evil 10' radius and invisibility 10' radius; the brown 15' radius for light and silence 15' radius; the orange 20' radius for good old-fashioned fire ball; and the large black 30' radius for torches and lanterns, continual light, a whole bunch of other miscellaneous spells, and my own house ruled version of turning undead.  The yellow 60' line is, of course, for lightning bolts.

(Side note regarding light: making up these templates just now has reminded me how very easy it is to forget about light sources whenever a combat breaks out in the dungeon.  But even continual light is only a 30' radius; which means that I've been seriously neglecting the degree to which monsters can use darkness to their advantage in a fight.  Well; no more of that, I say!)

Next, cones: we have the 50' cone in green for chimera and hell hound breath, the 60' cone in black for catopblepas/nekrozon and nuckalavee breath, and also black dragon acid; the white 80' cone for white dragon ice, and the red 90' cone for red dragon fire.  And finally, just beneath those, the long, narrow 100' blue line for the laser-like area of blue dragon lightning.

I can't wait to see the looks on my players' faces when I bust these out at the game table this upcoming Saturday.  The party magic-user just made 5th level at the end of the last game session, after all, and he's been itching to sling some elemental attack spells!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

My Barrowmaze Campaign: Month Six

I guess there's still one more Saturday left in June, so there will be one more game session this month, but I'll jump the gun anyway—because the campaign is really starting to take off now.  Three games back, after having slain the great red dragon Moltenclaw and claimed as much of its treasure-hoard they could carry back to town, the players decided to take the rest of the winter off from adventuring and just build up some downtime for training, study, and the odd bit of minor item creation.  (I'm using the Holmes rules for scroll scribing, and something similar for potion brewing.)  I really do appreciate how Barrowmaze structures its dungeon to be explored seasonally, as the dungeon is mostly inaccessible during the winter, when the Barrowmoor floods.  It's an excellent mechanic for pacing out the campaign, and also for leaving long stretches from year to year where the dungeon can be re-stocked if need be.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I'm Doing Science™ and I'm Still Alive!

Hey, how about that.  I finally got into an MS program, so my study of physics shall continue in the fall.  I'm pretty stoked.

Also, the missus and I have our fifth anniversary tomorrow.  That's pretty great too.

Aujourd'hui, la vie est belle.