Thursday, November 29, 2012

Curse the Player, Not the Character

****Warning - If you Haven't played Bioshock, this post may contain spoilers which will severely inhibit your enjoyment of the game.  Turn back if this sort of thing concerns you - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED****

I'm a huge fan of Bioshock.  I think it might be my favorite video game, no scratch that, I think it might be my favorite game period.  In general, I don't play first person shooters.  I find them dull and repetitive, and the idea of lining your sights up on a two pixel tall figure to try and kill it before it kills you just doesn't appeal to me.  I heard good things about Bioshock, though.  A horrific first person shooter with philosophical overtones?  Well sign me up!

It did not disappoint.

It was horrific, it played with the ideas of Ayn Rand, it presented you with serious questions of ethics and morality.  Oh yeah, and you blew stuff up.  The thing that sealed the deal for me, though, was THAT PART.  If you've played it, you know what I'm talking about, if you haven't, seriously, this is your last chance to turn back.

Okay.  So when it turned out that you had been doing the bidding of the bad guy, not your character, but YOU YOURSELF.  You, lulled into complacency by video game tropes, not even thinking about what the missions were accomplishing, were mind controlled just as much as your avatar by faceless being with a sunny sounding brogue and a, "Would you kindly..."

Mind.  Blown.

Seriously, I put down the controller, and, all alone in my apartment, said out loud, "Damn.  DAMN."

I can honestly say that is the only time that a game, video or otherwise, has had that kind of impact on me.  So before I continue, hats off to 2K Games.

Now, to the point.  I got to thinking, how to replicate that experience in an RPG?  Specifically with regards to cursed items.  Traditionally, in games that I've played, when somebody gets a cursed item, it usually goes something like, "Bad news, bro.  That sword you picked up has a -1 modifier, and you can't ditch it until you find a priest."

Fair enough, that's accurate, but that's a player's description, and draws a bold line between the player and the character.  Whenever I can, I'd rather blur that line, and force the player into the mindset of the character, so why not mess with the players a bit, rather than just the characters?  Here are a couple that  have come to mind.

Bloodthirsty Weapon

This one is a direct homage to Bioshock - the weapon appears, for all intents and purposes, to be a weapon of speed, allowing the user to strike first in combat.  Who wouldn't want to use that weapon?  It works fine, doing just what it says on the tin, until the  party finds itself in a social setting, when the weapon leaps into the hand of the person who has been wielding it, and it strikes at the nearest noncombatant NPC.  That's when you realize the weapon has been controlling you all along, not vice versa.

Weapon of Misdirection -1

This sword radiates strong magic, and the DM should tell the person wielding that it is a +3 weapon.  Then, simply increase any foe's defense/AC/whatever by 4, without telling the player.  If the player gets frustrated and tries to switch weapons, the DM secretly rolls a Wisdom check/saving throw/whatever.  If it's failed, the character thinks they have switched weapons, while still holding the same cursed weapon.  If they pass the check, they realize the weapon is cursed.

Deck of Many Curses

See who the degenerate gamblers in your group are.  It's a Deck of Many Things, with all the good stuff taken out.  With unlimited draws.

Ring of Inner Truth

Ring of +1 Wisdom, but at the GM's discretion, table talk is actually spoken aloud by the character.

Tent of Paranoia

This tent aids in the healing of the characters, and is big enough for the entire party.  Any who sleep within it double their normal healing.  For the following 24 hours, however, all NPCs appear to be monsters or other demonic creatures.  Any speech will be heard as threatening, and movements observed will promise violence.  The illusion persists until they are dead, at which point their true form is revealed.  Actual monsters and other demonic creatures appear and act as normal.

The point is, you're the GM - nothing says that you have to be a reliable narrator!  It's something gamers tend to take for granted, but it doesn't have to be that way - keep them on their toes and make them question everything!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Harrowing pt II - Wrapping Up

First off, an apology - I was truly a lazy blogger yesterday, copying and pasting the article from Wikipedia, and the God of Sloth cursed my work, with horrible formatting that I didn't even check!  I've reformatted yesterday's post, so if you were curious just what in hell I was talking about, now you can know.

So, down to business.  I set out this month with lofty goals, and as the month winds down, I can look back and say that the the results were decidedly.... mixed.

I was able to blow through the Risus One Page Challenge entries with little problem.  Both of my submissions can be found here.  I'm a bit proud of both of them, even if they both leaned a bit more towards post-apocalyptic than steam punk.  It was a fun exercise.

NaGaDeMon is next.  I started off the month designing a board game, sort of like Axis and Allies, but with less of an emphasis on military strength.  The game has evolved, and is now a card game.  There are 172 nations in play, and much like during the Cold War, escalation is everyone's enemy, and the nuclear Damocles Sword hangs over all players.  Convince the people to rise up, buy them off or just invade and take them over, there are many different ways to secure world domination, but if you invest too much of your resources, you may succumb to forces at work on the home front.  I've been working with someone I know to turn this into a real thing, and while there is zero chance it will be anything close to playable by the end of the month, it's real.  It's going to happen.  So while I failed the NaGaDeMon challenge, something good has come of it, for sure.

NaNoWriMo.  This was always going to be the longshot, and lo and behold, I didn't quite make it.  Actually, it would be fairer to say that I bombed out spectacularly.  I held through the first week, missed one day and never recovered.  But hey, I now have a quarter-finished novel under my belt, so I can go back and peck at it sporadically.  I also learned that the "Don't edit, just write" is impossible for me to do.  Literally.  Impossible.

The Clockwork Cave continues to slog along.  In an interesting twist though, a sort of "mini-game" that I designed as a part of the adventure has mutated (heh) into the core mechanic for From the Ashes.  I'm actually quite pleased with it, and I think it fits the system not only mechanically, but spiritually, as well - it enhances the idea behind the game.

So that's pretty much it.  The easy stuff was easy, the hard stuff was hard, I made some progress, fulfilled some goals, left some undone.  Pretty much life, yeah?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Real Life Adventurers: Bill Tilman

Taken from his wikipedia page:

Major Harold William "Bill" Tilman, CBE, DSO, MC and Bar (14 February 1898–1977) was an English mountaineer and explorer, renowned for his Himalayan climbs and sailing voyages.

Early years and Africa

Tilman was born on 14 February 1898 in Wallasey in Cheshire, the son of a well-to-do sugar merchant John Hinkes Tilman and his wife Adeline Schwabe (née Rees). He was educated at Berkhamsted Boys school. At the age of 18, Tilman was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery and fought in the First World War, including the Battle of the Somme, and was twice awarded the Military Cross for bravery. His climbing career, however, began with his acquaintance with Eric Shipton in Kenya, East Africa, where they were both coffee growers. Beginning with their joint traverse of Mount Kenya in 1929 and their ascents of Kilimanjaro and the fabled "Mountains of the Moon" Ruwenzori, Shipton and Tilman formed one of the most famed partnerships in mountaineering history. When it came time to leave Africa, Tilman was not content with merely flying home but rode a bicycle across the continent to the West Coast where he embarked for England.

World War II

He later volunteered for service in the Second World War, seeing action in North Africa, and on the beaches at Dunkirk. He then was dropped by parachute behind enemy lines to fight with Albanian and Italian partisans, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts, and the keys to the city of Belluno which he helped save from occupation and destruction.
Mount Everest & Nanda Devi
Tilman was involved in two of the 1930s Mount Everest expeditions - participating in the 1935 Reconnaissance Expedition, and reaching 27,200 feet without oxygen as the expedition leader in 1938. He penetrated the Nanda Devi sanctuary with Eric Shipton in 1934, and in 1936 he went on to lead an Anglo-American expedition to Nanda Devi. With the support of a team which included Peter Lloyd and H. Adams Carter, Tilman and Noel Odell succeeded in making the first ascent of the 7,816 metres (25,643 ft) mountain, which remained the highest summit climbed by man until 1950. Tilman later described their arrival on the summit:

Odell had brought a thermometer, and no doubt sighed for the hypsometer. From it we found that the air temperature was 20 °F (−7 °C) but in the absence of the wind we could bask gratefully in the friendly rays of our late enemy the sun. It was difficult to realise that we were actually standing on top of the same peak which we had viewed two months ago from Ranikhet, and which had then appeared incredibly remote and inaccessible, and it gave us a curious feeling of exaltation to know that we were above every peak within a hundred miles on either hand. Dhaulagiri, 1,000ft higher, and 200 miles away in Nepal, was our nearest rival. I believe we so far forgot ourselves as to shake hands on it.

In 1939, Tilman was the first man to attempt climbing in the remote and unexplored Assam Himalaya, exploring the Southern approaches of Gori Chen, 6538 metres, before his team succumbed to malaria. In 1947 he attempted Rakaposhi, then made his way to Kashgar to join up with Eric Shipton in a lightweight attempt on Muztagh Ata, 7546 metres, which nearly succeeded. On his way back to India, he detoured through Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor to see the source of the river Oxus. During his extensive exploration of the areas of Langtang, Ganesh and Manang in Nepal in 1949, Tilman was the first to ascend Paldor, 5896 metres, and found the pass named after him beyond Gangchempo.
Following his military career behind enemy lines in the Second World War, Tilman took up deep sea sailing. Sailing in deep seas on the Bristol Channel pilot cutter Mischief, which he purchased in 1954, and subsequently on his other pilot cutters Sea Breeze and Baroque, Tilman voyaged to Arctic and Antarctic waters in search of new and uncharted mountains to climb. On his last voyage in 1977, in his eightieth year, Tilman was invited to ship as crew in En Avant with mountaineers sailing to the South Atlantic to climb Smith Island. The expedition was led, and the boat skippered, by the youthful Simon Richardson. He and his crew aboard the old, converted steel tug made it successfully and without incident to Rio de Janeiro. Thereafter, en route to the Falkland Islands, they disappeared without trace - it was presumed the ship had foundered with all hands.

Monday, November 26, 2012

End of the Line

My wife and I finally finished our epic road trip late Saturday night, and spent all day Sunday doing pretty much nothing.  We're watching Babylon 5 for the first time, so most of the day was spent working through Season 2.

Before we left, we generated a massive, 1200 song playlist on Spotify to accompany us on the road as we traveled.  I've already described one instance where the music synchronized with our experiences, but it happened again late Saturday.

We had lined up a bunch of stops for our last day, trying to squeeze as much into what was left of our time on the road together as possible.  We left out of  Amarillo, TX early Saturday morning, having gotten in to late the night before to get a picture in front of the Cadillac Ranch.  We charged east, swinging through the Jesus Christ Is Lord Truck Stop (no seriously), stopping off to see largest Cross in the Northern Hemisphere (again, no, seriously), a a museum dedicated to the history of barbed wire (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried), the national Route 66 museum, and finally hitting the Teepee-Shaped Cherokee Trading Post as the sun was setting.

We pulled through Oklahoma City after dark, and set off down the road towards Dallas, and as we rode, Johnny Cash's turn came up on the playlist, and he sang us through the night.  Ghost Riders In the Sky set my mind racing as we drove through the black plains, the tale of damned cowboys forever chasing the Devil's Herd calling to mind the tales of the Wild Hunt.

For a brief bit of time, I was free.  The window was rolled down, the air was sweet and the world seemed like it went on forever, that there was nothing to hold me back, nothing to keep me from doing anything I could imagine.  Ideas popped and snapped in my head like fireworks, and I could see it all.

And then... and then... the lights of Dallas started to appear in the sky.  The darkness was pushed back, and I started seeing the overpasses and the buildings and the cars and the construction.  It turned out my playlist had one final joke to play, one last bit of irony to share...

That isn't my favorite recording, I think the guitar line in the middle betrays the solemnity of the song, but hopefully you get the point.  Honestly, though, hopefully you don't.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Epic Metal in the Land of Fire and Ice

Another post from the road.  My wife and I continue our honeymoon and, having left Arizona behind, are now slowly making our way back to Texas.  We started off yesterday morning in Gallup, and I'm writing this from a hotel in Santa Fe.  We're hunkered down here for Thanksgiving, and plan to head out again on Friday morning.

On our way out to Arizona this past Saturday, we passed by several signs along the side of the highway for something called, "The Land of Fire and Ice".  Looking into it, we found that there was an exploded Volcano sitting right next to a cave full of ice that never rises above 31 degrees, no matter the temperature above.

Well, "Hell Yeah!", we said, and on our way back, we veered off of the highway to see this elemental badassery.  Right off the bat, we were struck by how desolate the location was.  It was twenty miles, through a national park, just to get to the sign telling us to turn off the road.  From there it was another couple of miles along a dirt road, and suddenly there it was - the Trading Post.  $22 later, and we were on our way.  There were trails running to either side of the building, the one to the right leading to the Bandera Volcano, the one to the left to the Ice Cave.

The Trail Guide recommended we take the Volcanic path first.  It's longer and steeper, and the exertion would warm us up, and then we could head to the Ice Cave to cool down.  Taking the advice, we headed up the trail to the Volcano.  The first thing we noticed was huge amount of lichen, covering almost all of the lava rock surfaces.  According to the pamphlet we received, the formation of this primitive life is the first step towards breaking down the lava rocks, a process which occurs over a ridiculously long period of time.

As we ventured forth, we started noticing all these ridiculously twisted and evil looking trees.  Apparently, it's hard for trees to put down roots in the cooled lava.  It can do so, but it ends up causing the trees to look wicked.

Caves and inlet dotted either side of the trail, dark and mysterious.  Some sat right by the trail, inviting investigation, while others crouched behind the treeline.  Who knows where they lead?  They were all the result of lava tubes cooling in different shapes

The lava fields became denser and denser, to the point where even if we wanted to leave the trail, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to traverse the landscape.

Finally we reached the site of the ancient violence, an inverted cone all that remained of the site where, 10,000 years ago, the earth itself swelled and rose up, before bursting like an infected boil, spewing liquid fire across the land.

We headed back down the mountainside, past the Trading Post and out towards the Ice Cave.  The trail was easier, but more thickly wooded, and the cries of birds surrounded us as we headed deep into the trees.

Along the way, there were actual ruins to be seen off to the side of the path, with rocks arranged in specific patterns, as though indicative of ancient, perhaps blasphemous rites performed long ago, and walls, arranged to keep something, or some things, out.  

Snow began to dot the landscape as we descended, with patches appearing hither and yon, and small entrances to caves appearing along the path.  This was but a preview of what was to come.

Finally, we came upon the entrance to the cave, the rocks hanging over the entrance menacingly.  As we descended, the rocks took on a greenish hue, as more and more moss was attracted to the moisture in the cave below.

Finally, we reached the base of the cave, where we were confronted by the ice itself.  It's estimated that the first bit of ice was created down here almost 2,000 years ago, by uncertain means.  Since then, it has become a self-perpetuating system, with the existing ice keeping the temperature low enough that rainwater that runs into the cave is turned to ice, and so on.  The moss and lichen in the area has given the ice its signature greenish hue.  

The back of the cave was inaccessible, but hinted at dark mysteries hidden in its unseen depths.

At this point, we headed back down the trail, picked up a few post cards at the Trading Post, and jumped back into the truck.  As we started back towards the highway, we took in the desert around us, the mountains looming in the distance, the wind howling across the vast expanse, and, as if on cue, the most epic song on one of the most epic albums of all time made its way to the top of our playlist, To Wander the Void, by While Heaven Wept.  Between this song, and the sights I'd seen, things began to percolate in my brain.

The album has art by John Martin for its cover, so you know it's gonna be awesome, but check out the lyrics:

A million miles from everything the emptiness is everywhere
The lone and level sands stretch as far as I can see
Nothing but the hollowed eyes of skulls and ancient bones despair
Remains of those who wandered this wasteland vast before me

Fatigue and famine render every step a tribulation
Beneath the blistering sun sabulous winds just a mockery
Lost within an infinity of dust and desolation
The vultures circling overhead await my lonely expiry

Maintaining this course to nowhere I have traveled so far
Far beyond the valley's carnage and death's silent repose
Compelled to journey onward by the calling of the morning star
Haunted by visions and voices, memories or madness providence only knows

I can't remember when or how I'd first lost my way
Thirsting even a tear of solace knowing naught will ever come
Siren celestial have mercy on me allow my flesh into dust decay
And carry my soul far beyond this damned and forsaken kingdom

I fell to my knees as the last trace of strength slowly faded away
With stone in throat I knew I'd never reach the hallowed and promised land
I conceded my carcass a vulture's feast, my soul eternal umbrae
Once a king, now nameless, forgotten, swallowed by the seas of sand

Yeah, it was an epic freakin' detour.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm In A Post-Apocalyptic State of Mind

My wife and I are driving cross country, from Dallas, TX to Flagstaff, AZ on our honeymoon.  We plan to see the Grand Canyon, then take Route 66 back to Dallas.  We left Dallas on Friday afternoon, stayed in Oklahoma City Friday night, and made it to Albuquerque, NM late yesterday evening.

I often find that folks from other parts of the world, and even other parts of the US, don't really appreciate just how friggin' huge the southwestern part of the United States is.  For instance, the only reason we drove through Oklahoma at all was because it was quicker to go up to Oklahoma City, then west to Amarillo Texas than it was to drive directly to Amarillo from Dallas.  Yes, we have entire states that exist to be shortcuts through other states.  After a day and a half driving, we're in our third state, but we're really only a state and a half away from where we started.  Wrap your mind around that.

Further, calling stretches of our trip thus far desolate would be understating the matter.  Gigantic wind turbines and cows are all that break up the scenery for miles at a time.  It's mostly grassland and prairie through Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle, but as you get into New Mexico, it changes.  The grass thins out, replaced by pockets of shrubs, and honest-to-god tumbleweed.  At first, just faint outlines in the distance, you begin to see mountains rising up on the horizon, hazy blue in color.  Along the sides of the road are abandoned buildings, long surrendered to nature.  Texaco signs missing the X and the C, free-standing chimneys with the buildings they once warmed lying in ruin around them.  As you approach Albuquerque, the  mountains loom above you, when suddenly the road veers sharply to the south, going through a valley south of town before juking back up north to bring you into the sun-baked adobe homes that are scattered around the town.  As the sun goes down, you can't help but think that while Big Sky Country may be Montana's nickname, it applies equally well down here - the colors radiate out from the sunset, stretching almost to the opposite horizon.  The sun dips below the horizon as you enter town, and you find city colors replace it - underpasses are lit by lamps of shifting hues, from reds to blues to yellows and back again.  Driving through Albuquerque at night is a surreal experience.

And of course, finding myself in Albuquerque, I can't help but think of the Albuquerque Star Port Mini-Adventure, packaged in with early editions of Gamma World.  I have a soft spot in my heart for this adventure, I remember reading in the back seat of the car on a trip back when I was a kid.  It was the first Gamma World adventure that I ever played, and the first one that I ever GM'd.  The wonder of the adventure stays with me to this day - midway through, there's the big mindtwist, as you find out something you're exploring isn't quite what you thought it was, and suddenly you're looking at things from a very different perspective.

I've been focused on fantasy RPGs of late, but this trip is tickling a part of me that has been resting for awhile.  I feel a need for some Post-Apocalyptic RPGing coming on.  I need to gather some folks looking to explore the wastelands, to protect the villagers from rampaging hordes of mutants, to recover lost artifacts of the Ancients, to venture into the Bones of the Giants.

Other Dust, Mutant Future, Gamma World, hell maybe I'll even finish up on From the Ashes.

Friday, November 16, 2012

For Those About to Rock and/or Die

While I understand that DCC RPG's official name for their character creation process is, "The Funnel", I have to say that I don't think that the word captures the essence, the horror, of a formative experience more akin to a meat grinder than a funnel.. 

Having just completed my first foray into this terrifying process, I would like to petition Goodman Games, in future editions of DCC RPG, refer to this process as the Meat Funnel.  

Whether they do or not, I will henceforth refer to it as such.

In any event, of the four characters I started out with last week in Adam and Edgar's Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign, only one remained last night, standing triumphant.  Crag Beerbeard, heroic Dwarven Blacksmith, managed not to outperform, so much as just outlast his compatriots.  He has discovered a bit of an affinity for the Longbow, ironic considering his racial handicaps, but nonetheless he seems to have taken the roll of the Deadeye Crackshot of the party, plugging several ghouls full of holes in last night's session.  

Surely the Hall of Heroes will fill with many songs of praise in his honor in the future, but I'd like to spend just a moment remembering the fallen, without whom Crag would not have had his chance to shine.

Miff Sapsipper - Alas, poor Miff, we hardly knew ye.  An Elven Navigator, I had the highest hopes for you.  The Tank of my group of intrepid adventurer's you had 5 hit points.  You were also lucky, born under the loom, which would have given you a +1 bonus to all skill checks, including thief skills.  I had visions of you with your spyglass and short bow as an elite archer assassin sniper type, but unfortunately, you were a bit cocky, feeling invincible with your five hit points, and were taken down in a single strike by a lizard man in the caves.  Someday, Crag will return your spyglass to your family, and tell them of your death.

Michelangelo Aggrosong - Despite your grand name, you were... well, pretty average.  A human cooper with but a single hit point, no-one knows what drove you to pick up your barrel and crowbar and descend into the depths.  A quiet type, you nonetheless showed some promise on the battlefield, releasing your rage as you beat at the lizard men.  Unfortunately, your fearlessness could only carry you so far, and it wasn't long until you fell beneath the might of your enemies.  Crag still carries your crowbar, Michelangelo, as a reminder not to get ahead of himself.

Lardo Cutpurssian - To be honest, no-one was terribly sorry to see Lardo go.  A fat, sweaty merchant, he had heard that there was treasure to be had, and a large group of people to hide behind as he collected it.  Quite smart, and reasonably strong, he was hamstrung by his hefty bulk, horrible asthma and a personality not even his mother could stand.  Even so, he might have made it, but something he saw in those depths caused him to snap.  Seeing his friends mowed down and he himself surviving, he came to believe he was blessed and became reckless, charging ahead of the party, and engaging in one-on-one melee battles.  Poor Lardo, didn't you know you only had but a single Hit Point?  Alas, even padded armor and a long sword couldn't save him, as he was brought down by a ghoul.  The symbol of your devotion to the Merchant God hangs close to Crag's heart.

And so, his companions but memories, grains of sand on the Beach of Time, Crag Beerbeard goes forth, purpose in his stride, a spark in his eye and fire in his belly, determined to learn from his experiences in... The Meat Funnel.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Music to Create To

So I've been doing a lot of writing lately, and I don't know about you, but I needs me some music to go along with any creative efforts, so I figured I'd share some of the music that gets my creative juices flowing. In general, I need music that is... open. The "busier" the music, the less room I have for my own thoughts. 

That means a lot of classical music, and a lot of ambient music, so if these things are not your cup of tea, abandon hope, ye who enter here.


 Adagios in general are nice to create to. Nice and slow, easy does it. This recording in particular is a favorite of mine, Karajan was an incredible conductor, and brought out the feeling in many recordings.  Apropos of nothing, if he hadn't been dead, I totally would have lobbied for him to play Gandalf, btw.


 Speaking of adagios, if you haven't heard this one, under what rock have you been living? Barber's Adagio is hands down one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever set to paper, and nobody captured the essence like Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. You may know the song, but if you haven't heard this recording, you haven't heard it like it should be done.


 From what I understand, Thomas Tallis is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, thanks to, of all things, Fifty Shades of Gray.


Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, I suppose. Tallis was doing the wall of sound thing 500 years ago, and the music reminds me of the ocean, shifting and sliding, while still being one, cohesive "thing".


 Everyone knows the fourth movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony - the opening sounds like Jaws, then goes all brassy and badass. The second movement, though, is mellow, and just a bit threatening, if you know what's coming. You can feel the momentum building as you go along, while still getting a sense of stillness and peace.

 Now we go to some darker places:

For some reason, Spotify lists the song above as Powler, it's actually called Prowler.  It's by one of the greatest bands to ever have a ridiculously stupid name, Bohren and Der Club of Gore.  They started out as a fairly generic death metal band, and then got interesting, introducing the world to the concept of Doom Jazz.  It's music for the streets of a dark city, where the bar just closed and boozy patrons are slinking into the shadows, as a lone sax player stands beneath the streetlight, his music mournfully accompanying them to the grasping darkness that awaits them...

Nazi UFO Commander - the name may be silly, but the music isn't.

Philip Glass, oh Philip Glass.  Candyman was terrifying enough as it was, why did you have to go and make it worse?  It's not often that the music of a film encapsulates the entirety of the film as neatly as this does - haunting and beautify, simple and repetitive, it stays with you long after the film itself.  As long as I'm on the topic, though, next time you watch Candyman,  watch it with the idea that Helen has gone ridiculously insane and is an unreliable narrator - It was always you, Helen, takes on a very different meaning.  Anyways, Philip Glass - the Candyman soundtrack is a good point of entry for anyone interested in the idea of voice as a musical instrument.

Lustmord - Dog Star Descends by umyde

Brian Williams, aka Lustmord is the king of Dark Ambient.  Pretty much any of his works do the trick, but The Place Where the Black Stars Hang one is a particular favorite of mine.  If you get a chance to see him perform, you owe it to yourself to do so.  His performances are wonderful and amazing and terrifying and beyond real description, just like the music itself.  The album is over an hour long, and the video above has it all one small part of it.  Put on some good earphones, turn down the lights, and start writing.

Peter Andersson is a prolific dark ambient musician, with numerous projects.  I could make an entire post just about his various projects - each approaches the idea of dark ambiance from different perspectives.  Raison d'etre is his most well known, and approaches from an industrial angle, while Necrophorus focuses more on naturalistic ambiance   Panzar is.... terrifying.  The album this track is from, Human Degeneration, is, so far as I can tell, some sort of concept album about the Holocaust, or WWII in general (lots of talking in German, which I don't understand - for all I know it could be a recipe for cookies), and it is every bit as haunting, ominous and threatening as you would imagine such an album would be.  To feel the full effect, you should listen to the entire album which can be heard here.  This track, though, captures most of it.

Enough of the dark stuff, here are some lighter works.

Steve Reich is a pioneering minimalist, and this shows the power of his work.  In this work, he takes a simple phrase, and turns it into an audio feast that will blast anything that is stuck in your head into oblivion.  A good audio enema.

I recently had an opportunity to see Robert Rich perform live.  He did a house tour of the world, putting on concerts literally in peoples' homes.  I was one of about 25 people at the concert, my better half and I lounging on a couch.  At some point my eyes closed, I was drifting, aware, but at peace.  The music ended and my eyes opened and I was refreshed.  It's that kind of music.

Well, I think that's enough for now.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Winter is Coming II - The Cave of Eternal Winter

I missed the Winter is Coming Blog Carnival last year, indeed, I didn't even realize such a thing existed until I saw it over at Dice Monkey.  Now I know, and it sounded like fun.

The Cave of Eternal Winter was designed for Gamma World, Mutant Future, or any other post-apocalyptic rpg.

There is a legend, whispered among the tribes of Tixus, of a cave, hidden deep among the Bones of the Giants.  This cave contains the very Spirit of Winter.  No matter how hot it is outside, no matter how the sun beats down upon the scorched earth, the Cave is cold enough to freeze a body solid.   

Legend tells of blocks of ice within the cave that, when removed from the cave, reveal food of the ancients, mysteriously preserved through the ages.  Tales are told of wondrous legendary devices within, still in perfect working order, and some whisper their fear of the creatures that lurk within the cave, emerging from the snowy depths to kill any who dare trespass.

There are darker legends, of roving wanderers who have strayed too close and were dragged screaming into the cave.  Supposedly, nothing can live in its proximity.  When you stop feeling the bugs on your neck, when you stop hearing the birds cawing and the creatures growling, check the wind.  If you feel a chill, you've come too close!

The Cave of Winter is, in fact, an automated meat packing plant, still fully operational after centuries of abandonment.  Powered by a nuclear reactor far beneath the surface, an AI controls the day to day operations of the plant.  Several hundred years ago, some mutated moles were tunneling under the foundation of the facility, causing it to collapse beneath the earth, leaving only the entrance exposed. 

Undeterred, the AI continued on with its final directive - to keep the plant stocked with fresh, frozen meat.  It has fulfilled that directive enthusiastically, even as it has gradually lost perspective, along with its sanity.  The entire plant has been converted into a gigantic frozen meat locker, and temperatures have not risen above freezing in several centuries.  The robots that maintain the plant by this point have ice frozen to all non-mobile pieces of their bodies, and can be mistaken for Ice Demons.  The plant has thousands of pounds of frozen meat stockpiled in various parts of the facility, and the machinery is surprisingly intact and well maintained, if a bit frostbitten.

In order to fulfill its directive, the AI will send its robots out to snatch those who come too close to the factory, and process their flesh.  This results in a "Dead Zone" of approximately 1 mile around the factory.  Any intruders into the factory are similarly consumed, processed and packaged.

There are currently 54 fully functional robots in the facility, which is a significant decrease from the 377 that were initially present.  The 323 non-functional robots have frozen gears and joints which prevent them from moving.  These can be found scattered about the facility, frozen solid.  

The packaged meat is in cubes, with the label of the manufacturer, "Froztreatz" prominently displayed on the plastic wrap-like packaging.  

The AI is housed  in a chamber, with all the entrances frozen shut.  The cold and isolation has driven it mad, and it has taken to calling itself the Lord of Winter.  It has recently recognized that it is running out of space for the processed meant, and has begun using 15 of the functional robots to dig into the earth around the plant.  Its plan is to expand its wintry kingdom outwards and ensure that there is a never ending supply of meat to package!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spears of the Dawn Review, Part 1 - Pre-Reading

So I backed Kevin Crawford's upcoming African-themed RPG, Spears of the Dawn.  The second Beta was just released, and I wanted to take the time to review it.  But first, I wanted to address something I've been wrestling with since I heard about it.

A while back, Ark posted regarding some preliminary conversations the group had about the game.  In it, he mentioned my fear that it could result in some faux-pas, and while that can definitely be a concern, I hadn't really articulated my concerns very well, so I'm going to attempt to do so here.

First, an apology in advance - my knee-jerk aversion to these sorts of things comes from experiences in other media.  For instance, movies set in New York have hot dogs, the Empire State Building and taxi cabs, movies in San Francisco have steep hills, movies in Russia have the onion domes and fur hats.  DC Comics recently launched a comic called Batwing. Batwing was billed as being, and I quote, "The Batman of Africa".  The actual execution of the comic was a parade of famine, warlords and corruption.

This encapsulates my issue with this sort of thing.  There's a fine line between tropes and stereotypes, and unfortunately, while it's a trope when you have the Eiffel Tower in the background every time something is set in France, it veers uncomfortably close to stereotype when your African stories (like Batwing) are about how horrible things are there.  Are there horrible things going on in Africa?  Certainly.  But do those experiences encapsulate existence in Africa?  Probably not.  It would be like if every comic or movie or whatever set in America featured people praying while they ran around shooting guns and eating fatty foods.

My point is that there's a fine line that needs to be walked in order to make something like this work right.

Let me take it a step further.  I believe the reason that Dungeons and Dragons and it's iterations (I include Pathfinder here, for simplicity's sake) have been so successful is that you say, "Fantasy" to 9 out of 10 people, and they're going to reply, "Medieval Europe with Dragons", or something along those lines.  For a game set in the imagination, there needs to be that shared space that exists that bridges the gap between the GM's description and the players' imaginations.  In short, we rely on those tropes to get us over that chasm that is endemic of the design of roleplaying games.  As we veer into ethnically specific settings, the line between a trope and a stereotype gets smaller and smaller, and the potential for problems gets larger.

The issue goes beyond that, though.

Let's say you're able to navigate the issue, and successfully avoid the tropes/stereotypes associated with the culture you're working on.  What are you left with?  How do you communicate to an audience that something is taking place in France without the Eiffel Tower?  And even if you are able to do so, doesn't that beg the question, was it really that important that the story take place in France in the first place?  What is the difference between the Batman of Africa and Batman Classic if they're both fighting the Joker on the rooftops of a nameless city?

So you're caught between a rock and a hard place - how do you give a setting a flavor unique enough to justify its existence as a viable product and recognizable enough to capture the feeling of the culture you're basing it on, without giving the appearance of pandering to the lowest common denominator (and honestly, the mid-range denominators as well) that doesn't have the intimate knowledge of the society in question that is necessary to sustain a rich and meaningful shared experience?

So that's my worry.

Now, having gotten that off my chest, let me reiterate that I haven't yet read Spears of the Dawn, and so I have no idea whether or not these fears will be justified upon actually looking at the product.  I have high hopes - I'm a big fan of Stars Without Number, and given the choice I'll always prefer to see a small press RPG succeed rather than fail.  I backed it, I'll be getting the hardcover, and I really want to like it, but let's be realistic here.  I was also a big fan TSR's habit of setting up new, non-Medieval Europe-ish settings, and they tried to slip some more familiar, ethnically flavored settings in there.  Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur and Maztica all were given the box set treatment, but none were able to generate any breakout momentum as compared to the more outlandish settings like Dark Sun, Spelljammer and Planescape.  I think it's reasonable to say that they fell into that gap between too foreign and too bland.

I'm going to start going through the .pdf tonight, and I'll post again soon with my thoughts on the final result, especially as it relates to my initial concerns.

Friday, November 9, 2012

G+ Gaming

Ages ago, I used to game with a group that had a member who was out of town frequently.  He drove an eighteen wheeler for a living, and would spend weeks at a time living in hotel rooms in one horse towns.  Like airline pilots, truck drivers can't drink when they're on schedule, and there were only so many days he could sit in a room and read or watch television.  So his friends, the great people that they were, jury-rigged a setup to allow him to role play with them.  They hung a microphone from the ceiling in the middle of the table, and sat a speaker on the table in front of the seat where he would sit when he was with them, and he would play right along with us.

These were less technologically adept days, the phone line was analog, we took his dice rolls on faith (although the general consensus was that he rolled a suspiciously high number of critical hits compared to the rest of us), there were lots of, "Wait, what did he say?"s from us, and even more, "Could you repeat that?"s from him, and the general feeling was more like sitting on a conference call than playing an RPG, but hey - it kept him sane, it kept the GM from having to come up with in-game reasons for the guy's character's absences every couple of weeks, and it kept the group together.  It wasn't ideal, but it pretty much kinda almost worked, most of the time.

Flash forward to the present, and I'm hearing about playing on g+, and the first thing I think of is all the nights spent shouting into the microphone and trying to figure out whether he said, "I hit it with my axe", or, "That pit is full of cats!"

I received lots of positive responses from my previous post regarding online gaming, so I've been keeping my eye out on g+ looking for games and my god, I had no idea there were games going on at such odd hours.  A good part of it is time zones, I'm sure, but it seemed like half the games were either happening while I was working or sleeping.  Then along came an opportunity too good to pass up.  Edgar Johnson and Adam Muszkiewicz run a game on Thursdays using DCC RPG called the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad.  They were wrapping up the first adventure, the Crypt of the Lizard King.  Reading further into it, I discovered that it riffed off of Jim Morrison and the Doors, and I was sold.

Despite some technical difficulties (from what I've read online since last night, Roll20 doesn't always cooperate with the Chrome browser - switching to Firefox, check), I had a blast.  I was officially inaugurated into the ranks of the experienced when Michelangelo Aggrosong, the crowbar swinging cooper fell in glorious battle, followed shortly by Miff Sapsipper, the Elven Navigator.  Crag Beerbeard the Dwarven Blacksmith and Lardo Cutpurssian the merchant lived to die, er... I mean fight another day, and collected 5 xp each for their troubles, setting them on their way.  The highlight of the evening was a wonderful example of Death By Treasure when another party member discovered, to their horror, that a magic helm did one point of damage per round to non-chaotic characters who wore it.  He was lawful.  He only had 1 hp.  He died.

At three hours, the timing was just right, I had a blast, and I'm looking forward to the sequel, Slaves of the Silicon God!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Professionalism: a Rant

I'm a people person!
In what I affectionately refer to as "The Real World", I manage a product line for a company.  I have clients, both within the company, and the actual external clients that my company services.  I'm responsible for keeping the spice flowing, as well as making sure that everyone else who depends on the spice feels good about the way that it's flowing.

So let me preface this rant by saying, "I understand, I get it - customer service is a bitch."

You very rarely hear from happy customers, because they're off being happy with the product you've provided.  Unhappy customers, though, those sons of bitches will blow up your phone, hammer your IM, and email you back to back to back, over and over again.  Very often, there's nothing to be done about issues that they're unhappy about - shit just happens sometimes.  You can't tell them that, though, because they're your customer, and it's your responsibility to make them happy.

So yeah, I get it.  Customer service is the worst part of the work I do, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.

But let me back up, and tie this into the point of this post.  Until recently, I did almost all of my shopping for RPGs at one a few different locations.  I'm lucky enough to live in an area that has over a dozen Half Price Books within driving distance, and their stock shuffles often enough that I can usually find something that strikes my fancy most of the time when I go there.  Other than that, eBay and Amazon.

Then came my introduction to the OSR, and small publishers.  Then came Kickstarter.  Then came the headaches.

Before I go further, let me be clear - I don't mind late product.  It's only late until it's delivered, and then it's there forever.  I would rather wait five years than get a half baked, crappy product that doesn't live up to the promises.

No, what drives me up a wall is lack of communication.

The first scenario that is currently driving me nuts is with not one but two projects being run by the same publisher.  Their Kickstarter's "Project By" lists a company, not a person.  You go to their website, and you find information about how the company was founded way back when, it's a professional looking website with a forum, etc.  You see, I do my research before backing a Kickstarter, and this one passed the smell test.  To my regret, I stopped at the smell test, and didn't proceed to investigate further.  So the first Kickstarter funds, and the owner releases a pdf of the rules, and all is well and good.  The books are on the way, he says.  Soon, he says.  In the meantime, he kicks off a second Kickstarter, for a companion book to the first one.  Fair enough, I think, I don't want half the game, let's get them both!  So I kick in for the second Kickstarter. The day before the end of the Kickstarter, the guy posts an update, announcing that a stretch goal has been reached.

And that's it.

The project funded the next day, and several weeks later, no-one has seen or heard from him.  Not so much as a "Hey we made it guys!" post on the second Kickstarter page, nothing.  I head over to the forum, where it appears he hasn't logged on for a month.

Now, we all want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt.  For one thing, he's got our money, so we don't want anything else to be true.  More to the point, though, I just try, as a rule, to give people the benefit of the doubt.  But we're confronted with a scenario where the best we can hope for is someone who doesn't understand their customer service obligations.  The worst case scenario... well, it's best not to think too hard about that one.

It's not endemic to Kickstarters, though.  I purchased a product from a publisher with a fairly large presence in the OSR.  I spent a not-inconsiderable amount of money on the product itself, as well as a good amount more on some supplementary items.  I received an email thanking me for the purchase, and that was it.  Shipping can be an issue where I live, so I always prefer tracking numbers when I order things (spoiled from my days of buying off of eBay/Amazon, I suppose).  I followed up with an email, asking if tracking was available, and offering to pay more if need be.  Several days passed, with no reply.  I sent a followup email, and after another couple of days, got a vague reply, stating that they thought they had mailed it out, and they would have to check with someone to see about tracking.  After another period of time passed without a followup, I sent another email, checking in.  To date, no reply (no product either, but it's only been 2 weeks since I bought it, so I'm not prepared to get antsy about it yet)

My point with all of this is that I really am a pretty understanding customer.  I don't mind waiting.  I don't mind delays.  I really don't.  I understand that most of these "companies" are just somebody working out of a spare bedroom in their house.  I get that they have lives and families and "real" jobs.  Hell, I wouldn't be happy, but I'd understand, if a project completely fell through due to unforeseen circumstances.  They wouldn't get my money a second time, but I'd understand - there's risk involved in any transaction, and the further removed the consumer is from the product, the greater the risk.

What I do not find acceptable is the notion that open communication is not an obligation of the publisher/designer/owner, and the right of the consumer.  In the case of an out and out purchase, you have my money, and until I have the product, you are in arrears.  In the case of Kickstarter, you have my money, and I am an investor.  Either way, communication is a necessity.

We need to expect and demand better from the people who are running the operations that we patronize.  When I went to the forum to inquire about the first issue described above, there were people on there saying, "Oh, he just does that sometimes - he's disappeared before.", like it was okay.  No, I'm sorry, but it's not okay.  If you're making something and giving it away for free, then absolutely, do it as you have time, at your own pace and communicate as you see fit.  But once you take peoples' money and say you'll have it by a certain date, you have entered into an agreement.  If you need to change the terms of the agreement, hey - you've got the product, and you've already got the money. Get it right, then get it to me.  But going dark, dropping off the grid, not responding to emails is unacceptable and unprofessional.

Dwimmermount is a perfect example.  Not long ago, people were calling for blood, until Tavis stepped up and started giving weekly honest appraisals of what was going on.  He was transparent, he was regular and timely in his communication, and (with some exceptions) the controversy surrounding Dwimmermount has subsided as we hunker down and wait for the finished product.  Tavis trusted in his product and in his audience, and at least in me, his trust has been rewarded - I will definitely trust Autarch with my money in the future.  He was open and honest, and more importantly professional, in his communication and he's gained a loyal customer.  Really, Tavis probably over-communicates a bit, to compensate for the lack of communication at the outset, but other projects and companies should take note - a little bit of communication goes a long way.  You don't need to write a novel for your backers ever day - like I said, I get it - you have jobs, you have families, you have things that come up in life.

But I have never, in my entire life, been so busy over an extended period of time, that I was unable to respond to urgent emails.

These folks want our money, we as a community need to make them earn it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Man With the Iron Fists and the Rule of Cool

The phrase, "Because f**k you, that's why" has become quite popular recently to explain all sorts of shortcomings in media, both written and visual.  It gets used because of times when it appears as though a writer is lazy, or because an editor has cut something that is a bit more essential than they thought.

Prometheus, I'm looking at you.

What this tends to make us forget, though, is that not everything needs to be explained.  Sometimes, not explaining just makes things better.  I remember my first time picking up an X-Men comic, back in 1986.  It was Uncanny X-Men #209.  On the cover, Nimrod and Colossus were grappling with each other, and in the inside, people died.  Some ended up coming back, some stayed dead, and mostly I had only vague ideas of who most of them were.  There were hints dropped at things that had happened previously, and more hints regarding things to come, but it didn't  feel as though it was an incomplete story.  Rather than being turned off by the existence of more to the story, it drove me back to the store, first to get back issues, then to keep going, keep following the story.

Obviously, that's harder to do in a movie than in a comic book.  It'll be a whole lot harder to bring me back to a Prometheus sequel, for instance, because as pretty as it looked, they strung me along for two hours, asking questions which they did not end up answering.

Which brings me to The Man With the Iron Fists.  On the one hand, you can see some similarities to Prometheus.  The story is that the RZA's original cut of this movie clocked in at over four hours, while the final cut is barely over an hour and a half so you know there's a lot left on the cutting room floor, and I honestly hope that at some point there is a Director's Cut released filling in as much of that as possible.

What was left, though, was a movie that functions much like Chris Claremont's issue of Uncanny X-Men.  There is obviously more to this story than what is presented in the film.  The difference between this and Prometheus is that MWtIF asks no questions, it simply exists.  Would I love to know how/why Brass Body can turn his body into brass?  Sure I would!  But see, here's the thing - I'm a big fan of the TV Tropes website, and I came across a page there recently called the Rule of Cool.  The idea is simply this  - the limit of the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to the element's awesomeness. So while I would like to know about Brass Body's backstory, I'm content to see him kicking ass on the screen.

All of this got me thinking about RPGs.  First of all, somebody should get the RZA to make an RPG.  The amount of world building that went into that film was phenomenal, which also helped it out when it came to the issues described above.  It didn't feel as though we were getting less than a whole movie, so much as we were peeking through the View Finder into a realistic, fully fleshed world filled with people who existed before the movie and would continue on after.  

More to the point though, we get tied down in the hows and whys of things very often.  We want things to be "realistic".  We want things to make sense.  And yes, to a certain extent this should be true.  There should be an internal consistency to things - I was perfectly satisfied with Russel Crow having a knife that spun around and also fired bullets.  I would have been less so had he pulled out a plasma rifle and started launching neutron grenades at his enemies.  But I don't need the answer to every single question, unless the movie explicitly asks them.  

Another good example of this is in the Wire.  If you haven't seen it, shame on you, go and find it and watch it.  There is a character in the show, I won't spoil who on the off chance that there are people who still haven't seen it, who is presented as an antagonist throughout the show.  In the last season, as a character is leaving a gay bar, in the background of a single shot, there and gone so quick you'd be forgiven for missing it, is this character.  Not once in the entire series is it mentioned that he's gay, it plays absolutely no role in developing any of the many plots in the series, it's just an, "Oh, by the way..." sort of moment.  

My point is, it's those sorts of moments that make a series more "realistic".  Not answers, but statements that generate questions, that let you fill in the blanks.  The moments that spawn discussion around the table after too many drinks - who'd win in a fight, Superman or Batman?  What happened to all the other people on the wheel in Conan?  Rather than frustrate the veiwer, they invite them to fill in the blanks themselves, letting them "own" the story in a small way.


It doesn't have to be, "Because f**k you, tha's why!", but rather, "Because it's awesome, THATs why!"

Not everything needs to be explained.  We don't need a rule for every conceivable action that a character might take.  We don't even need rules for every likely action.  We don't need every spider and caterpillar codified with stats and XP awards listed in the modules.  We don't need megadungeons, or sandboxes or hexcrawls. What we need is balls to the wall enthusiasm.  What we need is world building.  What we need are players who want to peek throug the View Finder to share in a world of someone else's creation who are willing to help breathe life into that world and watch it grow and evolve as they go.  We need players who ask questions rather than demand answers, who look for reasons why instead of why not.  We need GMs who are willing to be flexible, and willing to find a balance between fun and realism.  We need level-set expectations from all parties, but the freedom to exceed them, and the willing to figure out how to make things work even when they miss.  

Or maybe it's just what I need.

Apocalypse Watch: Here Come the Robots!

\While the article admits that most of the movement in military robotics is confined to drones currently, more and more, the US military is looking at ground based replacements for fleshy soldiers.

And we all know where that leads, don't we?

Strangely enough, the designers of the non-humanoid robots seemed to have taken their visual cues from the line of Starriors toys, that I love very much..

Anyhow, here's the article - run to your local store for some 2 million sunblock now!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Post Apocalyptic SteamPunk Fantasy

Okay, so I'm a day and a bit late with this, but I think I like this one better than the first one.  Again, the details of the Risus One Page Challenge can be found here.  It's been fun playing with the idea of steampunk.  I'm not sure how true to the tropes I've been, as both of these have been more genre mashups than orthodox steampunk, but it's been a fun thought excercise. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ozone-Powered SteamPunk!

As promised, this is the first of two possible submissions to the One Page Challenge for Risus: The Anything RPG.  The details of the contest can be found here.  I'll post the second one tomorrow.  Any thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Harrowing

So I've undertaken three new projects for this month, and they may be the death of me.

First the Risus One Page Challenge.  The challenge is to design a setting for Risus: the Anything RPG, and submit by November 7.  I've just about completed one setting, but have been struck with an idea for a second, so I may post both here in the next day or so and solicit feedback to see which one I should actually submit.  The one that's completed is a steampunk type setting, focusing on an alternate version of the early 20th century - a time of political upheaval in a society ravaged by man's obsession with ozone-powered technology.  The other is more of a traditional steampunk setting, although one spurred by the death of magic in an otherwise typical dungeons and dragons setting.  Decisions, decisions.

Next is NaGaDeMon - a friend and I have been tossing around ideas for a more geopolitical version of Axis and Allies, set in the cold war, and its time has come!  I've resolved to actually make, and hopefully play, this game by the end of the month.  We've figured out the hows, the whys and the wherefores, so at this point it's just a matter of hammering out  the rules and doing some playtesting to get the mix right.  This shouldn't be too hard, honestly.  I say that never having designed a board game before, of course.  So while I don't anticipate this taking up too much time, I fully understand that I base that on absolutely nothing.

Finally, the one that scares the crap out of me, NaNoWriMo.  I banged out my first 1700 words today with little difficulty, so uh... so far so good?  This is the one that I have the least confidence that I'll be able to complete, but I'm going to give it a shot.  I've had an idea rattling around in my bonebox for awhile now, and this seems as good a time as any to get it out.

Of course, I'm still planning on regular updates to the blog, and I still have The Clockwork Cave that I'm making fitful progress on.  I'm actually just about done with the writing part of it, I'm just stuck on how to close it out.  The Mayfly Queen has a tangential role in the module, so I hope folks really enjoyed that concept, because the adventure starts there and only gets weirder!

Oh, and my new wife and I are going on a roadtrip honeymoon later on this month around Thanksgiving, and I've got a fulltime job to fit inbetween the cracks of all these projects.

So my suspicion is that I've bitten off more than I can chew, but my hope is that if I can do half of what I've set out to, I can call this a very productive month!