July 2008


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Archive for July, 2008

Back from hiatus

Posted in Life on July 30th, 2008

yeah yeah yeah – it’s been like forever, I know.

Recent happenings:

Sea Dog Nights – fun wit’ da Family. A bunch of us trouped down to Lebanon for an almost-SCA event, and fun was had by all. It was also the maiden voyage of our new chandelier, a design that is probably best described as “Martha Stewart meets the Hell’s Angels”. Take three lengths of chain, weld them into concentric circles. Then hang them horizontally with the smallest diameter circle at the top, and hang the next one from that, etc. Now weld some pipe sections horizontally so you can set a votive holder in them. Voila! Gypsy chandelier, courtesy of Tolerant’s brother-in-law.

Work: is work. We’ve been just busy enough to keep me hovering on the edge of qualifying for a bonus. Just 3 more percentage points…

Movies: saw The Dark Knight on Monday, well worth the ticket. Folks have been complaining about the violence in this one, but it boils down to one thing: the Joker is an agent of Chaos, and he’s a sadistic, violent, psychotic sonofabitch. The director was right about that. The plot could have moved a little better, but the acting made it all worth watching. Ledger nailed the role, and someone else is going to have a helluva time living up to that performance if they ever bring the character back.

Tolerant: is still the WBGF.

The Ratboy: is all set to move out for the first time. He and his new roomies (an old friend and her boyfriend) are set to take possession of their new apartment on the 4th. The management just spent a bunch of money refurbing the building, so they’re offering some good deals to load up on tenants to pay for it all.

Computers: just tried to upgrade my laptop to KDE4.1, with limited success. It won’t boot into the new window manager, but it will run some of the new apps under KDE3.5. I just need to dig up the logs and figure out what the problem is – I just don’t have the time or the brainpower to do so right now.

And now it’s off to bed.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition -or-“These ain’t yer daddy’s Kobolds”

Posted in Geekery on July 5th, 2008

So Da Boys and I scrounged up and plunked down some electronic cash at Amazon a few weeks back and pre-ordered the new DnD release along with the first module, The Keep on the Shadowfell, and The Physicist and I decided that I would be the one to run the gang through the DnD stuff, while he would GM some Sci-Fi stuff. I’ve read through all the books, and last weekend I ran the party through the first part of KoTS.

These are definitely NOT your daddy’s kobolds. We’ll get more into that in a minute. First, I want to talk about the new system.

DnD, or more accurately ADnD, got me started in the whole RPG genre many years ago – roughly the third grade. I can remember in the 5th grade, a friend and I sat down with my Player’s handbook and commenced to code a character generator in BASIC that actually did everything you needed it to do – with the small exception that we didn’t code in the entire equipment list. This was on an original TRS-80. Had I actually owned a computer back then, I would probably have taken that program and added to it to get some of the tools available today.

While Wizards of the Coast have been promising us the “DnD insider”, a website with a virtual game table, character creator and various other things, they have stated that “it will launch when it is ready” – which of course bugs the hell out of me, because I hate waiting! You want to drive a Gemini nuts? Tell him you have something really important to talk about and then say “oops! gotta run! I’ll call you tomorrow!” Head splodey.

So, not wanting to wait until probably NOVEMBER to get the WotC versions, I went trawling the ‘Net for alternatives and discovered RPTools, a site with a number of RPG-related tools built in Java. The good news: it’s all open-source and free to use and modify. The bad news: 4thEdition isn’t fully supported yet, but the gang is hacking it as I type. In the meantime, the tools as they exist are still useful, just not custom-tweaked for 4E. So, for those of us who can’t seem to do anything without involving a computer, there are some very useful bits of code for you, even when you RPG.

Now, about those Kobolds…

The party consisted of a Paladin, 2 Rangers (one archer, one twin-weapon), a Wizard and a Warlord. They made it through the first encounter intact, but the second one was not so well fought. Kobolds are no longer ALL cannon-fodder; some of them have grown up and turned dangerous. Back in the old ADnD days, the only effective way to use Kobolds was en masse – by the hundreds, at least. Not so much these days – a mere 5 were able to take out the above party. That’s right – we got 5 characters killed by 5 kobolds.


Honestly, the biggest problem the party had was bad rolls – the dice hated them, and I was rolling pretty good. Example: I rolled a critical hit against the Warlord. The Paladin says “I’ve got an encounter power that lets me turn that into a regular hit” – cool, no problem. I didn’t want to hit the Warlord that hard anyway. So what happens next? You guessed it: I rolled maximum damage anyway, in full view of the players, so I couldn’t fudge the numbers.

The players took it well, and I think they’ve got their second set of characters ready to go. This time, we have a Cleric, a slightly different Paladin, a Wizard and a Fighter – and that archer-variant Ranger is back – he’s my NPC, and he just barely managed to escape into the bushes while those nasty kobolds were burning the wizard… ;)