All posts by Dragonhelm

Inspiration

As many of you know, I’ve been working towards a better me. It began with walking.  I started with the walking club at work. The guy in charge, Joey Little, got me started. He challenged me to do a mile. A mile? Was he crazy? I did it, though. My legs were on fire, but I did it. And Joey was there to push me along the way.

He told me his story, and how he changed his life. I’ve been learning more lately through his blog – My #LiveAlittle Project. It’s his story to tell, and I don’t want to goof it up.

Lately, the weirdest thing has happened to me. I’ve had people tell me that I’ve inspired them to walk, or to exercise.

*blinks*

I wasn’t expecting this. I’m inspiring people? I’m still figuring this out myself. I don’t have the answers.

What I’ve come to realize is that we all need some inspiration. It can come from anywhere, anyone. Maybe it’s a friend, a celebrity, or just some random person you met one day who said just the right thing.

Look for inspiration, at home and in the world around you.

13th Age Game Day Report – 6-14-2014

Yesterday, I got to play another 13th Age game! Overall, a lot of fun. I’m still getting used to this new system. This was a new series of adventures.

The game was held at The Basement Games and Hobbies. It took me a while to get there (stupid phone). The Basement, while big and spacious, has little product to sell. Two walls of stuff, from what I could see. A small RPG section, and what appeared to be more minis and board games. I’m not certain how the place is staying in business. Still, it was very friendly and welcoming, and we had plenty of room.

I got to see a number of the same people, with a couple of new faces. Everyone was doing new characters (save me, who played the same character as last time). We were each given a magic item. I got eel skin boots that allowed me to disengage a bit easier. They were a gift from the Prince of Shadows, one of the icons of 13th Age.

We were on the trail of the Black Sky (or was it Star) Diamond. This is a huge diamond that took four kobolds to lift. We went through a portal at one point, and we were on our way.

One of the neat things about the game is that we had a storytelling element to the journey. One player starts out, tells a problem that the party had to solve along the way. The next player tells us how we solved it, then presents another problem. This continues until it gets to the final problem solved by the original player. We had a lot of fun with this.

Most of the rest of the game was combat with kobolds, archers and dog riders. This time, I focused on getting those Battle Cries in. Basically, make an attack. If your attack meets the trigger, a bonus effect goes into place. I did so successfully, but I will say that it felt weird for a bard to do that instead of a warlord type of character. I much preferred focusing on songs like I did last time. I felt like I had a greater mastery over the character, though.

All in all, it was fun. I think this particular adventure will be better once we get it going.

Why do I want to get fit?

I have been asked this a lot lately, as I have begun this journey of trying to make a healthier me. I should probably give some backstory.

Earlier this year, there was a bit of re-branding that happened at my work. Everyone in my department was going to get a new T-shirt with the new logo on it, and they asked what all our sizes were. So I gave my size. There was nothing saying this was going to be a problem. I realize I’m a harder size to fit, but typically for things like this, it isn’t a problem.

There was no shirt for me. I was very upset at the time. I spoke to my then-supervisor about it, but rather than empathize with my situation, he offered to be my life coach. I didn’t want a life coach. I wanted my shirt! I went over his head to the guy in charge of the shirts and asked about it. People were coming and going into the office, and my situation was no longer very private. Too many people learned my shirt size. It was a very embarrassing moment for me. I was embarrassed, mad. Eventually, I decided that this was no longer a battle worth fighting.

At the same time, there was a walking club beginning at work. I got involved, and the guy behind it (Joey Little) was someone I could relate to. He said he was heavier than me, and is now down something like 120 pounds (which is amazing). He pushed me from day one to try to hit a mile when I walked. So that was my immediate goal. He’s been a great supporter ever since.

It began as weight loss, so I could fit into smaller clothes. But as I got into it, I realized there was more to it. Weight may go, but muscle goes up in the meantime, meaning that I wouldn’t see steady weight loss. Plus, there are heart issues on both sides of my family. I’ll be lucky to make it out of life alive!

Since I began, I have lost some fat around the face and I think the belly, and I feel better overall. I’ve had a lot of cheerleaders, far more than I ever expected. I thank you all.

I’ve also had a lot of doubts. This is something I’m renowned for. I’m still trying to figure this all out.

Where do I go from here? I’m not certain. Further, higher. Yet maybe it’s not the end destination that matters so much as the journey along the way.

13th Age – A Bardy Pirate Act

Today, I got to play 13th Age at The Roleplayers Guild of Kansas City, Ltd. game day at Game Cafe. I’ve been itching to play a bard, and I played one that was very different than any other I have seen. I played a pirate bard.

Hook
My character inspiration.

My character was Captain Sam Bellamy (named after an actual pirate). His basic story is that he is a pirate captain who dared to sink a ship of the Emperor…who later repaid him in kind. Down on his luck, without a ship or a crew, he’s trying to survive by his whits and his musical talent. I figure he looks a lot like Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time.

I also took some inspiration from the Musical Blades. I think the song Brave and Mighty Captain kind of sums it up. In fact, one of my character’s backgrounds is Musical Blade. He was performing at the local castle when everything went haywire.

His intro to the party was perhaps the best intro I’ve ever had with a character. He was hanging upside down inside a spider web cocoon.

We had a castle full of undeath to tackle, and finally made our way to the big boss at the end. And this is one of the most unique monsters I’ve ever faced. It was a mechanism that was attached to the castle, causing the castle to shift. It spat razor-sharp cogs at us, and was powered by 12 dead wizards.

So, mechanics-wise, the bard is one of the most challenging classes to play in 13th Age. I tried to work in a battle cry, but I didn’t quite get it. I need to work on that more. One of my bardic songs was a Song of Heroes. So my character sang about the greatest hero he knows – himself! He also used a Song of Thunder to help take the huge mechanism down.

This was the most fun character that I’ve played in a long time. The rules are going to take a little getting used to, but they are familiar enough. It’s D&D, and yet it has its own vibe.

The best part is that this has a chance of becoming a regular monthly game. Which is great, because I absolutely LOVE this group!

Dragonhelm’s D&D Next Game Day Report

scourge of the sword coastYesterday, I played the first week of Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast, the current Encounters adventure.  I have a particular interest in this adventure, as the first D&D game I ran was set in the town of Daggerford. It’s weird being a player in this setting. Still, I am grateful for all the attention Daggerford has had of late.

I played the pregenerated halfling rogue. He had the sailor background. I figured I should base him somewhat on one of my favorite pirates, so I named him Saxton (Musical Blades reference). He wore a bowler and everything. He was a two-weapon fighter, having two short swords. He even got to kill a wolf by slamming those swords through its back, and adding the sneak attack ability. Sneak attack, btw, is SO much better in this edition. It’s a lot easier to understand and pull off.

The adventure itself (thus far, as this is Encounters) was pretty standard fare. Fight some goblins and wolves, then address a group of refugees trying to enter Daggerford with the guards forbidding entry. Nothing too complicated, but I was impressed that one of the encounters was more of a role-playing encounter. MUCH better than I’ve previously seen with Encounters. Up until this point, Encounters felt like a bunch of tactical miniatures fights. Now, it began to feel like D&D. Props to WotC on that one.

What was interesting to me was the group’s reaction to this system. The group was mostly high school kids, with the exception of one guy who appears to be older than me. The kids seem to have only known 4e, although I will give the DM props for studying up on prior editions. I thought the kids wouldn’t like this system, but I was wrong! In fact, they seemed to love it. They loved the quicker combats, and the simplicity of the rules. They were sold.

For me, it feels like I’m finally coming home. This is the iteration of D&D I have been waiting for. It feels like AD&D. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed that feeling. And yet, it has the basic d20 mechanics that I have come to love. It’s a nice blend. It even incorporated some elements from 4e that I liked (backgrounds!). I think I’m coming to like the proficiency bonus. It’s used to represent skill training (kind of like 4e), and has some of the feel of Castles & Crusades to it. The proficiency bonus can be used in attacks, as a skill bonus, or for certain class abilities (amongst other things). Reminds me a little of Castles & Crusades.

There were a few questions on the rules and pre-gens at the table. What I found is that the other players were looking more at a mechanical side of things, rather than roleplaying. One person asked why the warlord wasn’t incorporated with the bard. I’ve heard that same thing before, as they both have the inspiring thing going, but I quickly reminded them that the warlord is more of a front-line fighter who yells things like “shake it off!” to boost his comrades. The players also seemed a bit baffled by the concept of subraces. Most have never known subraces. I have known nothing but. There was also some talk about how feats were optional. I told them this was a good thing, as it addressed different play styles. So, for example, I could have an old-school AD&D era friend play with a new-school d20 era friend in the same game, and both would be happy.

The guy playing the paladin pre-gen was dumbfounded when he saw the minstrel background. Music and performance are the domains of the bard, right? And yet, here his paladin could do those things. It seemed so counter-intuitive to him. And yet, by game’s end, it became part of the plot, as he used that to affect the crowd at the entrance to Daggerford. I hope a light bulb went off with him on what could be done.

Overall, I was very happy with the game and the system. It was kind of a back-to-basics feel. No, we didn’t have all the options of other game systems, like Pathfinder. But that was okay. Sometimes, those options can be a bit distracting. More options will undoubtedly come down the road. What we have before us is the foundation for a very good system.

I hope my schedule allows me to play again.

Dragonhelm’s Snowmageddon Journal #1

snowmageddonThe north wind’s whisper has settled upon the Kansas City area. Already, I see madness strike at the minds of once-noble men and women as they seek to stock up on their food stores. All await the coming fury of Jack Frost.

I have come home to an empty house. I can only assume that my boys travel to seek aid amongst their fellow scouts, never letting their mother out of their site. I am proud of them. If we survive the coming blizzard, they will grow to be fine young men.

I have fed our tauntan, Glen, and polished his bridle and saddle. He is eating a hearty meal of oats and hay. I have placed a blanket on him for extra warmth. Glen is making the tauntaun equivalent of a purring sound, both soothing and disturbing at once. We shall soon need his services.

While I am not worried for our immediate future, I know that the human heart will eventually falter. Soon, we shall turn upon each other. I am now making a priority of shoring up our defenses. I have placed the counter-weight on the trebuchet, and am now looking for varieties of squash to use as ammunition. I feel, though, that we will need defenses for any close-quarter fighting. Originally I thought of my treasured bat’leths. Then I remembered that they were merely letter openers. Still, I own a rusty old sword and a rather sharp batarang. There may be some hope yet.

For now, I wait. The snow is coming. May God have mercy on our souls.

Red She-Hulk

Red_She-HulkWhen I first heard that Betty Ross was the new Red She-Hulk, my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. I mean, c’mon. She’s a support character, not a main character. She’s Bruce Banner’s love interest! It’s a trend I have noticed a lot, where supporting characters are suddenly heroes on their own. I am concerned with this trend, as every hero needs a support crew.

Yet I had to ask myself if there was something more to this. So I picked up Red She-Hulk – Volume 1: Hell Hath No Fury. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Betty_RossAs I mentioned above, Betty Ross was a supporting character. She’s probably been everything from the damsel in distress to part of a love triangle between Bruce, herself, and Glenn Talbot, etc. etc. While this sort of thing worked in the 60s when the Hulk was created, it’s a dated concept now. Anyone remember when General Thunderbolt Ross hushed his own daughter for interrupting “man talk?”

In other words, Betty Ross is completely boring. Oh, she’s had her moments, but has she ever stood out on her own? Enter the Red She-Hulk. This is Betty Ross, transformed into a Red Hulk, much like her father. Suddenly, she has gone from a supporting character to being in the spotlight. For the first time, she seems interesting.

And yet I have to wonder if we have too many Hulks running around. Two Hulks, two She-Hulks, and how many other spin-offs? Some of the naming conventions are weird too.

While that criticism may hold some water, I think the pros outweigh the cons here. Betty Ross, for the first time, feels like a fully-developed character. I look forward to reading more about the Red She-Hulk.

Back In the Saddle Again!

Ghosts of Dragonspear CastleIt has been some time since I DM’d regularly in real life. I’ve been longing for some gaming again, but haven’t really had a good opportunity. I ran into some old friends at GenCon, and we got talking again about old games, and decided to game together again, roughly once a month.

We decided to include our kids (save for these friends’ youngest, who is a bit too young). With my best friend tagging along, that’s 8 players total!

Now, I have been a bit intimidated by all this. I haven’t run a game in forever. We’re using the D&D Next rules, so that’s a bit challenging. What’s cool is that the adults are all a bunch of AD&D veterans. In fact, I’m probably the only one who spent any real time with d20. I’m starting to warm up to the rules. In fact, this may be my favorite iteration of the game to date. We will see!

I am running Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, the D&D Next adventure from GenCon. Last time, we had character creation and a bit of role-play on the road.  zzzz…..   This time, though, half the party got to fight some lizard men while the other half fell into a sinkhole in a marsh that opened up into a shipwreck (that was somehow inland!). It was quintessential D&D at its finest.

Now, I have to admit to not being as prepared as I would have liked. It’s been a busy time of late. However, old instincts kicked in, and I felt like I had my old DM knack back again. We may not have gone far, but we had a rollicking good time.

One extra challenge with this group has been that only one player gave me a character background. That’s the way you’re going to be? Fine! I’ll add stuff myself! I tried to add some things in here and there to make it fun for folks. So, for example, my wife’s character sheet (a pre-gen) had a background of Sailor on it. So I decided, since a river goes by the home town of these characters, that she was a river rat. I also gave her a tattoo (she chose a curved fish).

Highlight of the evening was when my friend Kenneth, playing an elven ranger, fought against a lizard man who had a love for biting off ears and putting them on a necklace. The lizard man did indeed succeed. However, he was near death, and Kenneth’s character ended him. The ear flew into the air. Kenneth’s character grabbed it, put it back in place, and drank a potion of healing! The ear is back on, albeit a little crooked. And that just looks funny on an elf.

Farewell, Slice of SciFi

Dear podcast friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to unsubscribe from Slice of Scifi. It was one of the first podcasts that I listened to and has been such a part of my life for years. I no longer feel like it is the show it once was. I have a few reasons for this that I will outline below.

First, I believe that any great endeavor in fandom revolves around community. You take care of your fans, invite them to participate. That was the magic of Slice. I had a podcast family. Everyone could participate. Heck, even Fox Leader got a voice. That time is gone. The only way your calls get on is if they are solicited or your comments happen to match what the show topic is about.

Second, the Powers That Be do not communicate with their fan base. I’ve seen this come into play with other businesses as well. Wizards of the Coast put out D&D 4th edition, and changed the Forgotten Realms for the worse. The result was that Paizo Publishing came out with the highly successful Pathfinder game. The reason for their success was that they communicated with their fans. Now WotC is playing catch-up, trying to regain their audience and moving the Realms forward with a reset of sorts.

Third, I have seen too many of my friends leave Slice recently, some of which was not by their choice. When Evo Terra left, at least there was an announcement, as it should have been. But with recent departures, there’s not be any sort of recognition. That’s wrong. While I respect Michael R. Mennenga for his technical expertise, voice talent, and for being a podcast pioneer, it was the group as a whole that made the show great.

I want to thank everyone who has been a Slice host (and I apologize if I missed anyone!), including Evo Terra, Brian Brown, Tim Adamec, Joe Fiore, Sam Roberts, Bret Fillipek, and Ben Ragunton. I wanted to say a huge thank you as well to the many volunteers who contributed to Slice, including (but not limited to!) Michael Hickerson, Sam Sloan, Kurt from St. George (Curtain St. George?), Theloneous Sweetleaf, Sean from Edwards, and especially Nigel Blackwood and Scott Purdy for their work on the Multiverse News.

And speaking of Ben, I wanted to give him a special shout out. He was placed in a bit of an impossible situation, and despite that, he tried very hard to make the best of it. I am glad to have come to know him as a friend.

If I missed anyone, I apologize. There just were so many people involved that made the show so great. I thank everyone who made Slice the podcast powerhouse that it was.

Thank you, my friends. I wish circumstances were different, but I find the show has changed so much that I can no longer listen. What is important, though, isn’t the show or the medium. It’s friends. I have to say that I am proud to call so many of you old Slice fans my friends. I hope that we meet again in the podosphere.

Trampas Whiteman