Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adventures in Groceries

Went shopping today, Found out my local Publix has expanded their "Ethnic Food Aisle" to include sizable British and Indian sections.. So now I can get all the HP Sauce and IronBru I want.. to go along with 40lb bags of Basmati Rice and endless tubs of Tikka Masala Sauce.

I was quite excited.. No more having to make the long round trip to the British Import store to get condiments.. I can just go 7 miles down the road and get them.

In a related note from the other day, I managed to get a refund for one of those book club editions, still haven't heard from the other person yet..

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Burried Treasure and the sordid lives of inanimate objects

Recently been going through some boxes of who knows what in my closet.. I'm looking for my Address book.. I hear the kids in the audience ask a resounding "a What?" but I assure you at one time we did indeed write down things like names and addresses on a substance known as paper and sometimes it was even assembled as a book though in a few more years none of you will know what that is either if Amazon has their way..

Anyway, I never did find the address book. Which is unfortunate as its got a few addresses for cousins in the U.K. in it which I don't have written down anyplace else. I'm in the early stages of planning a trip to the UK for September and thought I'd drop some of them a letter to let them know I was coming.. Most of my Cousins are actually older than I am and many of them don't use these new fangled things called "computers" so E-Mail is right out. Thankfully though I've been able to find some of my 3rd cousins via Facebook so not totally out of touch.

Planning a Vacation is so easy, Planning a family oriented trip, is not. Especially if your like me who have something like 5 different branches of family in one place, and none of them talk to each other.. But if I don't at least tell them all I'm coming.. it causes hard feelings.. even if oddly enough.. I'm not supposed to have any towards them when they tell me they don't want to visit with me, but will be sure to dispatch a letter a week after I've gotten home to express how sorry they were it just couldn't be scheduled.

However, In all this searching and mumbling and cursing and moaning about the sordid lives of inanimate objects (I'll bet right this instant my Address book is having drinks with my 1986 Predacon Headstrong thats been missing since 1991 and both are mocking my shoddy organization abilities) I found a few art books I had not remembered I had. One is a Art of Dragonlance.. and another is a "Fantasy Art" Book I must have gotten through a school book fair or something.. they have some pretty interesting prints in them.. Still it didn't do much to improve my mood.

I also found a half empty (or half full...) Bottle of Lismore.. I think I put it away at some point and simply forgot about it..

Maybe I can lure out my alcoholic address book with a tumbler full.. who knows..

Book Club Edition.

I'm excited I just found a good deal on a book online, everything is in order, its got its dust jacket, and then I see it.. "Book Club Edition". My elation destroyed, I move on and find another usually more expensive copy to buy.

But what I really hate, is when I order a book which is listed as the right publisher, year of release and all the information is correct. It simply says " Hardcover " .. and 2 weeks later when it arrives at my house via Media Mail... Its the Book Club Edition!

And then the stupid people I order it from, feign ignorance as if they don't know what the problem is.. it is after all Hardcover.. And I generally just get stuck with it.. occasionally they will offer to let me return it.. but by the time I get done doing that.. my refund will be about 3$ out of the 10$ that I paid for the book. Amazon and the Post office will have the rest of it.

Last week I ordered 7, hardcover books to fill in some gaps in my collection. So far 4 of them have come in and 2 of them have been Book Club Editions, another one was from the UK, so its in a format I've not seen before.. Its bigger than Book Club, but not as big as a regular Hardcover, but at least I knew it was going to be going into it.

So Now I'm having to have back and forth email spats with these people who don't see anything wrong with my products as received. Grrrrr.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

King Conan Volume #1 and delays

Just saw that this is up for pre-order, and apart from some confusing Ad copy, I'm very interested in this.

Though I can't help but think that 5 issues is a bit slim to make up the 192 pages this volume is going to contain? or were King Conan issues actually 40 pages a piece?

Just wish Dark Horse would get a move on, by my calculations I'll be nearly 40 before they finish re-printing all the Conan Comics.

I'm also going to apologize for being nearly a week late in posting a new review to my Hyborian Apocrypha blog. I've unfortunately been working a lot of 12 hour days lately and so have been rather pressed for time. this is of course good for the bank account but not that great for the reading time..I hope to remedy this soon however.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Final Fantasy XII

So Final Fantasy 13 was recently released, and now all my friends have seemingly vanished from the face of the earth.

I'll admit to having been on the fence about this one, I've not had much luck with JRPG's of late. The last one I truly enjoyed was the remake of Final Fantasy 3 for the duel screen. And before that it was Final Fantasy 9. The last one I finished was FF10, FF11 I ignored due to it being a rather half ass'd MMORPG, and 12 I started and have yet to finish.

FF10, felt to me as if it was too dependent on Quicktime events and FMV's.. and atrocious voices for the US release. It was also incredibly frustrating.

I gave Lost Odyssey a try on the 360, In fact it was the whole reason I bought a X-box 360.. What a mistake that was. It was over long, flatly acted and featured what must have been a small novel's worth of text scrolls you had to read through to have any idea what was going on. Had it been my choice, I think the game company should have released them as a novel, and been done with it. But I suppose that's clever marketing for you, they had me because they used Jefferson Airplane on the TV Commercial.

I own Last Remnant, but have yet to actually start playing that one. Opting to save it for a rainy day.

I understand that Final Fantasy 14 is going to be another MMORPG.. I'm not sure How I feel about it. But if its as flat and lifeless as Final Fantasy 11, I'm going to stick with World of Warcraft.

If I had to rate the Final Fantasy Games that I've played, It would be something like this.

1 Being the highest

1) Final Fantasy 4
2) Final Fantasy 1
3) Final Fantasy 3 (DS remake)
4) Final Fantasy 7
5) Final Fantasy 9
6) Final Fantasy 5
7) Final Fantasy 6
8) Final Fantasy 2
9) Final Fantasy 8
10) Final Fantasy 12
11) Final Fantasy 10
12) Final Fantasy 11

So where 13 will fall in that list, remains to be seen.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Well I've begun writing a series of interconnected adventures for a new Dungeons&Dragons campaign I'm going to be hosting this summer.

This won't be my first experience with Dungeons&Dragons but it will be my first experience as a Dungeon master, We will be using the new Fourth Edition rules, which I know may seem like Sacrilege but I've only been playing since 3.0 anyway So I've got no nostalgic connections to Classic or AD&D.. But I'd like to eventually write a campaign using AD&D.

My previous attempts at D&D have never gone over really well, several years ago I had a pretty large group of Friends and we would get together every week and run a 3.5 game. But the group splintered, One was shifted from his Local Military posting to an overseas posting, One got married and then him and his brother lost their house and had to Move. So It slowly whittled down to just 3 players. We tried to soldier on but it didn't work.

When 4.0 came out, I manged to get a new group started from the remains of the last group and some drafted family members of our DM. It worked out pretty well but due to some problems with the host site we had to discontinue. So I've decided to simply host it at my house, and we will see how it goes.

Part of our never ending problem was, if we did large campaigns that carried over from week to week, we would invariably get a week where one or more players didn't show up and then would be lost. So to remedy that I'm going to keep all of my adventures short enough to be played inside of a 4-5 hour period on a single day. The previous Dungeon master of the group tried really hard to create these vast epic story lines for us to be part of, His typical reading fare almost entirely consisted of Multi Tome Epics. Which while great fun don't really make for the best material to harvest to write Adventures. Great pre-made settings though, just thats what they need to be used for.. backdrops rather than storylines.

We also had problems with peoples attention wandering, if we tried to make the game too serious, too dour or too full of itself, the players started to lose interest. But if we kept it short and with a slightly humorous bent then we had a captivated audience.

Having it at other peoples houses lead to them invariably wandering off, they'd go and turn on the Telvision or suggest we put in a movie which drew peoples attention away from the game. And it was impossible for the DM to argue because it wasn't his house.

Food was generally the last of our problems, but still a problem. Either we would have to play in some ones kitchen which meant getting under foot, or they would shanghai their wife into making us snacks.. Or we would go out and eat or call in pizza before hand. Not everyone always had the money to do this, so those that did would have to spot those who didn't.. Not everyone could agree on the same type of food.. etc.. the problems were endless.

So i think I've hit on the solution, and as Chairman Mao Said, The Solution is Revolution.

The Revolution in this case is for me take responsibility for all of these problems myself. I will Write the adventures so that I can guarantee their length, I will have them be intensely scripted in order to keep peoples attention from wandering.
I will host the games at my house, I will rule with an Iron fist and keep the Television turned off. And I will provide dinner or at least snacks for my Players.

Its something of an experiment as my group of friends are probably not used to this level of micromanagement when they come to my house. I'm normally the type, that if a guest wants a drink to tell them which direction the tap is and have at. But not anymore.

My idea for the adventure in order to keep them semi-humorous and short enough to play through in a day is a bit tricky, but thankfully, Lin Carter, L.Sprague DeCamp and Fritz Leiber wrote half humorous works, and Writers like Robert Asprin, Peirs Anthony and Terry Pratchett writing straight up Fantasy/Comedy.. I should be able to get enough story ideas.

My first one is based rather loosely on The Tower in The Forest by Fritz Leiber. With some bits lifted from the Fallible Fiend by L.Sprague Decamp. The Idea of a tower which sort of uses notes directing towards untold riches as a fishing lour to trap and kill adventurers is right up the alley of my group. I hope they are going to like it. I've left a few small bits in it to direct on to the next adventure, which is going to be partly based on George Macdonald's Princess and the Goblin. If that succeeds, it has a Sequel that I can use.

I dunno, what do my wonderful readers think? Do you want me to post the adventure?

Friday, March 12, 2010

James Bowman.. Who? Never heard of 'im.

Seriously.. Who is he and why does he seem to think hes important enough to tell me what is and isn't art?

Just got done surfing over to where they have a link up to some site called "TheAmericanCulture" (What? You mean we have culture.. maybe thats what we keep hidden in Area 51..) And he's decided that since hes feeling a bit lonely and wants a bit of attention, He would lash out at those dastardly Fantasy authors who peddle un-realistic smut to fog our senses from paying attention to all those social issues and wars and famines and stuff that make up " The Real World ".. None of which is ART, no sir, no way no how, Definitely NOT ART.

Here is the deal, James, I'll continue to count you among the people who have absolutely no bearing on anything remotely resembling something worth saying in this miserable hate infested world you want us to confronted with at all times. And you can go back to sniftering your brandy and chortling over the illustrated comedy squares in your new issue of the New Yorker, and in exchange you will leave the rest of us alone to continue to try and keep our sanity by diving selectively into the various pools of Fantasy.

Or we can play a game of who's the biggest narcissistic entitled jerk. I'd win, and then you'd be sad and then I'd have to listen to your mom whining about how I made you cry and quite frankly I just don't have the time for that sort of stuff.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Whats wrong with the Multi Tome Epic?

After reading on another site, which was against the 90's fashion of "doorstop" fantasy.. It made me start wondering.. what exactly is wrong with it? I mean I realize that you get your occasional unfortunate circumstance like Robert Jordan dieing, or an NFL game distracting George R.R. Martin. But generally speaking these sorts of series that just go on and on and don't finish are not the norm. Terry Goodkind Finished his "Sword of Truth" series. Kate Elliot Finished her "Crown of Stars" series. Tad Williams finished "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" and looks set to finish his Shadowland series in the next year or so. And the series which followed up the post in question, David Drakes Lord of the Isles, Just finished up.

Tor books was more or less responsible for the " Doorstopper trend ".. but Daw picked it up and ran with it too. Which considering that they previously published only shorter novels.. that was a bit of an odd swap. Oddly Del Rey never really had that many large books.. the remarked upon Sword of Shannara being a bit of a singular example.. I don't own to many Del Rey's that are more than about 350 pages at the most.

Yes, Terry brooks is still going with his "Shannara" series, but his books are interconnected trilogies rather than one huge series. And no one really knows if Dennis Mckeirnan will ever finish the "Mithgar" series.. and It dosen't seem to be popular enough that anyone but me will really care either way.

The complaints seemingly were specifically directed at character interaction and dialogue driven story telling.. Whats wrong with that?! Whats wrong with knowing what motivates characters beyond " Wizard bad, Thongor Smash! " all the time.

Its become obvious to me lately with the number of trilogy omnibuses out there that even 250-300 pages is too short for some readers.. and with the average price of a paperback book being in the range of 9$ I can see why.. If I only have 10$ to spend on a book.. do I want one thats going to take me 2 days to finish or one thats going to take me all week to finish?

Now I'm certainly not trying to tell anyone what they should and shouldn't read or like. I love short stories.. But I prefer them when they are presented like the Lankhmar series... In Chronological Order.. so I can read them as a larger series rather than sporadic episodes. People may hate me for saying it, but I actually prefer the 12 volume Ace Conan series because of this. I just wish that Howard had been alive in order to do what Leiber did instead of having some one else do it for him.

And I admit that some of the stuff in the Wheel of Time series and these other multi-tome epics is a bit gratuitious.. the endless descriptions of clothing and re-iterations of what characters look like as if anyone would just pick up volume 10 on a lark and read it.

Perhaps in this particular case my attention span is too long for a 15 page short story of a 80page novella to really keep me interested, I'm obsessed with Chronologies and what order I should read things in. And I'm also obsessed with getting the most for my Money. The resent Omnibus versions of Glen Cook's Black Company are great, For 15.99 you get 3 complete novels. Vs the 7.99 you'd likely pay for each of them if you bought them separately. The same holds true for all the various David Eddings books.

Alright I'm done rambling now, continue with your regularly scheduled Wenching and Wizard smashing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Interconnectedness in films and television.

Having found out that Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth is to be adapted into a TV series, I went looking for the historical dates that its set in. Its set during "The Anarchy" between the sinking of the white ship and the murder of Thomas Beckett. So I set to thinking what other films and TV series would be set around this same time period. This is of course mainly concerned with England and what its monarchs were doing at the time.

1135-1150 The Brother Cadfael Series from (1994-1998)
1120-1170 The Pillars of the Earth TV Series (2010)
1162-1170 Beckett (1964)
1183 Lion in Winter (1968)
1182-1187 Al Nasser Salah Ad-Din (1963)
1186-1187 Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
119? Robin Hood (2010)
1194 Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1997)
1215 Ironclad (2010)

And sort of spaced out through the whole list is
1133-1216 The Devils Crown BBC mini series 1978

The only thing we are really lacking is a specific film set during the 3rd crusade, I think after Robin Hood, Ridley Scott should adapt Walter Scott's The Betrothed and The Talisman.

After this I started looking for what other interconnected Historical dramas their were. And the only other time period I've been able to find thats even better documented (though even less accurate) would be the Julian Dynasty of Rome.

But I'm going to save that list of films/Series for another post.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

level 50 dark dwarf.. AIIIIGGGHHHEEEEE!!!!!!

So that about brings us up to the big main event. The Saturday night event, or as J.R. from the WWF would have said .. A real Slobberknocker of a fight. I came to the conclusion over the weekend that, essentially if real re-enactment groups were Technical Wrestling, and the SCA was Professional Wrestling.. then LARP would be Backyard Wrestling.. but with fewer trips to the emergency room.

so after a two hour break on Saturday for a " Reset" everyone is gathered together in the tavern where a few of the lords or ladies expostulate about the state of the world in which our characters in habit. Some of these people are good actors, others stutter and stumble their way through. But essentially we were told that, a dark lord was bringing an army of dark dwarfs to destroy the world of men and only we few, we happy few, could stand in their way. All well and good I suppose for the players who had been to 3 or 4 dozen events and were in the high 30's or low 40's level wise.. but for me.. this was the worst bit of the entire evening being level 3.

all the noobs were told to stay on the porch of the tavern, to bring new beanbags and what not to the higher level players. I talked to a few interesting characters, but over all it was kind of dull. Eventually went inside to help with the tavern-kitchen (out of play area) for a bit, had a cup of coffee after washing some flat surfaces, and came back outside. But before I could even get outside of the tavern's front door, I was confronted by a dwarf. I didn't last very long, needless to say. So after that it was off to the healers guild. 10 minutes later I was stuck on the wrong side of the battlefield and couldn't get back to the tavern. Though I did try a few times, every time being slain and winding up back at the healers.

After my life tag was depleted down to just 1 remaining (at 0 you gotta make a new character) I decided to say screw it and went to bed.

Sunday morning we did a bit more monstering, had french toast sticks at the tavern and then about noon Left and came home. To totally crown off the weekend from hell, by 3 or 4 pm I was feeling a bit stuffy, by 9pm I had a sore throat. and on Monday morning I had a full blown head cold which I've been battling for the whole week.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Won't you Take me to, Monster town!

Part 3 of my ongoing experiences at the Larp.

My sleep was not to be uninterrupted however, as at 3am those same obnoxious people who I mentioned in part 1, decided that since we had kept them from having their own cabin.. they'd keep us from sleeping at all. Not amused, I did my best to ignore them.. eventually getting up and going back to the tavern about 5am to get a cup of hot water for the Nescafe I'd brought.. No hot water but they had Coffee, and Free to boot. Whats more important is that it was actually GOOD coffee.. which isn't something that usually is combined with " Free ". Had about 3 cups of that and then went over to " Monster town " .. the cabin where they keep all the boffers and tunics for the monsters. All attendees are required to be a monster for at least 2 hours at every event. Since I couldn't sleep i went ahead and got it out of the way. It was the most fun bit of the whole experience.

I was a variety of monsters throughout this time period and was slain many times, got clipped in the nose by a beanbag which wasn't all that much fun. Around 9am I returned to the tavern and had Breakfast, The food was quite good especially when you consider you get 2 waffles, 2 eggs and 2 bacon strips and a fruit juice for 2.50$. They may be trying to get rich on the boffer sales, but not on the food sales. Finishing that I joined a group of people to go on another adventure. Had Lunch about 1pm from stuff I'd brought from home.. and then suddenly wasn't feeling all that hot. Probably lack of sleep and maybe a mild case of dehydration. I went to take a nap and slept till 6pm which is when the weekend " Reset " occurs. This is effectively a 3 hour break for anyone who wants to go get food at a place not the tavern.

Me and my friend left in search of a local establishment of some renown, finding it packed to the gills we decided that it wasn't for us and wound up driving another 11 miles south to the next " Big town " in order to find a waffle house. After that we headed back in time for the reset, put our costumes back on and went to the tavern to await opening of the Saturday night festivities.

The whole thing really was like trying to herd cats though, and I got in a group run by one of the Soldiers from my cabin who 's character is a 9000 year old dark fairy.. or something.. anyway he was a lot of fun, and while chaotic the evening an interesting experience.. at least until I got killed by a black dwarf and wound up having to "leave my body at the healers guild for 8 hours" so since I couldn't play anymore that evening I went to sleep. Since everyone else was busy with the adventure I got a pretty decent nights sleep.

*Retraction, after having actually researched the price of Gaffers tape I've re-evaluated my consideration that those weapons were overpriced. Gaffer tape is anywhere between 20 and 40$ a roll.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Of Walruses and Boffersmiths

Part 2

After check in comes " Weapons Check " where the safety people check out your boffers to make sure they are safe.. well none of the stuff that my friend or myself made checked out. You see, we followed the directions on the associations website.. and while they've updated the printed rulebook.. they haven't bothered to update the PDF on the website.

Just to explain to the un-initiated, the components of a "boffer" breaks down like so.

1) 1/2inch PVC Pipe
2) 3/8inche Pipe Insulation
3) Duct Tape

About 5$ worth materials. However those were the old ingredients.. the ones I made my sword from.. materials left over from repairing an outside water faucet. the New materials are basically the same.. but ever so slightly different.

1) 3/4inch PVC Pipe
2) 5/8inch Pipe Insulation
4) Gaff Tape

What this results in is a weapon which is spongier and dosen't have the solid plastic thwack of the duct tape due to the Gaff Tape being Fabric backed. Even with these new materials the price is still not all that much higher. Maybe 8$.

Only problem is, as I said.. they hadn't bothered to update these requirements.. Or mention that you can't typically find 5/8ths pipe insulation in your average store in the South East. The Winter's don't normally get cold enough to warent it, so stores don't stock it. Gaffer's tape likewise isn't available in your average DIY either. But then we come to it, after all the bluster about saftey and what not.. my cynicism began to rear its ugly head. They "Now have Boffers available for purchase at all events ".. Right ok so trying to turn a few extra bucks .. not a big deal. So I wandered over to the " Store " to see what they had available. They had 3 Sizes of Boffer, Daggers, Short Swords and Long Swords, " Crafted by a world renowned Boffer-smith " for the low low price of 20$ for a dagger.. or 30-45$ for a sword.. a Far cry from the cost of materials.. and having made them myself before this event I know they don't take hours to make.. I wound up borrowing one from another attendee.

After all this I was feeling a bit peckish so I went to the " Tavern " to see what they had available.. and walked out with a serviceable cheeseburger(.75cents). It wasn't all that great but I was so tired and so hungry by that point that I just couldn't find fault.

Supper over, we all got together for " Opening ceremony " in which the rules and requirements are laid out etc. After this a " Noobie Adventure " is run for the first timers.. where we slew some " Goblins ".. or really a couple of people in green tunics.. and with this my " What the hell did I get myself into " meter gave up the ghost.. an hour or so of this and I couldn't take it anymore and turned in for the night at about midnight.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lightning bolt! - What a LARP!

well I just got back from what ranks pretty high on my list of worst weekends ever. Following directly on the footsteps of my last post.. from Friday.. I mentioned I was going out of Town.

Well I did, eventually manage too.. Where I was going was to a LARP.. Which stands for Live Action Role Playing.. You can see these sorts of people on Youtube Screaming 'I smite you with a magic Missile' and typically are about the nerdiest of the nerds in my opinion. But I was asked to attend by a friend and not one to let a friend down, attend I did.

The whole thing is held at a state park, and basically you use foam weapons "Boffers" to smack each other with and Beanbags to represent spells.. everyone dresses up in some semblance of a costume.. ranging from the Very Elaborate to the just can't be bothered.. You are supposed to create a character and then stay in that character for the entire weekend.. in order to designate yourself as being out of character You have have on a white headband.. in which case you are a ghost and no one can interact with you. You are encouraged to eat and sleep in character.. even if that means getting woken up at 3am to some goons smacking you with a foam sword.

The weekend was already off to a bad start due to me having to go in on my off day. Lack of sleep put me in a foul mood for something that was already going to try my patience enormously. After the 2 hour drive we got to the state park and checked in. The people attending the LARP were all exceedingly friendly. Especially a couple of US army soldiers who were using part of their Leave to attend this thing.. one having driven 14 hours to get there. Unfortunatly not everyone in the cabin we were sharing with the Soldiers were quite so accomodating. As we soon met the remainder of our room mates.. a group who some how travels around to dozens of LARPs a month taking part in them.. a LARP Troupe I guess.. They didn't understand that the cabins were first come first serve.. and didn't like it that the 5 of us who got their on time wouldn't move to the other side of the cabin so they could erect their partitions.. bad things will come from this.

Will continue with Weapons Check and the first "Adventure" tommorow.