Wednesday Gaming 6/24<< Adam, June 24th, 2010 >>

From the journal of Reynal “Rey” Shrineson

It is these sort of apparent “no win” scenarios that make being a Free Marshal tough.  It’s also why I make sure that the team has members who give us a wide range of options to solve problems.  It seemed clear that we couldn’t simply abandon the cave yet; there was more going on here, and leaving now would give whoever is down there more time to prepare for us.  Not to mention the fact that they could be on the verge of completing whatever ritual they’re preparing — leaving now could be literally disastrous.  All we really needed to do was warn the other Marshals of the impending attack; I have enough faith in the other Marshals that they could protect the town without our direct involvement.

We came up with a two-fold plan: Marach El would cast a ritual which would let him send an Animal Messenger to town in order to warn them of the incoming undead.  We would then continue to explore the caves — but if the caves were empty, we’d be ready with a ritual from Penny which would let us move through the woods swiftly to help defend the border towns.

Our course decided, Marach El cast his ritual, and we proceeded further underground.  After an hour of exploring the labyrinthine tunnels, we stumbled into a dead end where we were ambushed by goblins.  Surprised by the trap after an hour of dullness and momentarily confused by the goblin’s screams about the “Chained God”, I was slow to react to the danger until Ragnar and I were caught in the cross fire of two pockets of goblins hurling javelins.  Ragnar charged one pocket, and Furen rushed the other; when the leader of the little group reared his literally ugly head next to Ragnar, I rushed to his side.  Ragnar and I faced three goblins, the leader wielding a particularly vicious looking spear.  Once Ragnar had one of the little buggers wounded, I realized the time was right to take a risk.  I took a brief step into the Feywild, appearing behind the wounded goblin.  With him distracted, I shouted for Ragnar to strike again, and he felled the creature.  Feeling the tide turning, I acted quickly, pressing the attack against the leader, hoping to provide wound him and provide Ragnar another easy opening.  Moments later we had destroyed all of the foul creatures.

A quick pooling of knowledge and the team was able to tell me that the “Chained God” is a reference to the being that actually created the damned Abyss; apparently these fools are likely part of a cult trying to release him so that he can destroy the world.  Sounds like a grand plan.  Yesterday I was happy destroying the odd abomination here and there, and today there are cults trying to literally cause the end of the world.

Further down in the caves we came upon a caged goblin, who called himself “Three Legs.”  Gross.  He told us that he was imprisoned by his mistress for seeing things he shouldn’t have seen, and he promised to let us in on some secrets if we released him.  He also promised to tell us about the “Philosopher” roaming the caves.  Three Legs seemed harmless enough, so Ragnar went ahead and made short work of the cage.  Three Legs told us that his Mistress is, for lack of any other better description a bag of gas.  He claimed that he saw her “deflate” once.

The Philosopher was something roaming the caves which was sick, and liked to talk to Three Legs.  According to Three Legs, the Philosopher would respect some sort of truce, if we asked for it; he said that the Philosopher was compelled to answer three questions for us before deeming us knowledgeable enough to eat.  This cave keeps getting more uplifting.

The Philosopher was then kind enough to wander into the room we were talking to Three Legs in.  The Philosopher, was unfortunately a Grell; way, way out of our league.  He did at least look very sick – that gave me a small glimmer of hope.  We all quickly asked for a truce; the Grell who called himself Chell obliged us.  He confirmed that the way of his tribe was to only hunt and kill creatures who had been properly enlightened.  We each had three questions according to his truce – at the end of three questions, he would proceed to kill and eat us.  If we attempted to weasel out of the truce, he would proceed to kill and eat us.  If we simply ran, he would proceed to kill and eat us.

We used what time we had to find out more about the caves, the goblins in residence, and their Mistress.  Chell had a permanent truce with the Mistress – because there was nothing left of her to eat.  The number of goblins living in the caves was a number way larger than I was happy to hear about.  He told us that the Bonemeal Process apparently involves making multiple independent undead creatures from a single body.  Since the Mistress apparently refers to her “sisters” we made the leap that the creatures made from the same body retain some sort of connection with each other.  Chell refused to make a permanent truce with us however, and our talk devolved into violence when Penny used her third question and Chell proceeded to try and eat her.

Things were going so well; Chell’s illness definitely gave us a fighting chance.  Then the damned grell generated this massive ball of lightning.  I saw Furen go down before I lost consciousness as well.  No amount of praise to Ioun can explain the appreciation I felt when Penny woke me up.  Have I mentioned I keep really good people around me?  While I was getting my bearings back, Ragnar, Marach El, and Penny managed to finish off the diseased grell.  I honestly wish he hadn’t had to do that, but Chell wouldn’t give us any other options.

Three Legs said he knew a safe place where we could sleep – away from any goblin patrols.  We definitely needed the rest.

No Comments »  

 Wednesday Gaming 6/9<< Adam, June 9th, 2010 >>

From the journal of Reynal “Rey” Shrineson

Two Goblin Shadows down.  Check.  Father Vallation should be happy to hear about that.  Combat could’ve gone better had Ragnar not opened his blasted mouth and started shouting about bringing justice or some nonsense.  I’ve got to remind him that sometimes you’ve got to wait to deal out justice until you have enough information to decide that it’s OK to kill the buggers.

Luckily one of the dead goblins had a map which appeared to lead to the caves in the west that I remembered being infested with goblins.  The “bonemeal process” the shadows mentioned must be tied to the pattern of dead forestry in the area.  I’m not happy getting mixed up in necromantic magic of this scale.  Hopefully we’re not getting in over our head here, but we’re this far out here, and I fear that this magic process may be close to finished, so there’s likely not time to call in aid from any other marshals.

Close to the cave, it doesn’t look like these undead are even attempting to hide their whereabouts.  Lots of carcasses, plenty of trampled areas where bodies have clearly been dragged.  Cheery.

The cave, conveniently was self-lighting.  Glowing lichen – how convenient.  Penny said this lichen likely cultivated by the goblins; underground civilizations use it often.  So, not convenient, but expected.

The clinking and clanking noise down the tunnel put us on guard immediately.  I sent Furen ahead to take a glance around the corner.  As he crept around a growth of mushrooms, I could see the upcoming sneeze in his eyes; nothing ever goes according to plan.  As Furen reached the corner, out that damned sneeze came.  Furen came rushing back, reporting a pile of bones, two bloody goblin zombies, and a wight.  “Are they following you?”  “No.”  “You mean they’re getting reinforcements?”

We rushed forward, through the mushrooms, which plumed into clouds of smoke.  Penny scrambled ahead, attempting to draw the attention of the zombies.  Furen quickly followed, attacking an incoming zombie.  “They’ve got claws!” he reported.  While Furen plugged one choke point, I started to plug the other, waiting for Ragnar to back me up.  I whiffed on my first swing, surprised at the dexterity of the apparent corpse.  Ragnar and I began to make forward progress, eliminating one zombie; then one struck me with a blow, and I felt the blood covering them seep into the wounds.  Suddenly I felt very sluggish – my brain in a haze.  I definitely felt off my game as I continued to fail to slice and dice the zombies.

Luckily, my fellow marshals were more than capable of picking up the slack.  Ragnar and Furen rushed the wight and quickly decimated her.  Penny and Marach El finshed off the remaining zombie.  On the wight, we found a note:


The demon summoning has gone well.  It has corrupted a cadre of elves and other fey creatures, who cannot distinguis between its chaos and their own.  By the time you get this message, the elves should be on their way to the village, which should keep them distracted from our own collection efforts for the Bonemeal Process.  There will be no one to stop your harvesting efforts in the cave.

The farms to the east of the of the town should get the brunt first.  They won’t be hard to find, but that’s the point, isn’t it?  And still many will die unless the breathing ones act FAST, and how likely is that?


Bastard undead.

No Comments »  

 The 11th Doctor<< Adam, April 19th, 2010 >>

I was a latecomer to the revamped Doctor Who series. Doctor Who was on hiatus during the 90’s – the years that I would’ve been most likely to sit and watch it. When the series reappeared on the Sci-Fi channel in 2005, I remember watching the first episode in my apartment and being pretty damn entertained. But, as usual for the Sci-Fi channel, new episodes aired on Friday nights, and I was rarely home on Friday nights to watch it.

Flash forward to 2008 or so, and the beauty of streaming NetFlix to my X-Box 360. Once I convinced Katie that the show was totally worth watching (she wasn’t so enamored with the 9th Doctor, but she had a total crush on the 10th), we very quickly pushed through four seasons worth of material. I fell in love with the show to the point where I even named my dog after Rose Tyler (with Katie’s approval, even). We managed to catch up to the currently airing material just in time to watch the “specials” that started airing during the holidays of ’09.

I was very sad to see David Tennant leaving the show. There is a little moment in Time Crash, where the 10th Doctor says to the 5th, “You were my doctor.” I appreciated that slightly fourth-wall breaking moment, and I can relate to the sentiment; I think no matter how long I watch Doctor Who, David Tennant will be my Doctor.

And so we come to the 11th Doctor.  When I pressed Play on my DVR (of course I had plans for Saturday night, but luckily that isn’t an issue with my handy FiOS DVR), I was reminding myself to be open minded.  When the 9th Doctor regenerated into the 10th, I didn’t really have much of a reaction.  I think it is because the 9th Doctor’s tenure was so short, I hadn’t really gotten that attached to him.  I had gotten attached to his relationship to Rose, and was worried where that would go, but I realized that the plot thread could still continue.  I became very attached to the 10th Doctor, though.  I did not want to see him leave.

I think my open mindedness is going to pay off.  I am (so far) enjoying the 11th Doctor.  A lot of interviews leading up to the new season sort of hyped how Matt Smith had this “old soul” sort of sense to him.  I felt like they had to put that out there simply knowing how young Smith is.  But damn if they aren’t correct.  Sure, the season premier starts off goofy; Steven Moffat plays up the “new body” routine in a much larger way than we were shown during the regeneration of the 9th Doctor into the 10th.  I was OK with this; I did find the sequence pretty amusing.  It was the end of the episode that finally gave me pause and reinforced that Smith will be perfectly capable of handling this role.  When the Doctor finally steps up and confronts the bad guys from the premier episode, the goofiness is gone.  Smith delivers a great piece reminding the aliens (and the audience) the he is The Doctor.

Amelia Pond?  I think I’m going to like her, too.  I’m not sure I’ll like her enough to name a puppy after her character (plus, Amy isn’t a very good dog name).  I am very intrigued by the relationship they’ve already managed to build between Amy and The Doctor.  The basis for it is very different than the “in love” relationship with Rose, the “unrequited love” with Martha, and even the “best buds” relationship with Donna.  Here, they’re going with what is clearly Moffat’s chosen theme: fairy tales.  Upon meeting, The Doctor immediately tells Amy that “Amelia Pond” sounds like a name from a fairy tale.  Then, The Doctor becomes Amy’s own private fairy tale character, “The Raggedy Doctor.”  I thought that this set up was very smart.  I’m intrigued to see where they take the relationship.  I hope it doesn’t go in the romantic direction, because frankly, that would be a bit awkward. The fact that The Doctor met Amy as a child first would give anything romantic a slightly creepy tinge. In the past, many of the companion plot lines have involved how the companions make The Doctor a better person. With the revelation at the end of the episode (regarding Amy needing to be back the next morning), I wonder if this companion relationship won’t go the other way. This was touched on with Donna, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it echoed here.

All in all, I was pleased with the season premiere. I’m looking forward to more of this Doctor and Amy. I have high hopes for where the series will go under Moffat’s guidance. He has, after all written some of my favorite episodes. I have some reservations about the fact that he is going back to some of the things he introduced to the Who mythos (the Weeping Angels, and River, in particular). I would hate for the power of those characters and concepts to be diluted by their reuse. Part of the terror of Blink was that it wasn’t The Doctor fighting them. I hope they’re just as scary against the “big guns” of The Doctor, himself.

Time will tell!

No Comments »  

 Cooking Successes<< Adam, March 29th, 2010 >>

I definitely want to post more cooking related things here.  Since we brought our puppy home I’ve done significantly less cooking, which is really unfortunate.  I was used to going to the grocery store on my way home from work to pick things up for dinner, but now the priority is getting home to let Rose out of her crate and take a walk.  By the time we get back, it’s pretty close to the time that I want to be eating dinner, and I’m only at the point of starting it!  Consequently, there has been a large reliance on Trader Joe’s in the past year.  I’ll make some posts about some Trader Joe’s favorites in the near future.

That said, here’s a few things I’ve made recently which have turned out OK.

First: Crepes.

Alright, so technically the two times we made crepes for breakfast Katie made the batter.  But we both actually made the crepes – this was a good learning experience, and really wasn’t very hard.  Maybe I don’t have a good “taste” for crepes, because I’m not very discriminating for whether they’re thin, thick, etc.  They taste pretty damn good no matter what.  I believe we made this first for Valentine’s day.  Toppings were bananas, strawberries, raspberry and strawberry jam, and Nutella.  I wish I hadn’t eaten the Nutella because I didn’t need to know how tasty that stuff really is.

Second: Hot and Sour Soup.

A coworker made this and it was damn tasty, so I had to give it a shot.  On the whole, I think it came out pretty well.  It wasn’t terribly complicated.  I took some super market help and bought a roasted chicken to be able to quickly shred into the soup.  The recipe doesn’t thicken like the hot and sour you’d get at Pei Wei (which amongst my friends is held as a favorite), but it still tastes quite good.  I think that the biggest mistake I made in my preparations was a direct result of not being able to find a can of bamboo shoots.  Since I couldn’t, I found a can of mixed stir fry vegetables; baby corn ears, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and bean sprouts.  While all of these tasted great in the soup, I felt like I completely lost the balance of broth to non-broth content.  Because of that, I felt like a lot of the kick from actually getting the hot and sour flavor was lost.  Also, the recipe is a complete lie in saying it serves four; as soon as you’re adding 6 to 8 cups of broth, you’re talking about a lot more than four servings.

Lastly, some breakfast improv.

One leftover bratwurst, plus two scrambled eggs, plus chipotlé salsa equals a pretty hearty breakfast:


 Pomplamoose<< Adam, March 25th, 2010 >>

I’m apparently late to the party on Pomplamoose.  According to their YouTube channel, they’ve been around for at least a year, but I get the impression they’ve been around longer than that.  Does YouTube purge videos over a year old?  I didn’t think so, but I can’t seem to find anything older than a year on their channel.

Anyway, I found them because Neatorama posted about Pomplamoose being tapped by YouTube to promote Musicians Wanted.  At the same time, they posted a link to Pomplamoose’s cover of Single Ladies.  While I’m no Beyonce fan, I will be perfectly candid in that I saw the preview picture and thought, “She’s kind of cute,” so I clicked play.  I’ll be damned if I wasn’t hooked.

I challenge you to watch the following (all the way to the end) and then tell me that a) it’s not awesome and b) you wouldn’t want to have dinner with Jack and Nataly.

Buying the two albums they have available through iTunes was a no-brainer.  Easiest $15 I’ve spent recently.  I found navigating their MySpace page a little more difficult to navigate to buy more music, but I’m going to have to give it another shot.

I’m enthralled by both the music as well as the videos.  Most music videos don’t really add to the music – usually, I find that they’re distracting me from the music.  Not so with Pomplamoose’s videos.  The basic concept of showing you exactly what you’re hearing works so well for layered music which is being made by only two people.  Plus, seeing Nataly sing with herself is, for some reason, very endearing to me.  Luckily, the music holds up really well, even without the videos.  I will be happily stalking the Pomplamoose YouTube channel for more stuff from here on out.

No Comments »  

 Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky<< Adam, March 12th, 2010 >>

I’m sure by now you’ve seen:

If you haven’t, watch it and then come back.  This post will still be here.

Done?  Good, now let’s talk about OK Go.  Specifically, let’s talk about their most recent album, Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments »  

 The Wire: Season 1<< Adam, February 26th, 2010 >>

Finished up watching the first season of The Wire last night. Personally, I’m kind of torn on the series. Not torn enough to not give the second season a chance, but I wasn’t exactly blown away by the first season. Maybe it was because I felt like people had really hyped up the show, and my expectations were off.

This post is minorly spoilery, in terms of themes; I’m going to avoid talking about blatant plot points.

My difficulty stems from one pretty simple fact. When I get invested in some form of entertainment, whether it is TV, movies, books, or video games, I have certain expectations of what I tend to expect out of the protagonists. Mainly, I’m drawn to your stereotypical hero versus villain kind of set up. Consequently, I have certain, shall we say, requirements for my “heroes.”

If you’ve watched The Wire, you already know why I would struggle.

On one side of the story, you have the drug dealers. I’ll give The Wire credit here; it doesn’t try and make many of these characters sympathetic. They do sometimes, and they succeed or fail to greater or lesser extents with them (i.e. D’Angelo doesn’t win my sympathy, but Wallace kind of does). The show doesn’t really try to make excuses for these people; certainly not the people in charge. For that, I appreciate the writing. The whole, “only life I know” angle which often gets played out in these scenarios doesn’t resonate with me (you could probably analyze the reasons for that ad naseum), and luckily The Wire mostly avoids it.

On the other side of the story, you have the police. This is where my trouble starts. I immediately need/want these characters to be heroic, to some extent. After all, they’re police, right? The Wire makes it very clear from the start though, that none of these police are clean. They’ve all got something in the closet. This makes it very hard for me to become invested in any of them; it makes me struggle to keep watching the show as I don’t feel any reason to hope that they succeed.  I’m happy I didn’t give up on the series though, because over the course of the season I was admittedly very impressed with the arc that each police officer has the chance to go through.  Frankly, the unit as a whole goes through pretty much the same plot arc that a comic which creates a new super hero team goes through.  Getting the team together, the internal conflict, the understanding-of-each-other phase through to the you-make-me-better-by-being-around phase.  This, luckily, kept me interested, even as I was on-and-off disgusted with the actions that the officers sometimes took.

I can’t pretend that The Wire doesn’t simply remind me why I often tend towards fantasy/sci-fi fiction.  These genres don’t as often delve into the gray areas of the world; there is good and there is evil.  It’s usually pretty obvious what is good, and what is evil.  When I’m looking for entertainment from fiction, I don’t always enjoy being reminded who gray most of the world really is.  I know how rare the black and white decisions are, that’s why it’s nice to be able to escape to places where heroes are free to be heroic.

1 Comment »  

 Mass Effect 2<< Adam, February 22nd, 2010 >>

Having finally completed Mass Effect 2, I must say, it impressed the hell out of me.  I’m going to stay out of spoiler territory until after the click through link.  I don’t consider game mechanics spoiler territory, so we’ll go into all of that first.

Every review of Mass Effect 2 has noted the removal of a lot of RPG elements from the first game.  Whether you consider this “streamlining” or not depends a lot on your perspective.  Personally, I was happy with it.  The fun part of RPG games to me has never been in collecting massive amounts of crap to carry back to a vendor and sell.  It has never been min/maxing sets of weapons and armor.  It has always been about playing through an engrossing story.  Mass Effect 2 has basically decided that it just wants to be a shooter, but have a really fantastic story, and for that, I appreciate it.  There’s no more, “Hey, is this gun better than this one? ” nonsense.  You’re told flat out which guns are improvements to which guns.  To me, this is streamlining; in Mass Effect 1, it was simply a distraction.  Mainly, I think this works because the game is a shooter, and does in fact rely on the player to be “good” at the game.  This is in contrast to “traditional” RPGs where there are more number mechanics in play for miss chances, resistances, etc.

I had also forgotten how awesome the dialog system is in Mass Effect.  Mass Effect 2 leaves this system exactly intact – no tweaks or changes necessary here.  It was interesting to play Mass Effect 2 immediately after Dragon Age: Origins to compare the difference between having a main character that talks to one who doesn’t.  I actually feel like I know Commander Shepard, where my character in Dragon Age, for all her in-game world renown still felt completely anonymous to me.

As for how your decisions in Mass Effect affect Mass Effect 2?  Well, yes and no.  Your decisions come up.  Do they ever drastically change the nature of the game you’re playing?  No, not really.  In the end, these decisions end up being flavor more than anything.  I imagine that the same will hold true for the decisions you make in Mass Effect 2; your decisions will color the world, but they will not end up changing the overall course of events.  This actually comes out in the dialogue every once in awhile.  For example, in one character’s Loyalty mission, it is made fairly clear that no matter what action you take, there is no 100% guarantee that you could eliminate the threat you’re dealing with.  The writers are very crafty in giving themselves an “out” to make your decision be important, but strangely not have any permanence.

Inside, lets talk about the completely bad ass final mission.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments »