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July 21, 2008

I spent the entirety of last week in Los Angeles, helping out at Massively for E3. E3, if you’re not familiar with it, used to be the premiere videogames industry event. Held every year at the LA Convention Center, it was an over-the-top show full of new games, huge televisions, and scantily clad women. It’s now a purely media-and-business focused show, with a focus on giving the attendees a chance to focus on the games (instead of the spectacle). This is, in theory, a good thing. A problem has arisen, though, as developers and publishers begin to hold their own events throughout the year. Other industry events like the Penny Arcade Expo, Comic-Con, and even Gen Con have taken up some of the slack. You can see some excellent analysis of last week’s announcements in the Bonus Round posted this past weekend.

As for me, I essentially spent every waking moment trying to get stuff on the site with the exception of Friday. Friday early morning found me at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles having some really delicious foods. If you ever have the chance to consume their “chicken”, which is really unicorn meat, do so. With gravy. Friday morning I saw the Dark Knight with my co-bloggers, which I greatly enjoyed. It’s a fantastic movie, really stretches the bounds of what you think of when you consider a super-hero movie.

As per the norm when I get back from covering an event, I’ve got a ton of stuff to get done today. Thankfully, it’s pretty much just today – I’ve kept on top of my material pretty well. Hooray! So when I get through the content early this week I should have a schedule clear enough to tackle the other projects I’ve got to get done for the end of the week. Good times.



July 7, 2008

So, it’s been a rough two weeks or so. More calls to the law officers on the home front, as well as doctor visits and etc etc. Not worth sharing, really. Yesterday was a particularly bad slice of hell, as I managed to let some kind of bug or toxin into my system. Shared a veggie pizza with Elijah on Saturday that I think was the carrier, but he didn’t get sick. Maybe it’s all his clean living? Either way, Sunday is mostly a blur of pain, sweating, and nausea. I’m feeling quite a bit better today, but took it kind of easy this morning just the same. Tried to get up at the usual time and found looking at a monitor had me breaking out into a cold sweat. A few more hours sleep and I was able to get back on the job.

This week is going to be primarily spent readying for E3 next week. It’s traditionally been the biggest event in videogaming, where publishers roll out all the information on upcoming games to get players tempted for the fall releases. The last few years have seen it decreasing in value, to press and gamer alike. I’m not particularly looking forward to it, to be honest. Going to be a lot of work for I’m-not-sure-how-much in return.

I’m looking at it as an opporunity. It’s going to be a big challenge, operating in one of my least-favorite cities and dealing with an event I fundamentally don’t care about. I’m still going to have to produce, and produce well – “real” work as opposed to the day-to-day focused activities I find myself doing at Massively.

Next month is Gen Con and the month after that is AGDC – both of which I have a lot of appreciation for. GenCon in specific is pretty much my only annual vacation, and this year’s going to be a ‘big deal’. The new edition of Dungeons and Dragons will weigh heavily on the event, and I’m going to be spending some time with the associates at Gamers with Jobs. New and old meeting in a delicious blend of taste sensations.

I also want to note (not that anyone probably recalls) that I’m still very much on-track with my diet. I’ve got an entire month of notes down in my spreadsheet now, with July ticking nicely along … not that yesterday had much in the way of food to note. Since the beginning of the year I’ve lost about 30 pounds, though much of that was the result of exercise and not dieting. Now with my dieting pretty well in place I’m going to try to add exercise back into the equation (after E3, I’m thinking). This combination of diet and exercise is the lifestyle alignment I just couldn’t get right last year – I think it’ll be really important for me.


The Vermin Handler

June 20, 2008

See, stuff like this is why I absolutely love Fourth Edition. This is a stat block for a new kobold released today in a new Dragon Magazine article. It’s called the “Vermin Handler.”

I just love this schtick! You can see him using that Vermin Cage ability clear as day. He sort of scuttles to the side of a battle, picks out the most heavily armed fighter, and chucks his box of bugs right at the melee guy’s head! Bugs and wood go flying and the poor bastard with the sword has to swat and swear at his armor until he kills most of them off. Brilliant.

Of course, my players aren’t facing down this guy. I’ve got a couple of much nastier tricks up my sleeve. Hee! I’m still not one of those GMs that thinks its his job to kill the PCs, but I can’t help but cackle with glee that finally – FINALLY – I’ve got some toys of my own to play with.


The Bunny Did It

June 20, 2008

I’ve never had someone request a blog post before, but Alan did so via email yesterday. I feel inclined to acquiesce.  This is the story of what can happen when three college-age gamers stay up way too fragging late having fun with what they do.

Also, I should point out that tabletop roleplaying is not *all* wanton violence and murder. It’s actually a very subtle mix of storytelling and tense action; the best moments I’ve experienced at a gaming table are locked in my head just as vividly as any movie. This … em … is not one of those moments.

So, warning: incredibly juvenile, inappropriate humor coming up. This was done at like 3 in the morning during college, and was almost certainly one of the most innocent things happening at that hour in Iowa City’s downtown. Don’t take this out of context and be horrified please (Mom).

Read the rest of this entry »



June 19, 2008

If you’ve ever met me in person, you’re probably already aware that I’m not really hung up on style. To be honest, on a day to day basis I care more about how my avatar looks than I do about what I’m wearing. Oh EQ2’s appearance armor system – if only you were in every game.

Fundamentally, that lack of interest in my physical appearance is a symptom of my general priorities in life. Some people are very grounded in the physical, the emotional, the present and the realized. I’m very much one of those castle-in-the-air idea guys, more interested in the intellectual, the educational, the future and the possible. Generally so is Katie, which is probably why we have to take on mammoth cleaning projects sometimes (heh).

That’s the causative factor for my generally informal appearance, but it expresses itself in a number of other ways both positive and negative. I think I’m a decent writer, for example, and I’m not a bad guy to have around when you’re doing crossword puzzles. I’m also fat. Out of shape, obese, overweight, whatever you’d like to call it, my general disinterest in my physical existence has meant that food was never something to consider, really. As such, I’ve got some pretty screwed up eating habits – the result is visible even at a glance; I’m not a tiny guy.

That said, I think I’ve always ‘carried my weight well’, which is an odd saying. I’m not one of those dudes that you sort of shift your eyes away from when he rolls into a room; I’m just fat. I’ve always needed to lose some weight, for as long as I remember, and out through college that gap between ‘need to lose’ and ‘really should lose’ got bigger. This period culminated during my time working at Douglas Stewart, when literally the only time I felt like I could get some degree of control over my lot in life when I was going through a drive through. That was an expensive and extremely unhealthy way of looking at life, and I think I’m still paying it off.
I’ve been in a healthier place for a long time now, but I’ve only off-and-on approached the subject of my health with any seriousness. I’m happy to say that one of those time is now, and I have hopes that this time, unlike all the other times, I’m really going to get into some positive habits that will stand in good stead.

My friend Alan and my mother-in-law Libby are kinda-sorta inspirational here, having gone through their own weight-related challenges in the last few years. I’m taking a page from their book and tackling this subject in a way that makes me comfortable. In this case, it’s actually very similar to what Alan used: calorie counting. He called it ‘Weight Watchers’, and I’m using an online document called ‘The Hacker’s Diet’. No Mountain Dew involved, I can assure you.

Basically, it’s Weight Watchers done with some math, a few spreadsheets, and a bit of planning. I used it very successfully for two months early last year before going through a rough patch and losing my way. This time around I’m seeing similar successes, but feel a lot more involved in process generally. I think (overall) I’ve made a lot of good choices about my life in the last year, and I want to be an important part of the ongoing bug fixing I do on my existence.

Here’s hoping I get the routine running correctly this time. If I do, maybe I’ll have a few more options in the clothing department.


Defragging Reality

June 18, 2008

Sometimes your life gets too cluttered. If it’s anything like mine, way too cluttered. Old receipts, bills, clothes, books, software, manuals, movies, videogames, dishes, silverware, pots, pans, tchotchkes, comics, bags, chairs, tables, desks, personal electronics, toys, stuffed animals … the amount of stuff in my little tiny apartment is staggering.

So I’m doing away with some of it, simplifying, in an effort to streamline my existence. The easiest thing to do is donate some old clothes. I’ve had t-shirts from my high school days sitting in the back of our closet for years now. Old shoes … I even found an old pajama t-shirt I thought I’d worn into oblivion. It’s interesting and insightful to go through your old things and defrag a bit.

My next project is going to be my books. With my new Kindle in the house, all the dead tree I own is just a liability. Even my gaming books, traditionally objects I’ve viewed with an unhealthy reverence, are going to go under the chopping block this time. Old editions of main books, sourcebooks aplenty, cheap fantasy novels — stuff I’m never going to read again. It’s all going out via the ministrations of Amazon or Frugal Muse (our favorite used book store).

The current project (before I get to the books) is to finish the clothes. See, I’m all set, but Katie … not so much. I quite literally had to explode our bedroom in order to get a full look at the situation – and it’s not pretty. I’m surrounded by her shoes, dresses, and such, and we’re going to have to go through all of it before we get our living room OR our closet back.

I’m going to cop to this: it was kind of a dick thing, forcing the issue. But sometimes the clutter gets too bad, and you’ve got to do a forced defragging. This was one of those times, and I think our movement around the apartment (and through life in general) will be improved by it.


Behind the Screen

June 17, 2008

I fear you’re going to have to bear with some interminable D&D-related discussion over the next several months. I’m once again at the head of the table, doing my game master thing for a group of unlucky players. This time around, it’s the fourth edition of Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m almost speechless with excitement. I’ve been waiting to do this for the better part of a year, and now that the hour is at hand I find myself a little taken aback by the game’s promise.

Sunday myself and a group of friends sat down to get characters created. A good time was had by all relaxing and enjoying the company of fellow gamers. The party is Katie, Erich, Jeff, Ben, and Jeff’s friend Matt, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting only a few times before. It’s always interesting gaming with someone new, but in a way that’s sort of the point. Getting to try out old tricks on new people, seeing new ways of dealing with the usual encounters … it’s all awesome.

I’ve recently realized that if my experience playing tabletop RPGs was a person, they’d be able to vote. My first system was TMNT & Other Strangeness, and my first player was my aunt. That was actually my first gaming experience ever, being the GM. Very foreshadowy. My first experience as a player was as a short-lived mutant weasel. That was a sad night in New York City’s harbor.

Now during the week I’m finding it ever-so-enjoyable to work out encounters and plot for the game. It’s mostly been me noodling story concepts, actually, because coming up with actual encounters is really, really easy. The new rules are so easy that I would feel comfortable completely winging a session, if I were inclined to do so. Sometime down the road I may even do that (without telling the players) just to see what it’s like.

For thiscoming Sunday, I’m setting the stage for all of what’s to come – hopefully, an interesting but not driving plotline peppered with unique combat encounters. This time it’s all coming out of my brain, no safety net. Not even a real campaign setting, just the ‘points of light’ pastiche they give you in the main books and the preview tomes.

Should be fun.