Sunday, April 18, 2021

This Is Not Post 999

This is not post 999. 

This whole blogging thing started back in 2011. I wanted to create a blog about the game MYST. Check out this link to The Wayback Machine to my first website called Pretender to the Power

Back then I had some goals that are still a driving force on this current iteration of my blog. I had an update section, a piece on artwork, models and figurines, a planned section for music which never really got off the ground, a movie review section which I only tangentially touch on for These Old Games, computer write ups, and plans to add more.

A decade later, many or most of these ideas still drive me. A little over 10 years of practice has lead me to over a thousand blog posts when you count all of the stuff lost over the various iterations of this blog. 

So, this is not 999. It's more. And it will continue to be more. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review - The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Tradition

Title: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Tradition
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Year: 2019
Pages: 65 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is designed for Labyrinth Lord as part of the Back to Basic series. Originally, it started as a joke on everything Pumpkin Spice themed. It roughly follows the other books in the series, with the exception of some level limits for non-human characters. 

This is my favorite of the series. While not entirely tongue in cheek, it's a fun read. In my mind, it comes across like the film A Knight's Tale. Popular culture is mixed up and presented in a timeless way. The idea of harvest, fall and Halloween is in this products DNA, but in a way which would detract from a series Dungeons and Dragons experience. Yes, there are jokey bits, but they are well thought out so they don't break the theme of D&D. If you like Angel or Buffy, these details will be right up your alley. 

This particular set calls out Labyrinth Lord but readers will find that it is a nice addition to any basic era game such as BlueHolme or the Red box set. With a little adaption, this book could be plugged into a great many rule sets like AD&D. The author specifically mentions a desire for this title to be cross-compatible, but noted they didn't make that the focus of this work. I suspect that Mr. Brannan wanted this book to cover a far wider range of game systems than I am familiar with using. Even if it doesn't go there, it's still a rock solid offering. 

Usually when I do a review, I mention the artwork. This product is loaded with artwork. I didn't count, but it seems like every other page or every third has something. In this book, most of the artwork is quarter page and inline with the text, rather that being placed in the centerline like 3.5 books. Again, like the subject matter the book, the artwork has a gothic summer turned autumn feel. 

Somehow, this version of the witch character class feels old, but not too old. It invokes a pleasant feeling of Deja Vu of my college days, when game night also featured a movie or TV before or after. That feeling of people just out to get together and have fun. 

Reviewer's note: The date is taken from the forward, this could be the most recent update rather than the original publication date. If that is the case, my apologies but then that also means the author is providing an excellent experience by routinely updating his works. 

The Tek - Stats for March 2021

EDIT - Even more confusion to the mix. I figured out why my stats looked wrong. Google Analytics pulled half the data from 2020 and half from 2021. I have no idea how that happened. I've updated this post with accurate webstats now. Sorry about that. 

March was a confusing month. I tripled the number of downloads from DriveThru in a month where I removed the direct links from the sidebars of my website. 

AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 2
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 3
Kobold's Folly: 1
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 2
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 2
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 4

I've decided how I am going to change The Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D. It will be renamed "The Character Pack for D&D and AD&D" and I will place all of my home brewed characters in it. They will get the same treatment as my Unicorn Character Class and be bundled together. The price will remain the same, PWYW. 

I am looking at the Monomach, Hoodlum and Unicorn class right now for cleanup. I am thinking I will do a 3 page write up for each and make them their own "booklets". The Swashbuckler will have two booklets, the original and a new tweaked version based on character play.

The deadline is "I don't know". 

Webstats felt very good but also perplexing. I am way down, so I don't get it. 

Google Analytics Pageviews - 805
Google Analytics Sessions - 533
Pageviews per Session - 1.53

Back in Dec-Jan. someone pointed out my commenting system was locked up. By unlocking it, I have a lot more guests posting and commenting. 

My other goal for March and April is to give my series posts logos. Disneyified logos like so: 

At least the most recent series: Star Wars, Keep on the Borderlands and Peninsula of Plenty. Right now I have zero time for session play, but this summer I think I will have time. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Boastful History - Julius Caesar

History is loaded with entertaining and surprising stories. Some of them are just as interesting as movies are now-a-days. 

Today, I like to share the story by Plutarch of Chaeronea about Young Julius Caesar and the Pirates. 

The Romans were never the greatest sailors so piracy was rampant in the Mediterranean. It didn't help that the pirates would take prisoners and sell them to the Romans, so they very people who should have put a stop to the practice were instead benefiting from the pirate's activities. At least in the short run. 

The Cilicians were a group of pirates allied to Mithradates of Pontus, an enemy nation. The Cilicians would ransom the rich prisoners and sell the poor as slaves, which is evidence of the often short sightedness of the Romans. They were filling the coffers of Mithradates and damaging their own citizens when purchasing slaves or buying freedom. 

Enter a 25 year old Julius. He was taken captive in 75 BC. The pirate captain demanded a ransom of 20 talents for the return of Julius. Julius laughed. He demanded that they ask for no less that 50. The captain, of course, agreed. 

So began 38 days of wackiness. Julius joined the crew in their duties, cleaning and maintaining the ship. He organized games and physical contests with the pirates. He wrote poems and presented them to the crew. If crew didn't recognise his great work, he'd call them illiterate and threaten to hang* them. The same threat was issued if the pirates were too loud while he was sleeping. 

After 38 days, the ransom was paid and Julius was set free. 

Julius raised a fleet of ships and captured the Cilician pirates as they sat anchored at the city of Miletus. The pirates were all taken captive and marched before the Governor of Asia, a man named Marcus Junius for punishment. Junius hemmed and hawed about punishing the pirates as they were a source of revenue. 

Annoyed, Julius marched the pirates out to the coast and had them all hung*.

It sounds like the bit in the Princess Bride about Dread Pirate Roberts and Wesley, from a different perspective. If you assume they are the same story, Wesley becomes a different sort of character. Very often, historical stories like this make their way into my campaigns. 

*Hanging as a Roman punishment meant crucifiction. Romans wouldn't bother with rope if they meant to strangle someone. They'd use their hands. Strangulation fell between crucifixion and defenestration, throwing a person off a building or cliff. The Romans codified everything. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Good Finds for the Gaming Garden

I had epic luck today. I found a bunch of things for my gaming garden. 

First up, solar lights. 

The flower shaped ones are from the Dollar Store. The really bright ones are from Ollies. I paid about $21 for 13 of them. I have no intention of leaving them in the raised bed, I'll probably arrange them around the hot tub and along the back of the garden. 

The raised bed is almost complete, I need to put up a center rail and some screens or chicken wire to protect the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil and thyme from the bunnies. The goal is canning pickles and gardenia all from my own garden. 

I should have done cauliflower, onions and hot peppers, but I am out of space. This bed is 4 feet by 8 and everything that can go on trellises will. The problem is, I have 52 seedlings ready to go. 

That is where the garden hooks and random pots come in. I want the herbs to come inside at the end of the growing season, so I'll need to put them in pots. That covers about 12 plants. I figure I can squeeze 24 plants into the raised bed. I want to grow some under the arrowwood tree, which will be another 2. I need to find space for 14 more plants. 

I went a little crazy. 

In other news, I picked up a great book for a dollar. Swords' Masters is an omnibus by Fritz Leiber including three novels: 

Swords Against Wizardry (1968),
The Swords of Lankhmar (1968),
and Swords and Ice Magic (1968).

He is one of my favorite writers and I can't believe what a great deal I got on this hardcover. The cover is a bit... 80s? I don't know. The stories are better than the cover art, so I'll ignore it. I guess you now know what are the next three books I review will be. 

You can pick a copy up at Amazon for less than 15 bucks. 

My final find was a length of rope. What adventurer doesn't have some rope? This one is in blue so I don't hit it with the lawnmower. The dog was very excited when I cobbed together a lead for her out of it. She loves being outside and will probably be a part of game night in the garden. 

New Mutants - Review

I've been a long time fan of The New Mutants. The idea of seeing the characters come to life on the big screen got me really excited. 

Until I saw it. This damn film has been to Limbo more times than Illyana has. It was not worth the wait, it seems to suffer from some sort of technovirus in addition to many questionable story and plot choices. 

Here is the run down of the character's names and powers: 

Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane. A mutant that can take the form of a wolf or a transitional human/wolf form. She has all of the sense of wolves plus more strength and perhaps a healing factor. 

Sam Guthrie, Cannonball. Can generate thrust anywhere on his body to propel himself through the air. While thrusting, he is impervious to anything. He does not have a healing factor. 

Roberto "Bobby" da Costa, Sunspot. Bobby has the ability to absorb sunlight and use it to empower himself with great strength, invulnerability and flames. 

Danielle "Dani" Moonstar, Mirage. Dami has the ability to project people's greatest fears and make them real. Historically, she not good at nicknames. Not only has her character changed her own code name in the comics several times, she doesn't even use other people's code names. A rare inversion of the "movie stars have no comic book codenames" trope. 

And finally, Illyana Rasputin. Magik. Oh, boy. She's a sorceress with a magic sword, the ability to teleport, partial body armor, a tail, and a baby dragon. 

There are only three other characters, Dani's dad, the Demon Bear and the evil doctor Dr. Cecilia Reyes who can make force shields.   

The film does a variable job at depicting the character's powers on a budget. The effects were on-par with Ready Player One which is not a complement. Ready Player One was a massive mashup of decades worth of video game art which works in that film. It isn't great for other film types like New Mutants.  

The whole premise of the movie didn't make sense. The kiddos are trapped or staying a hospital for mutants. The hospital had a staff of one, Dr. Reyes. 

Now, I've had a bit of experience working with kids and young adults. The first rule of these sorts of operations are two deep leadership. If you are not using two deep leadership, you're an imbecile. Dr. Reyes is an imbecile, she's trying keep the kiddos in the hospital all alone. Sam, Bobby and Rahne have given themselves over to the idea of staying. That kind of works. Dani is uncertain as to what is happening, leaving her open to staying or escaping as the chance presents. That doesn't go well at all. 

The final character, Illyana has something else going on. She's a mass murderer and can teleport. Why is she still here, if not to kill everyone else in the film? And she definitely hates everyone, in a nasty condescending, racist way.  

As far depicting superpowers, they did a good job for a few of the characters. Sam's blasting ability was a great special effect. Dani and Rahne power's appear reasonable well done, magic and werewolves are classic B-movie fodder. They couldn't have done this poorly if they had tried. I think they tried. Bobby's abilities were just ho-hum. Illyana's powers come off as a cheap video game most of the time for no good reason. 

Magik has the most wide ranging abilities, each with a vast scope. But they attempted to confine her character in tight spaces, like either Nightcrawler in the Oval Office or Captain America in the elevator. It was not a good choice because she has a massive frickin' sword. It looks like she can't fit in those spaces. When she gets out the open, they do a far better job at displaying her powers but by that time they had already decided on the video game style which wasn't applicable to the filming process.

Far too much time was spent on Rahne, who is a the most likeable character in the film but not the protagonist. They were one step away from having "The Wolfsbane Movie" and failed to make it. That would have been better than this, even if it was called, "A Werewolf in Starbucks". 

My favorite bit was everytime Sam used his powers. He displays these brilliant blue/orange shimmery flames like charcoal on the grill which is an amazing play on his character. Magik was shown trying to knock the Demon Bear into Limbo. It made perfect sense since she couldn't win in straight combat, but this tactic was negated by the strange video game special effects. It was kind of hard to tell that was her intent rather than random flashy scenery. The Demon Bear was awesome and terrifying, but the viewer shouldn't be rooting for the villain. 

All and all, I give it one and half stars of five. Maybe you should read my 5 star review of Dungeons and Dragons (2000) to evaluate how not good this was.  

Now showing on HBOMax, but you could wait a bit longer.