Sunday, May 15, 2022

Abandoned Project Circa 1988

Back in 1980s, Battle Tech was my favorite tabletop game. It was quick and easy to play. However, I was baffled by the plot line and story. I'd make up my own stories that covered the bases. 

What I really enjoyed was Robotech, I totally understood that plotline. At some point, I collected all of the Palladium game books. However, I was baffled by the difficulty in using the rules. It could take hours to kill one opponent. 

Then it hit me. I could use Battle Tech to play Robotech themed battles. Back then, the Unseen were common mechs between Battle Tech and Robotech. They had the Veritechs, they had the Maurader which was an Office's Battlepod. 

But what they were lacking was a standard Battlepod. If I could mash up Battle Tech and Robotech, and devise my own stories, I could certainly make a Battlepod. 

Yeah... I'd kitbashed some models together, but whipping up a figurine from scratch was beyond me. 

I dug through my models and stuff, trying to come up with something. Legs were easy, I used the Maurader model for those. The hips need to be reworked out of wood. Sculpting the engines were simply two U-shaped pieces of balsam. The feet were plastic beads. 

But what about the body? 

I found a skull ring that was about the right size. I shave it down on the sides and bulked up the chin with that green fill used for models. The central eye was a wheel from an airplane model, 1:144 scale. The guns were antennae and wheels from helicopters. 

I had done it!

Given it had taken me hours and hours to build the thing, I realized I could have exactly one. The bottleneck was the skull ring, something I got from a vending machine. Where Robotech depicts odds of 50 Battlepods to each Veritech, I had the opposite. 

How unsatisfying. 

A friend came to my rescue with a handful of bullets and a can of air vulcanizing rubber. It didn't go smoothly. The rubber reacted with some of the plastics and while it took the shape I needed, it melted the original. 

Tonight, I found the results of my experiment. There were a lot of blowouts. Sometimes it was the small details like guns. Other times, it was in the hip/leg joints.  

For the life of me, I cannot remember why I abandoned this. Unfortunately, half of the mold is missing. 


But I do have two useable models to start again. Maybe someday.  


Friday, May 13, 2022

Garden Images

Last year, I attempted a raised bed garden. It didn't really have a chance, but this year will be better. 

I have a few survivors from last year, a pair of strawberries, thyme, and 3 dill plants. I added purple basil and rosemary. 

Tomorrow, I will mulch and plant the rest the garden. After that comes some backbreaking work in the flower beds around the house. 

I need to figure out a table and chair set for the back. We have really nice lights so we can sit out and play games in the evening. I can't wait. 

Note to Self: Mistakes were Made...

I've known about this for years, but there is a way to turn off the keyboard on a laptop. About once every 3-5 years, one of my cats walks across my laptop and the whole keyboard goes dead except for a couple of navigation keys and the Fn keys. 

Maddening. 

Since it doesn't happen that often, I never remember the keystroke necessary to fix it. 

For the record and for the next time, the keystroke is Control+Alt+L. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

"Passion is inversely proportional to information had."

The above quote is from Gregory Benford. And it's a truism for RPGs. While I build beautiful worlds in my notes, very little of that makes it through to the players. I might know precisely why a gang of whatevers are doing whatever they are doing, but the players are satisfied with the idea that they are merely jerks. 

It works. Players like to have that room to grow, and they can't grow if smothered with too much B.S. 

There is nothing better than the party discovering some sort of detail that just works for them, but there are many cases where they have no opportunity to gain such information without a data dump. Some things just go to the grave with the player's antagonists. It's fine. 

But sometimes, I like to give information. For example, I hope that every player knows how to use the to-hit tables and can calculate their own bonuses or minuses. It makes my game easier. In fact, I often have the players throw dice for even the monsters. It cuts down on paperwork, but sometimes it is an opportunity to give them a hint about something outside of combat. 

For example, if two equal-level fighters are side by side, shooting arrows at a target and both roll the same number, both should hit or miss the target. However, this is a good place to drop a hint about other stuff. Obviously, two great fighting men should know how good they are. For example, someone might have a cursed weapon or a magic weapon. The target may have some magical device that only applies under certain circumstances like once per round. Once the party is aware of some weirdness, they can start ruling stuff out by logic, just like the real world. 

It's probably magic. 
It saves on the "+1 magic sword" crap. 

There are times to hide some rolls, such as surprise or hiding in shadows. But even those rolls can give information. 

One of my favorite tricks is when the party is surprised, I'll drop a die out of sight and say, "You hear a noise." Surprise is a surprise, there is very little you can do to mitigate it due to the mechanics. However, it isn't very fun to be surprised. By making that announcement and letting the party act accordingly, I am cranking up the pressure AND pushing agency to the party. It creates an environment of anxiety while allowing for possible (slight) mitigation PLUS it allows the players to set a standard of expectation that can easily be read. 

For example, if a party thinks they are in an ambush situation, they may try to arrange themselves in such a way as to defend high-value players like Clerics and Magic-Users with meatshield Fighters and Rangers. On the other hand, if they never do this, you can set a different dynamic where those players are captured or incapacitated and the party is looking at a hostage situation rather than a TPK. It's up to the DM to receive the party's intentions or style and react accordingly. 

One of my favorite experiences was a Thief who decided to sneak up to the walls of a fortification for a little recon. The whole party seemed to support the idea. I rolled for his hide in the shadows and move silently attempts. Each time, I rolled amazingly well. No one saw or heard anything. They were such good rolls that I showed the player her the results. Obviously, these should have been secret, but they were so perfect so I decided to show her. 

Then, disaster. The player of the Barbarian was having a little sidebar with another player when he suddenly realized stuff was happening and asked, "What's happening?" 

Once the party explained the plan, the Barbarian nodded sagely and bellowed, "Look out! I can see you!" 

Well of course you can see him. He isn't hiding from you, you twit. 

The sneaking Thief got this "Oh, shit" look on her face. I leaned over and showed her that the dice indicated she was still not visible to the people on the castle wall. 

To add to the merriment, I decided that the Barbarian's actions would be taken literally. The lookout on the wall answered: "Oh geez," and stepped back out of sight. 

"How about now?" asked the lookout. 

The party was gobsmacked. I gave them a few minutes to work out a plan. The Barbarian was drooling dumb and for once, his actual ability score matched the player's actions. The party adapted to the situation and everyone climbed the wall while the Barbarian offered unhelpful tips to the lookouts. No one intended this possibility, but damn it was fun. 

You can't hide everything all of the time, but you also can't data dump on the players too much. Even if it is mechanical in nature. Also, you shouldn't try too hard to hide certain bits of data. 

As a DM, you build a scenario, a story if you will, but you can't know how it will be received and interpreted. Information from the DM to the players is a fluid thing. You are effectively trying to merge the player's fictional actions with the player's visceral need for information. The DM needs to decide from the get-go what information is worth hiding and what is not. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Dungeons and Dragons and Amusement Parks

For years, I have wondered where my brain linked up D&D and amusement parks. 

Well, dang. It's half here: 


And the other half is right here at Darien Lake: 


From 1981 to 1987, I was a member of a church youth group. I wasn't that interested in the churchy aspects of the events, but really enjoyed the camping, trips to Darien Lake, and several other events. I mention Darien Lake and camping primarily because they involved games. All kinds of games. 

(Editorial note: My parents were church shoppers, I dug in my heels with this choice as the young group. It was something I really appreciated even if the religion was not my own. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. There are a ton of ministries that have excellent outreach to any and all who have at least some of the same beliefs. It's always worth a look. ) 

On one of the first trips with the youth group, someone busted out a brand new copy of Top Secret. We thought it was like D&D. 

Nope. 

Bang. Dead. Start again. All rainy weekend long. 

The girls didn't get it and neither did I. Eventually, we all ended up in the park. 

Future trips were a lot better. A kid named Ethan pulled out a game called Toon. Unfortunately, this was somehow mixed up with a copy of Bunnies and Burrows and the insert to Bone Hill but no cover/map. No one could make heads or tails of it, I can't even say we had a whole set or multiple sets. Obviously, it was an older siblings' boxed set.  

However, I did get the references as Watership Down is one of my favorite books. Being 12 or 13, I knew I wanted the girls to play, and soon there were a dozen of us kids sitting at the table playing a game half-imagined by me and completely bought by the others. Somehow, I made pine cones and rocks become creatures, and chips, pretzels, and chocolate kisses were resources. 

I knew I was winning when the Reverend asked us if we wanted to go on the rides and three of the girls said, "No." Invariably, we would play games until it was "last call", when the adults told us there would be no more time for rides and roller coasters. We'd cram in a handful of rides just to say we did. 

I eventually fell away from that particular church for one of my own choosing, but the memories of that youth group were amazing. And has shaped how I choose to play. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Lego TIE Fighter


At Christmas, I picked up a replacement X-Wing and TIE fighter lego set for my son, Nate. Amusingly, I also got a TIE fighter for Christmas. It took a couple of months to open it and put it together. 

I figure this is a good way to test a new way of displaying images from a Google Photo Album. It sort of looks like a Youtube Video, but if you mouse over it, you will get a controller to flip through the images. Additionally, you can simply wait 5 seconds for the image to change. 

If this works out, I probably use it for all of my photos. 

Anyway, I should mention that I am giving Rankuten ads one more try, so scroll to the bottom of the post if you need to purchase some Lego Products like this T.I.E. Fighter. 



As promised, here is your advertising link. Click the image to go to Lego.com.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Building a Better Shelfie

I have six shelves to fill. I thought it would be interesting to make a post about each one as I fill them up. 

Today, I filled shelf five. Why start at five? It's at eye level. 

The books are a favorite of mine. The image is blurry, but the title reads: "The New Junior Classics". 

Volume 1: Fairy and Wonder Tales
Volume 2: Folk Tales and Myths
Volume 3: Tales From Greece and Rome
Volume 4: Heroes and Heroines of Chivalry
Volume 5: Stories That Never Grow Old
Volume 6: Old-Fashioned Tales
Volume 7: Stories of Courage and Heroism
Volume 8: Animal and Nature Stories
Volume 9: Stories of To-Day
Volume 10: Poems Old and New; Reading Guides and Indexes 

It was published in 1912 by Collier as an answer to the 51-volume set of Harvard Classics. They are contemporaneous publications, one for adults and one for children.

My grandfather purchased a set for my father in the 1950s and of course, my dad gave it to me. While mine was lost, I have made an eBay investment so that my children may each have a copy. It is not as pricey as you'd think, but even at 10 times the price, I'd do it. 

Just reading through the titles of each volume sparks ideation. I can't tell you how many ideas have leapt off the pages and into my D&D campaigns. They are really good for that sort of thing. My personal favorite is Tales from Greece and Rome. 

On the right side of the shelf is a family favorite, rug checkers. The story about it is here in a post from September of last year. 

I mentioned this post to my children and they issued a correction. Darien Lake, both the theme park and the State Park has a set of checkers like this. So do all of the Boy Scout Camps we've ever visited. 

Yes, this simple checker set gets a premium spot on the shelf. 

I should be emptying boxes for weeks to come. As I find more stuff for the shelf, I'll update the blog. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Returning...

We have returned home. 

I'd like to show off some of the features of the all restored house, so of which didn't go off as planned. I asked my wife for a shelf for my games and this is what happened: 


On the bottom shelf, to the right of the cat is a set of 12 travel-sized board games. So, I guess I got my way. Down in the basement, there is plenty of room for shelves. This is plenty of room for books and knick-knacks. I play on arranging it very similar to what we had at the rental house, with a mixture of gamebooks, board games, and other things. 

I am very excited about the walls, which look like garbage right now. Since they look so poor but have a great surface, my wife has granted permission for a themeing. My daughter and I have picked Alice in Wonderland for the theme. It's a great idea with warrens, castles, and forests. A lot of dissimilar pieces could fit there. 

For example, few weeks ago I purchased a collection of stock art by Jermey Hart which we plan to print and use detail pieces for the room. 

In addition to that, we picked up a great conversation piece: A rabbit named Bo. 

What else would you need for an Alice in Wonderland space? 

This was a carefully considered option, one we jumped at due to the time of year. Sadly, two weeks after Easter the SPCA is overwhelmed by surrendered bunnies. A rabbit for easter is a cute idea but often very poorly executed. 

My wife and I have 3 kids: two 17-year-olds and a 19-year-old. I extracted a promise that each of them would spend at least 30 minutes a day with the rabbit. 

Rabbits also need a large space for living and play. At the moment with have a 7 by 10 area in the basement which will be supplemented with an outdoor pen space for playtime. Since we have hawks in the area, unattended outdoors time is not going to happen. Because of this, when time permits, I will be lifting the hutch area of the basement floor, to allow more space for him to play. I'm shooting for 2-3 feet off the ground. 

Right now, we are acclimatizing our other pets to the rabbit. One cat, Shinobu, has zero interest in the rabbit. Saraphina is rather afraid of the rabbit. And Tori, our dog barks and barks at it. 

Since we can segregate the animals from one another, I expect that things will eventually settle down.

Back upstairs, we have a couple a family slash gaming spots. The living room has a massive furry ottoman while the kitchen breakfast counter will feature 3 stools. Behind the counter space will be a table with seats for up to four other people. We haven't received the table and seats yet as they are on backorder. About 2 weeks. 

Anyway, the ottoman sits between a nice chair and a sofa, if no one wants to sit on the floor. We have a tray for food and rolling dice. Along the far wall is an electric fireplace for atmosphere. This fireplace features orange and purple flames. There is no way to mistake it for a real fire. 

In addition to that, I picked up an oil defuser. This particular one is Disney themed. We have scents that smell like the Confectionary on Main Street, the Christmas Tree Shop, Space Mountain plus a few others. If you can't do incense or candles, this is the way to go for aromas.

I can't wait to get back to play. But given I have just moved back home and need to get things settled, it could be a while. 

Edited to add pictures of the sofa and chair. 



Color Palette: