Friday, April 29, 2011


In our Council of Thieves game last night, our party finally hit 8th level.  This is somewhat of a milestone, because I don't think I've been in a campaign that lasted this long.  I think it's a milestone for GM Jared (KnightErrantJR) Rascher too. 

So I'm trying to pick out what my bard (Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe - the "t" is not silent, but it is diminished.  Pretend you are going to pronounce the "t", but then don't.  It's an affectation.)  is going to do.  At this point, I really can't see him hitting any prestige class.  I briefly thought about harrower, because it looks so durn fun, but the bard is so much a secondary caster that losing all of the bard class advancement and only gaining new spells would really hurt.  (Sometime in the future, I'd love to play a Sorcerer or Wizard slash Harrower.  Maybe even a cleric.  But not my Bard.)

So he's Bard 8.  At 8th level, he gets one stat increase.  He's got a 24 Charisma (including a +2 headband).  All of his other stats are even numbers, so nothing is going to mean an increase to a modifier.  I'm probably just going to put the +1 into Charisma, bringing it to 25.  Either the campaign will last until 12th level when he'll hit 26, or I'll buy a Tome and bring it up magically.

He gets 9 skill points, which I'll used to bump Linguistics, Spellcraft, Use Magical Device, and three different Perform skills to keep them maxed out.  Then I'll distribute the other three points into maybe perception.  At 10th level, he's going to get to use another perform check to substitute for a skill, and I'm thinking Dance will give him Acrobatics and Fly, so it might be good to start putting ranks into Dance.  So I'll go 2 points perception, one point dance.

Spells:  Here's where I'm having trouble deciding.  Chesterfield gets one more 3rd level spell, and one 2nd level spell.  He can also retrain one spell.

Leading candidates for 3rd level spell: Charm MonsterHaste, Major Image, or Slow.

Charm Monster plays into my having Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus (Enchantment).  Haste is a huge party buff (that doesn't help me at all).  Major Image is the big big brother to Silent Image, and Slow is a huge de-buff for all the bad guys.  Chesterfield already has Scrying and Confusion (which did awesome work against a gang of rogues last night!!!).  I'm thinking that I'll take Slow at 8th level, Charm Monster at 9th level, and then Haste/Silent image for my extra spells at later levels.

Candidates for 2nd level spell: Actually, Calm Emotions looks to be really good.  It could potentially end a fight before it begins.  I've seldom used Chesterfield's Enthrall or Ghostbane Dirge spell, so I might trade one out for Gallant Inspiration (+2d4 applied retroactively to a failed attack or skill check!!) 

Other choices?  Hmm.  I think that's it.  I get some hit points.  I get more rounds of bardic performance per day.  I get another +1 to all my knowledge checks (8th level/2=+4 to knowlege checks).  The will save versus my music goes up.

The only problem with this character is that I don't have any idea what he's going to be when he grows up.  I mean he just slowly accumulates these abilities, and spells that he knows.  But there's no goal for him.  No "when he hits 10th level, he's going to have this feat chain, or this combination, or whatever".  Maybe this is a good thing.  As a bard goes, he's top notch in party support.  He can buff party members, screw over the enemy, and make skill checks like nobody's business.  (Other than failing a DC43 Diplomacy roll last night.  He would have succeeded if I had remembered that I had Timely Inspiration that would have retroactively added +2 to his skill check.  Argh!!)

I'm having fun playing this character, and hopefully we'll actually get to finish this campaign.  (Hoping Jared has no immediate family/personal/professional troubles that cause the campaign to end!)


Yep.  It's that time of year.  At least once a year, I get sick with something.  Tuesday, I had a tickle in my throat that I just put down to an maybe having scraped the back of my throat with a popcorn bit.  (You know, those little bits of the covering of the popcorn kernel...).  Wednesday morning, I woke up, and instantly knew that I wasn't that lucky.  Yesterday I was mostly miserable.  Today is about the same.  Following my lovely and brilliant wife's advice, I took Advil, which helped.  (I know that "Take Advil" doesn't seem like particularly brilliant advice, but she knew enough to know that I wouldn't have thought of it myself.) 

Today, I've taken Advil, Aspirin, and my usual daily assortment of blood pressure/heart meds.  I still have this headache that feels like a combination of high stress (muscles around neck and skull pulled tight) and high blood pressure (kind of like my left eyeball wants to pop itself), but it's down to a dull stabbing pain.

I'm hoping that I'll be all better by Monday.

I also found out last night that the meeting that I was traveling to week after next has been moved to next week instead.  And I've already got my plane tickets, and my equipment won't be there nearly in time for me to do anything worthwhile next week.  So I'm keeping my original travel date, and just missing the meeting.  (I need to do experimenting and self-educating, which was the secondary reason for the trip).

Monday, April 25, 2011


Someone suggested that since we don't have a good way to travel together, we should get a Zeppelin.  This is such a cool idea.  (Okay, it would be filled with ordinary air (or even have the whole interior spaces be usable space!), and have anti-grav generators to lift it.  But still!!!!) Oh, and it would need to have a teleport pad in it.

I was thinking about names, and trying to get ideas.

I come up with

The Jimmy Page
Sarcastic's Folly (goes over like a lead baloon...?)
The Fifth Dimension ("up up and away, in my beautiful balloon...")
The 100th Luftballon (Maybe Dr. Strasser would like that name.)
New Cap City (from the show)

Any ideas?

How many build points would a Zeppelin Base be?


Mister Sarcastic takes an Inopportune Nap

The reorganization of Team Falcon is still shaking itself out.  Bureaucracy moves slowly, and even Mister Sarcastic can't seem to speed it up.

As the team takes a couple of days without strife to get back to what they might consider normal, Mister S attempts, but fails to get an approving nod from his newly hired boss Agent Randall to "stir the pot" by giving information about the Dreamcatcher taking the souls of the Auntie Agony clones to either Usurper, or Auntie Agony.

Strobe, while walking between classes witnesses a rather large explosion in the physics lab at her college.  She contacts the team, and Mister Sarcastic attempts to coordinate the response before teleporting himself on scene.  He and Strobe enter the lab, which is filled with smoke, and a very loud banging noise.  Strobe is shot at by a centaur-like creature outside of the lab, and while Mister S offers to assist her, she states that she can handle the shooter while S goes to investigate.

Sarcastic continues into the lab, and calls out through the smoke, attracting the attention of two rather large rather strong goons.  (Later identified as The Hatchet, and Sun Burst).  These guys quickly take Mister S from completely healthy to knocked out.  To add insult to injury, they throw him onto the approaching HURT van, completely taking him out of combat.

The rest of the team arrives, along with a bunch of agents from ACME, intent on stealing a superweapon that was being developed at the lab.

Team Falcon (minus Mister Sarcastic) then proceeds to take apart the acme gang one villain at a time (including a very fun segment where Strobe essentially flirted with Sun Devil into taking out ACME agents for her).  Doctor Strasser used his entropy field to great effect destroying or damaging whatever came in contact with him.  Even Max did some work as a UAV battlefield eye in the sky.

Eventually, once all the enemy were bugging out, Stephanie roused Mister Sarcastic.  The centaur, now found to be named "Sagitarii" had loaded the van, but it was found to have been disabled in its collision with Stephanie.  (Somehow she needs "Weapon Proficiency:Van").  A short negotiation ensued, some cash changed hands, and the weapon was saved.

Thus ended the battle.

Storyline wise - this seemed like a great way to introduce our newest PC, Sagitarii - Mercenary Centaur-Archer with bills to pay.

Random Pointed Question

Why is it that since Josh Frost left Paizo, and his role as OP Campaign Manager was filled by not one, but two people, that the rules of that game have become even less clear, and that every single rule now appears to be up for grabs?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shackled City Photo

We had our bi-weekly Shackled City game tonight.  We've been underground for 3+ sessions now, without any end in sight!

Here's one scene from tonight's festivities:

The party has just barged in on a lovely tiefling woman wielding some ugly axe-type thing.

I thought the photo looked very action-oriented when taken at the very low angle. 

We defeated her handily, but shortly thereafter lost a party member who wandered away to explore on his own.  His brother in the party appeared to take it quite hard, and my character, the old halfling cleric named Nathaniel Pennywhistle has taken it upon himself to counsel the young man back to mental health.

Random Thoughts


I'm very comfortable putting up with all kinds of nuisances as long as I know that I'm not expected to do anything about them.


The key to happiness is low expectations.

and from my son:

I try not to let things bother me.  (If there's an entire philosophy, or way of life that you can sum up in eight words, this is it.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


These are chaos:
This is chaos:

But in the middle of all this chaos, is the some cool stuff.

Top left is my microcontroller board that I went through some labs to build and test and write code for.  The microcontroller is the black slab in the middle.  Below it on the breadboard is the power supply, providing both 5.0 and 3.3 volt outputs.  There's a set of LEDs on the right to provide output, and a series of switches on the left to provide input.

Below the breadboard is a "demo board".  It also has a microcontroller (tiny black chip with lots of feet near the bottom). It has a small breadboard for additional features, and it has ports for video output, mouse and keyboard input, speaker output, microphone input.  It's probably going to hold my completed project.  Either that, or the lit up board just above and to the left of it.

That is another single board microcontroller.  It currently has a single line camera connected to it, and a USB port.  It has a ethernet port that may or may not end up getting used in the project.  The green light simply means that it is getting powered.  It's getting 5 volts from the other lighted device in the photo - the small square just to the right of the demo board.  It's just a power supply, plugged into a "wall-wart" that gives it 9 volts, and that it converts to 5 volts.

There's lots of wire in the photo that is going to get used for hookups.  There's a webcam that I'm not currently using.  There's another breadboard with a couple of resistors.

Anyway, out of all this chaos I'm eventually going to have a microcontroller connected camera that measures sausage casings.  Right now I'm in learning-coding mode.


I was looking at the photo tonight, and it struck me how much it was like those "Can you spot x" drawings from the old Highlights magazines they used to have in doctor's offices.

So in that spirit:

Can you spot:

1) Acrylic glue
2) Targus memory card reader
3) 9 Volt connector
4) Drinking straw from Sonic
5) VGA Cable connector
6) Precision screwdriver
7) Mechanical pencil
8) Rubber mold of Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe
9) Gerber tool sheath
10) Parallax Basic Stamp 2pe
11) Parallax Propeller Demo Board
12) Parallax Spinneret Web Server
13) Parallax Propeller on Breadboard
14) 100 Ohm Resistor
15) Needle Nose Pliers
16) Fortune Cookie fortune 

If you click on the photo, it will give you a much larger version.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe

I'm in Jared's Council of Thieves campaign.  My character is a human, slightly orc (he has tusks!) bard named Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe.  I've been using a miniature that Jared picked out, but I tend to like to have a fig that I've personalized.

I went through some of my D&D Minis, and found this Vampire Aristocrat:
I thought that with a re-paint, it would look like quite the dandy, dashing, yet mature bard.

So, here's the result of my repaint:

 I thought about how to paint his sword, and since he's 7th level, and has never actually used his sword to attack anyone or anything, I figured he would have something that might be non-function, but would look expensive.  Thus, a gold-plated sword.  Clearly masterwork!

Similarly, his cloak is white (either fur, or fine silk - not sure yet), with gold edging. 

I thought about painting the skull pink, but wasn't sure whether he would think it unmanly.  So I went with the traditional off-white.

His coat is lavender, and of course he is blond-haired, blue-eyed.

Now here's the bad part.  Somehow every time I personalize a miniature for a campaign, the campaign somehow either comes to a crashing halt, or the character dies.

The Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe deathwatch begins!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random Question

Why does Coke taste so much better when it's in a cup with ice than it does in a can?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Situational Ethics

Dennis, our Deadlands DM has had a couple of encounters now where the villains have pulled the "what makes your morality better than my morality" card.  And as a player who is attempting to sometime earn enough bounty for a Arcane Background:Blessed, I've been trying to find a good answer to that card.  I know it's horribly wrong, but have been having trouble putting it into words.  My only response has been to simply kill those that try to play it, as though a bullet was the only answer that they deserved.

But there's really a good answer to it, it's just that standing around with everyone with their guns drawn always seems like the worst time in the world to get into a philosophical discussion.  In fact, it always seems to me that it would be a tactic for the bad guy to use to buy time while he surrounds you.  Or a way for him to try to sway others to his side, thereby tipping the scales against you.

What goes through my mind is:

"You are either prevaricating in the hopes of convincing the weak minded that slaughtering innocent men, women, and children is somehow morally equivalent to shooting a dangerous animal that is threatening those same innocents.  You are trying to argue that it is simply self defense to take whatever you want from whomever you want and to slaughter whoever gets in your way.

You and your ilk [always a good word with high negative connotation] are a threat to everyone who has something that you might want, while I am a threat only to those who would seek to do harm to me and mine.  If you walked down the street laden with gold, jewels, medicine and trinkets, you would need have no fear from me, unless and until you were a threat to others.  In fact, I would be more likely to come to your defense at mine own peril than I would be to attempt to take by force that which is yours. 

I have given food and weapons and supplies that I could ill afford to give to others without talk of price or payment for the simple reason that those people were in need, and I was in a position to try to help.  Those same people would be your prey, and would be sacrificed to your convenience. 

The difference between me and thee is that by your actions you have shown yourself to be a threat to me an mine, and the simplest way that I can end that threat is to end you.  And in the time it would have taken me to tell you why you must die, you would have had the opportunity to do harm, time which I will not allow you to have."

This is one of the reasons that in just about every game I've been in, I've argued for a feat or an edge or a perquisite along the lines of:

Interrupt Monologue
Benefit: Once per encounter, you my make a charge or ranged attack or other purely offensive action to interrupt the monologue or diatribe or box text of any evil boss.  This will count as your first action of the encounter, and and will replace the first action you would normally have.  If two characters of equal speed or initiative have this feat, they may make an initiative or quickness check to determine who acts first.  You may not use this feat to make non-attack actions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cat People Suck

Okay, not really.  Just in our Champions game last night.  (This must be a recap!)

When we left our brave group of intrepid heroes, they were investigating the now-demolished Viridian Industries site.  As they approached, they noticed that the government investigative team was apparently all either unconscious, or worse dead. Team Falcon (that's us, the good guys) called for back-up, which arrived in the form of a few helicopters of troops led by Jeff (or Greg, depending on the retcon) Latimore. 

With the help of the soldiers and medics, triage was established and it was found that all but two of the investigators were in what appeared to be deep comas.  The exceptions were two investigators that had apparently choked to death on their own vomit (bringing to mind Bon Scott, Jimi Hendrix, and John Bonham). 

While the unconscious victims were being cared for by Strobe and Dr. Strasser, Mister Sarcastic decided to investigate the remains of the building to see if he could find any cause for the mysterious affliction.  Agent Latimore in true gung-ho fashion decided to accompany him, having convinced Mister S. of his capability.

As soon as the pair entered the remains of the building, something seemed to happen to Jeff.  He saw walls where there were none, and began to see some mysterious enemy that Mister S could not perceive.  Mister S, thinking that Jeff was under some sort of mental attack, attempted to get him to leave the building.  As they made their way to the exit, Agent L was seemingly attacked by an invisible foe, and rendered unconscious.  Mister Sarcastic picked up Jeff, and took him to safety outside the building where Dr. Strasser and Strobe examined him. 

Stobe accompanied Mister Sarcastic back to the building, where she was similarly affected in seeing and perceiving walls, and could not step through them even when desolidified.  She was then similarly attacked by what she saw as a very large, hairless cat.  She was then carried out by Mr. S.  Strobe seemed to recover within a few minutes, and decided to try to only step partially into the perimeter of the building.  When she did so, she remained able to step back out through the non-existent walls. 

Shortly she saw approaching, not a cat but a hooded figure who pointed at her and launched some form of attack.  At the instant of the attack, the leg that was outside of the building was severed cleanly as though sliced through by the outline of the building.  While she felt no pain, she quickly began to bleed out.  While she (calmly) interrogated her attacker, Mister Sarcastic rushed to her aid and called for Dr. Strassers medical expertise.  Placing the severed limb in the proper position, the seriously wounded S attempted to empathically heal Strobe.  The leg fused into place leaving a scar visible at the junction.  And Mister Sarcastic took a very near fatal amount of damage from his healing power.

The hooded figure explained to Strobe that he was working for he who watches the stars (the Astrologer???) and that his attack on Strobe was to give him leverage to leave.  As he and the cat began to leave, Mister Sarcastic, incensed that one of his team mates could be so harmed with impunity decided to take some measure of revenge and provoke a fight.  He taunted the cat into attacking him, and only then remembered how very close to death that he was.  Before the cat could act, he used his invisibility power to completely disappear.

Meanwhile Stephanie and Dr. Strasser had arrived on the scene.  Stephanie, using her new weapon of choice, the HURT van, readied it to bash the cat who had now grown to approximately twelve feet tall.  Dr. Strasser attempted to impose order and to arrest the hooded figure (who had at some point identified himself as The Dream Catcher). 

The van was less effective than hoped for, and the cat simply peeled it open - prompting Stephanie to leave it's vicinity.  Strobe, having her soul tethered to the Dream Catcher was unsure of what to do.  Mister S, sensing that his invisibility might not last very long, dropped in in order to attempt to slow the kitty into inaction.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strasser had caught up with DC and had used his entropy field to attempt to disable him.  Stephanie, deciding that this was a fight the group should not be in, sent a TASER bolt into Dr. Strasser to break up the fight.  She followed this by another, and yet another, completely incapacitating Herr Doctor. 

Mister Sarcastic, having incapacitated the cat, told the Dream Catcher that he would be allowed to leave if he released Strobe, but otherwise, he was prepared to fight.  The DC, having accomplished his mission, and possibly seeing that the fight might not be worth the effort, released Strobe from his power, and was allowed to leave.

Returning to base, the recovering team found that they had some work cut out for them.  Dr. Strasser and Bob Latimore finally cornered Mister Sarcastic and researched a mechanism to turn his regeneration back on - which then allowed him to heal his near fatal wounds in just a few moments.  Stephanie apparently did some independent research that no one thought worth mentioning.  Strobe returned to her busy schedule of student-scholar, bartender, humanitarian.   And Maximilian Vasquez had a proposal that might allow him to join Team Falcon in a limited way,  but busied himself trying to implement a strategy that Mister Sarcastic had presented to get Agent Randall back into HURT offices on an accelerated schedule.

After Mister Sarcastic was healed, a team meeting was called to address concerns that Dr. Strasser had with how Stephanie had unilaterally decided to handle the situation.  It was decided that Stephanie, Mister Sarcastic and even Dr. Strasser all acted more as independents, and less as team members, and that with the long absence of Field Effect, someone needed to be chosen as Team Leader out in the field.  In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Stephanie was briefly considered, under the assumption that she would only ever obey her own directives.  And then she surprised the team by saying that she would in fact obey orders from whomever was selected as Team Leader.  Eventually Mister Sarcastic was chosen as leader, based on what seemed to be the fact that he had nothing better to do, and would possibly act more judiciously if he was responsible for the safety of others.

Max offered to help the team by establishing a mental communications link, which the team eventually accepted, with the consent of his mother.  It was also established that it might be possible for Max, through the mental link to contribute to team field operations, with the assurance to his mother that he would not actually be allowed into the field.  As the meeting was ending, Agent Randall appeared in HURT offices, apparently ready to resume his duties as administrator for Team Falcon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back into the Groove...

I think I might finally be recovering from last week.  Last week was a long, hard week, and it rolled over all the way onto this week.

Tomorrow is Steve's Shackled City game, and I'm looking forward to it.  More on that in a later post.

I'm restarting a paused project at work.  It has the potential to be "really neat".  I get to do work with microcontrollers, and I haven't really had a chance to dig into those yet.  I'm trying to work out a time line, but I have to include self-education into the timeline.  I have to teach myself how to design circuits for, and then to program these things.  And I'm not an electrical engineer.

I do a lot of things that I'm not exactly qualified for.  My job involves computer programming, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, food science, manufacturing design, and just about any other quasi technical job you might think of.  There are times that I really wish that I had gotten a degree.

So anyway.  I'm allocating myself about three weeks to learn how to wire and program these microcontrollers.  I have the "education" manual that Parallax puts out. 

This is a parallax propeller demo board.  The microcontroller has 8 cogs (or cores), that run in parallel.  This board includes the microcontroller (the little black square on the middle-right of the board), but it also includes keyboard and mouse input, vga and composite video output, usb cable interface and a nifty little breadboard on the left hand side to add whatever circuts, gizmos or other doodads (real-life technical term.  Would I lie?) you want.

Right now, I've got no clue how to program it.  And I'm giving myself three weeks to learn.  This should be fun!


I almost forgot.  I ordered a Motorola Xoom today.  I finally decided that I really want to try it out, and Amazon looks like the best deal.  It was $589 (a whole $10 less than MSRP!!!) and comes with free shipping, and no tax!  And it has a 30 day return policy.  I'm really hoping I like it. 

Oh yeah.  I upgraded the free shiping to 2-day so that I'll have it by Friday.

Which means that I've got to try to get all my pdf's someplace other than my iPad, so that I can download them to the new device.  I've had Goodreader on my iPad uploading them to my ftp server for the last 2 hours.  I've uploaded 9GB so far, and I'm pretty sure my old wireless router isn't too happy with the load.  

I probably won't do the whole unboxing thing that everyone does to try to make themselves feel cool.  Nothing I do would ever make me cool, so there's no use fooling myself on that front. 

I'm sure I'll write a whole post on it, once I get it up and running.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Storm Rolls In

Storms seem to follow me.  I think it's me.  I've got a family tradition of coming from a long line of people who don't put up with crap, and sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) it backfires.

So I walked away from Pathfinder Society last week, and left a note on the messageboards stating so.  And my reasons for it.  And amazingly everyone understood, and sympathized with me.

Okay.  They didn't.  There was a whole lot of schadenfreude.  A whole lot of people saying that I should have known better than to cheese the rules.  Some people (I think maybe even Venture-Captains) saying that if I wanted to play a weapon wielding companion, that I should have played a summoner.  (Except the summoner did not exist as a class when I started playing Brother Elias). 

There were a couple of supportive people too, but they seem to be getting drowned out in the noise.

And there's a whole lot of people who don't actually read or know the rules before they speak.  Incredibly, this seems to include the Paizo developers, who have misstated the pathfinder rules multiple times in that thread and neighboring ones regarding what animals and companions do and don't do. 

I'm not sure what to say when the representatives of the company can't seem to be bothered to read their own rules documents before posting erroneous information. 

And that was just Pathfinder Society.

What else happened this week?  Hmm.  I found out that someone that I used to know apparently really hates me, and I'm somewhat clueless as to any actual thing I might have done.  But given the number of people that hate me, these things kind of get lost in the shuffle.

I also seem to have offended a player in one of the games I'm in, for which I'm not certain how to respond.  (Confused? I am.  But I go through a lot of life not knowing where the ground is.)

So my takeaway from this last week:

1) Not participating in Organized Play reduces frustration level.
2) Sometimes you can be hated, and not even realize it.  (See Homer Simpson/Fred Grimes)
3) I'm an offensive person, even when I'm not trying particularly hard to be. (I bet I could be an archvillain if I really put the effort in.)
4) Six day long business trips are no fun.  And I really wish that more gaming had happened over the weekend.