Dice Rituals

7 June, 2017 | Permalink

I have certainly changed a lot over the years, and whilst change can be good some change isn't. I think the one downfall of my good change over the last few years (to enjoying tabletop and RPG games) is that I now have a dice problem. Right now I only have 70 dice, with a total of 9 sets of Polyhedral RPG dice and that is nothing compared to a lot of people. I am however quickly accumulating more which is funny considering I told myself I would have enough sets for one set for me, and one set for each player and that's all. I have two and a bit sets with me at all times. Each set contains 7 dice.

I have also created a dice jail (pictured above) for when the dice land on low numbers. It's this weird thing that most find crazy but to those who play RPGs it isn't. A snippet from the recent stream by the creators of D&D was made into a video with various D&D influencers talking about their own dice, and superstitions. Check it out. It is interesting.

PS: YES! I do put my dice in jail or give them time out. YES! I want more dice and I am starting to dabble into metal dice. YES! I don't let others touch my playing dice. They are mine. Mine only. YES! I am weird, but you already knew this.

Privacy in the World

3 June, 2017 | Permalink

NOTE: This was originally a facebook post

Just watched Snowden for the first time since it was at the movies in 2016.
I have been following Ed Snowden since the start, and whilst he was an American and it was dealing with with the NSA and CIA and many other American organisations the damage and the level of mistrust and anti-privacy spreads way more than one could even comprehend. Way more than this movie shows. Hacking a school network, running small DDOS attacks to twitch streamers is all we hear about, but that is nothing compared to the world's leaders and what they are capable of. Most people know you shouldn't trust the government, money cuts here and there, promises never fulfilled etc.. However in the digital age, the age of which we currently live in we will never be safe.

Things that Ed leaked may be gone or modified, or maybe they are still up and operational but we, the public are told otherwise. It really doesn't matter, because I promise you, each government around the world have their own tools, and their own way of accessing everything from phone calls, to texts, to an encrypted file on your computer that is hardly ever connected to the internet. It will never stop and if it wasn't for someone as bold and brave as Ed, we'd have no clue that our most basic human rights are being violated!

One thing I learnt growing up really was that life isn't fair, and back then I just thought because I didn't get that DVD I wanted so bad, but now it is much, much more. The only way we can possibly have a chance to regain our freedom and privacy is to be educated, and hold the government responsible for it's obvious misuse of such tools.

Anyone heard of the 'WANNACRY' virus? It made its way through hospitals, businesses, home computers and compressed your entire computer into files, then asked for money in the form of bitcoins or other cryptocurrency in exchange for a key to unlock your files. Not one person who paid, ever got their files back. That virus, came from the NSA, from the government. The virus isn't it's natural form, but the tools got leaked online and hackers/script kiddies got their hands on it and slightly modified it to be able to do this. Now hospitals around the world have no patient data or anything. What a world we live in.

I may sound like one of those crazy alien people who swear they've just seen a UFO, but the sad reality of this world is that all of this is true and unless you want to live like a caveman or the amish then you will be tracked, your data will be collected and you will effectively be spied upon because there is ALWAYS be people who misuse the system, just like there are people who take advantage of others, or like there will always be bullies picking on that kid in school. I am not going to provide links as I have not been actively in recent months keeping up with Snowden, nor do I have the time but you owe it to yourself to do some research. Find Snowden's twitter, read articles, books, anything. Since Snowden came out, there is a lot of information out there, some true, others not but it starts the conversion off. The conversation that needs to be had.

Mishandled Situations and Learning in DnD

19 May, 2017 | Permalink

During the last few blogs I mentioned I was going to start DM'ing for my very first D&D campaign and I would post about how it went. Unfortunately, I haven't been posting at all due to how I've been feeling and how things are going in my life - moving forward D&D has been the only thing keeping me going really and I thought I would be mega-awesome at it. Turns out not quite so much. I just had my fourth session last night and it was the turning point for me where I thought I could actually do it. I am running a campaign based off the module 'The Sunless Citadel' which was recently converted to fifth edition and plan to expand it and create my own towns, stories and world around it. I don't know how long this campaign will last but I am planning this as if it won't end anytime soon.

My first session I thought went terrible. My friends didn't think it seemed too bad but I know I was railroading them and that certainly is the complete wrong thing to do. I was quite sure if I kept going like that I would certainly lose my players as nobody wants to be forced to do something. I missed clues, I didn't explain things, the game didn't flow. But luckily enough I was given good constructive criticism.

The second session was two weeks later due to life getting in the way but it gave me time to mull over the constructive criticism and also allowed me to start to write things in my trusty DM notebook which I should be writing notes during the session but I keep forgetting. One of the major issues in the first session was I didn't really have any maps and my explanation of the surroundings wasn't too good so Beau so kindly got me some Paizo Pathfinder Flip Mats (pictured above) which are double sided with different terrain on them so I spent a long time drawing out the current dungeon on them and they worked so well! It helped with my players understanding what was going on but unfortunately because of Uni and work I had not gotten around to fully comprehending the module and the general flow of the game was still a little.. stiff?

A week later I ran my third session and after improving on some things from the previous sessions I realised that whilst I was running the session a lot better than the first, I still had some issues to iron out and I was running combat pretty good with the exception of the players steamrolling the NPCs with no struggle even though I had bought more miniatures and added more Kobolds to fight with varying HP and AC. The night did end on a pretty fun high though. The players thought they were fine and before they knew it one Goblin managed to shoot gnome player in the back with an arrow and the elf player whilst reciting a monologue just before killing another Goblin got stabbed by the accompanying Goblin in the same room (Nat 20 stealth for the win!). The players were a lot happier and we were all laughing, not angry about those 'cheap shots' because it sounded so cool. What I think went wrong this time was I wanted to add more baddies to make it more challenging, which was a good idea but it turned into a mess as I couldn't keep track of which Kobold was which.

I had another week worth of preparing, this time printing out more little sheets with character stats on them, bought a new more organised notebook for notes, NPCs, Locations etc and I also used good old coloured post-it notes with a few numbers on them and stuck them to the base of each baddie to aid with the biggest problem of last session. I also had on the day my brand new hoodie arrive in the post which I thought would taunt the players (pictured above) however that backfired and the players rolled quite a few nat 20's, even to the point where they at level one, one-shot one of the front-liner Goblins. This session besides a really bad judgement call during combat I didn't feel like I did anything wrong. I am sure I did but all the prep work, the extra reading, the stat blocks printed out and pinned to the GM screen, the more organised notebook and the post-it notes with numbers on the miniatures and my initiative tracker board all helped out tremendously.

The best part again in the fourth session was near the end. The group has it's issues with doors like it has all campaign now, it got through some more challenging encounters but nothing too bad until the find a room with three armoured Goblins who managed to challenge all four players plus the gnome NPC 'Erky' who the group freed a few rooms previous. After the combat two players stay and listen to Erky tell a story whilst the other two run to look inside another door and soon shout out to the other players as they walk into a treasure room. There was quite a lot of valuable items scattered around the room and then just before they leave, they see a white, scaly wing appear from behind a desk. After the desk being shoved into whatever was behind there two players run out and try another door. They weren't having any of it but the others stayed.

From behind the desk appears a fairly decently sized white Dragon Wrymling known as Calcryx started to fly up. Vhir, Vaqun and Erky were the only ones in the room and Vhir was the one who pushed the desk onto the dragon. Unfortunately Vhir and Erky caught the wrath of Calcryx and suffered instant death as Calcryx uses Cold breath and deals 19 (5d8) cold damage to them whilst Vaqun succeeds in his saving throw and only takes half damage, barely surviving. As Calcryx exhales a huge icy blast of hail in a cone shaped towards everyone in the room, Vaqun manages to run out of the room, take a bit of damage and runs to the rest of the group who were at the same time trying to open a stuck door. That is where I left the session. Matt got to get out his level one backup character, I cried a tiny bit over Erky dying and everyone else levels up to level two! The look on everyone's face when the dragon was revealed, something that I hadn't seen on my players face as of yet. I am so proud of myself, I think I can do this now.

As the humanoid figure closes his book, gets up and slowly disappears into the night sky you start to wonder, what will happen to the misfit group? Where will this go? And what has become of Calcryx?"

Supanova 2017

30 April, 2017 | Permalink

This weekend I went to Supanova, being my second time I sort of knew what to expect but I was still a little surprised. It was certainly larger than last year and that's a good sign but I still recommend going for only one say not all three unless you have a good reason like me this year. Having a photo and autograph with two people makes scheduling a nightmare, especially when you need to get your ass back home so you can run your games night for International Tabletop Day.

I ended up on both mornings getting up at 5am to catch the 6:15am train to Melbourne on my own. I have people who are interested in going but they already have their own arrangements or bailed due to money issues or other constraints. This year I had nobody to lead me there so I actually had to use my head and look where I was going, eventually I ran into a group of cosplayers. Have you ever heard of that saying 'just follow the cosplayers to a con' because apparently it's 'obvious' they know where they are going right? Wrong. I learnt that on Saturday. Ended up going around in a huge circle following strangers.. Again, trusting strange people? In the end two guys I was talking to who were also following the larger group broke off with me and we caught the next tram and it got us go where we needed to be. I did run into the others during the con, and apparently they just got a taxi there which was my fail plan.

Once I got inside I immediately headed to the main area that had the stalls. Within 10 minutes of being there I bought Kirito's other sword The Elucidator. Apparently I'm also pretty hopeless. However now I can cosplay Kirito, well I got his swords at least. Most of the stalls were interesting to a degree, a few were better for me though for example I found a super awesome stall that sell dice. RPG sets of dice for use with Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs. They were selling copper, iron, amethyst and a whole bunch more metals and minerals. After holding and rolling their entire collection they have me a normal D20 like I have at home. I couldn't feel it in my hands and it didn't feel satisfying to roll anymore. Crap, they've got me. I need to buy some. The cheapest set was $90, on average for a RPG set it was $160. No thanks. I'll just go and cry in the corner. With the rest of the allocated spending money I had over the two days I also decided to buy a single D20 die and Catan after playing it for the first time Saturday night.

The other item I really wanted that I found was a prop replica Harley Quinn baseball bat but they only had the display bat left. I was told to wait till the end of the con and if it's there I can buy it. They wish to keep it on display so people know to pre order it as they literally have no stock. I went back to the stall Sunday just before I left and they told me they have now decided not to sell that one at all. Dammit. But because I'd been asking about it literally all weekend they allowed me to pre order it on the spot with them and I got $10 off, not bad. Going along certain stalls throughout the con I bought a wallscroll of Rem, Emilia and Natsuki Subaru from the anime Re:Zero ("Starting life in another world") and also custom artwork of Daenerys Targaryen as a zombified mess which looks terrifying and amazing at the same time.

After catching up with a friend who I found out was there on Saturday I went into David Boreanaz's Q&A panel (Buffy the vampire Slayer, Angel and Bones). I know David through being Booth in the hit TV crime show Bones. Been watching Bones on TV since it started. What I got from that besides hearing stories is that David is one genuine and funny guy. So down to earth and it is his first time in Australia and it was beyond funny when someone asking a question with "G'day mate", David couldn't get over it, kept saying it back the rest of the time. At one point David was gifted a pack of TimTams and an Essendon FC scarf which had the entire crowd divided. After a lot of talking and half the audience telling him not to and the other half telling him to, he put on the scarf and it was a beautiful sight. As an Essendon supporter I felt really proud and accomplished. David also got asked who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman. Right away without hesitation "Batman. He has this shiny green rock and he can do anything", the crowd cheers really loudly. It seems like a lot of celebrities, they are all just geeks like us ❤️

Later on the Saturday just before I left I had my appointment to get a photo with David Boreanaz. The line was so damn slow, but I sort of expected that. I also knew before going in I wouldn't have a chance to talk to him as it's right in, right out to get everyone through. As I got close and placed my bag in the designated area my nerves started to jump and then I saw him, a meter to two away from me. As the two girls in front of me went, he turned to me and said "Ah batman, come here!" as soon as I could wrap my head around that it was happening I was being moved towards the exit. It was an exhilarating experience. The next day I got David's autograph on said taken photo and as I approached and he got handed my photo to sign, he looks up and says 'ahh batman, back again?' I just laughed and quickly told him I love his acting and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

I also got a photo with Natalie Dormer (who plays Queen Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones and Cressida in The Hunger Games series) during the Sunday. I found out that Natalie prefers people to stand to her right when taking photos which is interesting but I think she's pretty stunning either way. As I walk up to get my photo taken she turns around and says "Hey sweetie" in a quick, not well thought out sentence I told her thanks for coming, you are amazing. Her quick reply as they were shifting me away was "thanks for queuing up".. Neither thing was well thought out but I was only in the area for a max of like ten seconds. Later when I went to get her autograph she said hey and then looked at the photo. "We are both posing there, we are so posers" I was so star struck I just agreed before being again moved aside to allow the next person through. I found it so much harder to talk to Natalie in comparison to David.

Just walking around the con I was just astounded at the cosplays. I was lucky enough over the weekend to get photos of some, and even photos with some (selfie mode activate!). As soon as I stepped into the con I got this overwhelming sense of misery that I didn't cosplay. I had planned on cosplaying Kirito from Sword Art Online but constraints. Now that I've got both of Kirito's swords there is no reason for me to not spend the next 12 months prepping and cosplaying next year. Once I got over that throughout the weekend I was just amazed at the cosplays I saw some cosplayers I follow online. Infamous Harley Quinn (Laura) and Cosplay_Chris (Chris). I first ran into Chris and I completely fanboy'd out. Words weren't coming put right but man it was great to see him in person after watching all of his YouTube videos for the last 6 months. I do remember him mentioning it in a vlog but man he is small. The same height as me which there is nothing wrong about that but the videos make him look so much taller. I managed to get a selfie with Chris as Captain Boomerang from Suicide Squad. He was just so nice and down to earth, so much stuff I wanted to say and I just didn't have the time, and I was also starstruck.

Laura, I have met before at PAX 2016 and I have commented on her facebook and YouTube videos but I didn't think she'd remember me. As she was posing for some photos I quickly snapped one and then she turned to me and said "Rob! It's been so long, since PAX right?" then comes up and hugs me. I just stood there frozen for a second in shock. I got to have a bit of a chat with her but not for long before we were interrupted by people wanting photos. After they had done Laura had to run off because her Squad had moved. There was the awkward 'I'll see you tomorrow' and she replied with 'yes I will, here'. I don't need to tell you how nice she is, I said that in the PAX blog.

Saturday had some pretty shit timing as it was also International Tabletop Day and I had already before supernova organised a games night at my place. After the train being late home, thanks to mum for driving me home I got home only 15 minutes late. Thanks train. I already had two friends standing outside in the dark for me. I ended up only getting one more person turning up, it was a small group but worth it. We started with some classic Cards Against Humanity, followed by Matt's game "Red Flags" and then we played Catan for finish off the night. We finished before midnight which was my cut-off time so after that one of my friends brought out this game called "Bean Boozled". It's simple, just spin the spinner and eat whichever Jelly bean the spinner lands on. But every bean has a chance of being alright, to bring disgusting. As soon as I was unfortunate to get the taste described as "vomit" which was quite accurate, I was out. Never playing that again. If you're still confused think like in the Harry Potter universe, berty botts every flavour beans. Still, had a great night and now I can stop umm'ing and arrr'ing about buying Catan. It's a great game and people can get aggressive over resources like wood or wheat. Let the wood jokes commence!

Overall I'm super surprised I woke up so early even after staying up so late and I'm also surprised I had so much fun. Now for the crappy post-con (post anything good really) mood where you can't believe what has happened and you have to go and readjust to normal boring life where you don't spend most of your day worrying about what you will say to a Hollywood celebrity or even an internet famous cosplayer. I had so much fun, it was so worth it and I will cherish these memories forever. A lot of firsts for me including not loosing my way around in public transport in Melbourne and meeting David and Natalie who I swear I have a celebrity crush on both. First thing on my list of spare time activities is buy frames for those photos and hang them. Peace out ✌️

Life is Indeed Strange

22 April, 2017 | Permalink

Life is Strange is definitely a strange game. I think between it and TellTale's The Walking Dead (Season 1 Review, Season 2 Review) I personally prefer choose your own adventure style games more than open world sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto. All games have their merits, but I prefer a story rich and emotional experience rather than mainly mechanics and mayhem. Funny that coming from a guy who hardly ever reads stories haha.

So let's talk about the game. I was late on the bandwagon like always, but I am glad I got on it in the end. It was created by Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment. You play as a highschool student Max(ine) Caulfield who majors in photography. Max considers herself alone, she's not popular, she doesn't have everything going for her. Eventually she meets back up with her best friend Chloe Price who in these later teen years is quite the opposite of Max, regardless they click instantly and they have amazing synergy and contrast each other well. The ups and downs of the pair as they go through trying to figure everything out will have you melting with 'awwww' moments and moments you will pick a choice you didn't think you would ever pick. You wouldn't understand this until you play the game but I totally ship Max and Chloe! It's not because I am a guy and they are girls either.

This is your typical point and click style of game, incredibly reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure books which I was fortunate enough to read a kid. It is incredible to see that your choices really impact what goes on. Choices is a huge part of the game, and in the trailers it is stressed about all the different choices you could make. Them small to big choices, we all have to make choices and what choice we make can affect not just us, but the people around us, the environment. Cause and Effect as Warren (one of Max's friends) would say. This concept is not only shown through story where us as the player can see, but is also a theme for the characters within the game.

After Chloe runs into some trouble, Max finds out she has the power to reverse time. Sure there are superheroes that can do that, there are plenty of games the even feature that as the main mechanic or just a mechanic that can be used but the way that the developers of Life is Strange used it, along with the story made for a beautiful combination and I now understand why this game was given so many awards. At first you will use the power for small things but this certainly distracts you from the overarching plot. There were several times this game made me cry, but nothing like at the end. When a game makes you so emotionally attached to characters or a story that you play it for 8+ hours straight and cry during it, you know the developers have done something tremendous. Like other similar types of games, at the end of each chapter you get to review your choices and it gives you a percentage of how many people did what you did, and how many people chose another choice.

The characters are amazing. Being who I am, a geek, someone who likes to keep quiet at times I can really relate and sympathize with Max. I mean I can't in some aspects, I'm not an 18 year old girl but in a lot of ways I can. I can make the choices Max has to make because I can see myself in that position. Honestly I think everyone can relate to Max some way or another. It is the same with Chloe, I relate to her in the aspect of rebelling, making your own choices to do what you want. I see Max sort if being the good, innocent side of people whilst Chloe is the rebel badass side of people and we all have strokes of both sides. The writers did a fantastic job with all the characters, I don't think I really didn't care at all for any of the characters. I hated some, loved some, felt sorry for some and sometimes how I really felt about them was turned on its head! I feel like from the narrative and the things I got to explore and read got me to care about every character that got given a name. There was even a point where I had to take into account a dog as if it was my own!

This game is not for everyone and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but this is something weirdly satisfying about messaging a friend and telling them you choose this choice and this happened because they'll turn around and tell you they made a different choice and something different happened. There were a few times where I could have chosen what I thought was the obvious choice for the game, but I just couldn't. I thought it might screw things up in the game but that's what I would have chosen. It is a bit sad to see that no matter what choices are made throughout the game there are only two endings. Sometimes it's not about the DESTINATION, but about the JOURNEY itself. I like that quote, it directly and indirectly relates to the game, it is about the journey but the ending does also matter. It'll pull your heartstrings.

My one grudge with this game is in between the aesthetically pleasing graphics, amazing soundtrack and amazing animation there is one scene where Max talks, but her lips aren't moving. The person she's talking to does, but she doesn't move her lips. Come on. With that out of the way, the graphics aren't realistic but they aren't meant to be. They have their own style, and it works so well especially with the theme of photography and sketches in the game. There was a scene that when I came across it I did have to stop and wonder if it was real people or not, alas, it wasn't. It just looked uber cool! The soundtrack is also spot on. I can't say I stopped and thought "wow the soundtrack is epic!" but it worked well with the game and was used really well to convey tone and emotion. Now that I have played the game I think I will add the soundtrack to my playlist of study music.

There is a lot more I could say about this fantastic game but I think I will leave it there and allow you to try it for free! That's right, episode 1 is on Steam for FREE. I give Life is Strange an arbitrary score of 8.5/10 overall.