Monday, December 21, 2009

Shotguns vs Zombies

Yesterday, i learned to fully appreciate the effectiveness of shotguns against zombies!

You see, i grew up in a house without guns.  I never even had Nerf guns, because they were an ugly, unwholesome thing that my parents did not wish to encourage.  But recently, my dad has picked up target practice as a new hobby.  This is strange for me to see, but my dad is the type of guy that really goes all-out when he gains a new interest, so i had to see what all the fuss was about.

We went out back and he showed me his shotgun, assuring me that i couldn't possibly be as bad a shot as he was at first.  From what i've heard, he wasn't just trying to make me feel better about it.  I finally confided in him that i was mostly concerned that it would be loud and i would inadvertently shriek like a little girl and shatter all illusions of my macho-ness.  He laughed and said it was ok, he made a girly shriek of joy the first time he shot it.

After showing me about 400,000 times the proper technique, i asked him to shoot it himself once so i could hear it and see how much of a kickback it had, which was pretty much none, but i did not want to be like the chick on youtube that must have broken her nose with the Desert Eagle, mmkay? My dad is not above thinking something like that is funny.

So i finally tried it out and aimed too high. Let's just say i'm crap at aiming, which isn't shocking, recalling my short-lived interest in archery as a kid.  So being a good sport, i tried a second time, trying the very same technique, then bumping the whole thing up about 1/4" at the last second. Tah-dah! The big plastic bucket i was aiming at is riddled with some decent-sized holes. Yeah, that shit will hit anything you point it vaguely toward. Hippie likes.

So, the shotgun is definitely the friend of the untrained in the zombie apocalypse. They obviously take very little skill to use, and spray a wide area. However, they're really only good for slowing down a crowd; you'll want something more precise for making head shots off your back porch.  Also, remember the double-tap rule. If it stops moving, shoot it once more in the head just to be sure. The zombie apocalypse is not the time to conserve ammo.

I suggest using a shotgun to thin down the crowd, then once you've got some practice with it, pick off the stragglers with a rifle if they're still far off, and a pistol for the ones that get closer and for double-tap.  Of course, it's always good to keep a baseball bat or something handy for the ones that get within arms reach or grab a friend or family member--safety first! Shooting something that just grabbed your best friend is better left for the movies. Bash it in the face instead.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dragon Age RPG Player's Guide Review

I'm not a fan of video games, so i haven't played the console or PC version of Dragon Age, but with all the wonderful things i have heard about it by people who are and have, i thought the pen and paper version had to at least be worth reading.

The first thing that i found off-putting was that the books come in $30 boxed sets.  That might be ok in theory, except that the first set (Players Guide, Game Master's Guide, and a map of Ferelden) only gives you rules for character levels 1-5.  Apparently the next boxed set, due out in 6 months, will contain levels 6-10, the next will contain another 5 levels, etc.  It's going to get expensive to play a single character through much advancement.  Designer Chris Pramas claims it will be more digestible for new players, but personally, i would rather spend $50 for one 'intimidating' fat book that will allow me to play a basic character through max advancement, than $120 on "more digestible" chunks over time.  Though i do suppose there's no reason to buy future sets anyway for those of us that were underwhelmed by the first.

My next gripe is that the character choices are limited: elf, dwarf, human; warrior, mage, rogue.  That's it.  It could be that that's all the video game offers, but i require more diversity.  Basic character creation is thus: you get 8 abilities, determined by random rolls.  Skill checks are 3d6+ability (+/- bonuses/penalties).  You can customize your character with ability focuses, backgrounds (think 'city elf' or 'surface dwarf'), and talents (skills).  You gain class powers by level.

Combat: for some reason it took the writers five steps to tell us roll for initiative; winner goes first, etc. They hid the fact that you get both something called a 'major action' and something called a 'minor action' each turn in step 4.  By step 8 i realize the authors are still just telling us to take turns.  :|  Minor vs Major actions are what they sound like and make sense once listed (ie: aim and shoot).  Moving on.  What combat really involves is making an ability roll against your opponent's defense score.  Well that's disappointingly simple after more than a page on the process of determining an initiative order.  We add complication with something called stunt points.  There are also modifiers for riding a mount into combat.

There's a lot of fluff, which i promptly ignored.  It might be brilliant, but not what i'm looking for in a game, especially one that's heavily targeted at people who have played the video game and presumably know enough of the storyline to not really need extensive world info.  Keep in mind the book is only 66 pages long.  That space would be put to better use with more spells!
There's just not much to this pdf.  As awesome and action-packed as the video game allegedly is, i was expecting more fun stuff, maybe even enough to convince me to try the Xbox 360 version.  As it stands, my answer to that question is still "meh."

Good points: the art is pretty, and there are maps.

In conclusion, this game seems to be completely playable if you have no illusions of playing high or even mid-level characters.  It just doesn't do anything for me that other games don't already do better.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Open Letter to the Impending Zombie Apocalypse

Dear Zombie Apocalypse,

Please stop with the 6am nightmares. I really can't get back to sleep when you do that, and i need my sanity to fight off your undead minions when they arrive. 

I promise i won't leave the house until the rest of the living are finished with their riots. Yes, even if my mom insists that she needs celery and canned biscuits before the stores close. Was that little exchange an allegory for something? Either way, it was your idea, not mine. If it's all the same, i think i'll just stay home until the crowds die down, and then join my parents in their more defensible location. I don't even like leaving the house on Black Friday, so i assure you, i can easily hang tight for a few weeks while the zombies are distracted by all the panicked people.

Thank you for the prophetic glimpses, but i have already warned my loved ones the best i can of impending doom. Yes, they are already concerned about my mental health--i have you to thank for that.

So, until you gift us with Patient Zero, i would much appreciate being left to my pathetic mortal existence, minus the reminders that we're all living on borrowed time.

Regards and Good Luck in your upcoming venture,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Character Archetypes (Or What You Require in a Character)

Some of the people i play lots of games with tend to play similar characters.  Some always want to be the pretty, smart girl, for example, or the biggest-toughest tank.  Still others might have characters that seem to have nothing in common at all, except that they all have extensive backstories rooted in a dark past or a volatile home life.

A lot of people will say 'i never play the same type of character twice' and be very wrong and/or lying about it, but i've probably played 50 different characters in less than three years, and i do think i've done pretty well at keeping them all new and fun. Of course there are some recurring patterns, but i like to think that even within the same archetype, they're each different enough to at least show i've made an effort.

 My personal requirements for any character, for any game, with any group of people are as follows: he or she must be able to survive the setting alone (through skills and/or fighting ability), but have a reason to work with the group anyway--and it can't just be something like 'they asked me to' or 'the same guy hired us.' There has to be some inner drive to work with someone else, even if there is reluctance involved. I don't think a GM should ever have to beg or coerce people to go along with a group--that's up to the players.

The male characters i play have the most in common: they are all tall, dark, and stoic. It doesn't matter if he's a werewolf, a ninja, a gunslinger, or a gigolo: he's going to be tough, confident, and to-the-point.  I surmise that this is probably because i'm a chick, and i want to play my ideal or whatever.  There might be some deeper psychological issues at work, but i think this theory is direct and logical enough, so let's move on.

The only thing my female characters seem to really share is a very deep, extreme, stubbornness. My women are definitely more varied than the men; they range from a 15-year-old Buffy-style Slayer who just-wants-to-kill-stuff-and-to-hell-with-the-consequences, to an immortal Japanese Samurai who feels she must atone for past indiscretions, as well as prepare her younger teammates for battles yet to come. I play women that are big, small, tough, meek, muscled, and deceptively frail. They're outspoken, shy, vengeful, peaceful, and everything in-between. I don't even mind playing ugly and/or fat chicks--i mention this only because it seems to be such a rare position on the matter.  I've seen people (men and women alike) cheat just to boost their attractiveness scores, and calling them out on it tends to be very...well...ugly.

So how about you?  Do you favor any particular archetype in your games?  What qualities do the majority of your characters have in common?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Expectations: Player vs GM

I suppose the title may be misleading; I don't mean to discuss what happens when the players and GM play against each other (though that might be a fun topic for another post), but rather when the players' expectations do not match the GM's plans.  This very issue was the end of a game I intended to run a few weeks ago, before it even started, and it was an educational, if not slightly traumatic, experience.

First, a little background may be in order.  Most of my gaming is done online, via either chat program (more specifically, OpenRPG) or message board post.  It's safe, it's comfortable, and it fits in nicely with my 24/7 parenting schedule.  However, it has left me VERY out-of-practice when it comes to interacting with *ahem* real-life people.  To pull myself out of the less-than-occasional rut that creates, i do sometimes reach out (via internet communities, of course) and attempt to meet up, in person, with local gamers.  So far I have had little to no luck, only banding together with a couple or two and playing a few games before something conveniently comes up to prevent further meet-ups.

This time i found a semi-local ("semi" because I have to drive approximately 3 hours, round-trip) gaming store that offers open gaming space, which would logically boast both a neutral gathering place and a more diverse pool of gamers--and thus far, the arrangement has delivered on both counts.  However, the group seemed too good to be true, especially after some pre-game correspondence that revealed that all of them were up for anything.  One would think this was a very good thing, but it left me wondering what they wanted in a game.  And i never found out.

Through message board posts, we decided that i would run Armageddon, and i provided them with information on how to obtain the necessary materials for play.  I had a setting in mind, and a few ideas for adventures, but i wanted to wait and see what sorts of characters they created before committing to a solid campaign.  Little did I know, it seems they had it in their minds to wait until they knew what the campaign concept was before creating characters.


I suppose my method works just fine for online games, where the players may post messages for a few days, making suggestions and requests and bouncing character ideas off one another before game day.  But in face-to-face games, it seems that people expect to do these things in person.  And let me tell you, i was terrified.

One long, painful story short, and a panic attack later, we decided it would be best if someone else ran a game, and i graciously bowed out.

Lesson?  Make sure everyone's expectations are very clear from the beginning.  If the players expect an involved campaign, have one ready.  If they expect lots of flexibility and player-driven storylines, be prepared to toss out your notes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Anyone using a pyzam layout with the embedded comment option chosen, probably needs to adjust their settings.  I have so few readers, i didn't even know it was a problem.  Ha.  Ha.  But yet again, Nully came to the rescue and figured it out.


My comments are fixed.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gamer Burnout?

I suppose there comes a time when each of us has to step back and look at how many games we're really playing in a week.  That in itself can be startling, once the hours are added up (for me it averages between 17 and 20, which i easily justify because it's all via chat or message board, so i can walk away from the computer as-needed to tend to my children, do housework and make dinner, etc. and no one's the wiser...right?), but my biggest downfall seems to be how many different systems i'm playing in a given week--right now it's 6.  And i am not keeping the combat formulas and whatnot straight.  Argh!  I find myself wondering if everyone has this problem, or just those of us that are math-challenged...or if the number of different games i play during a 7-day period is unusual.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Max Brooks
Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 0307346617

A social and psychological commentary set to the entertaining backdrop of a zombie apocalypse--genius, really.  There is a reason people are calling this *the* zombie book to read; it is arranged as a series of short stories that artfully entwine to answer all the questions you ever asked yourself (and more) about what would happen if society spiraled into chaos.

I seriously squeed when i received this for my birthday from my husband--i've heard so many wonderful things, and it did not disappoint.  So often books about possible futures (especially post-apocalyptic ones) are so...i don't know.  Lame.  But this is not; it is gritty and horribly, beautifully realistic.  Each character has a story to tell (literally), and they are each unique and insightful.

It is more than a story about zombies, but a story about people, which will leave you walking away with a proper mix of disgust, humor, and pride at being human yourself.

Book Review: Game Widow

Game Widow
Wendy Kays
Synergy Books
ISBN: 1934454265

Not terrible, but not great--good if you're completely mystified as to why anyone would ever want to play video games, but provides nothing terribly insightful if you game yourself or have a lot of common sense.  It does cite a lot of sources and resources though, so it's not a completely useless if you're doing some research.  It's not especially well-written though, and it gives the reader a lot more "duh" than actual, helpful advice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slowly Working out the Blogger Kinks

After some frustrating hours, trying to add basic widgets, my favorite hippo pointed out that i was using an *ahem* outdated form of the site.  A little patience and no small amount of Google-Fu later, he found a way to bypass the bastardly little button that was standing in my way.  May i present to you...the label cloud.  I Googled that one all by myself, and edited it into the code.  w00t!  It needs a little work in the visual appeal department, along with my stock layout, but my humble little blog is getting there.

Edit: New Layout is a go; also, i can list followers and blogs i read--yeah, i'm pretty pleased that i've figured out how to do some basic stuff, with just a couple more hints from my pal NulSyn.  That being said, if anyone running a game-related blog is interested in listing each other on the sidebars (as links or blogs we follow; i'm not picky) just give me a shout.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Review: The Alterverse

The Alterverse: Book One of the Gamers Trilogy
Donald Semora
Self Published
ISBN: 0-615-30453-2

I’m always excited to read anything game related, so when Don told me he was writing a book about gamers, living their adventure, I was truly stoked. Gamers tell the best stories, afterall, and this guy is a player, GM, and game writer all in one.

When the book arrived in the mail* I was immediately impressed with how pretty it was; the paper is of good quality, the art varies from decent to great, and the layout is appealing. Definitely one of the better self-published paperbacks I’ve seen, and even above most mainstream titles in the same $10.50 price range.

What disappointed me upon further inspection was the number of typos. This, paired with difficult sentence structure, was pure distraction for me. I found myself re-reading paragraphs in an attempt to understand who had just said what. In all fairness, there was apparently a miscommunication of some sort with the printer, and the unedited version was sent out—I choose to be optimistic and believe that all of my gripes will be resolved with the second printing.

The story itself is good, but mildly cliché. I kept looking for something to break the mold; I was expecting to get rickrolled by the author, but that never really happened. The people that seem evil are the bad guys, and the guy you think is going to betray them all, does.

There were plot holes. Not huge ones, but ones that my own gaming group would have hounded me over if I ran this as an adventure. There were things that really stood out to me from the beginning as something that the party should have tried, and there were strategies and logic used that didn’t seem to fit their experiences.

Many of the elements that weren’t predictable seemed out of place or even illogical. Actions and dialog from many of the characters didn’t seem realistic. Some of these things may have been solved with more information from the author; for example, the seasoned warrior woman was nearly overtaken by something the untrained gamer geeks easily defeated; what other unmentioned variables caused this? The lack of detail almost seems to imply that she needed to be rescued just because she was a woman, or maybe the party was outnumbered by more than it seemed.

What I really look for in a novel is some major plot twist (which I suppose may come later in the trilogy), provocative social commentary, or some other element that really makes me think. I was disappointed to find nothing like that, only the story I went in expecting. This would make a very good book for young readers (if the grammar was cleaned up a bit), but I found it lacking anything of substance that would make it a classic for adults. It was probably better suited as a gaming adventure than a fantasy novel, though I do like the idea behind it. Not a bad first attempt by the author, but I want more.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author for review

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Food Review: Baconnaise


Trial 1: warm Baconnaise, straight from the mail delivery person's car, on white bread.

Verd (my husband) and i couldn't wait to try this, so we got straight to it, spreading it on white bread for a new spin on the classic trailer-park sandwich. Not bad. It was a bit too vinegary for my tastes, but we agreed it would probably improve with refrigeration.

Trial 2: room temp on pumpernickel.

Now this was good. The flavor of the bread helped smooth the mayo taste, and the bacon flavor really came out. Our 7-year-old son was crazy about it.

Trial 3: chilled on a ham, bacon, provel and lettuce sandwich

Heaven. I really can't imagine a better sandwich, unless we had fresh tomatoes or i had taken the time to toast the bread. It really takes meat between two slices of bread and transforms it into something special.

The Verdict: Good Stuff.

It wasn't ZOMGbestthingevar, because it did still taste like mayo (and i'm not a huge fan of that, though i do like it sometimes in moderation), but it had a nice subtle bacon flavor that wasn't too salty or smoky. Decent as a spread on a nice piece of bread. Ridiculously good on any sandwich involving lettuce and bacon.

By the way, this product is also kosher and vegetarian-safe.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Test Post

Please excuse the mess while i determine what's what here and why my page isn't displaying correctly.

Edit: the intricacies between Blogger and RPGaming's host are a bit too advanced for me, so for now, this blog is going to be hosted by blogspot, subject to change immediately in the event that i happen to experience a brain anomaly that causes me to become a coding genius (that, or my husband, who actually is a bit of a coding genius, finds some free time to help me to that end).

In the mean time, i suppose an introduction may be in order, with this being my first post. In most circles i am simply known as "hippie." I could probably come up with some elaborate story to explain this title, but there really isn't one. It just happens to be the common word among several usernames i've used in various places around the 'net.

I am a wife and a stay-at-home, homeschooling, mom of three. By far, my dominant hobby is pen and paper role-playing games. I have many other passions, but they are expressed through other mediums. I play and GM daily via post and chat, as well as in person when the rare opportunity makes itself available. I also moderate one gaming forum, and of course co-administrate RPGaming (how may times can i reference that site in one post?).

This blog is meant as a companion to the RPGaming Forums, and should eventually accompany it on a main site...but that is another thing on a list of many that my darling husband has yet to completely finish.

I love comments in the form of feedback, criticism, and ideas for future posts, so bring em on! I prefer to think of my posts as the beginnings of discussion threads rather than just blog entries.