Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nacho Punch Hipster Beer

I like craft brews, however I don't think I have tried any of these yet.  Still looking for them at my local pub.

YouTube Video - Hipster Beer

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Motels... thirty years later

My wife and I went to see the Motels (band web page) in August at the Tupelo Music Hall.  The last time we saw the Motels (wikipedia) it was over thirty years ago, and was at the Hampton Beach Casino.  I was looking for something a bit special for my lovely and talented wife on her birthday.  I was hoping to do something which harkened back to when we were dating or just before we got married, as this year was our 30th anniversary.  Our first big date was the Motels concert at the Casino, and around our anniversary I had even looked into seeing if the Motels were still around, to see if they were playing anywhere.  Serendipitous, a few months later there they are right near home.  Sweet.

Flash back a little over thirty years ago.  My wife and I had met and gotten together a few times, but had not had any special big date yet.  Around comes a band I had seen a year or two earlier in a Boston club by the name of the Motels.  They were an LA style new wave band with a notable sound, a crisp delivery, and were led by a very charismatic woman by the name of Martha Davis.  They were coming around again, I got tickets, the show was terrific and we had a memorable first big date.

So, here we are over thirty years later, having our first big date again.  Sort of.  The band is now called Martha Davis and the Motels.  Martha, my wife and I are all thirty years older.  However Martha has a band full of young guys half her age none of which are original.  We enter the venue and sit down.  As we look over the crowd, there are very few people in the room who were not around to see the original Motels thirty years ago, and those who were not look to be the children of those who were.  Not a few people in the room dressed in clothes you might expect new wave fans thirty years to dress... except it does not look like costumes if you get my drift.

The band comes out.  Martha seems a bit out of sorts and flashes a bottle of wine she was carrying under her arm, "Why try to hide it."  The crowd hollars and hoots in approval.  I am not so sure this is a good sign.   We have a treat tonight, the original sax/keyboard player for the incarnation of the Motels with which I was familiar is travelling with the band.  So, we have two legacy Motels members instead of one - promising.

The jump right to it, playing songs from most of the bands early albums.  If I had met Marth on the street I may not have recognized her with the weight of thirty years on her - - but as soon as she started singing there was no question this was The Martha Davis of Motels fame.  Sure, here voice was a little deeper and more scratchy than it was three decades ago, but she still had feeling in her voice and those unique inflections which made those songs unique and compelling.  The new band was pretty good, though the sound mix was not up to the caliber of a band which was once top 40 material.  The sax player was as good as I remembered him, and I was glad he was touring with them.

Random thoughts

  • The band was not as tight as I thought it should have been, Martha seemed nervous at times, and there might have been some dissapointment in her glances at some of the band members at times.
  • Martha has not translated her previous fame to a new generation yet.  Everybody there was there because they knew the Motels of old
  • Most of the crowd was very adoring of Martha.  She could have screwed up royally and they would have still applauded.  She didn't though.
  • If you listen to the words of some of her songs you might think she has some issues.  There are lots of songs about a woman being abused, feeling powerless, striking out, etc.  Given how she behaves on stage, it might be true.
  • There was a big difference on how she looked at her current band, and her old sax player.  The later gets looks like those of an old dear friend.
  • Martha's stage presence was not as charismatic as I remember it from years ago.  
  • I learned later this was the first night of the tour.  It may explain the jitters.

Overall, we had a great time.  The tickets were very reasonably prices, and it is small intimate venue.  Even not at the peak of her former dynamic self, Martha is still a talented and entertaining performer.  A dance down memory lane was very welcome, though our memories might be through rose colored glasses or whatever the equivalent is for ears.

If you have never heard the Motels, give them a listen.  It is worth it.

Only the Lonely

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Barad plays in a 3E gestalt character game

I joined a game recently where they are using gestalt characters in a third edition with house rules campaign.  Gestalt character definitions can be found in the Unearthed Arcana book.  There were only two players before I joined the game, so the DM chose to use Gestalt characters.

What is a gestalt character?  For a more robust description, look here at the d20srd site.  Short answer: to
support high-powered campaigns, characters essentially take two classes at every level, choosing the best aspects of each. The process is similar to multi-classing, except that characters gain the full benefits of each class at each level. If the two classes you choose have aspects that overlap (such as Hit Dice, attack progression, saves, and class features common to more than one class), you choose the better aspect. The gestalt character retains all aspects that don’t overlap.

Don't ask me to explain how the name links to the word as used in psychology - I don't get it.

If you are running a game, and have only 2-3 players, this is a way to have them cover more capability.  I think it takes a more experienced player to handle one, and certainly takes a more experienced DM to attempt to setup encounters in some sort of balance.  I think the write up in the Unearthed Arcana is spot on: gestalt characters are more powerful than regular characters but NOT twice as powerful.  You still only get one character's worth of actions per round, and even is you have more hit points due to using best in class, it still is not the amount two separate characters would have.

So, in the attack/capability area, you suddenly have more choice which is very powerful.  However, since the DM is hitting you with a larger challenge things can get swingy.  Our experience so far has been if we play well, and the the opponents hard, we do very well.  If we stumble a bit, if we lose the tempo, or get on the defensive things can go sour very quickly.

Most of 'monsters' are just that, regular monsters.  The DM may use higher challenge ratings, which can be dangerous if we don't have the necessary capability to take them down, or more often just use more monsters.  The DM does occasionally include gestalt opponents, but of course we do not know that until they do something unexpected.

All in all the game is fun.  There have been some awkward moments, but I think the DM has done a pretty good job of keeping the party challenged.  And there are times, gestalt character or not, we should just run away to fight another day.  Alas, that does not always happen, and death has occurred.  Usually happens when people get cocky or bored.  We may be powerful, but we are still just three in the action economy.

So, in summary, gestalt seems to be a viable choice if:

  • the party is 2-3 players
  • players and DM are experienced
  • you do not mind additional swingy-ness in the game
  • you do not get hung up on potential rule collisions and let the DM rule quickly and move on

The party consisted of a Paladin-Sorcerer, Fighter-Rogue, Fighter-Wizard, but the Paladin-Sorcerer perished in the last game. (...know when to run away...).  We'll see what he brings in next.  I find the Fighter-Wizard I am playing to be quite flexible and potent, and I am quite pleased that I always seem to have something useful and dangerous to do.  Have a big bad guy in front of me - go all fighter on him, then be suddenly surrounded by lots of troublesome little cretins - how'd you like that flaming hands.

That's it for now.
The dice never lie.

Friday, April 11, 2014

BBC post - The 1980s D&D panic

Seems like this topic never goes away.  At least some people laugh about it now.

The stigma is still real though.  How many of us admit publicly in most social situations to playing this 'geek' game?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barad sips some Abita Turbodog

Sometimes I feel like the lonely voice in the crowd when I go the the specialty beer shop.  While others are clamoring for the latest super hopped IPA, or IPA like pale ale I ask my local merchant, "You have anything with a nice malty flavor?"

He takes me around back to the 'cave' and points to the six pack of Abita Turbodog.  I know naught how the name relates to the brew, but he was correct - this is a malty ale.

Pours out with a nice thick head which lasted a couple of minutes. The aromas are not strong to me.  It is a dark brown color with reddish tint.  Very pretty.  Taste - ah the taste; sweet malty goodness with hints of chocolate, toffee, and caramel.  Strong enough in tasted that you might not have more than two in a row unless you were pairing with some food.

I like the brew, but I do not find it outstanding.  Except for the fact it is a malty beverage saving me from a sea of out of balance hoppy concoctions.  So for that, I thank you Abita.

I give it a mild thumbs up.  Go ahead and try it if you are like me and need a break from IPAs masquerading as pale ales.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Captain Blood

Once more I read an old adventure novel.  I have a mild interest in old adventure novels.  I am interested in the historical perspective they sometimes reveal, curious about the ground work they have set for future works, they generally are much shorter than the modern behemoths being published, and if I don't care for them I am not out anything but time because I generally get them on my Kindle.

I read this free Kindle version of the novel (spoilers in the 2nd link).

As far as I can tell the novel appears to be historically based.  I am no expert on the time period, about 1688, but they major events seem to track to real history.  The novel is not so much about the main events of the time period but more about the effect it had on people.  As in most adventure novels I have read from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it does its fair share of thinly veiled social commentary.

Basically Captain Blood, is a hero of high moral standards who is thrown low, and comes back in a dashing style.  What more could you ask for in a pirate adventure?

The writing is not too bad.  However several times the writing style devolves into explaining things instead of telling the story.  That also seems to be quite common in early novels.  One thing I do find interesting is the general reviling of the Spanish throughout the book.  I am not sure if that is historically accurate, or just a bias of the author.

All in all, not a bad short read, with some interesting history.  It most certainly is fertile ground for ideas to be used in an episodic adventure style RPG.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Other observations from 4th Edition

After some additional time playing 4th Edition I offer these more recent observations.

Movement, area spells and the lack of extra cost for diagonal movement really does make the action move faster.  That said, I still don't know if I favor the approach.   When playing the 4th Edition game I just went with it and tried not to think about the discontinuity of the approach.  Last week I played in a 3.5 game and the additional time to calculate movement and spell area effects was noticeable.

WoTC online tools for 4E make character upgrades and decisions faster.  I do not know how you would find all the options in books, and whether the cost of that sized library is worth it.  The options in just the core books are a bit limited and the huge number of options available in the on-line tools is tempting.  The DM has a subscription and we logged in as him to make the updates.

In the last session my Mage character was hit with a strange poison which brought me to zero hit points and kept me unconscious.  It was an usual situation, and the numbers were a bit of an oddity, but the net effect was I was not going to die from the poison but there was no way to trigger a save roll or nor death save until additional damage from another source hit my character.  So I was out for a few rounds with nothing at all to do.  Seeing that, the DM gave me control of a bad guy.  I happily attacked the party until I realized if I used an area power that hit my character it would trigger events which would likely have brought my character back into the battle.  The bad guy wouldn't know that, and I didn't want to take advantage of that in playing the bad guy.  Awkward.

I still find formal skill challenges to be awkward.  In the last session an NPC leads us through the explanation of how we prevent a machine from blowing up.  Unfortunately it ended up being a bunch of rolls rather than role playing.  I would still rather see a DM give players a problem and let them figure it out with their own minds and using rolls as a last resort.

Where has Barad been?

Life got complicated the last several months.  Some family issues and the loss of my job.  Not to worry, it will all work out in the end.

Blogging may continue to be spotty.  My 3.5E group essentially ended a while back and there is no outlook for interest in reforming in the near future.  The 4E Zeitgeist campaign I joined is on hiatus, and it may be a permanent end.  I am having difficulty getting interest from my group who plays in my d20 past Victorian Shadows campaign.  In the mean time I am a guest in my sons 3.5E group and am looking for a local table top D&D group to join.

Until next time, all the best.  The dice never lie.
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