Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reading For Later: Example

Recently Mike Bourke, @gamewriterMike  on Twitter, asked many gamers for some advice for an article he compiled. I threw in my usual bit of reading and taking notes for future use.

After all, it's kind of what Appendix N is about.

But it's easy to say that. Especially for someone whose still knee deep in non-gaming, heck, non-fiction material, for the most part. Just flippantly offer some advice right?

Here's an actual example from a book I'm currently reading.

Concise Guide to Databases: A Practical Introduction (Undergraduate Topics in Computer Science) is a book I'm reading right now. I use Access and some SQL and I'm interested in learning more about the concepts of big data and all things of that nature. 
 “Religious orders and governments were the first large organizations to gather and actively exploit data to raise revenue. Recorded data has been  known to exist since at least 2800 BC in ancient Egypt….Records were held on limestone flakes and papyrus. The Rosetta Stone, famous for holding the key to translating hieroglyphics (the same information was written in three languages on the stone, one of which could be understood and was used to translate the other two) was created to show a temples exemption from taxes. (pg 3)"

Okay, so if you're building a history of you're setting and wondering why things are the way they are, having real world examples is a great way to expand upon your own campaign. This is talking about thousands of years ago. Now if you add dragons or other creatures who've had their own civilizations, the numbers can become quite larger, but the roots of "civilization" can take place long ago and far away and have reasons for it. Cut to….

"There needed to be data kept in multiple locations. With European colonization of other parts of the world, trading companies had to start keeping data locally as well as at head office. Some of these companies were huge, for example the East India Company came into being in 1600 and by the eighteenth century effectively controlled large parts of India and had its own army and navy."

Okay, a merchant company with it's own army and navy? One that controls it's own nation? Man, that's well worth reading up on or flat out stealing. Player's could work for or against such an entity. They may wind up doing both at some time.

…."It (East India Company) had been blamed in part for triggering American War of Independence (the tea in the Boston tea Party was company stock) and laying the foundation for the First Opium War where Indian opium was used to trade for tea."

So an organization so big that it's partial, if not fully, to blame for multiple wars? Players can easily get caught up in such historical events, or perhaps even cause them. I've known a player or two that wasn't above abusing a game mechanic in trading if it was going to bring him some extra gold.

But there are some more bits... ….."Modern banking had its origins in the city states of Renaissance Italy such as Venice, Genoa, and Florence. In the United Kingdom lack of trust in the government (for example the approximation of €200,000 of private money in 1640 by Charles I) led merchants to deposit gold and silver with the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Originally the goldsmiths were an artisan company but over time incorporated silversmiths and jewelers. "

So if you don't see a scenario where the royalty stealing money from the people isn't an adventure, or where something like Goldsmiths become banks because they have access to all of this excess money isn't possibly worthy of adventure, then I got nothing for you.

Now it's not presented this way of course, but imagine if the player's are rebels against a royal family that has yanked all of that money. Plenty of things to do in such a situation.

Alternatively, imagine the players have enough access to coin of their own that they lend out money and in doing so, become their own power source in the setting.

Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the whole book is filled with examples of that nature. For one, that's the background chapter on how and why databases came about. For another, I'm still reading it. 

Anyone else ever read something and found yourself using the material not for it's intended purpose? If so, share below!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Still Alive Just Not RPG'ing

I'm still alive, I just haven't been doing any reading that I would relate to the whole Appendix N bit nor actually involved in any role playing games.

My regular group mixes up their games a lot. When they do Pathfinder or 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, I make extra effort to get in some gaming time, but they've been doing a lot of Fate and the Cipher System and some other stuff.

It's not that I don't think those games are good or anything, it's just well, between my actual playing of Warmachine and my weird ODC where I want to play painted miniatures, I've been painting and playing a lot. Painting specific miniatures for the armies does take up a bit of time.

In terms of reading, yeah, 'fun' times...

Excel is such a huge program that I'm always wondering what else is there under the surface. My job requires me to do a lot of reports. I'm fortunate enough to know enough of VBA that I'm able to automate quite a bit of it, and comfortable enough in front of a group of people that I can teach the basics.

But there's always more to learn. The Dummies book is pretty solid in getting some basic details and ideas there. If you want something that's far more detailed and goes into a LOT more of the high end in a very dry tone, Analyzing Business Data might be more for you.

And as big data has become more and more of a thing, I've looked at some introduction books on R. It sounds like an awesome software and has a lot of possibilities. If anyone has any recommendations, please throw them out there. My knowledge base of it is minimum but I was able to download it and do some charting exercises. The charts here tend to be a lot stronger in terms of smoothing the data lines between points.

Anyway, hope everyone is having a great holiday and is prepped for Christmas and is ready for 2016! Let's hope it's better than 2015 but as it's an election year... ugh... I can already see the memes...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Amazon Wants all The Monies

So I'm checking my e-mail this morning and Amazon is doing another one of their big game sales.

It has board games, card games, and RPGs on sale.

I have quite a bit of it already, but I did make a few purchases.

Star Fluxx

For $7.99 you can't go wrong. Fluxx is a silly fast moving game and I've played several editions. I hope one day they do a really high end art style fantasy version with things like "Barbarian King", "Black Sword", "Pale Prince", etc...


One of my friends had a game night and we played this one numerous times. It's a fast moving bluff card game and it's got some great art. Looking forward to getting this one for $8.99.

Anyone play any of the supplements and sequels? They look interesting.

Timeline Historical Events Card Game

Another one for $8.99

I have two of these already. Each set focuses on a specific thing. Discoveries is one I have. You have to arrange items on a timeline using your cards as to where you think it took place. When you first start, it's really easy but as more cards get laid down, unless you have a vast store of historical dates in your head, it gets a little more challenging. Fun stuff.

The good news is that all of these should be family friendly. No hard core multi-tier games that need hours of study. Get the family into gaming!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Maysville Reading

When I have blocks of time where my normal sedimentary activities aren't taking over, aka binging on hours of Netflix or Hulu, I like to read.

One book recommended to me that I finally finished, was Eat the Frog!

The idea is to finish off your least most desirable tasks and get the day started.

Well, it's slightly more complicated then that. There are other bits that include time management, some good old 80/20 thinking, looking at the three things that add the most value to your company, and others, but yeah, it was well worth a read.

The other one I finished off was Supply Chain Management Demystified. Working in various parts of the supply chain, from the manufacturing, to the packaging, to the distribution side of it, it's always good to 'sharpen the saw' as Stephen Covey would say.

Lots of solid ground advice here and well worth keeping as an introduction and reference piece.

I poked around a few other books as well but didn't finished them so I'll probably touch on them another day when the books are finished.

Nice to be back in Chicago. It's not even that I'm some weird city-boy who has to be active 24-7 but I like having my own bed to sleep in and my own internet to use and my own car to drive.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Return to Maysville

I did not join my regular Friday Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition group yesterday.

I had spent man hours in the car coming back from Maysville.

It so happens I was very lucky.

On our way back, we say traffic piled up for miles going the other way. Turns out there was a bad accident the previous day and there was still work being done to clean it up. Just goes to show that accidents happen anywhere.

The city of Maysville Kentucky was quite during my time there. I again tried to eat at places that I would not normally venture to in the city.

One of the places I went to was the Old Pogue Whiskey refinery. One of my friends, Kim, was driving. We had never been there before but made it with no problem.  We did not however, know where the actual building was.

Another friend, Chong, and I, walked out of the car and checked out one of the buildings. Was a residential house. She pointed us up the hill with its zig zagging road. In the hot Kentucky weather and it's damp humidity, the remnants of near record setting rains, we climbed the hill panting and wishing we were in better shape.

There were two buildings at the top of that hill. On one side, a huge manor. I believe that was where the majority of things were happening.

the other side was a small store front with a delivery truck being loaded in front of it. That's where we went. One of the workers, I don't know if it was the owner, spoke with us about the longevity of the family formulas. He mentioned how it had a special flavor brought out in part by the water running through limestone. He also provided us with a tasting of the various whiskey flavors that were sold there. All were solid but of course, the best one he had, the Old Pogue, was out and you had to join a waiting list for it.

It was worth the trip and if I had more funds, would have been even more worth the trip. I cannot emphasis how down to earth the employee was. He even let us take some pictures of where the alcohol was being brewed.

I picked up three bottles there were 375 ml each and each one costing $45. Not cheap but it was made right there.

His biggest problem? Capacity. He couldn't keep up with the demand and was constantly sold out. If he were a public company, I wonder what the pressures of the stockholders would due to him? Glad to get what I did though.

In terms of food? I tried to eat at places that were not local to Chicago. I was not have always successful, but I did managed to avoid things that I normally go to.  The place that broke the mold right away in places I've been and will be again? The dreaded Cracker Barrel.

We decided to stop for food on the way out. I had the haddoc, sweet potato, and green beans. Throw in some biscuits and tea and you've got a fine lunch.

No matter where you go, it would seem that chicken is a thing. Maysville was no exception. Here they had Lee's Chicken and they had some fantastic broasted chicken. And sweet tea? You want to talk about sweet tea? Liquid sugar would be about the only way to describe it.

Another place I ate was the Penn Station. Now I hear they have some locations locally but I'd never been to one. Reminded me of the chain the Great Steak and Potato. The fries were excellent and the philly cheesesteak I had was so filling I only snacked for dinner that night.

One of them was the bar/bar food place, Tumbleweeds, right outside the hotel.

I had the beef brisket there. They screwed up on my fries and put a ton of onions and the brisket. The brisket itself was a little fatty. The sauce and the portion sizes were good though and I'd eat there again.

I also ate at a local Mexican restaurant. To the good people of Kentucky, if that's what passes for Mexican in your neck of the woods, you have my apologies.

I didn't get as much reading done as I did before becuase I brought my tablet. It was both friend and enemy. It kept boredom away but also distracted me. I'll save what I did read for a future post.

Looking forward to trying out that whiskey at a later date and getting back to some Chicago time. Hope everyone had a better week and got some good gaming in.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gaming: 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons and Warmachine

In gaming, I've been in a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign based off of the Rise of Tiamat.  I'm playing an Old One bound Warlock.

We're still on book one, around the 5th chapter of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

The GM is kind of not using XP, kind of using it. Sort of an annoyance as I've missed two weeks and am a full level behind the group of new characters that replaced the party that was decimated.

Also annoying is that the game is using critical hits not only for weapons, but also for spells. On weapons the party hasn't been horribly crippled, but have suffered some losses. On spells, we've managed to inflict some impressive critical hits.

But that's a pendulum that will have a vicious swing when it turns back our way.

If I didn't enjoy hanging out with this group, I'd probably wait until we rotated out this game and went into another. I have a good time but the game itself isn't the reason.

In other avenues, I'm a miniature painter and collector. One of my friends has been busting my chops to play more. I've been playing Warmachine. It's a fun setting based in the Iron Kingdoms.

The faction I play, is Retribution.

I've mentioned before that I like the 'angry' elves. The design of their machines are different, being round and smooth as oppopsed to square and chunky.

I've only played a handful of games. I'm still learning the rules. Haven't won a game yet.

But I am going to keep playing. It provides a lot of fodder for my brain in almost every way. The fiction in the line varies. I didn't think too much of my faction's fiction last go round. But the models released? Tops.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Chicago Gameday 41: Earthdawn

Despite playing numerous fantasy settings and rule systems, Earthdawn is one that I never got into. I never read the fiction or owned any of the various supplements. There might have been some reading many years ago based on friends recommendations, but actual play?

That changed a few weeks ago during Chicago Gameday 41. Gameday is an opportunity to play with new people and try new systems. Depending on what's being run, you can even find games you're already familiar with and want to dip a toe in. I generally use it as a testing ground for games I haven't played before.

Earthdawn scenario is described as the following: Your caravan returns to Bartertown to find that your patron has gone missing. Meanwhile, a sinister organization plots the downfall of a kingdom. Do you have what it takes to rescue your boss as well as your paycheck? (Characters provided, rules will be taught).

The pregenerated characters were cleanly written and easy to understand. The GM did a solid job on the sheets. The book itself? Not a fan of the format. It's one of those off sized shapes and in softcover. It's so thick that I can't imagine that it'll hold up long under constant use. It's a book that looks like it could easily have been broken into two or three separate books if they were going for that size. 

Our first combat was an introduction scene against some peasants stealing from us as we made our way to Bartertown and then the actual adventure itself started. It was a good method to use in order for us to get the basics of combat down without a huge fear of poor tactics ending us.

The adventure was fun. I wound up playing a female smith, the 'serious' merchant lord. The GM wrote out numerous bits on how my character felt about the various other characters including her brother who she tended to look down on. I used that to ham it up a bit with my bard brother whose player did an excellent job of making him a whiskey drinking, bar hopping womanizer. 

The system itself is a little swingy. Dice explode. On some actions, you can be roling a lot of dice. The more dice you roll, the more opportunities for an explosion. It's great when it works for you, which it did for the group a surprising number of times.

Not so great when it works against you. Which as my problem with criticals, is that the Game Master is ALWAYS going to be rolling more dice then you. 

Earthdawn was enjoyable and I'd play it again. My friend, +erik labelle has run it for my fellow gamers in the past and if it comes up again, I'll have to take a swing at it. Apparently 4th edition 'fixed' some of the problems like bypassing armor. I've heard that this was a huge problem as you already get penalties for wearing armor in the first place so if someone can bypass it... Not familiar enough personally to say how that works in the long run.

Afterwards, I wandered through Games Plus and picked up a few nick nacks like some Games Workshop Trees, the three 'new' Games Workshop paints and some other bits. I wanted to see what the main difference was between the old and new paints. Haven't delved into that much yet as I haven't used a lot of gold since I bought them. 

Anyone else check out conventions for the opportunity to see how games play? Any great stories come out of that? Any horror stories? I have to say, in terms of horror stories, I've been lucky. Very rarely have I had any issue, either when playing, or running. It's like the people I'm playing with game there to enjoy the game and play it as opposed to being terrible people.

Anyway, thanks to Games Plus for hosting and I'm looking forward to hopefully going in the future.