Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Missed Session and I avoid the TPK

TPK is short for Total Party Kill.

Two weeks ago, I was away on business so missed the game. It also meant missing the XP and getting up to 3rd level.

This week I was ready to go and made the mistake of thinking, "Man, wouldn't it be awesome to take a nap and be super charged for the game?"

After the nap my body was like, "No son, that's no nap, it's actually time to go to sleep." While my back pain has been more manageable, at the end of the week, it catches up to me quite a bit and rest is good. I'm also still recovering from the actual trip out of state.

So I let my friends know I wouldn't be making it and promptly fell back asleep.

Next day, the text. "TPK."

Turns out that there were some failed stealth rolls, some villains played intelligently, some lack of information among the players, and well, my friend running the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, got to have his first TPK in 5th edition.

When I was running the Mines adventure from the starter set, when the party was in the tower and the dragon breathed on them twice, thanks to letting a player reroll the 'charge' on the breath weapon, it was almost a TPK.

But this was a true TPK.

So now the DM is allowing everyone to make new characters starting at 2nd level, the level which I'm currently at.

I can't complain too much as I missed two sessions.

At this point, the people who wanted the 'Blood and Steel' critical hits might be rethinking things as one of them lost an arm to an attack. He then tried to hide in shadows and the GM is very "no nonsense" as he had the guards just follow the blood trail and finish off the hiding rogue.

It's just like those who voted against it said, "the number of attacks coming against the players is always going to be greater than those the players make." The sheer number of attacks, from the lowest level weaklings to the most powerful elements in the game, have the ability to strike critical hits. In such a situation, the players will always lose.

On the other hand, 5th edition characters are much easier to make, manage and level up than previous editions. Still, it would be nice to have some official character generators for the game to make it even easier if you know what I mean.

For other players out there, have you had any recent TPKs? Was it something stupid? Something that the party could have avoided?

How does the GM handle bringing in new characters? Same level? One level behind? Start at first regardless of the levels involved? Something else?

Me? I'll be curious to see what the group dynamic is now. Despite the threat of critical hits, it looks like the group is making more up front fighter types as opposed to what was in the party before. It'll be interesting to see for sure.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Maysville Kentucky: Part II: The Foods

So travelling to Maysville Kentucky for a week required work to, you know, pay for food and stuff. There are a couple of different ways companies handle this. For the hotel and transportation, the company paid for that through a company card used by our team leader. Good deal right?

For the food, they gave us cash. So much per day.

Then I forgot the cash at home.


When I eat when I'm out of the city, I try to go to places I wouldn't normally eat at when home.

On the way out to Maysville, we stopped at a gas station with a ton of different places. I wandered over to Larosa. It's a pizza chain not native to Chicago and it's nearby regions. I had a three meat personal pizza. Very good.

One of my friends had a half-sandwich and salad. He enjoyed the salad but almost wept when he saw the sandwich due to its puny size. He's used to eating at a local place by work called Eastern Style Pizza with its massive (both in size and cost) grinders.

Once we got to Maysville, there was talk of stopping at Walmart to purchase good so that we could save the cash given to us.

I spent a few bucks and sent my goods home with one of my friends. See the team leader wanted to watch a Black Hawks game. He's like, "Hey dudes, it's on at 6:00 PM so show up!" He decided to go to Applebee's.

M'eh. I've eaten at Applebee's many a time. It's not the worst food on earth or anything but it's also by far not the best. I had fish and chips and the blondie for desert.

The next day though, I decided to have a turkey and cheese sandwich as that was the foodstuff i had purchased from Walmart. My friends wanted to go out and eat. Kind of defeated the purpose of going to Walmart if you ask me.

I also picked up some Belvita snacks. They were for work along with some power bars. They made an edible if unimaginative lunch for most of my time down there.

I did break down and go to Big Boy for lunch one day when I forgot my power bars.

Big Boy is another chain, this one a hamburger one, that is not native to the Chicago region. Fair food. Better than McDonald's and a nice atmosphere.

We wanted to take in at least a little of the 'local' cuisine so went to Bluelicks Battlefield or something of that nature. One of the guys who'd been out to Maysville before told us how great it was.

He was dead wrong. It was a tiny buffet style dinner with very dried chicken and mediocre mashed potatoes. Only saving grace was the apple pie was good. But $20 for apple pie, especially when drinks, like soda, are not included? We didn't go there again.

Last day there I picked up a few things of the alcoholic nature and finished off a 4 pack of Kentucky Ale.

There was some hard liquor purchased as well but I haven't gotten around to that one yet. Saving it. I'm afraid I can't really drink on a weekday if it's 'the good stuff' because like the old song goes, the more I drink, the more I drink, the more I drink.

On the way out, we stopped at the Waffle House.

Looks like this is another chain. It was across from a McDonald's. I was surprised at how busy the McDonald's was considering how good the Waffle House signature waffle's were. On the other hand, I paid extra for the country ham and it was so salty I could not finish it. If I can't finish something you know there's problems.

If I had brought cash, I might have spent more. Might have spent some time in the nearby bars or gone into downtown for the steak house I'd heard good things about.

Still, there's always next time!

It was good to try out a few new chains and to see what the local were eating.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Maysville Kentucky Trip Part One: The Books I read

I found myself recently having to do to Maysville Kentucky for work.

During that trip, I managed to finish reading two nonfiction books that I'd been dragging feet on.

The first was The Black Swan. A book from author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that talks about the unexpected.

It's a nice read for the most part. There are a few bits where he gets into some math theory that I was like "What?" but the majority of the book was enjoyable.

One of the things I like is that he talks about a LOT of different things on his roundabout way of looking at the unexpected.

For example, he talks about how when many companies merge that things run smoother. Until they don't. And because these companies are now merged and under one umbrella, when something happens, it usually has a much larger impact.

Like say banks failing due to some crisis or another? Yeah... he's good.

So good that in between when I bought this and read it, he's come out with a second edition.


Seems to be a problem I have where I pick up an interesting book, read it, and then the second edition is already out. It'll be a while before I get to that as Nassim has several other books out that I'd like to read over.

Another example of things that were 'thought' provoking if you will, is the author noting that after the unexpected thing happens, how quickly we are to narrate a story of how if someone had seen X, Y, and Z, that it could have been stopped or prevented. The need to craft stories out of failure is powerful.

The second book I read was the Loyalty Effect.  The Loyalty Effect is written by Frederick F Reichheld. I picked this one up after reading Firms of Endearment. Another book I had finished recently that just came out with a second edition.

Reading the Loyalty Effect, I imagine that it too will have a second edition in the near future. It's about 20 years out of date in terms of the data its relying on to make its points.

It's main points though?

That corporations profit when they have a chain of loyalty going on.

1. Loyalty to the employee. That's a shocker eh? When you treat the employee right and give them motivation and the employee is a good fit for the company, it actually pays out more to the company to keep such employees, even during tough times than sacking them for short term profits.

2. Loyalty to the customer: A lot of this is in providing value to the costumer. Mind you, much like I say that the employee has to be a good fit for the company in #1 above, the same is true here. It's not that you want to bend over backwards for any costumer, but if you can keep your customers happy and keep them coming back? It's a profit generating machine.

3. Loyalty to the company: This one is a little more difficult for me to put into words because the book notes that when you are a publically held company, the pressure is always on to make those short term goals but in essence, you don't want to ruin what makes the company one which earned the loyalty of customers and employees because then you're investors are going to abandon you anyway because you're not going to be turning the profits you were when you were taking care of 1 and 2 in the first place.

Some good reading and I was glad to finish them off and get some new books into the click.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ivy From Ax Faction Miniatures

During the course of my back pain, my ability to paint miniatures has varied tremendously. Sometimes I would be unable to sit for more than a few minutes without pain.

Reading also took a slight hit as sometimes the pain killers would give me the dreaded 'fuzzy' thinking.

But I'm almost back to normal now.

Sadly that means I'm back to work full time which cuts into my hobby time.

But nonetheless, I'm sneaking in a miniature review of Ivy, a member of a group called the Siege Breakers from Ax Faction Miniatures. Their website is normal in most aspects but the default sound being on needs to be shut off and returned to the 80's where it belongs.

One of the things I like, is that there are finished painted miniatures on the site. I find things go much quicker for me when painting if I have at least a basis to start the painting off of. Unoriginal sure but also hugely time savings when I'm trying to knock out some of the backlog.

For example, Ivy's paint job from the Ax Faction Miniature site:

Also of note is that there are several views of the character, not just one from one side. Gives the viewer a better appreciation for the miniature as well as the great paintjob applied to it.

There is a fair amount of cheesecake with the figures, but there are also some practical designs as well.

I ordered Ivy with a few other figures. One of those that I'll shortly have a review of, is a giant elk with a rider. I bought that figure specifically as I was running a 5th edition campaign in the River Kingdoms located in the Paizo Pathfinder setting and thought it would make a great random encounter.

Ivy herself though, is part of a group called the Siege Breakers consisting of two female warriors and a 'fuzzy' creature that reminds me of Rocket Racoon from Guardians of the Galaxy. If fuzzy, aka Brig, wasn't a member of the group, I might have ordered the group as opposed to just Ivy.

Their newest group, the Defenders, looks like it's more up my alley in terms of all the characters.

Figures arrived quickly. Packaging
was top notch. They come in boxes with wrap and plastic over the figure to keep it all together. Glad to report no damage. The packaging also came with numerous bits like art and a button. I snapped a picture so you can see what I'm talking about below.

Opening the box... Ivy comes with a round lipped base and an precast designed insert. Saves you a few dollars if you like specialized bases from places like Dragon Forge or Secret Weapon.

Ivy is a gray resin figure. the details are very clean with minimal clean up. The figures comes in the following pieces:

1. Round lip base 30mm
2. Base insert.
3. Crossbow.
4. Quiver.
4. Left arm.
5. Main body.

The 'loose' pieces are all attached to one sprue. Makes it easy to keep them together when prepping the figure.

Figure assembly was reasonable save for the hand to crossbow bit. Now for experienced modellers or those who are pros will have no problem. I also didn't necessarily put everything in exactly the position it 'looked' like

In terms of height and compatibility, Ivy is a towering figure. In the above, we have a mercenary from Privateer Press, Ivy herself, an old metal figure from Malifaux and a Reaper metal miniature. Ivy easily towers over them. The poor Reaper figure, because he doesn't have an integrated round base, almost seems short in comparison.

Further note, both the Privateer Press and Malifaux miniature are on raised bases so they have another height advantage and still don't match Ivy's height.

I've given Ivy a white primer as I thought it might stand out more against the gray resin. Might go with a darker gray next time.

When looking for miniatures for your own games, what's the first thing you look for? Any other companies that are offering great service these days?