Tuesday, March 31, 2015

D&D: Conceptions of the Drow (Part 1: History)

I gave my gaming group some choices for this week's D&D article. They liked "The Theology of Demeter", "Court Rangers", and this article, which is about the drow of Wanderhaven. Designing the drow's backstory turned out to be a little more challenging than I'd anticipated, however, so given my current time constraints, I've had to break the article into two parts.  I hope you don't mind.
This week: the history and mythology of the drow.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tri Training Log: 3/23 to 3/29 (Week 2)

Kind of a frustrating week, even though I managed to get what I needed accomplished.  This month has been about trying to get back into the groove of training, and in that respect, I suppose I can't complain.  But I can't say it's been easy, either.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trolling Twitter: News & Notes on a Saturday

There's a new Bond film coming, and it looks a lot like the original films' ethos, updated with modern production values.  That's not a bad thing, but while I expect we'll continue to see a grittier Bond, the series itself changed a lot when Daniel Craig took over.  Now it seems to be returning to form.


Friday, March 27, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Cruz Makes It Official!

Spoiler Alert.  This week’s 5 Things has a lot of politics and specifically a lot on the 2016 election.  If you don’t care about that, it’s fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve decided to cover the week’s election events in a bit of detail.
I will say this: my aim here is not to convert you to my point of view. I definitely have a point of view, however, and although I’d very much like to cover this election objectively, I doubt that’s possible.  This week in particular, I got close to asking around to see if I could find a guest writer or two to come in and espouse competing points of view in the interest of balanced coverage, but I ultimately decided not to go looking because I neither want to pay a guest writer nor ask someone else to write for free.  You are therefore stuck with me.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

TV: Agents of SHIELD (Episode 2.2.4)

I liked this week’s show.  I don’t know that I have quite as much to say about it as I’ve had the last few weeks, but that doesn’t mean that I liked it any less.  I’m just not sure how much there is to add to the conversation.

*spoilers below*

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 8)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  Having saved Elain from certain death, Drakar is now headed to confront Safras, the man who tried to have Elaina killed.  

Drakar feels compelled to visit justice on the wicked for reasons he does not fully comprehend.

***
Safras’s lair turns out to be a hole in the desert floor, marked out by a lip of carved sandstone blocks.  Steps lead down into a darkness that is broken by weak torchlight shining some thirty feet below the city’s surface.  Drakar assumes this place was once some kind of crypt or tomb, that it has long since been defiled by grave robbers, and that this Safras is merely the latest in a long line of thieves and villains who’ve made the place their home or hideout.  Covering the entrance with a tent is a simple but ingenious idea, however Drakar doubts that it would accomplish its purpose without the willing ignorance of the local constabulary.  Given that Safras has also been shown to be in possession of the constabulary’s anti-magic handcuffs, this is in no way surprising.  The tomb’s entrance looks ancient; Drakar is sure that Jakara’s rulers have a record of its existence somewhere.  Besides, the tent is an at best minimal disguise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

D&D: A Beginner’s Guide to Wanderhaven

The following is an adaptation of something I wrote for my gaming group a few weeks ago by way of introducing the Wanderhaven setting for our new campaign.  The article itself reprints several ideas that have been presented elsewhere on the blog, but this was the first time I'd tried to collect the various pieces and present them as a coherent whole.

Prior to this, most of these ideas had been running loose in my notebook, cobbled together as needed for various short stories, adventures, and one-shots I've run for my kids.  As I work within the setting, though, concepts get fleshed out and become more useful, even if I rarely use many of the actual details presented below.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tri Training Log: 3/16 to 3/22 (Week 1)

The snow is finally--mostly-- gone and with that I managed to get back on my bike this week.  It wasn't a major effort or anything, and yeah, we had a bit of snow Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, but hey...  After a winter like the one we've had here in Connecticut, I'll take what I can get.

With this in mind, I labeled this Week 1 and started the season fresh from here.  I put in 71.3 points last week and 79.3 the week before, so my goal this week was to get somewhere between 90 and 100 points total.  I figured that would be enough to me moving in the right direction without leaving me too drained after a sluggish, snowy winter.

Friday, March 20, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Madness

It’s gonna be kind of a different blend of stuff this week.  The news is simultaneously boring and depressing, and on top of that, I’ve been busier than Hell.  It hasn’t been a bad week of anything, but my daughter Emma turned ten on Wednesday, and between that and a few other things, it’s been tough to find time to read, write, sleep, and think.  That’s fine, but it definitely adds a degree of difficulty maintaining the blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Still Talking Agents of SHIELD (Episode 2.2.3)

This week’s episode was the best we’ve seen in a good, long while.  Speaking personally, it was probably my favorite of all time.  That’s at least in part because one of my friends—and West Point classmates—had a cameo.  He played the security guard who got his throat slashed when the bad guys broke into the asylum, and the whole scene was epic.  Not only did it catch me off guard with its utter brutality, I also thought my buddy sold it beautifully.  Jack’s done some other work for Marvel, but he hasn’t hit it big, though I’m eagerly awaiting his inevitable star turn.
*Spoilers after the jump*

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 7)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  Having saved Elain from certain death, Drakar is now headed to confront Safras, the man who tried to have Elaina killed.  

Drakar feels compelled to visit justice on the wicked for reasons he does not fully understand.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I've Been Really Busy

I'm trying to get around to a post with some actual content in it, but it's been tough to find time lately.  I'm trying.  On the plus side, being busy is good.  On the negative side, we'd been building momentum on the blog, but as of yesterday, it had all but stopped.  That stinks.  In the meantime...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

News & Notes: Running through my Twitter feed

I wasn't going to check in this morning, but then I saw the following and couldn't resist.


It's all downhill from here, I'm sure.

Friday, March 13, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Seeing Murdock's City

Happy Friday!

I'm in Albany this week, so odds are this is gonna be a short set of clips.  I guess we'll see.  You ready?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Still Talking Agents of SHIELD

It's as if they put this week's episode together specifically to address my concerns from last week.  As you may recall, I was annoyed by Agent Simmons's instant heel-turn against all things alien, including--it was strongly hinted--her now Inhuman friend Skye.  But they addressed this issue head-on in this week's episode, along with a lot of other issues.

*Warning: Spoilers Below*

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 6)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard named Elaina Emboo.  Having saved her from certain death, the two of them now travel together.
***
Drakar is not surprised when Elaina Emboo decides to accompany him.  He has already seen the fire that she possesses, and it takes no great insight to conclude that she will hardly allow him to enter danger alone on her behalf.  He is pleased, but ultimately, her help is irrelevant.  This is not about Elaina, nor is it about her money.  Drakar feels a need within himself to punish the man who wronged her--a man she called Safras--and that is enough.  What he did is inexcusable.  A girl is alone in a foreign land; she is robbed and then set upon by a mob with stones.  Perhaps Elaina is a special case because she is not just some helpless female, but the fact is that she would have been killed had not Drakar intervened.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thoughts on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch's Insanely Great Economics (Wired)
Apple, with its $650 cellphones and $1,500 computers, already makes perhaps the fifth or sixth most expensive item in a high-income household, right behind furniture, luxury goods, TV’s, cars, and homes. And guess what? They’re now in the luxury goods business. There are rumors that they’ve been trying to make a TV for some time. Reports suggest they are investing heavily in making a car. These are high-ticket items, and that’s why the most important thing the Apple Watch might do for Apple is get us used to the idea that Apple makes goods worth spending many thousands of dollars on. More to the point: goods which, like TVs and Cars, are meant to last not just a couple years, but perhaps ten years and beyond. If the Apple Watch is even a modest success among luxury consumers, you can bet the company will be that much more confident about moving into categories such as cars.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tri Training Log: 3/2 to 3/8 (Snow Week 2)

This was the second week in a row that we've had nearly apocalyptic levels of snow fall mid-week.  It makes it tough to train.  I managed to get into the water twice, and both of those were decent swims, but I can't say much else for this week.


Friday, March 6, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: You Can Transplant My Head, but Can You Clone My Body?

This was a crazy week for news, but I'm super-glad that it's Friday.  If our weather guy is correct, this is the very last super-cold day we'll have this winter.  Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend, and with that will come a change to North America's weather patterns--finally.

***
It seems like the stuff of science-fiction (and it has been), but it's not, perhaps, as impossible as it sounds. Take, for instance, the work of Russian transplant pioneer Vladimir Demikhov, who in the 1950s successfully transplanted dogs' heads onto the bodies of other dogs, creating living two-headed dogs (the linked video contains content that may be disturbing for some viewers). Or Doctor Robert White, who transplanted the head of one monkey on to the body of another in 1970 (the same warning applies)…
If the procedure [is] successful… the patient would possibly be able to walk again within a year -- with physiotherapy to help. However, the technique has yet to be tested…

Thursday, March 5, 2015

TV Review: Agents of SHIELD returns!

I’ve enjoyed Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD this year.  In the first half of the season, the show made an effort to broaden its cast, introduce more and better action sequences, and scale down all the whiz-bang technology in order to make a few specific space-age gizmos really pop.  They brought in Adrianne Palicki to play Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird), de-emphasized Chloe Bennet’s Skye, and did something interesting—finally—with the show’s resident techno-nerds Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons.  They did all of this while keeping the show’s best character, Ming Na’s Agent Melinda May, right in the middle of the action.  
The guys at Marvel do excellent design work.
ABC then ran an eight-part mini-season of Agent Carter over the mid-season break, and eh, I thought it was okay.  It was better than re-runs, but if it started well, the ending turned decidedly anticlimactic.  I was definitely ready for the real Agents of SHIELD to return this week.
*Warning – Mild Spoilers Below*

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 5)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard.  Having saved her from certain death, the two of them now travel together.
***
“My name is Elaina,” the girl says, “scion of House Emboo of Wanderhaven.  I appreciate the rescue back there.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

D&D: The Theology of Pluto

When I started teaching D&D to my kids, I decided to use actual mythology rather than any fictional fantasy pantheon out of a desire for sheer simplicity.  At the time, the Avengers movie had just come out in theaters, my kids had simultaneously begun reading any number of Young Adult novels exploring the ancient Greek and Egyptian theologies, and as a result, I knew that my girls were familiar with gods that had existed in actual, historical myth.  I personally have a love for the Forgotten Realms, and in the past, I’ve run games set in the Realms, but as I considered the idea of trying to introduce the Realms’ cosmology to my daughters, all I could see was an artificial barrier to entry.  There was no question of running a game without divine magic, but asking my kids to learn a wholly invented pantheon for the purpose of playing Daddy’s Game, about which they had to that point expressed at most some interest, didn’t strike me as any part of the critical path to success.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

News & Notes: But I Like the Crowds!


But I like the crowds!