Please, PLEASE Vote this year!

I know you are hearing this elsewhere. But I’m still going to also say it here. If you have not yet voted with a mail-in ballot like I have, and you are a registered voter in the USA… VOTE this coming Tuesday. I won’t tell you how to vote, for I believe that one needs to make their own choice about how to vote. My only exception to that is that I -will- urge Californian voters to please vote no on #8. My wife and I both urge this choice. It’s about equality and freedom. On top of that the information that the supporters are using are all scare tactics and quite wrong in their ‘facts’. Please vote NO on Prop 8. But even if you are going to vote ‘yes’, I still want you to vote. EVERY vote is important, even if your choice on the ballot is not the same as mine.

Okay, enough with that. This week has been of mixed nature. My back is better, thanks to Dr James last Sunday, but it is still no where near completely well. I still am suffering short periods of time, usually after a period of inactivity, like sleep or driving, where it pains me. Mhari is also suffering some with back pain, but the ‘ick’ from her weekly meds was less this week. She had more issues with the sounds (and scents) from the construction going on outside her windows waking her and otherwise disturbing her than other issues.

At my place of work, today, it is not only Halloween, it is also my 3rd anniversary of starting working there. I will not be fully vested in one of my ‘retirement’ plans through them. From now on all that goes into it, be it contributions from myself or matching from my employer, it will be fully vested. Yay! There is nothing special going on to celebrate or anything, it’s more of a milestone that I am proud of.


MMOs:
City of Heroes: Well, this has been a rather interesting week. Both with the on-going Zombie Apocalypse and with an announcement made and changes in the game’s website. They went live with a greatly improved official website that has been long needed, as the old one was quite long in the tooth. As to the announcement that was made that I found interesting enough to mention here, it’s that the game will soon have a MAC client as well as the presently existing PC one! It’s about time!

Zombie Apocalypse-wise, our team of heroes spent Monday doing our final night of Trick or Treating, first in Talos, then as we were all leveling up to level 31, we moved to Brickstown. I believe we also did our level 30 IP Costume mission. We might also have done our Aura mission. It’s sort of a blur for me.

On Wednesday we gathered again, and as this would be this group’s last gathering for this Halloween Event, as it will end on November 2nd, we went Giant Monster hunting. We battled the Big E something like a dozen times and FINALLY, just as we were getting near the end of our session, Jack in Irons finally was found out there. He was swiftly defeated and the majority of folks, including a couple of our team, called it a night. I, with the majority of our team remaining, went back on the hunt and took down Big E one more time just before the Zombie’s invaded the zone. After that invasion was beaten back, we slipped off into the night. Good work heroes!

Perfect World International: Thanks to the event stuff on CoX and other things where I am working on [censored due to NDA], I haven’t really gotten onto PWI. I did prepare an ‘install Flash Drive’ for use by my Niece and mailed it off to her along with another gift. Even though she already managed to download the client, I am sure she can find a use for the 4Gig USB Flash drive as well as the gift. I look forward to hearing when she gets it. I plan getting back to PWI when I have the time.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Ed: Okay, so it’s not a MMO… it’s PnP. In any case, tomorrow I will be getting started in the first D&D game I will have been involved in for over a decade. We’ll see how things go.


Books of the week:

Darkling by Yasmine Galenorn

This is the third book in a series that I am finding quite good. The first was about Camille, the ‘witch’ of the family and was called Witchling. The 2nd was about Delilah, the were-cat and was called Changeling. This one is about Menolly, the vampire. All the characters are half-human, half-fey sisters. They work for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency as their representatives in our world. The witch sister owns and runs a bookstore, the were-cat is a Private Investigator, and the vampire owns the Wayfarer Bar which sits above and protects one of the portals between Otherworld and our world.

In this book Menolly’s sire, Dredge, has gotten here into our world and is fomenting chaos and creating more vampires. I won’t go into detail about the story itself, as doing so gives to much away too easily. However, I will recommend all of these books. There’s already a 4th book in the series out called Dragon Wytch. It’s of note here because I was able to get a hold of it before I was able to find Darkling. I should finally get to read it now.

Darkling is quite well written, and the characters are well realized. And the author’s work is improving with each volume in this series. Of course, it is sort of starting to show a pattern. The lead sister has to deal with something, meets at least one guy of interest (this IS a series of Paranormal Romance books, after all), and with the help of her sisters and the new men in her life and the lives of her sisters, defeats the menace. This book follows that line. And, it also follows that the over-menace that they are all fighting against is still out there and will still need to be dealt with. I can well recommend this series.

I am curious about what the 4th book is going to be about. It seems like it will be going back to the first sister. There are only 3 sisters, this 4th book is going to have to change the formula a little because the main character, if it is the first sister, already has the men in her life… 3 to be exact. Hmmmm… another 3…

And in visiting the author’s webpage today, I discovered there is a 5th book coming out in January on the week of my birthday, titled Night Hunter. Looks like she is cycling through the 3 sisters again for the 2nd trilogy in the series.

Normally I would have another book here to review, as most often I bring up 2 books. Well, I do have another, but as I have barely started it, I’ll leave it for next week. What’s been taking up my other reading time has been Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS and my usual Comics. Maybe I will start reviewing the week’s comings in upcoming blogs. We’ll see.


Well, I have work to do. A weekend to have. I plan to give out little comic books with the candy tonight. Peanuts comic strip stuff, specially collected for the purpose. Have a good one, folks!

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What can I say… it’s Friday!

Another week, another blog entry. I already posted on the weekend about Hero-Con that Mhari and I attended last weekend… here it is a week later and I still have fond memories. Though I -have- had better conventions. It was a good time, and I got to spend some time with fellow players. Still haven’t met up with Flash Flood in game… but he’s east coast, so not sure it will happen.

This past week has been one of morning back pain. I get up in the morning and for the first hour or so my back is a mess, going ‘gotcha!’ at me with almost every movement. But it fades after about an hour. I’ll explain this when I see Dr James this weekend.

Mhari’s having issues with her medication. Last week’s dose took almost all the way to Monday before she stopped feeling ‘icky’ and it made Hero-Con less than the full fun it could have otherwise been for her. Then Tuesday rolled around and she had to take more… the good thing is that she was starting to recover from the ‘ickies’ already last night… unlike last week where she never did. I hope it’s a sign that her system is adjusting. I hate seeing her in so much discomfort. Makes me worry.


MMOs:
City of Heroes: It’s Zombie Apocalypse this week and next! This is a part of the Halloween Event this year. Along with ‘Trick or Treating’ for badges, costumes and costume pieces to turn in for a 5th Hero/Villain costume slot, there is a new Invasion-style event where the skies turn red, the invasion sirens go off, and zombies start to rise out of the ground wherever heroes/villains are. These invasions, unlike the Rikti ones, happen in ANY zone other than cooperative zones and PvP zones… almost everywhere player characters are in the game. They swarm and attack and it’s a fun event, bound to challenge the graphics capability of any system playing the game, though I still get good frame rates with my Nvidia 7950.

The Zombie Apocalypse/Halloween Event only lasts until November 2nd, so our groups are focusing on activities related to it rather than our normal missions. We’ll go back to those after the event is over.

Perfect World International: Other than trying to get in on the referral system for this game, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the game. I’ve been side tracked by something I am doing that is covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I can’t talk about.

Item covered by NDA: This is what I am spending my side time this week. And likely will for another few while the closed beta continues. I will mention that Mhari also now is a part of this NDA-covered activity. So at least I can talk about it with her and one other friend that is also in it.


Books of the week:
Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

I finished this book just before Hero-Con and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I love Mercedes’ Valdamar books and was really, really excited when I saw this on the shelf in the bookstore. It had been SO long since the last book, which was Crossroads a collection of short stories back in 2005. And the last full Valdamar novel was Exile’s Valor back in 2003! So I was almost totally caught by pleasant surprise to see this.

Foundation is the story of Mags, a young boy of 13 who, at the beginning of the book, is a child laborer in a jewel mine. He is poorer than dirt poor, and his ‘owner’ is keeping these children that are orphans and other disadvantaged kids that do all the labor for him and his own children. Naturally, as is normal for the first book of a Valdamar story, Mags is soon chosen by a Companion and is taken to Haven to become a Herald.

Of course, this being a good Mercedes Lackey book, things are not quite a uneventful rags to riches story. There’s the fact that the time this book is set in is about 2 generations after the time of the Last Herald-Mage series, and 500 some years before the ‘present’ of Valdamar that is in the majority of the Valdamar stories. During this time, it is a time of change for Valdamar. Some great NEED is coming, and thus the number of Chosen that are meeting up with their Companions is greatly on the rise and the ‘old’ way of mentoring new Chosen with a established Herald as they go about their duties in the field will no longer serve to train all these new Trainees. So a new college is being built… and the Healers and the Bards wanted their OWN new colleges as well. So it is a time of transition, with some folks wanting things to remain done in the OLD ways, and others embracing the needed new ways. And these are the times that Mags is added to the mix.

I won’t tell you of Mags’ experiences, as that’s really what this book is about, showing you his character, getting you to know him and his Companion. It also gets you in tune with the times it is written in and gets you well settled in the world before starting to really kick off the story. And leave you screaming for the next book in the series, of course.

About the only thing that I found a little comforting as well as disturbing is that Mercedes Lackey pulls what seems to be a formula for her in the first book of a series that she is doing on her own (as opposed to with a collaborative pairing with another author, which she continues to do a LOT of)… that is that it starts with a young person in a really bad situation of some sort, and they the either come into their power, get selected for a special role, or otherwise have their life change all the way around. And this book follows that formula to a T. However, as always, she does it with a master writer’s style and grace. Her flow of words just feels so comfortable and welcoming to the reader. And it was a JOY to return to Valdamar after so long. And I look forward to the other books in this series. They always go by fast, but they are thoroughly enjoyable in the process.

I highly recommend this book. It will take a honored place on my bookshelf, and I expect to re-read it again some day in the future, just like I have with all the other Valdamar and Bards books. In fact, reading this one has made me want to go back and read things in published order once more, starting with Arrows of the Queen.

Dungon & Dragons Player’s Handbook: 4th Edition by Wizards of the Coast

Yes, I’m reading a D&D rulebook. D&D was the first role-playing game I ever played, and I got my first set of the little books back in 1974 after going to a miniatures session in the back of one of my first Star Trek conventions. I played the game on and off until 1981 when I discovered Champions and changed over to superheroes out of a love of Comics.

This is the 4th edition of the game, officially and it has come a long, long, long ways from those little typo-ridden books I first learned the game from. In fact, it’s almost a fully different game from even the prior version, known as 3.5. This game feels like the writers have learned, not only from decades of player and Game Master experience, but also from the changes that have been going on in the market place and the role-play gaming world as well. What I am speaking of here is the move that has been happening in the market where Pen and Paper gaming is supposedly losing it’s customers over to Massive Multiplayer online games.

First, they have taken and re-focused the whole rule system over to the concept of ‘roles’, as in where one type of character heals and buffs, another controls the crowd, another does large amounts of damage, and the last holds the attention of the foe onto themselves and can handle that level of damage. Yes, the Healer/Defender, Controller, High Damage Per Second Blaster/Scrapper and the Tank. All of that is here.

You have the Fighter, is one of the Tank (or as it’s called in D&D4, Defender) classes. So is Paladin, which has some of the Fighter stuff along with some of the Clerical. Wizards, Rangers and Rogues fit into the Striker/High DPS role, Clerics are in the Healer/Buffer role they call Leader, and Warlocks are in the Controller role. It changes some of the ways the classes are traditionally looked at by D&D players, but it really doesn’t change them at the core.

Next they bring in a way of progressing through levels where every time you level you gain something of meaning, usually called powers. Be they new ways of using your weapons, new spells, new prayers, or whatever. Every time you level you gain something new, a significant reward. Yes, they had this before. But in the OLD days you got only more hit points, maybe better Armor Class, and stats. Wizards got spells of various sorts. As did Clerics. But it was never quite as well thought out as it is now. It reminds me a LOT of how MMOs interpreted and implemented the old D&D (and other) game systems for the computers. They made the reward system into something that made people push for that next level. And now it has come full circle into D&D as well.

But that’s not the only thing that’s gotten changed. They have slimed down most of the rules into some easy to follow concepts. Everything you do in the form of ‘skill checks’ and the like are done with a D20 to which you add modifiers from stats, magic items, powers, the level of your character (sometimes), etc, which is rolled either against someone else’s roll and pluses, or against a Difficulty Check number of one sort or another.

The rules for dealing with combat focuses strongly on a set of easy miniatures rules, just like the original game grew out of. Very simple ones, to be sure, but any one that looks can see where they come from. And they are well presented.

So, will it make a good game? Yes, I suspect it will, for those willing to spend the time and effort, and a bit of mental elbow grease called Imagination, you can really have a blast with it. Will it pull people out of their armchairs and out from behind their computer? Well.. I don’t think so. But if it does, it will be fairly easy for people who like World of Warcraft and other MMOs to find things to like and feel comfortable with here. There are no really hard concepts in the game. Most of the ‘hard math’ and ‘deep rules lawyer’ requirements have had their edges shaven off and made easier to swallow. So there won’t be any of those real nasty sharp learning curves that became a hallmark of the game in the 2nd and 3rd editions.

However, all that being said, there is one serious challenge to this game… the price tag. It’s steep. The Player’s Handbook, which is all that the player needs to play, has a list price of US$34.95. It’s a heavy book that feels worth the price. But in today’s economy… yikes. And if you want to become the person that RUNs the game, it’s another 2 books minimum, and THEY cost $34.95 each, too. But there is a 3-book set that one can get at Amazon and other places for around $70. So at the price of 2 of the books, you get three. And with other deals you can get it down lower… so if you really want to get into it, you can. Just beware, Wizards of the Coast LOVE to sell you expansions and add-ons and modules and all sorts of things, and this hobby can get really expensive when you add in all the dice, miniatures, and other tools. LOTS steeper than the $15 a month one gets used to paying for a MMO.

I find the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 4th Edition a fairly good read if you like game system rulebooks. I only fell asleep once or twice while reading it, but I WAS able to read it all. Unlike many other game rule books over the years… but it doesn’t hold up to the quality of the World of Darkness books in readability and creativity. But it shows a real knowledge of where Pen and Paper games just may have to go in order to stay alive in this age of the MMO. Let’s hope that the on-line portion of the game, where players are supposed to be able to hook up with others and play the games through an on-line gametable some time really lives up to the promises they made when 4th edition first came out. Then, just maybe, SMORPGs (Small Multi-player Online Role-Playiing Games) can come into existence in a wider world. (They already exist, it’s just they are not on most people’s radar. Maybe I will write about them in a future blod.)

And for those curious, I picked up the D&D PH because my regular pen and paper game group is going to give it a try as something different, for a change…


That’s if for me this week. I gotta go have a flu shot today… Have a GREAT weekend, folks! Just because I am in a bitchy mood doesn’t mean I don’t want folks to have a good time. *grin*

Perfect World International

Hey folks, This is just a quick post. Perfect World International, one of the MMOs that I play on and off, has a new referal program. So, if you want to try out this FREE MMO (it DOES cost $$ to get ‘ZEN’, which lets you get the really cool stuff and extra inventory and bank slots, but the MAJORITY of the game is FREE), please do so through the following URL:
http://www.perfectworld.com/referral/key/e456c5ee1bcdc10dfeea448378a02a0e

Or click on the image below:

And thanks! I hope to see you in game. Look for Rogar on Heaven’s Tear.

The Day after Hero-Con

I had a blast at Hero-Con. Mhari not so much, but that was due to side effects from her new higher dose of meds and the like rather than the convention itself.

Registration at Hero-Con was really, really, really good. They got things done swiftly and they were well organized. The right number of people working the registration desk for the population level of the convention. They had a maximum of four folks during the high traffic times, down to 1 or 2 at the slow times. It worked well.

The ‘Dell Network Computer Room’ or whatever they called it had 30 Dell XPS machines, quad core intel’s with 2 GB ram minimum and Nvidia 8800’s in them with 798MB ram each. Large 22 inch widescreen flat-pannels and XP Pro. The keyboards ranged through the ones that come with the XPS to one that had this strange circle area to the left for FPS/MMO use. (They also gave away these in raffles and to live event winners later in the con.)

The con store, or Wentworths, was a small little two-table thing. That is where you claimed your T-shirt (size S to size 3X) that came with your memebership and could buy more of them if you wanted (@ $20 each). They also had S and M sized FREEEM shirts, but I am NOT going to fit in one of those so I didn’t buy one. There were Hero Kits from the DvD Collecter Set ($10 like from the online store), and some little inexpensive, but very nice looking, buttons for Hero, villian and archtypes. 12 in all, but they sold out of a lot of the villian ones early.

The pannels during the day were cool, but Mhari and I only went to 2. One was the Machinama one by Samuraiko Productions, and the other was about mission content design or some such. (Mhari sat in on this one while I was just outside the room chatting with Bruce Harlick and catching up a little on old times.)

After the pannels was the live quest, and we formed a PUG with others from Guardian and at least one other server. My appologies for not remembering details there. I told the leader role when no one choose to do so off the bat. We had only about 90 mins to complete this quest and it was something of a doozy. They gave us clues on little pieces of paper. The first clue took us to the Pool (er, Magnolia room… the pool got taken over by a wedding after they had put the stuff together, but before the event started. So anywhere in clues that said ‘Pool’ became magnolia room). At the Pool we were given our Bag of salvage which was also where we were supposed to put the things we got during the event. Everything.

I committed my first mistake by not immediately dumping out the bag and seeing what was there. Instead we started out by popping the balloon we got with our bag. Why? Because there was a clue inside. That took us to our next place, which was University… and thus it began.

Due to Mhari not feeling well, we left her in a spot with the 2 pages of trivia questions that we found in the bag. And we used where she was as home base.

Things we got were little glowsticks to wrap around our wrists, symbolizing our ‘Freakshow’ disguise for talking to the shoeshine boy. The shoe shine boy gave us a Rubik’s Cube. The folks in room 1313 gave us a rubber duck. We got mostly clues from everyone else.

One stop had us registering our supergroup (team) so they knew who was part of it. That took time for us all to write things down. We decided on Generic Hero 01 as our team name (for group #8).

The puzzles in the clues ranged from logic puzzles to brain games, to a word scramble (whose answer was Envoy of Shadows, which we learned too late to do anything with), to just trying to find where Ex Libras was. She gave a mind puzzle/riddle that was actually real easy, but had a trick to it.

THEN, with less than 5 minutes left, was when we dumpped out the bag… trying to find hints to help with the word scramble, and discovered the little barbie doll (action figure!! was the cry from others). And lots of craft things. We were supposed to make ‘costume pieces’ from the craft things and dress up the action figure (Doll!! was the cry later) in a super costume and give her a name, archtype, powersets, and a character bio. And describe the costume pieces we had. There was a toga, a tail, a tiara, etc… I was toast by this time.

My team was great. I was the one that let them down by starting to lose my head at the end due to being really, really, low on blood sugar. I couldn’t think straight. And I take all blame on myself for us not completing the vital things we had to do.

But, you know, I still feel we had FUN with that event.

Now… I have ONE complaint about the event… don’t EVER, no matter how COOL it is to do, put things on the top levels of the hotel, 10+ floors up, and make us go there, not once, but TWICE (the 2nd time, to finish… and I am surprised, and relieved, that we were NOT the last to turn things in). There were only the standard 4 elevators, and 2 stairwells at FAR ends of the hotel. Making 20 teams of 8-12 people each have to FIT through those elevators (or wear themselves out with the stairs) along with the large number of wedding guests, quilter’s conventioneers, and other hotel guests, was something of a nightmare. Fun… but also NOT fun. Not when time counts.

That is my ONLY complaint about the event. Otherwise it was well done. The ‘contacts’ were good at not giving things away and some of them played VERY well in character.

Following the live event was dinner. It was american buffet. And it was okay. Bruce Harlick sat with us at our table, and we all had a good time at the table. I got to meet some others from the Guardian server and we are likely going to add at least one of them to our super group at some point. I think they will be a good addition.

At the end of dinner they introduced the members of the design/programming/etc teams from NCNorCal, and said good things, gave away prizes, awarded the winners of the live event. No, Generic Hero 01 (Team 8) did not win. But we DID get Mhari’s book back which had ended up in our bag and was NOT worth extra points. And at the very end of the dinner, Positron did something for all of us there, as well as all of the players of the game. He started the Halloween Event, the Zombie Apocolypse 2 nights early! For us! So we get 2 nights more of the event than was planned. And if you read on the CoH forums, some folks feel that the opening of the event was the best ever. For rather than having to take down the servers (as some DID go down, but for other reasons having to do with the west coast servers), they just activated the event. The skys went red and zombies started to rise from the ground! EVERYWHERE. Even in the Shard and in Eden and all the hazard zones. (Don’t know about PVP zones.)

After that, with Mhari not feeling very good, and myself having had too much after having too little… we went home…. and Played the game until around 11pm +!!!

There were still things to be going on at the con, but they were a ‘rave’ and karoke, and other social things and Mhari and I were just wore out. Our backs hurt, a LOT, and we needed to sleep.

I don’t remember all the people I met. I’m bad that way. But they all made for a good time. A really good time.

My final review… would I do it again? My instant response is ‘yes’…. but after a few moments… I am not sure. Did we really get $60-70 of value out of it. $20 for the shirt, $20 for the dinner… that’s still another $20-30… yeah, taken in that light, along with the special power code (A perm costume power, Carnival of Shadows Haliquin/fencer)… okay, yeah, it’s worth it. Don’t know if I will do the live quest again. But I might. I got to meet good people through it. Yeah, I’ll do it again, if it’s local.

And my thanks to everyone that put the con on, that made it good. I didn’t feel a bad vibe ANYWHERE. And all the staff at NCNC are fun! Thanks! Thanks Bruce! Thanks Mel!

A Day Late, a dollar short

Yes, that means I am a day late with this, and it’s going to be short. I sort of expected it to happen this way, as you can tell by the end of my blog last week. Well, it happened. I worked from home yesterday, rather than heading into the office… and while some would expect that would mean I would get to goof off or something, no way! I actually got more work done than I normally get done in the office. I didn’t have any of interuptions of co-workers coming casually to my cube to ask questions, nor all the phone calls. AND it was a Friday that was unusually clear of the endless array of meetings. Which all means that I got so focused on work that I forgot about everything else, and when I wasn’t doing that, I have other things that I got to deal with…

And then there is today. Today Mhari and I are going to HeroCon. It starts OFFICIALLY in about an hour and a half from when I am writing this. Yeah, things unofficially started last night, and the computer room and Wentworths supposedly opened about 45 minutes ago. But Mhari and I wanted some sleep since it may be a late night tonight. I’ll try to report here about it tomorrow…

So, that’s where I am going to leave this for now. I’ll write a proper entry sometime, though it might not be until my regular scheduled Friday… we’ll see. Thanks for reading.