Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Class Of 1999 Vs. The Handmaid's Tale

The CHRISTMASING is upon us.  I am very good for the most part of knocking out almost all my gift buying early and most of it online so I can successfully avoid the horrendous hordes of humanity as they descend on venues like locusts.  It isn’t that I hate the season, I don’t.  This is one of my favorite times of the year.  I do however not enjoy 85% of humanity.  By and large I find humanity to be an ugly, mean spirited, and selfish faceless mass.  Spend any time in a grocery store or Gawd’s forbid a retail store and just watch how people treat one another and you’ll see where my thought process took root.  People are by and large AWFUL, and the holidays only make them worse.

So I have avoided the havens for this anti-social behavior and am happier for it.  I also managed to get almost all my shopping done early.  I’ve even managed to wrap a lot of it, which is terrifying.  This year has been a strange year for gift giving as we have SO many Friends we’ve bought for that the budget sort of exploded.  The thing is every year I explode my budget.  I think I honestly only pretend to have one so Cassandra doesn’t kill me in my sleep, because she would, slowly.  I like giving gifts.  I like being able to give something to the people in my life who are important to show them my appreciation.  I love seeing people open gifts and get that look on their face, somewhere between shock and joy.  It is a wonderful thing.

The people in my life are important.  I am a difficult human being to deal with.  I recognize that.  If people are able to hold their feet to that fire and not run away screaming at my innate insanity then I want them to know how much I appreciate them.  I have realized over time that time is short, but life is long.  The only constant is change.  People have been buzzing in and out of my life for as long as I can remember.  Some sit for a spell, some even stick around, but most just don’t.  Some of that is their choice, and sometimes I’m just such a gigantic Ginger pain in the ass so they leave.

Whether they are Friends or even Family my success rate at long term relationships is poor.  These last eight months have really made me re-examine that, and re-examine what I want out of my relationships with other humans, even the 80% I don’t like.  I have been better than ever before at eliminating expectations, banishing pressure from what I want to build with others, and instead just enjoy all the wonder that people I am lucky enough to know bring to the table.  Whether it is their imagination, their compassion, their laughter, their intelligence, their goofiness, their selflessness, their fellowship, etc. they are all gifts that I can never repay.  Ever.

When it comes to the CHRISTMASING and gifts, I get it money is an issue.  Well for us it is.  The field we both work in doesn’t pay well.  We live on a tight budget, but we don’t really do what we do because it pays well.  I’ve always known Christmas as the time when budgets ‘exploded’.  My Dad did it all the time, so I’m blaming my poor fiduciary behavior on him.  The reality is it is only money, and I can always make more.  What I can’t make more of is time.  I can’t make enough time to tell and show the folks in my life who mean something important to me how incredible they are.  I won’t always be afforded the luxury of seeing them smile and laugh as they get something that they will get to enjoy.  I can’t buy that, and it means the world to me.  The people who I share that with mean the world to me.

Enough touchy feely.

Thursday night is the brainstorming session for 3rd Group D&D, which has since split into two groups.  These brainstorm sessions have worked decently, and are something that I took while sitting under Zack’s ‘learning tree’ of DMing.  Sitting at a table and hearing the PC’s bounce ideas off each other and start to formulate ideas on their characters, their motivations, directions, and relationships is really a fantastic way to start building the campaign to meet their wants and needs.

It doesn’t always work though.  The newly christened 5th Group, which is the off shoot of 3rd Group is a good example.  The group we originally had been pretty character driven and direct, but as PC’s evolved the focus shifted and the opportunity to put some larger elements into it moved the direction pretty drastically.  It became far more of a world altering tale rather than a smaller more character focused campaign.  Between that and the strict ties to the world’s ‘Meta Plot’ didn’t give some of the players the experience they were looking for.

This group appears to be constructed to tell a far smaller, more intimate tale.  To focus more on micro rather than macro conflicts.  That can be just as rewarding and a great place for Role Playing to really bubble to the surface.  When it comes to the newly minted 5th Group things are so large that I always worry brainstorming and Role Playing will suffer.  I am loathing admitting it, but I am and was wrong.  Well I’m wrong a lot, but I was REALLY wrong about that.  We didn’t roll a single combat encounter last session.  That’s right; in a 4E game we rolled ZERO combat encounters in a SUPER important session.  Instead it was all about laying the ground work of what is to come; the establishing of relationships, the marshaling of forces, and the readying for everything that comes next.

Kedrin started the groundwork on her Cult by seducing and dominating a powerful military figure.
The practicality of it all was difficult, because no one wants to watch that Role Play take place, but she handled it deftly and perfectly.  THE Karl was able to start his Church in a MAJOR way, with the assistance of Spence and Peter.  I have to give those three a MASSIVE amount of props for the really great Role Playing they did, it was really entertaining.  One of my favorite recent D&D memories will be Tharump, THE Karl’s Mul Cleric, spreading his arms wide and shouting “MY Children” at a room full of starving refugees.  It fit him, the tone, and the campaign utterly and completely.  Cassandra did a great job as the go between, pulling the spread thin group together in a stealthy way, while continuing to allow the different movers and shakers in the group to vie for her loyalty.  At some point that is going to come to a head, I’m intrigued to see just when and how.  Magic Mike and Elyssa were on research, because any longer term attempt to supplant a Goddess through a genius grift needs to be well thought out.  Every group needs a Magic Mike in it, the way he can seamlessly integrate into the dynamic, even one as ever changing as this is, incredible.  He does a tremendous job of putting the overall idea of a campaign in front of his individual direction and at the same time has an individual direction that makes him a true and viable threat to the power structure of the group.  You would never know that though by the way he plays.  He is seriously one of my favorite people to roll dice with in the world.  And that brings us to our resident ‘KAW’, Elyssa.  As much as everyone needs a Magic Mike in their group, I find Elyssa to be another necessary component.  You need someone to bring the fun energy, and she has it in SPADES.  Her excitement is infectious.  She doesn’t push the game along she shoves it kicking and screaming hurtling down a hill into good times.  The entire session would NOT have worked if not for her, her level of investment, her ability to make everyone giggle and then in the snap of a finger get them back in game, and her sense of fun.

I have high hopes that 3rd Group can find that same strange synergy that all the other groups have, as they weave a very different narrative.  I think a lot will depend on what we get done on Thursday.  Can we come to an organic direction that serves a narrative for all players?  Can the group build itself so it isn’t too handicapped by its smaller size?  Can I tell a story that will be fun, compelling, and offer a balance of Role Play and combat?  I think these are doable, and I think the shared setting could do with a few more detailed strokes in its overall picture rather than the large swathes of color I’ve gotten accustomed to.  I mean c’mon what is the worst that could happen?  It is just D&D…

How about we finish this bad mamma jamma off with some…

- If there is a better gift than a book than I am a monkey’s uncle.  I am currently lost inside two books that were given to me as gifts for my birthday.  Both are fantastic and yet totally and utterly different.  There are few joys greater than diving into the world between pages and navigating that existence.  Reading is a gift.

- I’m hungry and I’m not sure for what, it vexes me horribly.

- Another week and we are given another set of Wrath Of The Righteous previews!
First up is the Abrikandilu Demons, also known as the ‘Wrecker Demon’.  This little guy is a Medium Common.  As a Demon, I’m just not blown away.  That being said this would be an excellent Half-Rat Man, or a Mongrel Man book keeper, or an enclave of human Librarians or Scholars who have been cursed or degenerated into this form as they hold on tightly to that ill-gotten information.  I don’t dislike the pose or the painting.  It is just really plan and is such a niche’ monster that I need to figure out some type of special roll for it to even justify its purpose.  Overall it just isn’t that interesting in the pose and the paint is plain enough that it ends up being a confused PASS for me.
We follow up that strange little beastie with one of my favorites, the Invidiak.  This bad boy is a Common, Medium.  I am currently using an Invidiak heavily in the 4th Group’s adventures and LOVE the DDM version of the beast.  That being said this guy is all that and a bag of chips.  The spikey nature makes it look far more menacing, although he lacks the flow of body that the DDM one has.  The colors are basically non-existent.  It is an opaque black miniature with red eyes.  The reality is THAT is the monster, so I’m good with it.  I just like all the texture this miniature seems to have.  It is easily a MUST BUY, I might even get a few to have these be the underlings to the DDM version I have.
Next up is the Death Demon!  He is a Medium, Uncommon.  This is the lesser version of the massive and amazing Greater Death Demon from the Legends Of Golarion.  I like the conniving pose here.  The way the hands are bent, almost like they are being rubbed together maniacally.  The picture doesn’t do a lot for me otherwise, in fact I sort of wish the sculpt had a bit more of a stoop to it.  Just something to make it feel hunched.  Right now it is so upright that it looks more than a little slight.  The big thing is the picture makes the paint job look so utterly and completely drab.  I like the way the wings are folded in a way that makes it seem like you are being drawn in, like those creepy monsters from the first Beastmaster flick!  It is a solid miniature, and if I get the Greater Death Demon, which I want, I will be picking up at least three of these guys, head Demons need an entourage you know!  This is a MUST BUY for me.
Here we see the first non-Demon in the preview; instead it is just Demonic blood in his veins.  This is an NPC, Faxon.  He is a Medium, Rare.  I really, REALLY wish that this was a bigger and more in-depth picture, because I LOVE the way this miniature looks initially.  That stance is utterly perfect for either a PC or a Big Bad.  It is just this relaxed ‘bring it ON’ pose.  And look at that massive mace, you just know someone’s ass is going to be smote!  From this shot though I can’t really see much when it comes to the detail in the paint job.  I do like the crazy Cenobite clothes choice, again making him look perfect for a Big Bad, a PC who just has some crazy fashion sense.  The horns in the form of a crown give it a very regal disposition as well.  It is a DAMN shame this guy is a Rare, I’m just hoping he ends up being easy and cheap to come by, because he is most definitely a MUST BUY for me!
Last but not least this week is Khorramzadeh, The Storm Lord!  He is one of the Wrath Of The Righteous Adventure Paths’ major antagonists.  He is a massive Rare, Large.  This is the design of the Fire Demons, aka Pit Fiends, in Pathfinder.  Honestly, at first I wasn’t a fan of the four eyed head, I guess I just sort of had in my head the classic Balrog looking Pit Fiend in my head.  The more I see this guy and the Fire Demon from the last set the more they are growing on me.  The eyes make it look so otherworldly, odd, and off putting.  Just what a Demon should be.  Wizkids again knocked the flaming whip out of the park, it has movement in the way it is swirling around his body, and the translucence is a stroke of genius.  The pose isn’t great, but it doesn’t have to be, it gets across that this guy is not to be F’ with.  He is shouting as he prepares to consume your soul as well as that of your companions!  The sad thing is I KNOW this guy is going to be pricey.  He is a MUST BUY, but I just can’t see dropping the cheddar I’d have to for one.  Especially considering all the other Demon Lords I already do have.                    

- A nap would be good, but is out of the question, I have to go pick up DEADZONE!        

- There has been a wholesale changing of the guard in 1st Group.  Mick & Cordell have left and Joe is out due to having SO MANY BABIES!  We’ve got THE Karl & Kedrin jumping in to continue the journey with Zack, Bob, & Cassandra.  I’ve also thrown out the clarion call to Magic Mike, who is in, and to ‘The Genius’ Gene who had expressed interest.  It always sucks when you lose players.  Joe and Cassandra were the only two who had been there since session one left.  Now only my lovely and talented wife is left.  I feel like this is one of those old issues of The Avengers where the ‘Old Guard Changeth!’  You three will be missed, as I felt you brought a LOT to your characters, to the table, and to the game.  I am excited to have three experienced and fantastic hands jumping on board though.  If you three want any more compliments just go back in the blog and enjoy.  And I’m hoping Gene jumps in as he is a flippin’ awesome guy.  Either way we head towards the end of Zack’s run as DM, which has been amazing.  The ending he has planned has legs and I’ll be running with it.  And Joe, you sir will be missed.  A lot.  However I am excited for you and your next step as a father, which you are amazing at my Friend.

- Podcast tonight!  We are rockin’ some Doctor Who talk, D&D, and THE CHRISTMASING!

- I really wish the Chicago Florida Hangmen DID exist and did have a late ‘90s feud of EPIC proportions with the aptly named Miracle Violence Connection!
The fact that this was all the fever dream of CM Punk and his reluctance to get that damn jacket without the Zubaz is outstanding.  It is just further proof that he is a fan like the rest of us.  And kudos to John Cena for being ‘down’.  I am actually working hard to resist my NEED to make this happen in my 2K14 Universe, because it is just THAT incredible.

- I’m reading The Hunger Games, and you know what?  It is F’Ning awesome.

- Thank you to THE Karl for a great night of just painting and watching fun flicks, Flash Gordon and Army Of Darkness.  The Dwarf he knocked out was flippin’ awesome.  My stuff was ok.  The way he applies some washes makes me very tempted to try it, I think I just worry that it’ll be too much with the DIP.  However the depth he had in that braided beard was spectacular.  He has deft hand with the strokes and a great taste in color choices.  It was an excellent night.

We are coming up to the end of the break neck stretch of the year for us.  So the next couple weeks might be pretty scant blog wise, but my goal is still one a week.  We’ll see if I can pull that off.  Until then...

"Standing on some dotted line
Reacting to the hands of time
A circumstance that I've been fed
Leaving questions in my head

Find the space that was left bare
An empty space I'd gladly share

One must live while one must die

Combined paired up for so many years
Unsure if I really want to shed a tear
Signing off is always so clearly done
A number 2 is now reduced to one

Find the space that was left bare
An empty space I'd gladly share

When your clock is up
And you rest for good
I will cut off my armpiece
Just like we agreed we would

One must live while one must die

While the other argues that
The world ain't fair
But then who ever promised
Anybody equal share
You might as well forget
What you gambled on
'Cause plans never go by the way they're drawn

When your clock is up
And you rest for good
I will cut off my armpiece
Just like we agreed we would

One must live while one must die

I can't say goodbye
It's all I can do to get up every morning
And when all else fails I try
To face myself and everything else
But mostly I wonder why"

* = An Oldie but a Goodie...


  1. You are hungry for venison jaegerschnitzel. So now you don't have to worry about that. Unless of course you don't have any venison jaegerschnitzel, cause then that might be a problem.

    1. I AM! That sounds amazing. Oh so now you are just taunting me via the Interweb(s), that hurts sir...HURTS bad...