Announcement! Moving!

The cat is out of the bag! The Murder Hobos with their Transmuter Banker and Spy Bard and Undead King friends are moving to their new permanent home on Critical Hits under their dedicated column, Dungeonomics! They produce some of the premier RPG content on the Internet and I’m proud to join their collective and become part of the Borg.

Being part of the DC gaming scene is super cool. Washington DC is turning into the Silicon Valley of RPG game development. So many awesome people live here and contribute to the constantly living and growing body of RPG content, it’s amazing.

I started blogging in 1997 (I went and looked it up) and most of the time it’s been about random slice-of-life stuff. And then up in a bad chain Mexican restaurant in Michigan I went off on how I couldn’t stand D&D5e Tieflings because they weren’t true to the (superior) Planescape originals. That worked, so I decided, hey, it’s my blog, I’ll write about what interests me. Turns out it interests you, too.

But! Since now about 1000 of you are hanging out, you deserve a FAQ.

Also, big shout out to Illuminerdy, another excellent online RPG blog you should follow. Like, now.

Will you be tweeting/G+ing/FBing your links on a weekly post?

Yep. I will still personally man some of my personal social networking. You don’t need to go anywhere if you get the links from twitter or G+. If you get them from RSS or an email on posting, you will need to move, unfortunately.

But if you sign up to the Critical Hits RSS feed, you will get even more great content! This is like an everything for nothing deal.

Do you have enough ideas to keep this going for a while?

Where power, money, violence, and magic intersects is a well with no known bounds. Although I take people’s ideas and expand them all the time.

Will you still be sticking to your schedule?

I’m still writing on Sunday mornings with plans to publish on Mondays.

Are you planning on publishing your essays?

Not in the first half of 2015.

Are you making any money off this move?

Well considering I’m going from -$10.99/month for hosting to $0 a month, it’s a net gain of $10.99 a month.

Although if I ever get a logo, I am printing it and “Given an infinite amount of time and actual economic pressures, all adventuring groups become neutral evil” on a t-shirt and selling them.

Is your old blog coming down?

It’s expensive to maintain and I will likely start ignoring it. But I am going to wait until the traffic moves over cleanly.

I don’t know. I don’t know what I am going to do with it. If anything.

What about your Nephilim FATE Conversion?

Yes, I have a mostly finished conversion of Nephilim to FATE. It gets constant traffic all day. If I shut down this blog it will need a new home. I’m not sure what that new home is. That is TBD.

Are you attending any cons?

Gaming conventions? Dunno. I’m well-known hermit who never goes into public like Thomas Pynchon.

What is the best place to find you online?

Twitter. I’m a junky. Follow me at @multiplexer.

Do you truly have a dog named after Arthur Schopenhauer?

Yep. He helps me write. It’s his job. He also really likes reading /r/economics.

PAX East 2012

I am blogging from the road! This is a unique experience but I wanted to type up our yearly PAX roundup before forgetting the details. Hopefully my formatting doesn’t suck.

The Good:

  • Diablo III – The console free play area this year not only was enormous – necessary for the huge League of Legends tournament going on – but for showing games in beta. We never did get to play Torchlight II but we did play Diablo III. My complaints about the game are still the same with the dumbed down skill tree and the always on DRM. But man. Blizzard, shut up and take my money.
  • XCOM – I was worried 2K would turn XCOM into some first person shooter. Nope, it’s a squad combat tactical RPG vs. aliens. Now with exploding environments! And on XBox! All good.
  • MC Frontalot – I thought my knee was going to disintegrate after standing for hours to get to the last act of the concert but powering through to MC Frontalot was worth it. The dude has so much energy on stage he might have exploded. The song ‘It is Pitch Dark’ is awesome live. Sure, Jonathan Coulton was fun but Frontalot was better.
  • Lords of Waterdeep – Yeah, okay WotC just take my money. Game is great board gamey fun. Just a well designed game.
  • Cards Against Humanity – With great embarrassment I admit I was introduced to this horrible game by WotC reps. Where they got it from who knows. It’s Apples to Apples for adults. And hilarious. The Cards Against Humanity guys sold out completely. At one time we walked past the tables in the Westin Mezzanine and there were 3 games going.
  • Rob’s Cortex Plus Tactics Hack – In which we had fun playing the Marvel Heroic Role Playing system as base classes from Final Fantasy Tactics with a bit of Two Guys With Swords.
  • Soul Caliber V – Bought and en route to the house.
  • Gazillions of friends – Holy crap PEOPLE! HI PEOPLE! I think I got to everyone!
  • The End of the Omegathon – They played…. Crokinole. It’s Canadian bar shuffleboard. At first we were like… What the hell is this? Then we got into it. We started cheering and commenting on the turns. The match went for an hour and a half! I was so happy Eric suggested we watch it from a theater instead of standing in the grand ballroom. YAY CROKINOLE. It was epic.
  • Bastion – The guys who made Bastion were manning the booth including the composer for the soundtrack and the kid (!!!) who did the VoiceOver. I felt the need to give them more money but I have the soundtrack so I bought a Bastion bandanna.
  • Playtesting Race to Adventure – It’s a super fun game and you will love it when it comes out. Trust me.
  • Celebrity Pictures – Rumor is that I made some squeeing noise on meeting Margaret Weis. That might be true. I have good pictures of Eric with MC Frontalot and Jonathan Coulton.
  • The Boston Westin – We will never stay anywhere else. They set up the Mezzanine for continuous overflow tabletop play. Service was great. Attached to the Conference Center. Only ~ $10 a night more expensive than the Marriott.
  • Getting Mark to play Magic – Rumor is this happened. Sadly no photographic evidence.

The Meh

  • Rock Band Blitz – It hurt my hands.
  • Nintendo 3DS – Finally played the 3DS and I had to turn off the 3D because the game was so fuzzy. I’ll stick with my XL.
  • Torchlight II – I got a good look at it in the PC Freeplay area and it’s Torchlight with multiplayer. Yeah I know it’s what we want…
  • Eminent Domain – Card game that is a cross between Dominion and Race for the Galaxy. Two games I like very much, yeah, but Eminent Domain lacked a personality of it’s own.
  • Zillions of MMORPGs – EVERYONE has an MMO and they all look the same. the SWTOR booth was so big it had its own lounge.

The Bad

  • Guy at Battlefield Booth – Felt the need to explain D&D to the girls. Note, I had no such issues with the WotC reps, who were infinitely cooler.
  • Missing all the Panels – Went to a convention and went to no talks. Sigh.
  • Too many people! I did not get to everyone. 🙁 Sorry peeps. Also, I am super bad with names… As many people learned.
  • PC Freeplay shutting down Dungeon Defenders. Meh.
  • Worn Out – We overdid it a bit and now we are trashed.
  • Expensive Boston food – Christ, I felt fleeced.
  • Bizarre survey guy in the Nintendo booth – He felt the need to take a survey about the 3DS before I had a chance to play it.

So that’s my roundup! Bye PAX East 2012 – you were awesome.

On Pudding

The kitchen at work occasionally stocks kozy shack pudding in the small fridge.  Our NetOps group at work adopted kozy shack as some sort of weird mascot.  But no kozy shack this morning.  Sadness.

Gesturing to the window I ask: “Why not walk over to Wegman’s (across the street) and buy pudding?”

Can’t.  Kozy shack is downscale pudding. Wegman’s is too upscale for kozy shack.   Wegman’s only stocks upscale pudding.  

I ask around about the difference between downscale pudding and upscale pudding but everyone not in NetOps looks at me like there’s going to be a quiz.  Go away you crazy person asking me about pudding.  You’re weirding me out.

Only person who appreciates the question is Eric, who promptly recites this entire scene from The State:

 

 

I should worry that Eric can recite this scene from memory on the merest mention of pudding but this is not what is on my mind.  What I want to know is this: how much kozy shack can you buy for $240?

Being in the car, the only tool I have for the job is my iPhone.  I consult Wolfram Alpha which bills itself as knowing everything, ever, about anything.  I type into the search screen:

How much chocolate pudding can I buy for $240?

Wolfram Alpha doesn’t know.  Fuck Wolfram Alpha.  What is this shit?  Billing itself as knowing everything why the fuck doesn’t it know how much pudding I can buy for $240?

“Try Google,” Eric suggests reasonably.

Alright.  I figure out that the average bathtub holds 100 gallons of liquid substance — nominally water but I find no rigid definition of bathtubs and water exclusivity.  Check.  Then, poking around, looks like kozy shack goes for $3.09 for 22 oz of kozy shack.  Not a useful 32 oz, but 22 oz.  Google is also, now, proffering me kozy shack coupons.

We figure out we can’t get far on $240 of kozy shack.  It’s enough to fill a few inches of bathtub but not to soak in pudding.  It’d take $1800 worth of kozy shack to fill a bathtub entirely with pudding.  (Note the original math on twitter is wrong.  THIS IS DEFINITIVE AS DONE ON A REAL COMPUTER WITH A CALCULATOR.)

The can of peas pulls it together

“Not something you can casually do while drunk,” Eric points out.  You’d have to be out of your gourd to spend that kind of money on kozy shack to fill a bathtub.  But say, if you were, where would you go and how much would you buy?

Well, you could go to Meijer, the logical choice for buying so much pudding, but there’s no Meijer in Maryland.  The rigid straight jacket of East Coast grocery catches us once again.  One has no choice but to go to Costco, get a pallet, and fill it with enough 22oz kozy shack pudding pods to fill 100 gallons of bathtub with kozy shack.

“This,” Eric points out, “would look suspicious.”

That’s when we cook up the plan to add the can of peas.  Because while a pallet full of 100 gallons of 22oz kozy shack chocolate pudding pods might look a bit strange, adding the can of peas pulls it all together.  Sure one might ask about all that pudding but who would ask questions when presented with a simple can of peas?  It all makes sense.

 The very saddest thing is how much technology, how many millions of man hours of effort and innovation, I ruthlessly abused to get to this conclusion.  Behold!  What the Internet is truly for!

  

PAX East

We’re heading up to PAX East for the third year in a row.  We’re in the hotel attached to the convention center meaning — yes!  Booze!  The plan is to drive up on Thursday and drive home on Monday so we won’t miss the opening remarks this year.  Also, I will get another scarf because PAX scarfs are important.  And swag.  I need swag.

The only work I’ll be bringing with me is a) my phone which will die trying to pull work mail in a convention center with no coverage and b) my work branded bag as it makes an awesome con bag.  I might also wear my work logo t-shirt maybe.  I will not talk to you about work or my job other than yeah I have this bitchin’ bag maybe I stole it.

If you want to hook up at PAX East give me a shout.  Otherwise, we’ll wander around aimlessly until we run into you in some weird uncomfortable awkward way in a hallway and go all “OH HEY YOU’RE HERE TOO” and “WE’RE GOING OVER THERE” and “YOU ARE GOING WHERE WELL SEE YOU LATER MANG” and then we don’t see you again and we complain all over twitter about not getting together and how that sucked so say something.  Also, a bunch of Folks I Know are On Panels so We’ll Be Attending Some Panels and Yes We Are Stalking You.  And Eric has made noise about attending the concert.

So, there’s the haps.  You can find me either playing board games until my eyes bleed or in the check out and play video game area or watching the Street Fighter tournament.  

Roller Skating

20120318-225353.jpg

Okay, mostly I’m just demoing doing a blog post off my phone. Tonight I went roller skating for the first time in 20+ years. The muscle memory was willing but the arthritic knees were week. The attached picture is proof! My feet clad in a pair of seriously ancient roller skates.

And to think, as a kid, I went to the roller rink twice a week for years. Now? I’m old and feeble and sad.

Couple Days Off

We’re going through a big transition period right now.  Katie just started her fancy new school with the new teachers in the new classrooms.  Eric is heading back to his school to do mysterious University of Maryland things.  I am still undergoing some changes at work that take some mild adjustment.  Also, football season started, and football tends to occupy a good 90% of my brain.

I tried blogging last night and by 9pm all that came out was “bleh bleh bladdity blah.”  It was hardly English.  

I’ve got a ton of half thought out “fun things to do with ancient aliens who go around possessing humans for fun and profit” but it will need to wait until we get past this transition period and my brain comes fully online again.

Damn you school schedules and… and things!

PAX East 2011

PAX East 2011 was awesome.

I have a handy comparison of con styles on hand. I just attended the RSA Conference 2011. I dearly loved RSA but it was a death march. Up at 6am, slog through the rain, be there by 8-8:15am, try to hit as many talks and keynotes and paper presentations as possible, cram in visiting booths and talking to relevant vendors, try to socialize, maybe eat in there somewhere. Do something eveningish, collapse, rinse, repeat. It was a great experience but dear God it was painful.

PAX East is the antithesis of the track-and-talk-and-demonstration-based conventions. It has no real set schedule. Instead it has a huge number of things to do. Want to attend a talk? There are talks. Want to go to an evening concert? There are super cool evening concerts.* Want to play a game? What kind? Many companies run tabletop and boardgame full demos. You can check boardgames out of the library. The console freeplay rooms were huge this year for those looking to play an XBox or 360 game. There was Rock Band and Dance Central. The EXPO floor was enormous and full of playable demos and swag. I really enjoy the loose, not really terribly planned nature of PAX East. It doesn’t feel like a convention. It feels like a huge party where 65,000 of your best friends show up to talk about games and play games and generally hang out together in the bonding of love over all things games.

And this year we spent PAX East meeting new people. My twitter follow list exploded. We had great talks over in the RPG area. We played board games. We played the Leverage RPG. We went to dinner with new people and had a great time. This is what I loved this year: the socialization. Gaming people! Comic book people! Random Internet famous people! We went to only one talk, and it was on Geek Parenting. We were interviewed for a documentary as geek parents. We watched the Old Republic trailer. I played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in the console freeplay room until my hand nearly fell off — and then found the Gauntlet upright and that had to be played. It was a moral imperative.

Save one detail,** the move to the bigger conference center was a massive upgrade. No more crowding in the hallways trying to get somewhere. The EXPO area was cavernous. I’m still not certain we saw everything there — but we saw lots and lots of cool stuff. The tabletop area, crammed into a few small rooms last year, was huge with lots and lots and lots of tables. It even had halfway decent con food that didn’t kill any of us. We even liked the hotel.

I could pick it apart day by day and item by item, and may do so, but suffice to say right now: PAX East is huge fun and highly recommended for anyone who can get themselves to Boston.

We’re totally going next year. April 7-9th. Be there.


* We did the concerts last year to the exclusion of many other things so we did the other things this year.
** Not enough beanbags to crash in.

It’s Savage Out There

I saw NBC Universal, ABC and Telemundo trucks. The NBC Universal guys seemed to be slouched, bored, and having a smoke. I also spotted the FBI (very early) and several brand new “NO SKATE BOARDING SIGNS THIS MEANS YOU” signs which, I suspect, are a coincidence. Some photographer yelled at me to get out of the way while standing in the parking lot of the Panera — I don’t know what was up with that. I was passed on the way back from lunch* by people wearing press passes. They all looked bored. There are 17,392,531 security guards standing around the Discovery Channel building but they’re all talking among themselves.

No sign of our local normal Crazy Sign Guys. Not even Jesus Guy or our Local Anti-Abortion Protesters.

I see the news has moved on to Yet Another Exploding Oil Platform and Burger King being sold for $4B. The World Moves On. Also, my brain is now completely consumed with the new Big 10 divisions. No Michigan-Penn State games in 2011 or 2012!

Steam tofu on rice — thrilling, yeah?

The Discovery Channel Building

I went to the gym today.  I was feeling particularly virtuous because it meant I went to the gym multiple times this week.  I even managed to keep my heart rate “in the zone” (below 140) for the majority of the time on the cross-trainer and it left me feeling a bit sore in places that need exercise.  I mention this because I had a meeting at 1:30pm and I needed to pick up lunch and be back by around 1pm-ish.  Had I gone at my normal time, I would have been locked out of my building.

I walked back into the building at 1:06pm, annoyed a few people, sat down to my desk, and heard people talking loudly about something going on across the street.  Then I heard the police sirens.  I have a big wall of windows.  I can see actual weather and time, but I can also hear the street noise from 29 and the Silver Spring Metro (Red Line).  Most importantly, the building is across the street from Discovery Channel HQ and most windows have a view.

By “across the street,” I do not mean down the block a half mile away.  I mean, literally, across the street.  Look out the window and there it is.  The building makes a big wind tunnel in winter.  It’s hilarious during Shark Week when they strap giant inflatable shark parts to the building.  It has the best lobby with a giant dinosaur skeleton and a physics machine.  The lobby is open to the public and people do stroll through at lunch.  I have done so myself.

This means I called into my meeting and it was punctuated by sirens in the background and people going, “What was that?”  I had my droid and peered at twitter and coworkers who were coming back from lunch were posting pictures of police mayhem right outside.  We all got off the phone (meeting over) and headed off to go peer out a window with a good view.  We watched the police block off 29 and put up yellow tape.  We watched the news helicopters fly in and the various TV stations set up their gear and harass random people heading back from Downtown.   We watched at least 30 police cars show up and park.

So okay, it turns out there’s a crazy guy in the DIscovery Channel building across the street and the FBI was called in.  He has a gun and he has fired either one or five shots.  He had between one and twelve hostages at any one time.  He has a bomb.  He has multiple bombs.  The downtown strip behind the building by Borders was evacuated (this one was true).  Cops were telling people to get off the street or they were going to arrest them (they didn’t).  The giant Police Command Center RV pulled up.  We found streaming video of the news outside.  We watched the helicopters above us give us shots on the monitors of what we were looking at out the windows.

And we did watch the cops evacuate the day care center in the Discovery Channel building.  People pushed cribs across 29.  They disappeared into the McDonald’s.  We joked that the McD’s was selling its weight in McFlurries.

Nothing happened for a long time.  Our building was switched to key card access only, probably to keep the gaggles of reports that set up on our curb in front of our building (Metro Level exit) from wandering in and out.  The news told us the name of the guy, flashed a picture, and it was eerie: it was a guy who had been seen, often, standing around on various corners at lunch time waving his sign.   It was THAT GUY in a “HEY, IT’S THAT GUY!” sort of way.  People got up and milled around and went to the windows to watch the SWAT guys stand around.  (One apparently took a header climbing out of the truck.)  Work kind of happened in drips and drabs with the thoughts that the guy across the street had something strapped to him and it might be a bomb and it might be worse.

That was exciting.

I spent most of my afternoon watching the news spread from the local news to the WaPo to CNN to the NYTimes to the BBC and then everywhere.  It was a little boggling that closing the street outside my window was now world-wide news. It didn’t help that our local crazy guy had left a manifesto full of environmentalism and evolution and anchor babies and squirrels.  (Squirrels?)  It was a manifesto’s manifesto and the Internets, as they are, were having a field day while we were waiting for it to end so we could go home.

Then it was over.  5pmish.  The SWAT guys lured our friend, the local crazy guy, out of the lobby by the nice dinosaur bones and science displays, out to the manicured sitting area in front of the doors and ended it.  The crazy guy’s bomb did go off, but it went pfft.  We watched the cops pull away and some of the back streets began opening up.

Then there was escape.

Good grief, man.  What kind of world do we live in now that it seems sensible to try to blow up the Discovery Channel? Not a BP office?  Or the nice government offices around the corner?  I joked when it started that the guy objected to “The Deadliest Catch” and I wasn’t far off.  And it’s not like those offices are small.  That building is huge.  I know the crazy guy had years of being barred from coming into the building and he snapped.  But really?  The Discovery Channel?

That was my day.  How was yours?