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Letting Them Down Easy

There have been a few situations now where I have found myself needing to let my GM know that I am bored or unhappy with the game he is running, and after talking to the other players the decision was made to move on to something else. Most times you would think that this would be a simple case of saying “Hey Ricky, we were talking and we’d like to put this game on hold and do something else for a while.” And, most times, this would probably work. My experiences in the past, however, have made me realize that this isn’t always the case.

Situation One
My gaming group started running an Eberron campaign and we were all very excited to try this new setting. The flavour of it appealed to many of us, and thoughts of flying on airships and riding lightning rails sounded very exciting. The guy running the game was really excited as well, and let us have free reign in creating our characters. For the sake of argument, let’s call that “Mistake Number One”. What ended up happening is that the group consisted of at least two min-maxed PCs, and at least two overpowered PCs (there may have been some crossover there, too). The rest of the party were decently generated, balanced characters. The combination of these elements spells doom for a game, and it’s unfortunate we didn’t see this right away.

Starting the game in earnest, we quickly found out that while this was set in the Eberron campaign world, it was going to turn into a simple dungeon crawl. Mistake Number Two. The players had expressed excitement over the cool elements of Eberron, and they were bound for a game that could have been pulled off in any published setting or one of the DM’s own creation. There was nothing specifically “Eberron-esque” of the game.

Going back to Mistake Number One, the DM found that to balance the powerful characters in the group he had to make the encounters more and more difficult. Unfortunately that meant that the less powerful PCs were at a loss and needed to hang back through many combat encounters. The ease at which the party cut through some major combats was fun for the party, but frustrating for the DM. Eventually the group encountered the “rocks fall, you die” trap, and the whole thing fell apart. Frustrated players, frustrated DM, and nobody did what they should have done, which was talk about the issues the game was having.

What happened then was a short, tension-filled break between the players and the DM. Eventually the air cleared and we started gaming together again, but the Eberron game is never spoken of in polite conversation.

Situation Two
For several years now I have been playing in a campaign in a setting of the DM’s own creation. The DM’s job takes him out of the country for several months at a time, so we’re lucky to get a game in twice a year. This has caused the game to run extraordinarily long, and after five years we have probably only had about nine or ten sessions. A dozen at most. This is balanced by rapid leveling and quick story progression in each session. In general the DM is handling it very well.

What’s happening though, is the players are growing tired of the campaign. After all, even though it’s been less than a dozen sessions, the game has been going on for maybe five years. We’re ready for something else. Unfortunately the DM has put a tonne of work into the game, and has seen the story line through to the end in his head, and he wants to get us there. After five years we’ve finally gotten some answers behind the mystery that started the campaign to begin with, but even that isn’t enough to make us really excited to keep going. The player’s investment in the game is dwindling, but the DM’s is not.

So how do we, the players, handle the situation? We’re not sure. Do we just say “You know, let’s try something else”? This is countered by the DM’s “But we’re so far into it, can’t we just finish?” Nobody wants to hurt anybody’s feelings or make anybody feel dejected, and I know how I would feel if I sunk a lot of time into preparation and game development only to have the carpet pulled out from under me.

It’s a conundrum!

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Grand Theft Freetime

I received a gift certificate to Future Shop as a birthday gift from my co-workers a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to use it to purchase a copy of the newly released Grand Theft Auto IV for PC. for a few weeks now I have been watching Live Video feeds of people playing the game (thanks to XFire), as well as recorded video of the game (again, thanks to XFire) and I have been suitably impressed.

Back in the day I enjoyed playing GTA 1 and 2, but never really got into the fancy new versions until GTA: San Andreas came out for PC. The game had the scope and freedom that I enjoyed in a game, but also gave you the structure of a storyline and missions that I need to keep me from getting bored and – let’s face it – the sheer scope of the world that Rockstar Games has created. While I never actually finished GTA: SA, I got farther into that game than any other game I’ve played. I may have said it before – I am not a completionist when it comes to video games. My attention wanders from game to game like a taste-tester. Something more delectable comes along and I want to sink my teeth into it to the exclusion of all others. This is why Left 4 Dead is gathering dust on my shelf (that, and many of my friends are never around to play it with).

Back to GTA IV. I had heard a lot of bad feedback about how poor this game performs, how it’s broken, how so many people are having problems with it. Either I have been lucky, or the vast majority of people who are not having problems with the game are keeping quiet – which in my opinion is probably the case. Before I installed the game, I updated my video drivers because I had read that many of the problems people have been running into are due to out of date drivers. The one problem I ran into is that on the Sunday afternoon when I installed the game I could not connect to the Rockstar website to create an account to take advantage of the game’s online features. Not a huge deal – I tried again that evening and was fine. In addition to that you need a Windows Live account. I already had one, so I simply linked it to my Rockstar account and away I went.

The game starts with a light backstory – you’re in Liberty City to see your cousin, who meets you drunk on the pier when your ship arrives. Of course, he asks you to drive him to his place. This is your first taste of Liberty City – or at least this small corner of it. In the short drive to your cousin Roman’s apartment, I really got a feel for the detail that Rockstar Games has put into this title. Neon reflected off of brick and stone, tail lights reflected off of the hood of nearby cars, and the crunch of metal on metal has been captured to near perfection. However, even on my Radeon HD 4870, the shadows still had something to be desired, and if you spin your view around quickly you watch leaves resolve on nearby trees. A little detail I dislike, but really, it’s just a little detail.

You are left at Roman’s apartment alone, and told to come and visit him after you rest. I slept (saved my game) and left the apartment just as the sun was coming up. While this game is called Grand Theft Auto, I opted to walk the short distance to Roman’s workplace. At one point I even paused on a bridge to look out over the bay. A shoot out between AI characters behind me brought me to my senses – oh yeah, this is a GTA game. I walked the rest of the way to Roman’s cab company and started the game in earnest.

Some of the things that everyone loves about GTA are still in this game – my favourite being the radio stations. Not only is there great music, but the banter of the DJs and the talk radio hosts and their guests is hilarious. References to locations from previous GTA games (like San Andreas and Vinewood) help anchor Liberty City in the mythos that Rockstar has created. Another fun addition is the ability to have your own personal radio station. Just load MP3s, WMAs or M4A files into the GTA music directory and switch your radio to Independence FM. You can select to have just your music, or to have it interspersed with DJ banter. Strangely enough, I decided to drop in the MP3s I have of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s music from Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Let me tell you, mowing down civilians and gunning down thugs while listening to the Peanuts gang singing “Hark the Herald” is more than a little surreal.

Driving in this game is a little trickier than driving in the older versions. The physics of the vehicles has been ramped up, and motorcycles are much more difficult than they used to be. Vehicles have also become satisfyingly destructive, as I found when I ran my Turismo into a concrete abutment on the Broker Bridge. I also found out that this game needs seat belts, as this collision also launched me onto the roadway. Surviving with only a few scrapes and bruises, I jacked a new car, payed my $5 at the toll booth, and continued on my mission. Weather also affects your driving, so racing through the streets in a rain storm is not something you should be enjoying – it’s something for laying down and avoiding.

Another noticeable improvement is how the police react to you, and how they chase you down. In previous iterations of the game, if you even bumped into a cop while walking or driving they would pull  out their pistol and begin gunning you down. In GTAIV, you need to make a concerted effort to piss them off or do some significantly criminal to get them on your case. Also new is the “cop radius”, a circle on your radar that shows you the area you need to be concerned about being in if you do something criminal. The more “wanted” stars you obtain, the larger the circle. Get outside that circle without being spotted by a cop, and you can go free. Also shown on the map when you are wanted are icons which represent law enforcement vehicles (cruisers, trucks, helicopters and boats), to allow you to plan your route in the best possible way to escape. A nice addition.

I plan on trying out some of the multiplayer functions soon, so when I have a chance to try that out I will talk about it.

Rob out.

Lesser Known “Peanuts” TV Holiday Specials

“Hey, I Hope Your Cancer Comes Back, Charlie Brown!”

“Stop Man-Whoring to Pay for your Crack Addiction, Charlie Brown!”

“They’re Genital Warts, Charlie Brown!”

“It’s Radiation Sickness, Charlie Brown!”

“You Killed Lucy, Charlie Brown!”

and

“Tell Your Dog to Stop Humping My Leg, Charlie Brown!”

Important Lessons

This weekend was filled with semi-progress on various projects, and I learned some important lessons, which I plan on sharing with you here.

First off, however, is that Melodie and I managed to get out for an evening without the kids. This is a first since Elizabeth was born and it felt both exhilarating and wrong. I will confess, though… the first time we managed to get out after Connor was born, we spent the first ten minutes in the car checking the back seat, wondering where he was. This time, we ran out the front door, peeled rubber out of the driveway and never looked back. If I had “Bat Out of Hell” on CD, I would have been blaring it out of the car speakers with the windows rolled down, shrieking like a banshee as we headed down Victoria, tearing up the road faster than any other boy has ever gone. Unfortunately our evening out was cut short by our babysitter calling at about 11pm, the first thing I hear when I answer the phone being my seven month old daughter screaming into my ears. Lesson number one; Make the most of every free moment you have without your kids.

Saturday, as usual, was Sportball. It’s basically a bunch of toddlers running around not listening to what they’re supposed to be doing. I try hard to not get frustrated when Connor doesn’t follow the instructions on how to bump a volleyball, putt a ball or shoot a puck. It always seems to me that every other kid is channeling Darcy Tucker or Tiger Woods except mine, who is running around in circles, foaming at the mouth and yelling at the top of his lungs. What is interesting, though, is that a week later at home he’ll suddenly do something he was shown how to do in Sportball – he successfully aced a serve while playing volleyball against me in the basement. The little bugger beat me 15-4. Lesson number two; Don’t assume they’re not hearing what you’re saying.

While Connor and Elizabeth slept, I began the tedious chore of hanging closet doors in the basement. It’s actually fairly simple if you follow the  instructions. I was nearly finished the first door by the time Connor woke up and decided he wanted to “help”. This entailed banging on the door with the tip of a Robertson screwdriver, scribbling pencil on the door frame, running off with a drill bit and asking me what every single piece of hardware was, four separate times. Important lesson number three; two year olds do not make efficient contractors.

That afternoon we braved the lousy roads and went out to get our Christmas tree. While the drive to the tree farm was sketchy, we had a great time once we got there. The snow let off and it was actually pretty mild for this time of year. While Connor rode in a sleigh and Elizabeth rode inside Melodie’s coat (with just her face sticking out – it was so cute), we hunted for a Christmas tree – march, march, look, look. If the weather had been worse we would have just cut down whichever one was nearest the car (which could have ended up being a fence post), but the calm weather allowed us to spend some time searching. Eventually we found the most beautiful tree we’d ever found, cut it down and slapped it on the roof of the Golf like a dead deer. Fastening it down with bungee cords, we learned lesson number four; Don’t fasten bungee cords to the front doors of your car before you get in. We attached the cords to the top of the windows on the front and back doors and then realized there was no way for us to actually get into the car.

Sunday was visiting Santa at the mall and putting up more closet doors in the basement (who’s idea was it to have so many closet doors? One’s fine… two’s enough… but three?). After dinner I rocked Elizabeth to sleep while Melodie and Connor baked my birthday cake (they’re decorating it today – should be interesting). Once Connor and Elizabeth were both snug in bed, we collapsed on the couch and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it. It was a good weekend.

Question Period.

So, my good friend Fraser Ronald from over at Pen’s Tip asked me to give a little more revelation into why I was enjoying Far Cry 2 when I have made comments to the extent that I do not enjoy modern military themed tabletop RPGs. It’s a valid question, as Fraser is an RPG pal who’s preference is for modern military adventures, particularly when run using D20 Modern from Wizards of the Coast.

I do enjoy military themed tabletop RPG adventures, so let’s just make sure that we’re clear in that regard. However, as I have stated on a recent episode of The Accidental Survivors, they need to have something that is extraordinary or fantastic to catch my attention. To be honest, the only military-themed RPGs I have played have had that fantastic element (Fraser’s Qalashar Dogs one-off at GenCon, for instance) and I have never played a straight-up, hardcore modern military game. I simply can’t imagine something like that being any fun. Why? It just seems so ordinary.

n.b. When I talk about a military-themed RPG, I’m speaking of one where the players are ranked soldiers in a large action somewhere in the world, taking orders from on high.

But I do enjoy Far Cry 2, which I suppose one could say is a straight-up, hardcore military-themed game. Two forces are gunning for one another in a war-torn African nation, and it is your job to eventually track down and kill the arms dealer who has been arming both sides. There’s a difference, though, between what I would see has a military RPG adventure and Far Cry 2 (other than one being a tabletop RPG, and the other being a video game).

In Far Cry 2, you are not a member of a large military force, the commander of a large military force or even loosely attached to any large force at all. You are one man (in my case an ex-IRA assassin) who is out to make a buck and a name for himself. Stuck between these two warring factions, you have few friends and at any point a jeep could round a corner on a dusty trail and you could get shot at. You are a loner working both sides while you try to find information about where your target could be. If this were a tabletop RPG, I would play it. It’s fast and loose with nobody breathing down your neck telling you what to do.

There are a lot of different ways to tackle a military-themed RPG, and the way I am simply not interested in is when you and the other players are a small part of a larger machine. I need my characters to be larger than life heroes, capable of fantastic acts or incredible feats of daring. If I don’t have that, I just feel like my character’s a normal guy in a shitty place, and most times in my own life I feel like that. I play games for the escapism. If I want realism, I’ll shut off the monitor or put the dice away and go worry about the family budget.

I hope that answers your question, Fraser. If it doesn’t, well, in the words of a certain wiseman (or was it wiseacre?), eat it.

R.

Far Cry 2 Ain’t All That Bad

No, I dont have this sniper rifle... YET.

No, I don't have this sniper rifle... YET.

I wish I had the forethought to get a screencap or a vidcap of my Far Cry 2 game yesterday afternoon, but here’s how the shizzle when down;

I had picked up a mission at a cell tower to go and whack some dudes who were patrolling around an airfield in an SUV. Why? I don’t know. I’m not paid to ask these sorts of questions, I just do it.

So, I barreled in there in a jeep and got capped by a sniper in a watch tower next to the airstrip. F9 is my best friend in Far Cry 2, so I tried again. This time I crept along a line of hills to the south, took control of a safe house and had a snooze. The safe house was right on the leading edge of a creek leading into the airfield, so I used the low-lying creek bed to approach the watch tower. Once within sprinting distance, I ran across an open field, juking to avoid sniper fire. I ran up the watch tower and slashed the sniper with my
machete, then picked up his rifle and his Mac-10. It’s also key to note that in my possession was a rocket launcher.

While my target circled the airfield in his SUV and bracketed by two jeeps, I noticed a third jeep patrolling the airstrip. With the sniper rifle I took out the gunner, and then waited for the driver to get out before taking him down as well. As I waited, the target drove past the airstrip, a pile of large rocks between myself and him.

Racing down to the ground, I took up a position in the rocks with my rocket launcher and waited for their next trip around. I left my own jeep nearby for a quick getaway. The first jeep passed my hiding place, and I fired the rocket into the front of the SUV. It exploded, and the front of the SUV lifted up, flipped over, and the SUV dropped on it’s roof on top of the trailing jeep, which then also exploded. One rocket took out two vehicles and five enemies. I had no time to rejoice, however, as the leading jeep had my position and I had to defend myself.

I was losing interest in this game until this mission, when I realized what I had been doing wrong. This is not a run and gun game. If you try that, you’re going to die. You need to be careful, quiet and tactical, scouting the area well before attempting any action. Most of my mistakes (and subsequent deaths) have come from not paying enough attention to what’s going on. Changing how I approach the game has increased my enjoyment of it tenfold.

R.

Don’t Call it a Comeback, I’ve Been Here for Years

1,000 Gamer Dad Weekly points to the first person who can tell me what the title to this post is a reference to. That’s right, 1,000 points! Collect enough points and you can trade them in for fantastic Gamer Dad Weekly prizes like dirty diapers, old D&D character sheets, a copy of Carmageddon 2 and much, much more!

So it’s been a while since I posted last! Things have been pretty busy with work, where my mind is finally starting to settle down and get into the game. It’s been long enough, but I found out the key to keeping myself organized. I tried all sorts of fancy productivity programs, but I found the best thing for the job was a simple printout of an Excel spreadsheet. One of my faults is always trying to find a gadget or piece of tech to help me with a problem, when sometimes the best solution is a simple solution. Now, I did try out some very interesting pieces of software geared towards productivity, but most just confused the issue.

I’ve also been spending my free time playing Fallout 3. A lot of people who ask if it’s any good are told “If you liked Oblivion, you’ll like Fallout 3. It’s like Oblivion, but with guns.” That’s pretty much true. Made by the same folks who made Oblivion (Bethseda), this isn’t your grandma’s Fallout. Gone is the isometric turn-based combat. This is an FPS (with the option, on the PC at least, to switch to an over-the-shoulder third person view). I tend to stay in third-person view and switch to first-person when I enter enclosed spaces like buildings, Vaults, or caverns.

Let’s back up a step. The backstory is the same – a nuclear holocaust wipes out North America in the late 21st century. For some reason, industrial and advertising design has had a throwback to the late 1950s, which could be the very reason for the holocaust in the first place. As a matter of fact, you don’t really know the reason for the nuclear holocaust, but that’s not really the main part of the story anyways. The main part of the story are the Vaults. With nuclear war imminent, a company called Vaultec started selling spaces in underground Vaults that they had constructed to keep people safe from the nuclear bombs. The idea was that these Vaults would keep everybody safe until radiation had dissipated, whereupon the survivors (or, their descendants) would emerge into the sunlight once again and recreate a perfect world.

Nothing ever works out that way. Your character is born in Vault 101,  twenty years before the game begins. You play through your childhood in an interesting way to develop the character you want to play. You choose your main attributes as a toddler reading a child’s book. As a teenager, you choose your skills via a storyline where you take a test to see what your job in the Vault will be. Pretty soon the shit hits the fan, and you end up outside the Vault in the Capital Wasteland, doing quests for people and generally making a nuisance of yourself. The area of game play takes place in and around Washington DC, filled with various settlements and interesting locales. I’m not familiar with the DC area so I’m not sure how closely it’s mapped out, but you do get to see the key points by doing quests. These aren’t the ridiculous “Go kill six Atomic Moose and bring me their doodles” quests, but more interesting quests like “Go to Minefield and bring me back some mines”.

Oh. Wait. I guess some of them are ridiculous.

I do find it interesting that of all the settlers, raiders, adventurers and generally tough bastards in the Wasteland, the only one who really decides to help people out and try to make some caps (the monetary standard in the Wasteland is bottle caps), is a greenhorn fresh out of a Vault. I guess not knowing any better is a pretty good reason for this. If you did know of all the hazards out there, you’d hunker down in a settlement like Megaton, keep your head down and wait for a raider to come and stab you in the face.

With the graphics settings turned up to eleven, the game looks pretty fantastic. Blasted rock and irradiated water make for a fairly brown landscape, so when you run across something colourful it makes it that much more impactful. With a massive open map to explore, if you can see a building off in the distance, you can get there and poke around in it. The urge to simply explore is pretty strong, and a sandbox game like this allows you to completely ignore the main quests (or even the multitude of side quests) and just meander around.

Combat is a shining point for Fallout 3. While generally point and shoot (or hack and slash), an interesting point of combat is the use of the V.A.T. system, which allows you to pause combat, select a specific area of your enemy and see the percentage you have of hitting that area, and then strike it. You then see a slow motion cinematic of your strike. If hidden, you have the chance of making a sneak attack critical hit on an enemy, which gives you the chance of seeing a fantastic display of gore and splatter. A headshot with a sniper rifle from 500 yards away can end up with many a shattering skull cinematic. AI is decent, and NPC enemies don’t seem to have bionic eyesight and mutant enhanced senses.

Following the main quest path equals out to about 40 hours of gameplay, but if you follow all of the sidequests you can end up with over 100 hours of gameplay from Fallout 3. This game is bound to win some awards for games of 2008… watch and see!

Crysis Warhead for PC – Some Thoughts

Apparently the head of war is bald.

Apparently the head of war is bald.

This is more of a “first look” review for the newly released Crysis Warhead, which hit the stores on September 16th. I’ll discuss the included multiplayer game, Crysis Wars, in a few days. Please realize that I’ve never played Crysis, the original release for this stand-alone expansion.

If anybody is familiar with Crytek’s first release, Far Cry, you will be familiar with the setting – a series of small islands in the Pacific with the hulks of left-over World War II paraphernalia is being manned by hostile forces and it is your job as a one-man army to go in and take them out.

In Crysis Warhead, you continue the role of Sergeant “Psycho” Sykes from Crysis helping cleanse a tropical island of Northern Korean invaders – but you quickly realize that there’s more going on than what meets the eye. Armed with the latest weaponry and a super-soldier suit that can shift between enhanced armour, speed, strength and stealth modes, you are hit by an EMP bomb that knocks you flat. When you awake, you find a crater coated in solid ice, surrounded by similarly frozen wild animals. Yeah, that’s interesting, but your controller tells you to get a move on and meet up with your evac team.

Using DirectX 10 graphics, this game delivers visually like few games do. Bullets zip by your head and ripple into the undergrowth, sparking off of rocks and, if enough are whipping through the air, can actually cut down trees in the fully destructable environment. At one point in the game I was driving a Humvee with a weapon mount, tracking down some dirty Koreans who were hiding out in some trees. Solution? Blast the area with ammo until they had no more cover to hide behind. The problem? I had the same thing done to me later in the game. Anything can be picked up and thrown, either to distract enemies or to bash them in the head. With the help of your suit’s Maximum Strength setting, you can pick up extremely heavy items, or jump incredible distances.

Lighting and water effects are second to none, and being on a tropical island you can bet there’s a lot of both. Rivers, streams, waterfalls and even sunlight can be used to your advantage. Trying to take out a roadblock? Sneak past by crawling through a low-lying stream and come at the block with the late-day sun at your back. The flare from the sun affects the aim of the AI, giving you a better chance of not being hit – even though your suit’s Maximum Armour setting makes you near impervious to small-arms fire.

Unfortunately, you’re not always against small arms fire. There are lots of vehicles in this game, both used against your enemies and against you. Large caliber arms fire ricocheting near your head blurs your vision, but turning that against your enemy makes you a death-dealer of incredible proportions. Vehicles feel sturdy and are easy to control, and have multiple seats that can be entered which can only make multiplayer vehicle combat tons of fun. You can take out tires which make it difficult to steer, and watching the tires blow out on a burning Humvee is fun and immersive.

I mentioned the AI being blinded by light, but they don’t seem to be affected by the covering effects of dense foliage, and they all have incredible hearing. Creeping through dense underbrush apparently makes enough noise for three Koreans to easily hear you from high atop a nearby rock face, and then track you down to your exact location. Another problem I have is, though this is a sandbox game, enemy spawn is awful.

I’ll give you a for instance…

I was on the track the game was laying down for me, but went off of it at one point to investigate some smoke I saw rising in the distance. I found some burning trucks and the collapsed entrance to what could have been a mine. There were some small buildings here, but nothing of importance. So, I continued on to my next checkpoint where I could look over a communications center and get my next set of orders. That checkpoint keyed new enemy spawns from the communications center below me, which was fine. But enemies also spawned at the collapsed mine, where I had just been. Where were those guys? Did they just escape from the mine? Were they hiding inside a burning truck? Did they drop in on parachutes? Spawns should be triggered by proximity, not by checkpoints. What I did like, though, is when I took those guys out, I came back several minutes later and the bodies were still there. I saved, reloaded the game later, and the bodies were still there. It’s a nice touch to add immersion, but then so would proximity-triggered enemies, not event-triggered.

There are a lot of small things added to this game to make it an immersive experience, but AI once again fails to deliver. It’s better than other games, but the mix of godlike omnipotence and sheer stupidity are difficult to take. Graphically the game is stunning. I can’t wait to try out the team multiplayer action. Crysis Warhead carries a price tag of $30 and is available from your Local Friendly Video Game Store, or via Steam. You can’t go wrong, but remember to check the system requirements first. This one’s a beast.

4 pieces of shrapnel out of 5.

Crazy Days

So it looks like Gamer Dad Weekly turned into Gamer Dad semi-whenever-I-feel-like-it for a while, there. I have a good excuse, though! The studio I work for was recently purchased by another company, and the last few weeks have been very nutty – though not more than the last couple of days. I haven’t had a stressful number of days like that for some time, and I hope I don’t see many more of them. It’s not fun!

The reason for it all is good, though – as my new boss called it, it’s a perfect storm. An absolute mess of new projects for new clients that have to knock their socks off. Having more work is never a bad thing, but I had been so slow for such a long period of time that it was a real shock, and it was tough to switch gears. Today is giving me a bit of a breather though, so while I eat lunch I write this to catch up. I promised myself I wouldn’t let this blog die like all the others, and along with the many lifestyle changes I need to make (the biggest of all being living more healthy for my own sake and the sake of my children), I need to keep my promises. And buy my wife flowers more often.

My big Geek News item for this week is that last week I finally received my new computer. I ordered it through NCIX and I have been very pleased with it so far. I should hope so, with it’s AMD Phenom X4 Quad 9850 CPU and it’s ATI Radeon HD 4870 video card, it’s chewing up games like Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed and spitting them out like nobody’s business. Even GTA San Andreas looks totally awesome. I’m considering going out and picking up Spore some time this week, though I’ve been warned away from it due to the high amount of time-sinkitude that has been reported to me by my friend Rice Kempo. That, and I’m also interested in picking up The Force Unleashed for the Wii, but again I’ve read some unflattering things about it – so I’ll rent it first and see what I think. Otherwise I might grab Lego Indiana Jones instead. Woof. So many games, so little time.

I also picked up the Catan Dice Game after seeing it at Gen Con. It’s a fun, quick, rules-light game based on the Settlers of Catan board game. You collect resources for each round by rolling six dice three times, and setting aside the dice that have turned up the resource you want for whatever you want to build. The game only allows for 15 turns, so at the most you’re looking at a 15 to 20 minute game. It’s great for travelling, at the cottage, or somethign quick to do in the evenings if you don’t have a lot of time. For a Gamer Dad, I find it’s the perfect weight of game for my wife and I. I gave a little bit more of a rundown of the game on the latest episode of The Accidental Survivors Podcast. Check it out.

The only other thing that’s missing in my life right now is tabletop roleplaying. I’m doing my darndest to get my Star Wars: Triton campaign going again, and perhaps I’ll have to wait until October before doing so. In the mean time, I’m trying to get it set up on a website called Obsidian Portal, a Web 2.0ish site that allows you to track your RPG campaigns with blog entries, Wikis, and listings of PCs and NPCs. Go take a look at it, and check out my game while you’re at it.

Rob out.

Today’s palandrome; Murder for a jar of red rum.

Luke Meyer is no fool

Luke Meyer contemplates life

Luke Meyer contemplates life

Dr. Luke Meyer is no fool. I tried to pull the wool over his eyes today, but when a call came into his office from Gary Gygax, he picked up on my dastardaly plan nearly immediately. “That can’t be right,” Luke thought to himself. “I best get to the bottom of this mystery, much the same way as I got to the bottom of that bag of Cheetohs at lunch time!”

“Mister Gygax, are you calling from heaven?” Luke asked when he picked up the phone. I knew my cover had been blown. I nonchalantly pretended to be joking. Laughing, I responded.

“Hey Luke, it’s Rob calling. How’s it going?”

Damn it. I had been foiled again. Next time, Luke… next time.