Monday, October 31, 2022

Big Ass Adventures

Happy Halloween! Kids have a half day at school today (just found that out) so, unfortunately, my time for blogging is rather limited. Perhaps tomorrow (sorry for the tease).

However! Just want to stab a placeholder in the internet with a couple thoughts. Today saw the arrival in my mailbox of a seriously big ass adventure: a print-on-demand extravaganza from DriveThru that clocks in at a whopping 144 pages (including 16 pages of maps).

The product? Well, it's not Patrick Stuart's Demon-Bone Sarcophagus (though that one is ALSO available on DriveThru and ALSO has a listed page count of 144). Nope, instead, I put my money into Wizards of the Coasts pockets for a new copy of the 1985 classic The Temple of Elemental Evil (Gygax/Mentzer). 

[I own a copy, but it's falling apart (missing the back cover) and that tiny little map booklet is...ugh. Hate it. The new print-out is clear and lovely with full-size (full page) maps. Lovely]

The ToEE is...large. I've never run the thing in its entirety. I've run T1 a couple times (it was a late addition to my collection) but I never felt a burning desire to explore the rest of the thing. Or any desire looks like a pretty boring slog of a thing, and if I (once upon a time) read the entirety of the text, I have since forgotten nearly everything about it. 

But now...well, while the Greyhawk setting holds zero interest for me (oh my...really need to do THAT post), and I have no nostalgia associated with ToEE (having never ran/played it "back in the day")...I'm kind of relishing the challenge of making it work. 

[*long pause*]

Mmm. Apologies. Kids are out trick-or-treating with the spouse while I'm waiting on dinner. Back to what I was saying....

This wasn't really going to be a post about The Temple of Elemental Evil. It's about the siren call of a "big campaign adventure." I have this sneaking suspicion that one of the reasons people get geeked up to run such a thing...a ToEE or Stonehaven or Barrowmaze or Dwimmermount is that it is SO HUGE that it can provide hours upon hours of game play. Game play that allows DMs to provide players with the experiential joy of D&D (fighting monsters, securing treasures, acquiring levels) while simultaneously putting off the real work of crafting a world fit for one's campaign. 

That's perhaps a little cynical, but I don't think it's a conscious procrastination. However, the DM who only runs such things is, perhaps, stuck in 2nd gear.

ANYway...I mentioned "challenge" and, for me, part of the challenge would be finding a way to work ToEE into my own campaign (the main challenge I have with pre-made adventures these days); the other challenge I somewhat relish is the idea of editing the thing into a more practical, usable form, an idea that I was hipped to by reading Trent's posts on the subject and the impetus to make me buy the POD book. Thanks to Trent's stuff, I have a bit of a roadmap to butchering the thing in a way that works for me...a little holiday project for when I'm bored.
; )

But, of course, that's not where my madness ends. I find myself pulled in the direction of a completely idiotic idea that just...will...NOT...let...go! of my psyche. It's so stupid I'm embarrassed to even write about it. Although, that was the reason I even opened my laptop this morning in the first place. Sometimes you have to blog the demons out of the brain, just to regain processing power.

*sigh* Unfortunately, I really have run out of time now. Tomorrow the kids are in school the full day and the wife should be going into the office and Halloween festivities will be over (really need to stop stuffing my face with candy...). I'll embarrass myself writing about my stupid idea tomorrow. Good night!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Of Dragons And Elves

Moving right along...

Probably should have drawn some attention to Prince of Nothing's second installment of his No ArtPunk contest. My adventure was able to crack the Top 5 this year (though I believe a late entry knocked it down to #6), so...guess what?'s going in the compilation book. Which is pretty cool but means that UNlike last year's offering (Hell's Own Temple) I will not be offering the thing for free on my blog: pick up the compilation when it arrives (hopefully before New Year) and Pay What You Will to the charity Prince designated.

One thing I like about the contest (besides an excuse to write adventures and a chance to test myself against other designers) is the opportunity it affords to discuss various aspects of "adventure design." In fact, one commenter suggested I blog my own thoughts and stipulations on how to write adventures...and someday, hopefully, I will (actually, I started writing such a post last month; still in draft form).

But TODAY, I want to come back to the "world building" thing. I've been thinking a lot about world building lately...mainly due, I think, to the shows I've been watching: Andor (Star Wars), House of the Dragon (GRRM), and Rings of Power (Tolkien). I could write (long) blog posts on every one of these series, but for today's purpose I just want to talk about how each one expresses a different fictional world/universe of its creator(s)...fictional worlds in which fans of these shows are, more or less, fully invested.

Hmm...quick aside: I have also been rereading The Silmarillion because I wanted to refresh my memory of Tolkien's Second Age as the RoP series seems "off" (and it is, and I'm not a fan of the liberties the show has taken with Tolkien's timeline. OTOH, modifications like racially diverse fairy creatures and warrior elf women bother me zero. The Silmarillion is, of course, a tour de force of world building, and might as well be an alternate reality compared to the TV series' version.

But let's leave Tolkien's book out of the mix for a moment, because it is DIFFERENT from these other examples of world building...and not just because "text" is a different medium from "television." 

The thing is: all of these TV examples of built worlds exist and are written/created for a very specific purpose: to tell stories. Multiple stories, actually, BUT, still: very specific stories. 

Andor is the story of one man's rise to being a top agent in a guerrilla war against a tyrannical Empire. Side stories include the formation of rebellion, the Empire's response to rebellion, and individual character arcs and side-stories.

House of the Dragon is the story of the Westeros civil war between competing branches of the ruling family. It's not very much different from any other "family drama" centered around the rich and powerful (The Sopranos, Succession, Monarch, Vikings, Blue Bloods, Big Love, etc., etc.). Side stories are generally limited to individual character arcs, all of which contribute to describing individual personalities that fuel the family's struggle against itself.

Rings of Power is the story of how Amazon attempted to recoup its $250 million investment in an established IP with a built-in fan base. Ha! Just kidding. No, it's the story of how a one-time on-line book dealer made a push to become a corporate media giant on par with the Disneys of the world, and attempting to maintain a step ahead of AppleTV.

Okay, no, let's be serious for a moment. Rings of Power is a bit of a mess...and not simply because it makes hackwork of Tolkien's rich and thoughtful world crafting. Mm. I really wasn't going to talk about this, but it's at least a little pertinent. Ostensibly, the RoP series is about...well, nothing really. Just Middle Earth before the Peter Jackson LotR films. Does everyone know what a premise is? Here's a good definition:

The premise of a text such as a book, film, or screenplay is the initial state of affairs that drives the plot. Most premises can be expressed very simply, and many films can identified simply from a short sentence describing the premise. Examples: a lonely boy is befriended by an alien; a small town is terrorized by a shark; a small boy sees dead people. 

That's from Ye Old Wikipedia. Here's what the Wik quotes for the premise of Rings of Power:
Set thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the series is based on author J. R. R. Tolkien's history of Middle-earth. It begins during a time of relative peace and covers all the major events of Middle-earth's Second Age: the forging of the Rings of Power, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the fall of the island kingdom of Númenor, and the last alliance between Elves and Men.[1] These events take place over thousands of years in Tolkien's original stories but are condensed for the series.[2]
See, that's not a premise. That's just a description of what you're going to get in the show: fan service for (film-)Tolkien-philes. Sweeping vistas of New Zealand. Funny/lovable hobbits. Badass elves slaying orcs because they're so fast and agile ('cause being big and strong is never an advantage, right?). Dwarves in amazing subterranean set-pieces. Fantasy languages being spoken fluently. Men of iron and honor and stout hearts and great facial hair. Call backs to the popular films and name drops for the true Tolkien nerds out there (like myself). Etc, etc.

But there's no single story here. We have multiple points of views, multiple "things going on," and the only thing tenuously tying it together is the fact that it's all set in Tolkein's universe. That's it! Elrond hanging with the dwarves. Galadriel on her personal quest. Elf dude and his forbidden love. Human mother-son tandem dealing with orcs. Numenorean family dealing with their own shit. Other Numenorean family dealing with other unrelated shit. Proto-hobbits struggling to survive. Dwarves dealing with THEIR issues. Evil elves looking for Sauron. Gil-Galad's elves are withering. I mean...*sigh*.

Look, let's talk about three fairly successful TV series that including multiple POV characters with multiple "story arcs:" Lost, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones. In all three cases there is a central premise that UNITES all the characters and stories together: a hub around which the spokes of the wheel rotates. For Lost, it's that all these different, distinct people with distinct agendas are trapped on a mysterious island. In Downton Abbey, for both the aristocrats upstairs and the servants downstairs, their lives revolve around the enormous manor house (Downton) in which they live and work. For Game of Thrones, you have three distinct families (the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryans) all vying for rulership of Westeros.

[that IS what GoT is about in the end: the Targaryan queen's conquest of the eastern continent is just a step in her grand strategy to take back the Iron Throne. The Lannister's protection of their house and fight with the Starks is just their desire to maintain their hold on the Throne. And the Stark's war of revenge with the Lannisters? What do you figure is their endgame if they win? Of course, they'd take the throne! What else would they do? Even the whole "white walker" storyline is secondary to this (Jon Snow's quest to unite the realm against the undead is just another form of conquest through diplomacy). There's a constant thread throughout the show of individuals seeking to climb higher and higher, hoping (eventually) to end up on the Throne, at the pinnacle of power]

Rings of Power has...nothing. It's just sightseeing in Middle Earth (with occasional...and brief...side-treks to Numenor and Valinor). Storylines are ramped up for drama value...and then connected only by the barest of coincidence, often feeling forced or contrived (both adjectives aptly applied). Please understand: I'm not decrying the acting or direction or editing or dialogue or fight choreography or anything. Just the overall story/writing/plotting of the show. You can praise the reimagining (or bitch about the mangling) of Tolkien's mythology, but as a television series, the show lacks a solid, unifying theme, except maybe "life is inexplicably hard in Middle Earth despite the conspicuous lack of a Dark Lord threatening everyone."

Seriously! This is the time between Morgoth's dominion and Sauron's ascendancy and the various peoples of ME are worse off and more stressed than Jackson's free peoples? Whaaaat? Are you just trying to drum up drama here, showrunners?

[probably, because...again...there's no central premise/story here]

Contrast that with The Silmarillion (just to come back to that): the point of Tolkien's opus was to create a rich mythology of England that some other reality...stand as an alternate, prehistoric history, explaining both the existence of fairytale creatures and the evolution of the English language (and nicely paralleling Tolkien's Catholic belief system). But it is is a creation story, a fiction along the lines of the Judaic Genesis, albeit with elves and dragons. It is not is not a novel. It is an imagined story of the world, not for the world (i.e. the reader). When Tolkien does spin a yard (as in his Lord of the Rings trilogy) it is around a unified premise and plot, even when the text is split between multiple point of view narratives: the book may jump from Gondor to Rohan to Mordor, but everyone is still talking about The Ring and the war against Sauron, right?

All right, JB: so what's the point here? What does any of THIS have to do with world building for Dungeons & Dragons?

So, all right...I'm assuming here that you're already on the same page as me as far as the absolute importance of world building, at least so far as it comes to running a rich and satisfying, long-term campaign that both the DM and players can invest in and engage with (if you're not there yet, um, none of this will probably matter to you...). When most of us sit down to "build a world" we're constructing it from an eclectic variety of sources: real world history and geography, mythology, and (of course) fiction, fantastical or otherwise. For folks who are initially drawn to D&D through fantasy Tolkien or Martin, for instance, or the "space fantasy" of George Lucas...inspiration is likely to come from these sources.

And yet the world building that goes into MOST literature (and its television adaptations) is there in order to serve the needs of the story. Hobbits are present because the author wants to show the triumph of the humble everyman over The Wise or The Impossibly Powerful Evil. Luke Skywalker grows up on a humble backwater planet in a run-down galaxy (rather than some sort of Philip K. Dick urban sprawl) to draw parallels with similar hero stories of the Kid-From-The-Sticks being pulled into the Wider World. Martin has White Walkers and dragons because he's a big D&D nerd and wants to do this Fire/Ice contrast thing against a pseudo-War of the Roses fantasy retelling. The setting (i.e. the world the author has built) only needs to be as  solidly constructed as it is useful to the storytelling.

But D&D is not about telling stories (stop me if you've heard this before). It is a game of fantasy adventure. The rules of the system are there to facilitate play of that game...and the act of game play is an experiential one (okay, I know I've written that before). And because of that, because players are experiencing the world through their surrogates (i.e. their characters), it must have enough verisimilitude to facilitate that experience. Which is probably DEEPER world construction than what an author (or show runner) requires for the telling of a story.

Let's say you're playing an adventure scenario that features a small village (call it a hundred or so souls) with a small. three-level dungeon nearby. The party wants to hire some, "extra swordsmen" bolster their numbers. The party is circa 5th level with a well-stocked war chest, and can offer each man 10 or 20 or 25 gold pieces per day (in addition to arming them)...more money than a farmer might expect to earn in a month or more (depending on your fantasy economy). 

[FYI: 1 day of grain for a horse in AD&D is one silver piece. An active, 1000 pound horse eats about 9 pounds of grain (in addition to grazing) let's call it 10 pounds of grain per silver or 200 pounds of grain per gold piece. A medieval farm was about 30 acres on average and would produce 7-15 bushels of grain per acre (60 pounds per bushel). SO: 1 average farm produces an annual yield of (11 x 30) = 330 bushels = 19,800 pounds = 99 g.p. worth of grain annually or 8.25 g.p. per month. However, in a poor year that yield might drop to less than 4 bushels per acre...which would produce (on average) less than 7,200 pounds of grain. That's an annual return of under 36 gold pieces (3 gold pieces per month!)]

So all these strapping lads...and adult farmers suffering from a poor harvest (or who have been a victim of raids from the humanoids in the nearby dungeon) jump at the chance to earn hard coin carrying a sword, regardless of the danger. After all, everyone has a price...when the price gets high enough, you'll get your red shirts to line up. And the party does. And they go into the dungeon and all the hired swords get butchered. Then the party returns to the village, rich with treasure, and offer MORE money for swords...and get them. And then those 0-level "warriors" get gutted in the next foray. And then they return again. And again. And again.

At what point does the village run out of strong backs? At what point have enough able-bodied farmers get slaughtered that there's no one left to bring in the harvest...forcing the abandonment of the village and/or the starvation of the populace?

Without world building, new cardboard cutouts sprog from the countryside as often as needed. With world building, the resource of hirelings becomes another challenge to be solved. Especially if the DM is on the ball and giving the people actual personalities. Families wondering what ditch Dad or Brother Bill or Sister Sue ended up dying in, and whether or not this band of rich adventurers actually deserve praise for their actions or...rather...scorn and eventual lynching.

Back to Tolkien...real Tolkien, not "Amazon Tolkien"...for a second. It's often been said that Middle Earth, despite its richness is not a great setting for an adventure campaign specifically because so much of the world's "story" and history has already been told by Tolkien himself. That there is no room for "new heroes" in a world that already contains Frodo and Bilbo, Aragorn and Gandalf, Beren and Luthien, etc.

I do not disagree with the sentiment, only with its reasoning. The fact is: Tolkien's world is not ROBUST enough to facilitate D&D. Even going back and using the earlier Ages found in The Silmarillion. Look at how few people enter into the stories: a tiny handful of families. Three branches of the Edain. A half dozen elvish clans. A couple-three instances of human-elf mating. Maybe a dozen dwarf families and twice that in Hobbiton.

Our world...our REAL world...has hundreds and thousands and millions of stories that could be told of individuals and families, even if you confine your setting to limited regions and periods of history. That's because there are far more people in our world than in Tolkien's. Prior to 1500 CE, the population of Europe (a geographic region about on par with Middle Earth) accounted for 10% of the world population and hovered right around the 25 million mark from the 1st-10th centuries. Tolkien's population has been estimated as never getting much beyond 20-30% of that range (here's a true Tolkien nerd who's done his best to calculate pop. figures from the professor's text). JRR's world, for all its rich history and thoughtful crafting, is a very small world and far less densely populated than our own.

Which, by the way, is FINE because it is a setting that he uses to tell his stories. But D&D is not a system for telling stories.

[and just as one more aside: the fact that Middle Earth is SMALL is not a knock on Tolkien's world building. If you want to look at poorly designed worlds, you need look no farther than Martin's Westeros]

And THAT, more or less, is the point: any fictional setting one creates is FINE if the whole point is to facilitate the telling of stories. A descendant of the last King of Gondor claiming a 3000-year empty throne after a tremendous victory over Satan's lieutenant? Good theater, absolutely...the fridge logic only becomes apparent when one starts contemplating the ramifications of such a political ascent. And that "good theater" thing isn't good enough for Dungeons & Dragons.

Because D&D isn't a book you close. Or a film with credits that run. 

Ideally, your D&D campaign is something you continually come back to. It is a fictional world in which you "live" (through your various characters) experiencing all the wonders and perils the setting has to offer.

All right, that should be enough scribbling/meandering for now. The only other thing I'd add is that ALL of these shows I've mentioned (yes, including Rings of Power) have given me enjoyment in the watching (some to a greater degree than others) and many hours of fantasy entertainment. And all have likewise been useful to some degree: things that I'd like to borrow/use in my own game, and/or pitfalls I'd like to avoid. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Putting A Bow On It

Last soccer post for the foreseeable future.

Our season ended yesterday, as we lost our semi-final game against the #1 team in our division. And I am content. Our opponent had not only beat every team they faced this year (including several strong, playoff teams), they had demolished them, scoring 5+ goals in five of their eight games (including their quarter-final playoff). I was more anxious leading up to that game then any other game we'd played this season. Hell, it was the most anxious I can remember feeling prior to ANY sporting event since the 2012 Super Bowl (when I actually had to go to a gym beforehand to work off the stress/nerves). It wasn't because I was hyped to win...we knew it would be a tall order. I was afraid we'd be embarrassed. Frankly, I was afraid we might show ourselves to be frauds...a team that had a puffed up record based on weak opponents, who didn't really deserve to be in the same conversation with the "class" of our league.

Instead, we gave them their toughest match of the season. We played our game (using all our players, good and bad) with equal playing time and held them scoreless for 55 minutes, frustrating and stifling their vaunted offense with our ragtag misfits...who played spectacularly out-of-their minds. Kids who had a hard time just getting a foot on the ball this season (often swinging and whiffing) were taking on players with twice their skill and athleticism and winning...winning possessions, clearing shots, doing their damn jobs out there. 

It was glorious.

When the other team DID score, it was in the last ten minutes when we (the coaches) had subbed in our best players for a last push...and here we made a tactical error. In an effort to put all our best players on the field we moved a kid who'd been playing center back for nearly the whole season to right back...and he couldn't help himself drifting to the center. He lost a very good shooter on the right side who was able to take a pass and put in a goal (many "soccer parents" on our side complained afterwards that the kid was off-sides but Diego, playing left back, assured me that it was on). We then started pressing to get the equalizer and an unlucky bounce gave their other striker a wide-open shot in the box that he smoked. The final score was 2-0...the fewest goals our opponent scored all season.

[after the second goal, with three minutes remaining, we subbed out our stronger players to give other kids more play time]

Thing is, we had multiple chances in both halves to put the game away. Our offense just failed to get it done. After the first goal was scored, Diego was able to win a ball, juked a guy, and got a perfect pass to up to our most skilled player. Miles has blazing speed, amazing footwork, and plays striker for the same premier club as my son...but he plays a team up in a tougher bracket. With nothing but green grass and the goal in front of him, he dribbled all the way to the goalie box, and from three yards out he bricked the ball off the post.

It was unfortunate...mainly because the kid, a showboat who refuses to pass the ball (and, frankly, looks down on this "school league" stuff as beneath him) had the chance to make good with all his big talk. After the game, my son was in angry tears..."Three yards out! Easier than a PK!" But we had an even easier chance in the first half when the goalie lost the ball in the penalty area and Bastien, with NOBODY in front of him and the ball on his foot, failed to put the ball on-target. 

Fact is, we could have won the game but for a couple of bounces. Fact is, we put some fear in this team...a team that came to the field with F'ing WARPAINT on their faces, chanting and singing fight songs and shit. They had rolled everyone they faced...they did not roll over us. 

I was...I am...immensely proud. And we did it without chippy-ness, without fouling, without complaining to the two referees (who had a great game). In our quarter-final, we played a team who drew three yellow cards, gave us multiple direct and indirect kicks, three PKs (in regular time!), and talked smack the whole game. That game should never have gone to overtime, but it did, and we won in a shootout at the end, and several of the opposing players refused even to shake hands at the end of the match. Our team, on the other hand, was able to hold our heads up and keep both our dignity and sportsmanship. 

Which is important! As I told my kid afterwards: 
  • We don't play the game to have fun...there are lots of ways to have fun (most not involving so much effort).
  • We don't play the game to exercise...there are lots of ways (better ways) to stay in shape without risking injury.
  • We don't play the game to win...the joy of victory is as fleeting as the sting of losing.
We play the game because we want to play soccer. Because we love the sport. It's the same reason we play Dungeons & Dragons, instead of something easier or more accessible or more popular. There are LOTs of ways to have fun and play with friends and be active. There are lots of sports (and games!) that test your mettle, your resolve, your mind and body. We made a choice to do this one...because we want to do this one. And it doesn't matter whether we are taking home a trophy or not...we are fortunate to be able to play.  A lot of kids who want to don't get to. 

My son, to his credit, understands and agrees (though he still prefers winning to losing). After the game was done, we drove home so that he could change into his training jersey, and then we drove to his club practice to work out with his premier teammates. That practice went from 6:45-8pm (I had a beer at a nearby pizza place while watching some Monday Night Football). He was smiling and in good spirits by the time practice was over and we were driving home for our usual, late night dinner...laughing about the game and how we frustrated our opponents, gushing about the fantastic play from our "lesser teammates," bemoaning the inability of our offensive players to get a cross in to a wide open man.

Our usual debrief.

Diego has club soccer practices Wednesday, Thursday, and (for the next three weeks) a special Friday session. Saturday he has a game against PacNW soccer (they play out of the Sounders Starfire facility in Tukwila); just one more game in a looong season. 

Today, however, he has the day off...because the school season is over. We've already decided we will be playing Dungeons & Dragons tonight. We're both looking forward to it.
: )

Sunday, October 23, 2022


About a month ago I posted a long scribbling with regard to my son's school soccer season. Again...this is his school season, a season that lasts only seven weeks, and that features a bunch of kids who (for the most part) only play this sport seven weeks out of fifty-two. As I've been coaching these kids for six years now, I care about these kids. Because I've got a competitive streak and actually enjoy soccer, I also give a shit about how they perform and the results.

The season's been...tough. As in stressful. We won four games (yes, including the game I was stressing out about in that last post). We had one game cancelled (due to poor air quality). We tied one game (neither Diego nor I were at the game and the head coach...well, it wasn't his finest effort). 

And yesterday we were beaten 3-1 in the pouring rain at an 8am game time in the cold and dark after a two week layoff.

Today starts the playoffs. We are the #4 seed. Game kicks off in two hours. We will be playing the same team that I was worried about facing in my "soccer haze" post...when we were down to 12 players and missing most of our defensemen. We squeaked that one out 4-3 (I played Diego in the backfield a LOT for that game). Today we have everyone. Season will either end today or continue to tomorrow's semi-final.

Okay, got to go feed my kid now.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Escaping Mordor

It's raining again. Finally.

For a born and bred Seattleite (like me), you...hmmm, maybe "love" isn't quite correct...appreciate the rain. Not only does it keep our region lush and green, but it keeps the air clear, despite all the single occupancy vehicles crowding our gridlocked arterials. 

Normally, August is our driest month with drizzle beginning at the end of September. This year? No real rain until today. As a consequence, the forest fires that always come at the end of summer (when the timber's the driest) was putting our air quality index over 260. Looked like frigging Mordor out there, no lie.

Currently the AQI is 51 and dropping. And as it drops, my spirits rise. Fall has always been my favorite time of year...heck, actually September through the end of the year is all pretty good. But the last three plus weeks have been a miserable barrel of stress. Remember, that my family's life pretty much revolves around soccer (an outdoor sport) this time of year. Cancelled games, cancelled practices, reschedules, online trainings, everything constantly up in the air. Hell, the kids weren't even getting to go outside for recess this week because of the hazardous level of particulate matter.

So. Spirits feeling good. Now my only stress comes from managing a team entering the playoffs this weekend with a head coach (not me) who is unwilling and/or unable to coach. But I won't bore folks with that.

Gaming. Lots of indoor gaming, as one might imagine. Generally NOT Dungeons & Dragons, however. Our schedule precludes a lot of prep (I don't anticipate taking my campaign out of hiatus till November), so it's more pick-up games: Firefly, Forbidden Island, card games, Yahtzee, Stratego, Lost Cities, etc. We were doing a lot of Blood Bowl last month, but keeping the season records up-to-date, etc. was only a little less than keeping D&D campaign records...and the clean-up is a lot more involved.

But we have played some D& son's been running us through B2 (converted to AD&D) for his fantasy Montana campaign. I've played, maybe, six or seven sessions? Maybe more? Probably more, though only a couple-three so far in October. Even so, I've managed to work my magic-user up to 5th level, and I have a secondary character (a cleric) who's 4th level. Diego mostly runs the game RAW, but he doesn't require training for advancement and he uses my helmet rules (no helm = 1 point penalty to AC; great helm = 1 point bonus with drawbacks). He's even kept alignment: odd since the "Caves of Chaos" are filled with lawful evil humanoids. Ah, well...I don't argue with the DM. Heck, I only just managed to learn magic missile (kept failing my intelligence roll), but NOW my character is beefy. Six zombies trying to ambush us from behind? Hello, fireball!

Anyway...I wrote a whole post about our progress in that campaign and then left it up on the draft shelf (along with half a dozen others). I've just not been in a blogging state of mind...busyness, stress and (perhaps) depression caused by busyness and stress. Lot of stuff going on. Family and health are good, so the important things are covered, BUT...a lot of stuff around the edges. 

Still, the turn in the weather makes me hopeful. It's cold and wet and pouring outside, and I'm drinking hot (decaf) coffee next to my (artificial) fireplace with my (snoozing) beagle on the couch next to me. This all puts me in a rather fair state of mind. Heck, I've even had a couple new design ideas that might be worth pursuing. Maybe. We'll see. Still have some things on the worktable that need to get done first.

All right, that's it for now as far as updates. We'll see if I can get it together enough to post in a couple days. Later, gators.

[EDIT: AQI now officially down to 50 and "Good" in King County...thank the Lord!]