A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gaming community

There is not one in memphis. A gaming community, that is.

This is not a new gripe for me, I'm afraid. Memphis has proven itself to be unable or unwilling to support even a single real gaming store. We've got Comics & Collectables, which is a fine establishment, but it is a comic store that happens to stock a descent quantity of mainstream gaming material. No indy stuff that I've seen.

This leaves Memphis with really no gaming community as far as I'm concerned. The internet is a poor bulletin board for getting together with local gamers, in my experience. What I need is someplace that I could potentially advertise for players or a group. Without a local gaming store, I dont have a place to do this. I *know* there are people in Memphis who play RPGs, I just dont know how to link up with them.

Anyway, I'm griping because I need a few brave souls to help entertain me and play some of the indie RPGs I've been reading..


Monster Hunters, session 2

Last night we gathered, John, Mike, Dave, Jason, Ed and myself. Ed was joining us just for the one time, as he has to head back to Missouri soonish.

The gang pulls the van into the paved lot in front of the Buddhist Temple. As we'd mentioned in our last session, they could see a plume of black smoke rising from the structure. The broad stairs leading up to the temple itself were scattered with a few prone forms. As they pulled up to the base of the stairs, a large group emerged from the front doors of the temple. As the characters emerged from their vehicle, and the group from the temple moved about halfway down the broad stairs, they could see that it was a group of eastern looking people, a couple of them dragging someone down the stairs by his robes. Amidst them was also a fellow wearing the garb of a Roman-Catholic priest. John's character, Wolf, immediately recognized his mentor and father figure, Charles, the priest on the stairs. Dave's character, Langley, recognized one of the eastern fellows as being Lao, a captain in service to the Group of Wicked Sorcerers Who Killed His Clan. As Wolf stepped onto the stairs, Mike's character, Bob, opened fire on the crowd descending the stairs.

Wolf moved fastest and intercepted a couple of murderous mooks with his shotgun. Jason's character, Armande, setup and began firing, trying to take mooks out of the fight without killing them, so he was aiming for guns and hands. Bob fired a few more shots and locked down into his armored stance and fought off a few mooks, while Langley threw fireballs and steam blasts at the mooks rushing down the stairs toward him. Lao shoved the priest, Charles, angrily and threw a ball of fire toward the characters, hitting the van behind them and sending it into the sky in an explosion of glass and metal. A tall gangly fellow near Lao started more slowly down the stairs, and seemed to shrug off his skin as he grew in height, revealing an eight foot daemon with huge bone armored plates and wicked looking spines. Just then the doors of the temple practically exploded outwards as three mooks were apparently thrown from the temple. Then a small mob of mooks came running out and set up on the stairs before the doors, ready to fight whatever had dispatched their companions. A tall man walked from the temple, rolling the sleeves of his robe. It was Lu Chin. A former daemon hunter for the Wicked Sorcerers Who Killed Dave's Clan, Lu had thrown off their yoke some time ago and had been working against them ever since. Ed was playing Lu, and had gotten word that the Bad Guys were descending on this temple, so he showed up to counter them. Battle was joined!

We, the players and GM, seemed to all enjoy ourselves. Combat seemed to run a little long, when I looked up and we'd been killing mooks for an hour and a half or so. Time does get away. I'm in the process of consulting with the players to determine how time time frame of combat meets with their taste. Alot of mooks were killed. John's character, Wolf, used a Banishment on the spiked daemon, forcing it to run, which kept it out of the fight for a bit. Meanwhile the party focused on killing the mooks on the stairs, the snipers on the roof, and Lao, who shot up 20 feet into the air, and hovered there, hurling fireballs down the stairs at Lu and the other characters. The daemon returned, but the characters had done a goodly bit of harm to Lao, and so he bade the daemon to destroy the Good Guys, and he vanished in a puff of ash. The daemon waded into the Good Guys, and deprived them of more than a few bits of flesh and blood, but then was dispatched.

During the fighting, Mike's character used his Fu powers to increase his defense, making him nearly impossible to hit, while taking out mooks and shooting at Lao as he hovered in the air. Jason's character kept constant pressure on the mooks with his hail of bullets. John's character went toe to toe with the daemon and a bunch of mooks, occasionally sending a hail of slugs toward Lao. Dave's character kept a bunch of mooks busy at the base of the stairs, trading fireballs and lightning strikes. Ed's character made some fantastic leaps into the air in an attempt to knock Lao down, and cracked more than a few mook necks, and traded blows with the daemon.

After the smoke cleared, Dave's surviving clannie pulled himself to his feet and told Langley that Charles (John's mentor) was responsible for the slaughter of their clan, and that Dave should extract justice. John quizzed Charles as to his presence at the Temple. Charles told John's character that he had come to try to stop the Bad Guys from killing this last monk. He went on to explain that when he was very young, and had just entered the church, his mentor sent him to act as an intermediary with a third-party that the church was working with to stamp out heretics and Evil Sorcerers. The third party just happened to be Lao and his band of Bad Guys, and the heretics that they were stamping out were Langley's clan. Charles told Wolf that he had not known at the time that it meant the slaughter of women and children, that he thought they were fighting against Evil Heretics. Charles had been seeking absolution ever since. Wolf told Charles that he would absolve him, and so they went into the temple. Wolf (and John) weighed the decision of whether to draw out Charles' sin (remember that Wolf is a sin-eater), and either send Charles to Heaven or Hell. In the end, Wolf drew out the sin and ate it, then sent his mentor on his way to Heaven. John did a fine job weighing the decision for himself as a player and for Wolf as a character.

That's pretty much where we wrapped up. We'll see whats in store for them next week.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

forgot about running

I completely forgot. I meant to mention (mostly for my own record keeping) that Maddie and I managed an 8 mile run this past weekend, on Saturday Morning. It went very well I think! I did 3 miles with Yazhi on Monday and boy was it hot. I'm going to do 3-5 on Wednesday and Friday and plan to do 10 this weekend.

Memorial Day Wrapup

We had a good Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Saturday we drove down to Jackson to see Matthew and Deirdra for an Annibirthsiary celebration. We had good food and good company and even got to talk gaming for a bit.

Sunday we watched Howl's Moving Castle, and Grosse Pointe Blank. Also we played a bit of Jason's Xbox 360. Howl's was good, in the exact same way that Spirited Away was good. And that was a little disappointing. Sure, it was an entirely different movie, but somehow it felt like it was the same movie under the hood. Still, I enjoyed watching it and I'd see it again. GPB was of course very good and very witty, I hadnt seen it in years and years. Which reminds me: All I ask for in movies is some wit and intelligence. But that's a whole other discussion entirely.

Almost forgot that we went and saw X3 on Friday. It was good, but certainly not as good as 1 or 2. There were some interesting and unexpected twists, and I have some gripes about some character stuff (and I never even read the comics). But it was good and I did enjoy it.

Monday we had lunch with my mom, and went to John and Maddie's place for a Mem-Day party/Gazebo Building Party. But good food and good times were had.

Headed this evening to run session 2 of the Feng Shui Monster Hunters game. We'll see how it goes. Ed, who gamed with us ages ago, but moved to Missouri, is in town and will be playing this evening. We're still working on some changes to Jason's character.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Paintball gripe

I love paintball. I got the chance to start playing with some cool folks the middle of last year I think. Since then, I've played maybe a dozen times. I've even bought in, getting some paintball related equipment for Christmas and spending a couple hundred bucks on a paintball gun. We got started playing in a wooded area up in lakeland, sadly a 30-40 minute drive from my house, but doable. If you buy paintballs off the shelf at walmart or sportsmans warehouse, you can get 2,000 balls for $30-$35.

Now here's where a little math and speculation comes in. The gun I play with is the Tippman A5. Its a good all around gun. In the wide world of paintball guns, its considered low-end. Probably a beginner's gun, or certainly an amateur's gun. But I am certainly an amateur, and heck, even a beginner. I dont see *ever* paying $1,200 for what's considered a "nice" paintball gun. I dont need it, and have, um, a zillion things to spend that kind of cash on. And my wife would kill me. My A5 is a semi-auto gun. You pull the trigger and one ball fires. You let go of the trigger and pull it again and another ball fires. You can manage a goodly rate of fire like this, even so. I'd guestimate you could easily manage 2 or 3 rounds per second, maybe more if you're quick-fingered. More expensive, or modified guns can be burst or full auto. Like hold the trigger down as long as you want to fire 15 rounds per second, or whatever. Here's my thing- I love the semi-auto action of the A5. And my number one reason? I dont go through balls like water. Cause um, the paint costs more than water. I'd imagine guys can *easily* go through way more than 2,000 rounds in an afternoon. Heck probably double or triple that if their trigger happy. But I'm not out to try to do this semi-professionally or anything. I manage alright with my squeeze-squeeze-squeeze action.

Anyway, this started when I saw the prices that a local paintball park charges for paint. Note that you have to buy paint onsite. You cannot bring your own paint from walmart in. I copied and pasted below:

PAINTBALLS - must be purchased onsite

Canister of 100 $7.50
Web Belt and Carry-On Pack Containing 200 Balls $22
Bag of 500 Balls $26
Case of 2000 Balls $90

That's insane.

Last time I went and played, I was at a park (which did not have a "must purchase onsite" policy - its a great park called Cedar Hill Farms in Hernando MS), I was there for like 5 hours, and went through about 600 or 700 rounds of paint.

So let me summarize, I'm just saying two things.

1- I like my A5 because its reliable and not super expensive and does not go through paint fast as shit.

2- Some paintball parks apparently charge paint at the current rate of gold. That's way too freaking expensive, and I'll probably never visit one of these parks, and so they'll have to do without my money.

Which brings me to a moment of melancholy about it. A friend pointed out, when I ranted about these prices, that paintball is a rich kid's entertainment.

Monster Hunters

We cranked up some chargen last night for the Monster Hunters FS game. (Thanks to mglover for his excellent custom character sheet, and the FS screen.)

Mike will be playing a character using the Transformed Animal (Crab) archetype, though we're calling him a Daemon and just using the Transformed Animal stuff. His character was summoned from his home realm by a sorcerer, who was handily dispatched by our other characters. So Mike's character is now Debt Bound to them (no mechanic, just story). His kicker is that he has gotten word that members of Khalem Zy'ek (Watchers of the Dark Door), of whom the sorcerer they dispatched was a member, has opened a portal to Mike's native realm, where hunters have come through, seeking him and his fellows, and they're hot on the trail.

Dave is playing a character using the Sorcerer archetype. He's based it on an idea of the Golden Child (from the movie) having grown up. A rival group of sorcerers slaughtered all of Dave's sect, though Dave was able to flee. His kicker is that he has received word that there is another surviving member of his sect, but that the sorcerers who seek their destruction has also discovered both Dave's existance, and that of the other survivor.

John is playing a character using the Magic Cop archetype. He's based it on a priest rather than a cop, and is going with the Sin Eater idea from the movie The Order (which I'll need to rush out and see this week). John's character is on the run from his own Order, and the Church, because of his actions as a Sin Eater. His kicker is that his Mentor, who is like a father to him, and is the person who influenced his decision to join the priesthood, and the order, is now near death. His Mentor seeks to get John to use his Sin Eating on him, in order to atone for a terrible and wicked deed that his Mentor did years and years ago, and for which he has been trying to atone all of his life, but he still feels that he is damned. John is torn between love for his Mentor, and justice in letting him be damned for his crime.

Jason is playing a character using the Killer archetype. He is a former assassin for hire, who has seen the light and sworn off killing, except for those who are truely evil. His kicker is that a former employer has shown up and wants to retain his services again. Jason refused the offer and so the former employer is making life very difficult him. (we're still working on how difficult exactly)

We played for a few minutes after chargen, I rolled right into Dave's kicker. He got two phone calls from contacts of his that told him where the other survivor was located - at a Buddhist temple just north of the city. They hopped in the car, but no sooner cranked it up than a pair of vans blocked the driveway, and a group of east-asian fellows jumped out and combat began! The characters dispatched their attackers quickly enough, and overheard a CB radio in one of the vans crackle, and a voice said that they were approaching the temple. Off they went, at break-neck speed toward the temple, and just as they pull into the drive, they can see a thick plume of black smoke rising from the temple structure.

Colbert rocks

I just wanted to mention, even though its old news, that Stephen Colbert is brilliant.

If you have somehow missed it, check out the transcript of his speech at the White House Correspondants Dinner here: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/4/30/1441/59811

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

more on camping

This is camping post II, in which I'll try to fill in some details that I'd left out for length's sake, and cause I was kinda posting in a mild hurry.

So here are some of the events that happened on the trip that were amusing/painful/fun to us.

Blisters and missing toenails:
Krissi developed a blister like under a toenail like late friday or saturday. By saturday afternoon, this resulted in her toenail very nearly coming off. Its kinda dead, but still attached, so we figure it will fall off in a few days. To remedy the blister part of it, Maddie, who is an RN, lanced it with my pocket knife, and treated it with a first aid kit.
Jason also ended up with a blister, which was lanced with a safety pin and treated.

Total exhaustion:
Saturday evening when we rolled into the campsite and were considering pushing on the other 2.something miles to the car, Jason was absolutely dead exhausted. In fact, it was $10 to stay in the campsite, and Jason offered to pay it so that we could stay, instead of pressing on. We did stay, and moved over to a campsite, where Jason undid the straps on his backpack and laid down on it, on the ground. And laid there for like an hour, I think. We went and begged some other campers for some ice for him. He recovered, thankfully.

Blood and vomit:
On Friday we didnt cover alot of ground, but some of it was pretty inclined and tough. About three-quarters through a mile or so of steep switch-backs, Krissi demanded a stop and immediately threw up some of what we'd eaten for lunch a couple miles ago. We noticed at this point that Jason was bleeding. He'd developed a nosebleed some ways back and was using a white hankerchief to stem the flow. His white hankerchief was solidly pink already. He said he'd been bleeding for awhile, and just hadnt spoken up. Jason is Mr. Suffer In Silence.

Stranger in the Night:
So Friday night we camped out in the woods, having not been able to reach a real campsite. We'd been hanging food as best we could, to reduce the chance of a raid. Apparently sometime during the night, Maddie heard some scuffling outside her tent, followed by the sound and movement of something *knocking* on her tent. It was of course a racoon or something checking it out, but she responded by growling, and punching back at the spot that was being knocked on. After letting the beast know that she was not giving out candy or food, it left her alone.

Cemetaries and people on the trail:
There were a number of old cemetaries along the trail. We stopped at two of them (I'll find the names). Both were old and had knee high weeds, but were very pretty. Huge trees grew in the cemetaries; one looked like it had been there since some of the people buried there were alive (early 1800's). There were perhaps two dozen graves in one of the cemetaries, and a dozen in the other. There were a few markers that indicated that those lying beneath the stones had been there only since the 1940's or 1960's, while others listed the year of death as being in the 1840's. They were very pretty, and quiet, and peaceful. We also saw a few people on the trail. Actually, if I discount the "weekend campsite" places we went through, we ran into perhaps seven people. There were also some canoers, but still, we saw few people out on the trail. It was very nice. One of the people that we saw was on Sunday morning, as we were completing the almost 3 miles from our last campsite to the car.. not knowing exactly how much further, and eager to get to the car (we were tired and filthy and ready for some civilization), we saw a gentleman headed toward us on the trail. We said hello and he passed headed in the other direction. We chuckled about it, because we knew we were close, as this was a gentleman of easily 60 years, who had on shoes and blue jeans and a button-up shirt on with no pack or anything. Also, since I'm talking about people we encountered.. Saturday evening we stayed in a camp area that was full of weekend campers. It wasnt elbow to elbow, but there were easily a dozen tents within stone-throwing reach. And most were not tents that you would want to carry in a backpack either. One set of our neighbors were unloading their truck as we were setting up and settling in.. a nice lady comes over and offers us some raw burgers that she says they have and are extra. There we sit, filthy and tired, on a tarp on the ground, with a propane canister camp stove, and a pot with water sitting on top of it. I respond that we wouldnt be able to cook them, but thanks, and she wanders away, mumbling that her sister was supposed to have shown up, but didnt, so they have extra food. This was the same two people who, later in the night, talked loudly over beers, singing in that strangled and drunken karaoke (even though I shouldnt be singing karaoke), it makes my ears hurt just now thinking about it.

By sunday morning we were disgusting. Filthy and sweaty. Mostly unwashed. We'd reapplied sunscreen and bugspray with deet, which has a much different aroma than any "off" stuff I've used. Anyway, we were gross. I cant speak for my fellow hikers, but I'd kinda rinsed the grime off when we went swimming friday morning, and again saturday afternoon, and at a campsite stop on saturday I washed my feet really good in a sink, for good measure. So we were nasty. This is funny when things like this happen: We all sit around resting for a few moments during our trek, and when we get up, its pointed out that Maddie has mud on her posterior. She (vainly) responds that it must be taken care of and demands a bandana from Jason. Jason stoically removes the now-not-so-white bandana from around his neck and hands it to her, and she wipes and rubs determinedly at her pants. After a moment, satisfied, she hands the bandana back to Jason, who ties it back around his neck. What a trooper. Jason I mean.

You know the best way to nap is after a grueling hike through the woods in the hot, humid morning, to find a shady tree in a campsite, stretch a tarp out, cover your face, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

There is still tons more, and I hear that Jason is currently writing a series of novels based on our adventure.. so I'll see if he posts it here :)

I'll try to get some pictures up and available in the near future.

More on gaming

In which I fumble around and try to talk about gaming. I just cant seem to collect my thoughts in a manner that seems to communicate effectively. I'll try anyway.

This evening it our Tuesday game, and we're either going to continue some of my Zombies World of Darkness game, or we'll work on doing chargen for my Constantine/Buffy Feng Shui game. I think I'll dub it Monster Hunters, so I can stop calling it Constantine/Buffy. I'm excited about the Feng Shui game (and the Zombies game - I'll continue to run it as long as folks want to play it.) I'm totally trying some new stuff with the FS game. Kickers, Bangs, Flags, and good stuff from the Forge forums. We'll see how it works in play.

Part of what I'm trying to do is to totally separate from "traditional" linear GM engineered gaming. In what I consider a typical role playing game scenario (usually D&D is cited for this example), the GM has created or purchased an adventure for the players to run through. If you look at it from this overview, it is usually a narrow track for the players to go through, a linear series of events that they encounter, one after another. Depending on the DM and players, there is an illusion of player control. "Umm, we'll pick this door", or "We'll go talk to this guy". Or the DM just railroads the players along the given story path, hitting them in the head with it when they stray. But at best its just an illusion. The GM (or publisher) has developed a story that the players are supposed to play in. The players are really just spectators, having little or no real control over where the adventure or their characters will go. The GM paints a picture, the players respond. The GM provides the next scenario, the players respond (usually, and to trivialize it slightly, the players respond with "We hit the orcs on the heads with our swords." Then move on to the next thing.)

I want to create a gaming environment where the players DO have control over the adventure and where their characters go.


Ok, so I am a terrible journalist.

I took a notebook and pen out with me, intending to write about our trip when we had down time, and did not do so.

However, I will still attempt to relay some of our camping experience.

We left North Mississippi shortly before 6AM on Thursday and drove north and west into Arkansas. We stopped at Cracker Barrell and enjoyed breakfast, and made great time out to Ponca, Arkansas, where we found our jump-off point. We grabbed our packs and headed to the trail about 11:30AM. The area was gorgeous, and the weather was excellent. It was warm, but not hot, and we had a clear sky. Each of us carried packs weighing between 35 and 40 pounds. The Buffalo River area is woods, mostly hardwood, but with areas of softwood. Its pretty rocky and rugged terrain as well, and we soon learned that the river is often bordered by tall cliffs. Thursday was both fun and tough, which I guess the other days were as well. I recall thinking as the day progressed that if you'd asked me once an hour what I thought of it, you'd have gotten different responses. Like I said, it was beautiful terrain. The trail was well maintained, a dirt path about 24 to 36 inches wide right through the forest. Early into Thursday's hike, we came across numerous tall rock formations right off of the trail, that if we walked out on them, we found ourselves looking out 30 feet or more over the surrounding landscape. I also remember noticing the sun filtered through the trees. It created myriad patches of light on the ground that shifted as the trees moved in the wind. It struck me as being really awesome. Bugs were not too bad, though they were present. We made pretty good time going into our hike on Thursday, and quickly ran into steep terrain. We didnt really have to do any outright climbing, but some of the surfaces probably approached 45 degrees, though there were frequently stone "stairs" available, and these steep inclines were short, probably between 10 feet and 40 feet from beginning to end. The longer, but less steep inclines were probably worse. I would be hard pressed to cite an incline degree, but suffice to say that on the switch-backs, which sometimes were probably as much as half a mile in walking length, the uphill was a real struggle and slowed us down. On flat stretches we could manage about two or two and a half miles in an hour, but the uphill slowed us to a mile an hour or less, I believe. It didnt take long for the packs to grow heavy, and the feet to grow tired. My shoulders hurt where the pack weighed down on my collarbone (and trapezius muscles?). My feet grew sore, and eventually hurt in a tired, sorta-numb way. The uphill stuff was incredibly taxing on my thighs, and I had to frequently stop to catch my breath and let my burning muscles relax for just a moment. Maddie led us Thursday, and she was relentless in her drive uphill. I was amazed that her pace didnt seem to change at all, as she'd just slowly go step after step right up the hill, with me wheezing behind her, and Krissi and Jason behind me. By the time we'd be going for a couple of hours on Thursday, and hit a few hills and had more to go, we were feeling both physically and mentally taxed. The river lies aprox 1100 feet above sea level, and I think we climbed ultimately, on Thursday, to 1800 feet above sea level. But we made it. It was actually excellent to have Maddie leading up the hills. She drove herself on, which drove us on, even though we briefly considered a revolt :P Along the way though we saw some amazing sights, the most memorable was an overlook 300 feet above the Buffalo River. Below us lay a sharp bend in the river, and a broad clear camp area. Across from us and down the river were more steep cliffs of slate grey rock, probably 200 feet in height. It was dizzying, and spectacular. Buzzards were riding the wind currents, below us and above us. It was really awesome.

So Thursday we did 10 miles I believe, between 11:30AM and when we stopped to eat and make camp, which was I believe close to 7PM. We stopped at Horse Shoe Bend for the evening. I recall that we were all super ready to stop hiking for the day when we got there. We went down the trail, right down onto a sheer rock surface that formed the bank of the Buffalo River in this spot. Everyone stripped off their packs and shoes like a bunch of 4-year olds at a swimming pool, and sat on the rock bank with our feet in the water. It felt great. We were tired, and made a supper of packaged chicken, swiss chese and pita bread. We refilled our water bottles from the river with a pump filter that Jason brought. The river water tasted great, and the food was excellent. We pitched camp about a hundred yards from the river, just above it on a 20 or 30 foot overlook of rock and pine trees. We slept very well, though it got damn cold in the night, probably 55 degrees. I heard a visitor, probably a racoon or possum, but none of our gear or food was raided.

We woke Friday morning and had breakfast of instant oatmeal, which we heated water for over Maddie's little camp stove. I brought coffee along which was nice to have, though it tasted like shit (too weak I believe). We took our time eating and breaking down camp. Then we left our packs under some trees and crossed the river to go a mile or so off the trail to Hemmed-in Hollow. On the way, Jason ambushed a sweet baby deer, which ran for its life. We swam in the river, which was cold, but very refreshing. We hiked without our packs to Hemmed-in Hollow, which was about a mile or a mile and a half one way. It was a gorgeous water fall way back.. well, in a hollow. We followed the creek back from the river. It was gorgeous surroundings with ferns and trees and moss and it felt like we were both miles and years away from civilization. The water fall was a small creek, I'm terrible with estimates, but it was probably a gallon per second. It fell from a cliff that I'd guess was about 200 feet above us. It was a hollow, so we stood in a cul-de-sac formed by this tall rock cliff. It was possibly the best thing we saw on the whole trip. We headed back to the river and cross back to our gear. We packed up and headed back to the trail, after first eating lunch beside the river. Thursday had been our most difficult day in terms of climbing. Friday we took it easier, covering about 7 miles, including the easy two or three miles to and from Hemmed-in Hollow. The trail crossed the Buffalo River 5 times, which was particularly difficult for me. The crossings were all in shallow water, usually only knee deep, but sometimes almost hip deep. We were doing these crossings of course with our packs. The Buffalo River is not especially wide or deep or fast, and its a super popular destination for canoers and kyakers. At many points the river is only 20 to 30 feet wide, though it is wider in some places. It has some shallow crossings with some deeper areas. It flows with reasonable speed. I wouldnt venture to call it either particuarly fast or particularly slow. There are some points of rapids though where of course it gets faster and rougher. Anyway, I'd brought some $3 flip-flops from walmart or target along as camp shoes, and these became my water-crossing shoes. The bottom of the river was largely comprised of a mix of softball to baseball sized stones, and smaller gravel and sand. For what seems like most of the crossings, we had the softball sized stones. I quickly discovered that these rocks are relatively slippery, and so you have to go slowly (and remember there's 35 or 40 extra pounds on the back, which does not help with balance). To make matters worse, the current would frequently catch the shoe and move it out from under my foot as I took a step, so when I came down I had half of a sideways flip-flop between my foot and the rock, in addition to the plastic bit painfully tugging at my toes . If this sounds like a bit of whining, I suppose it is. This was the one part of the trip that I really disliked. Uphill climbs were tough, but the crossings were just hell for me. I think it'd have been different had I some better footwear. Anyway, we made it, and didnt have any unwanted spills. Jason was kind enough to ferry peoples packs across during one of the more difficult crossings. The crossings slowed us down some, then we ended up doing some more uphill stuff, so we didnt do very many miles on Friday when it began approaching evening. We had wanted to make it to the next actual camp stop, but didnt feel like we could get there before dark, and certainly didnt want to get caught on the trail when day light ran out. So we came across a flat area around the trail (these were almost non-existant during the uphill or downhill parts of the trail), and made camp about 6 or 6:30PM. We had chicken and pitas for supper and settled in. We heard wolves or coyotes howling in the distance, both in the evening and in the morning. It was quite cool. Also there was a large nest high in a tree near where we camped, and a large bird of prey came in and out of during the evening.

We woke Saturday morning a little tired and sore still. We'd rested, but the trail was taxing us. We broke camp down and hit the trail, made it a few miles to a cleared camp area and stopped to eat and rest. We had a great rest, which really seemed to help our energy level. Replenished water, ate some Chicken and Rice camp meal stuff that was really good. I dumped the 6 or so pounds of Gorp that I'd brought, and didnt need. We napped, I took a veritable sink-bath, and we all cooled off before packing back up and hitting the trail again. Saturday was hot, and the bugs were worse. We picked probably 50 ticks off of us, all together. Almost all of them were just leg climbers though, and had not yet latched on. We made good time on Saturday, as it was much less inclined than the previous days. I led, and felt great on the trail. We did 9 miles on Saturday, and early that evening, came to a campgrounds. At this point we were less than 3 miles from the end of the trail, and we considered pressing on, but some of our party was exhausted, and so we stayed in the campsite, which was very crowded with weekend tent campers. We pitched camp, ate food, had a great cup of coffee, and listened to drunken campers singing (terribly). We slept well, and woke early. We broke camp quickly and moved off to our last leg of the trail. It went fairly quickly and before 9AM we'd come out of the trail and found Jason's car waiting for us.

It was a fantastic trip. It was tiring, exhausting, painful, and a ton of fun. It made me realize that I'm out of shape, but still I'm pleased that I'm not in worse shape. I lost like 5 pounds on the trail. Jason lost 15!! Maddie and Krissi both lost about 5 pounds as well. Krissi lost a toe-nail, and had a couple of blisters, and I think Jason ended up with a blister as well. I have come out of it a little wiser I think, about backpacking and hiking matters, in regards to things like what to take, and what to expect. I'd do it again in a heart beat. It is such a great experience. But I like the comforts of the life that I'm accustomed to.

I'm sure I could go on, and I will try to add some more in a later post, but that's all for now. We had a blast!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

backpacking and gaming

Okay so two subjects for discussion.

As I have mentioned, we're headed out to go backpacking.

For entertainment value only, here is the list that I compiled a few weeks ago of the things that I thought were needed:

spare sunglasses
boot socks (x2 or x3)
spare AAA batteries for GPSr
spare batteries for flashlight
batteries for camera
water bottles/water
water purifier
first aid kit
camp stove
camp plate/bowl, cup, fork/spoon, knife
one or more change of clothes
sleeping blanket?
food & snacks
toilet paper
coffee filters (for coffee and water filtration, etc)
bungee cords?
extra rope
trash bags
large ziplock bags
cell phone
extra map
bug repellant
belly pack
signal flare?
duct tape
pain killer
crystal light?
light jacket
rain poncho
notebook and pen
pair of shorts
lip balm
pepper spray
camp shoes
walking stick
foam seat?
stuff sack

My list was not far off, and soon I'll comprise a list of what I actually am taking. I weighed my pack last night, and it was right at 40 pounds. I'm excited. We'll be leaving town about 5:30 Thursday morning and hiking Thursday afternoon, Friday, Saturday, Sunday morning, and driving back Sunday.

So for my second topic: Gaming..
Specifically Pen & Paper role playing games.. I've been playing D&D and other games fairly regularly since.. um.. like 1991 probably. I think the first RPG that I bought was "Recon" an RPG set in the Vietnam War. Shortly after, I picked up "Twilight 2000". During this time I also found someone's homebrew fantasy RPG in an attic. The things that I remember about it, aside from its many typed pages, clipped into a 3-ring binder, were the many and varied spells, and the damage system. Armor in this home-brew system functioned like damage resistance. Stronger armor subtracted from damage dealt. Thus my first campaign ended up with the heros having armor which allowed them to casually dispatch any number of creatures that were simply unable to damage them in their heavy armor. I picked up (probably stole - I was a semi-hooligan in high school) the AD&D 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide. I wasnt allowed to have/play/etc D&D stuff, as my folks were super opposed to anything easily labeled evil or misguiding. So I kept it secreted away for awhile until it was discovered and confiscated. I continued to run with home-brew fantasy for some time. As high-school wound to a close I got into D&D again, for real this time, moving from my home-brew-with-stuff-taken-fromD&D into real AD&D. Ahhhh tHAC0. I played AD&D like it was my full time job. And I guess for some time, it was. I was able to live a little fast and loose right after high school, so I did alot of D&D and a little job-having. Anyway, years passed and my gaming went from frequent to infrequent, though I played some great games with some great people (I'm looking at you, former-jackson-gang.. and some still-in-jackson-folks too). I played some Shadowrun 3rd, Vampire the Masquerade, a Werewolf the Apocalypse game with GURPS lite-lite rules, some RIFTS, and I'm sure a bunch of other stuff - my wife will grimace and share with you that I collect gaming books. Anyway, that kindof brings us around to current day, and the last year or three.
After my gaming kindof trickled off, I got the itch and started scouring memphis looking for some gaming people. I finally found some and started playing with a group that had been playing a D&D 3.0 game. We converted to 3.5 during the campaign. It was alot of fun. I met some great people, some cool gamers, and a few people with whom I'm fast friends. (I promise I'm getting to a point, of sorts. My thought here has really been about RPG Theory, but I wanted to start at the beginning, for me.)
The crew from chizat, some of whom are the former-jackson-gang, have been somewhat influential in my gaming theory. For years, gaming for me involved killing orcs and climing ropes and all the other stuff you have to roll for in D&D. My philosophy has shifted from "Gamist" or even "Simulationist" to "Narrative". Previously, I played D&D, willing to overlook that things that go with Gamist or Simulationist D&D. Everything from 30 minute long rules arguments/negotiations/discussions, to trying and sometimes failing at mundane tasks, thanks to the dice. Its gaming that feels like you're literally playing Baldurs Gate or Diablo while sitting at the table.
I've lately been running with Narrative specifically in mind. It shouldnt be about who can "win" the game, or killing the most orcs, or jumping over the spike filled pit trap, its about having an engaging evening of gaming. That means changing the way the GM and players interact, and how the story and mechanics work. There are some great game systems out there that really help with this, like Donjon, Dogs in the Vineyard, FUDGE, Capes, and a ton of other games that I havent even been able to look at.
Anyway, I'd hoped to be able to phrase all of that in a more informative manner, but so many people are able to offer so much more information than I am at places like The Forge forums.

But coming up soon I'll be running a game with Feng Shui rules that's based on Constantine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I hope that it works fantastically.

Monday, May 15, 2006

not forgotten

Hello Reader,

I have not forgotten my blog, I have simply been too distracted to get on here and do any real posting.

I'm sure there was some stuff I meant to post about in the last week or two, in fact I started a post last week, but never finished it.

We *did* go see Thank You For Smoking. It was very entertaining. I recommend it.

This past week I went to Montezuma, Indiana for business. My boss and I drove up there Wednesday afternoon and I got a tour of the mill up there, and we came back Thursday afternoon. Six hours each way. It was a long trip, but I got to meet the folks up there and see the operation.

The big thing that is coming up is our backpacking expedition. Krissi and I, as well as Maddie and Jason are going to go backpacking along the Buffalo River out in Arkansas this coming weekend. The kind of backpacking where you carry food, sleeping bag, tent, water, filter, and all the other stuff you need to live in the woods for 3 days straight. It'll be alot of fun to unplug for a bit. I'll be keeping a journal and reposting here for my (and your) entertainment.

This past Saturday, Maddie and I hit the pavement at 6AM for a seven mile run. It was a little exhausting. But it was super good. That same afternoon we packed up our full camping packs and set off on a test run. We did a two mile walk with them, and actually setup camp in a little park, just to test everything out. It went pretty well, and I'm glad we did it. It gives me a solid idea of what to expect. I'll be able to trim down what I'm carrying a little.

If there is more exciting stuff to share, then I've forgotten about it for the moment.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

email forwards

This forward from my Dad:

> This letter sent to Senator Frist from a retired border patrol
> agent that has more common sense than all the bull being spewed
> from the Senate, with the exception of a few sensible
> representatives.
> Dear Senator Frist,
> There is a huge amount of propaganda and myths circulating about
> illegal aliens, particularly illegal Mexican, Salvadorian,
> Guatemalan and Honduran aliens.
> 1. Illegal aliens generally do NOT want U.S. citizenship.
> Americans are very vain thinking that everybody in the world wants
> to be a U.S. citizen. Mexicans, and other nationalities want to
> remain citizens of their home countries while obtaining the
> benefits offered by the United States such as employment, medical
> care, in-state tuition, government subsidized housing and free
> education for their offspring. Their main attraction is
> employment and their loyalty usually remains at home. They want
> benefits earned and subsidized by middle class Americans. What
> illegal aliens was are benefits of American residence without
> paying the price.
> 2. There are no jobs that Americans won't do. Illegal aliens are
> doing jobs that Americans can't take and still support their
> families. Illegal aliens take low wage jobs, live dozens in a
> single residence home, share expenses and send money to their home
> country. There are no jobs that Americans won't do for a decent
> wage.
> 3. Every person who illegally entered this nation left a home.
> They are NOT homeless and they are NOT Americans. Some left jobs
> in their home countries. They come to send money to their real
> home as evidenced by the more than 20 billion dollars sent out of
> the country each year by illegal aliens. These illegal aliens
> knowingly and willfully entered this nation in violation of the
> law and therefore assumed the risk of detection and deportation.
> Those who brought their alien children assumed the responsibility
> and risk on behalf of their children.
> 4. Illegal aliens are NOT critical to the economy. Illegal
> aliens constitute less than 5% of the workforce. However, they
> reduce wages and benefits for lawful U.S. residents.
> 5. This is NOT an immigrant nation. There are 280 million native
> born Americans. While it is true that this nation was settled and
> founded by immigrants (legal immigrants), it is also true that
> there is not a nation on this planet that was not settled by
> immigrants at one time or another.
> 6. The United States is welcoming to legal immigrants. Illegal
> aliens are not immigrants by definition. The U.S. accepts more
> lawful immigrants every year than the rest of the world combined.
> 7. There is no such thing as the "Hispanic vote". Hispanics are
> white, brown, black and every shade in between. Hispanics are
> Republicans, Democrats, Anarchists, Communists, Marxists and
> Independents. The so-called "Hispanic vote" is a myth. Pandering
> to illegal aliens to get the Hispanic vote is a dead end.
> 8. Mexico is NOT a friend of the United States. Since 1848
> Mexicans have resented the United States. During World War I
> Mexico allowed German Spies to operate freely in Mexico to spy on
> the U.S. During World War II Mexico allowed the Axis powers to
> spy on the U.S. from Mexico. During the Cold War Mexico allowed
> spies hostile to the U.S. to operate freely. The attack on the
> Twin Towers in 2001 was cheered and applauded all across Mexico.
> Today Mexican school children are taught that the U.S. stole
> California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. If you don't believe
> it, check out some Mexican textbooks written for their school
> children.
> 9. Although some illegal aliens enter this country for a better
> life, there are 6 billion people on this planet. At least 1
> billion of those live on less than one dollar a day. If wanting a
> better life is avalid excuse to break the law and sneak into
> America, then let's allow those one billion to come to America and
> we'll turn the USA into a Third World nation overnight. Besides,
> there are 280 million native born Americans who want a better
> life. I'll bet Bill Gates and Donald Trump want a better life.
> When will the USA lifeboat be full? Since when is wanting a
> better life a good reason to trash another nation?
> 10. There is a labor shortage in this country. This is a lie.
> There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American
> housewives,senior citizens, students, unemployed and underemployed
> who would gladly take jobs at a decent wage.
> 11. It is racist to want secure borders. What is racist about
> wanting secure borders and a secure America? What is racist about
> not wanting people to sneak into America and steal benefits we
> have set aside for legal aliens, senior citizens, children and
> other legal residents? What is it about race that entitles people
> to violate our laws, steal identities, and take the American Dream
> without paying the price?
> For about four decades American politicians have refused to secure
> our borders and look after the welfare of middle class Americans.
> These politicians have been of both parties. A huge debt to
> American society has resulted. This debt will be satisfied and
> the interest will be high.
> There has already been riots in the streets by illegal aliens and
> their supporters. There will be more. You, as a politician, have
> a choice to offend the illegal aliens who have stolen into this
> country and demanded the rights afforded to U.S. citizens or to
> offend those of us who are stakeholders in this country. The
> interest will be steep either way. There will be civil unrest.
> There will be a reckoning. Do you have the courage to do what is
> right for America? Or, will you bow to the wants and needs of
> those who don't even have the right to remain here?
> There will be a reckoning. It will come in November of this
> year,again in 2008 and yet again in 2010.
> We will not allow America to be stolen by third world agitators
> and thieves.
> >
> > David J. Stoddard U.S. Border Patrol (RET)

My reply:

While I think that this fellow makes a well-written case, I think that he is
totally wrong on some points, or has "spun" things to twist the truth of the

These are just people who are looking for a better life. And while it is true
that those who are crossing the border illegally are.. well, breaking the law..
consider for a moment that just because something is a law does not make it
right and correct, it just makes it true. It struck me the other day that with
the huge huge numbers of people crossing over illegally, it seems to me that the
system is not able to keep up with the demand. And I wonder why this is the
case. I'm no socio-economist, but I think that people create jobs. If you
just picked up 100,000 people and dropped them into a functioning
economy/country, they will fairly quickly generate jobs and money. Consider
this- that's 100,000 more consumers, 100,000 more people who'll be interested
in making purchases. Back to the not able to keep up with the demand, why is
it that we have tens or hundreds of thousands of people crossing the border
every year? Is it because we're denying them entrance? And if so.. why? I'm
appalled that America and Mexico are next door neighbors. I see, in my mind, a
beverly hills mansion with 40 bedrooms, a 15 car garage, 3 swimming pools, etc
etc, right next door to a small one-bedroom shotgun home. It just seems
disproportionate. And okay, sure, I imagine there are arguments that "Well
America cant be responsible for giving hand outs to every impoverished nation."
which is not really what I'm looking for, even though the plight of africa makes
my heart hurt.. but it still seems disproportionate. Big Rich America right next
door to Impoverished Mexico. Sure - we were lucky. America for settling this
land (and kicking off or killing all of its original inhabitants....) and us
for being born here. And for being middle class. Not only do we live in
america, we do pretty okay in america, unlike the dirt poor folks who live in
the same city/country as us. And I mean the working poor. Still.. can you
blame them? Lets imagine for a moment that you live in a two bedroom shoddy
house along with your wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters and
possibly their families. College? Huh? I cant speak with any authority on
jobs in Mexico, either how readily they are available or how well they pay,
though its obvious that they cant/dont provide as good a living as american
jobs.. What would you do? Wouldnt you be inclined to cross the border..
either alone in order to be able to send money to your family.. or with your
whole family?

I think that there is a problem, but I dont think it is a simple problem, that
we be solved this year or next year or anytime in the near future. Not solved
in the way that the media talks about it now. I dont think that the problem is
that large numbers of people illegally cross the border every year, I think that
is just a symptom of the problem.