Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fruit From The Random Tree

Well, I haven't done a post recently and, with the year winding down, I thought it might be nice to do a little mental house-cleaning in anticipation of the new year. no particular order, here's some random thoughts.

- I am convinced that our memories are like a large pot of boiling soup. The stuff we put in the pot represents our memories. The older we get, the more stuff gets put in the pot. And since it's boiling, bits and pieces come bobbing to the surface (our conscious minds), only to eventually sink back down again. And it's totally random. This is why, out of nowhere, some bizarre memory pops up for a little while, only to eventually sink back down again into your subconscious.

- What's with drivers who cut you off in order to get ahead of you, like they're in this all-fired hurry, only to then proceed at 10mph?

- Whenever I need to find a particular product in a supermarket aisle, all I need to do is look for the only other person in the aisle who's standing there, pondering. That's where my product will be. Blocked by this one person. It also works if there's no one in the aisle except for an employee stocking a stretch of shelves. What I want will be right there.

- There are two types of people I dread being behind at Dunkin Donuts. The yahoo who's buying 4 Box O'Joes, 31 bagels of certain exact flavors, 2 boxes of munchkins, and 43 different flavors of donuts; and the parent with small children ("What kind of doughnut do you want, sweetie?" "Nnn-gah!" "What's that? Vanilla?" "Bfnah!" "What's that? Timmy fell down the well?"). If you're behind either of those types, then grab a Snickers bar because, buddy, you're not going anywhere for a while.

- OK, so what's with the couple setaed in two separate non-functional bathtubs outside in those ED ads? I mean, really now. Is that supposed to be sexy? Two people, seated in inoperable plumbing fixtures, unable to make any serious intimate contact because, well, each one is in a separate container, hanging around outside....oh yeah. That's romantic.

- This past Christmas season, I made a new Christmas Song Mix CD. It had an amazing range of songs, like Eric Idle's "F*ck Christmas", Weird Al's "Christmas at Ground Zero", Brad Paisley's "Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday", Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Carole of the Bells", and a handful of amazingly done old Christ-centered carols (e.g. Hark! The Herald Angels, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night). It is quite possibly the most pious Christmas CD I've burned, as well as the most irreverent. That's when I realized that the CD was actually a fair representation of me.

- And speaking of Christmas carols, this was the year I really listened carefully to all of the words to O Holy Night (Carol's favorite Christmas song). I think the chills still haven't completely dissipated yet.

- I'm not into chick flicks, but I'll admit that I really liked "Love Actually". Well, I enjoyed most of it, anyway. Now I have to decide what movie Carol has to see as reciprocity.

- OK, here's a tip for those of you in the workplace who wear a geek tag (employee ID card). When you're in a bathroom stall, make sure the tag is turned with your name and photo facing inwards, so that no one knows who you are. That way, no one can enter the restroom and go "Aw geez, what's going on in here? It smells like someone's sacrificed a goat to the Poo God...who's that in that stall? I see his name tag! I know who you are now, buddy!" You're welcome.

- The following is a list of people I really hope to hear little or nothing about in 2010. This will truly make it a happy new year: Sarah Palin, Megan Fox, Rush Limbaugh, The Gosselins, Octomom, Glenn Beck, Richard Heene.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Adventures in Christmas Shopping-Land (Part 1)

So, I've been keeping my eye out for some New York Yankees toilet paper. It does exist, and it's usually a favored purchase among us NON-Yankees fans (imagine that...).

I decided that if any place was going to stock novelty items used to wipe your rear end, it'd have to be at Spencers Gifts. And here's the exact exchange I had with the sales girl.

ME: Hi, do you folks have New York Yankees toilet paper?

SALESGIRL (looking scandalized): Ohh, no no no...We don't stock ANY team's merchandise. We don't want to show favoritism, and start a turf war in the store.

ME: Oh, I see. Well, you know, all I could think of was, since this was a totally tasteless and disgusting product, it'd be right up Spencers' alley.

SALESGIRL (nodding): Hey yeah, that makes sense. But nope, sorry, don't got it.

I almost burst out laughing, as the salesgirl was in essence agreeing that the store is pretty much a sleazy tasteless cathedral of tackiness.

So, dejected, Chris and I made our way past the Santa Hooker costumes, the Jingle Breasts, and the T-shirts that announced the non-picky sexual standards of the wearer, and left Spencers, TP-less.

The search goes on.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Buh-Bye, Forgotten Realms!!

There's a lot of things about D&D 4.0 that makes me hate it. One of the things that I find particularly irksome is how they basically took a fine setting like the Forgotten Realms, turned it on its head, vandalized a lot of the topography, threw in some "Gods of Faerun 90210" into the mix, and then cranked up the calendar by about a century or whatnot.

For a while, this didn't bother me. I had already decided I wasn't going to do 4.0, but instead stick with 3.5, and simply ignore all of the developments in the Realms. It was a parting of the ways when it came to the default D&D rule system, but I was still willing and eager to keep running in the Realms. While that seemed to work, the situation still bugged me; I'm usually one of those all-or-nothing sort of people. Either I'm drinking the entire glass (or even entire pitcher!) of Kool-Aid, or I'm not touching it at all.

Our gaming group is getting ready in January for what I've dubbed The Great Crisis (pardon me, my DC Fanboy is showing), an adventure I've been promising for several years now. See, for the last ten years, most of the players in my group have been playing a handful of PCs in the Forgotten Realms, and advancing levels. Once the PCs got of sufficiently high level, we'd end a campaign, and start up a new FR campaign in a different locale, with a new bunch of 1st level characters. The continuity was still preserved, and sometimes there'd be cross-referencing or other touches that indicate that this was All The Same World.

While this has worked out nicely, people have been hankering to play some of those old high-level PCs again, and some players have at least a half-dozen each. Enter the Great Crisis. I've told my players "Assemble all your past characters; pick out your favorite four; I'll be coming up with a massive storyline that will require four groups of high-level characters, set in four different areas of the Realms."

And so, that's what we're doing once the holidays die down. Four adventures, one a month, two gaming sessions each, set in four different locales in the Realms; adventures that may or not be related or interconnected. That's part of the mystery. Do all these things have something to do with each other? Or perhaps only some do? Or none? Who knows?

Once this Great Crisis is done, regardless of the outcome, I do believe I'm waving "Farewell" to the Realms.

It's always been a point of pride for me that all of the D&D adventures I run are of my own design; no modules here, just home-grown adventure. And yet, my setting is a pre-packaged one, though some parts of the Realms were "officially" fleshed out by yours truly during my tenure as a freelance writer for TSR. Granted, the Realms is a very EXCELLENT package, but it's still not "my" world. And now that, in my own humble opinion, the Realms failed its saving throw against the dreaded spell "Polymorph a cool game setting into a steaming lump of cat crap", I think it's time to trot out....Hawkhaven 2.0.

What's Hawkhaven 2.0 you ask? For that matter, what's Hawkhaven?

Glad you asked. You DO ask such good questions!

Hawkhaven was my original campaign, created during my ignorant, zealous, Monty-haul days as an over-eager rookie DM back in 1978. Oh, I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. I drew inspiration (stole) from Tolkein, CS Lewis, Arthurian legends, the Bible, Moorcock, Lieber, Lovecraft, and a healthy dose of Bullfinch's Mythology, and created pretty much a hack-and-slash goulash where Christian paladins, Muslim warriors, Celtic bards, and Clerics of Hera were teaming up and doing things like finding the Holy Grail, or destroying Stormbringer, or finding R'Lyeh, where dread Cthulhu lies dreaming.

And anything went...optional classes from issues of The Dragon? Bring 'em in! Psionics? Sure! I'd take all those module series from TSR and locate them in my world. Here's the Tomb of Horrors over here, and I'll call one of the mountains in my western mountain range "White Plume", and set the module there. These peaks here are like a barrier, so a certain SF-themed module went there! This village over here is called "Hommlet". Liches polymorphed PCs into giant cucumbers and ate them. PCs slew enemies with improvised weapons such as turkey legs.

Of course, I had a detailed backstory, my attempt at explaining how all of these elements could possibly exist or co-exist. Some of it worked, some of it was a stretch, and some of it was utter BS. But who cared? It was a lot of fun! But I'll say this: If I had the means to travel back in time, and sat at my younger self's gaming table, I'd probably end up beating my younger self over the head with a pizza box while shrieking "Munchkin!" over and over. I may even remember to take the pizza out first, but I make no promises.

So anyways, the thought occurred to me: Why not bring back Hawkhaven, but now redesigned with a greater sense of restraint, "sophistication", and experience? So, I've been digging through old folders (real manila paper ones, not virtual folders on a PC, mind you), folders that haven't seen the light of day since last century, and have been recreating Hawkhaven into a viable, engaging, campaign world that wouldn't get laughed out of a gaming con.

And that's that. So, four months of Great Crisis in the Forgotten Realms, followed by a reboot with Hawkhaven 2.0. Furthermore, I've been paying attention to people on who've been singing the praises of Pathfinder, and I have to admit, I've started reading up on it and it's intriguing enough that it just may become the system used for Hawkhaven. Talk about a fresh start and a clean slate! New world, new system. Aw yeah, I like the sound of that.

Depending on how our personnel roster shakes out, I may even have to look for a couple of new players to jump in as well, to fill out our ranks. So it looks like there's a lot of "new" for our campaign to look forward to in Spring 2010.

I'll miss the Realms, but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to running a campaign in the world that I made, with cool things like the Theocracy of Zor, hobbits with hairy feet, Wizards being the object of public distrust and scorn, a god of Alcohol and Innkeepers, and the Four Elemental Monastic Orders waiting in the wings!