Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kingdoms of Influence

Its funny to notice how many times capitalism and communism converge.  I have heard productivity compared to production pushes before by my Russian coworkers. But what I would like to consider is the client Patron relationship.  Specifically the Soviet Nomenklatura and a few of the pointy haired evil bosses I have worked for in the past. 

Both are examples of a client patron relationship in which a powerful person invests a lower with some power and the lower is in turn beholden to the former.  The Nomenklatura were often called the sons and daughters of the party.  Basically children of the people in power who were given positions because of their relationships.  They were then expected to support the position of the elder that assisted them.  In general seems pretty normal as you would expect loyalty from those you have helped or at the very least that those you help to have similar views as your own.

Really it brings into question if nepotism is necessarily bad?  I mean if you are working at a small business it's expected that parents would offer their children a job and groom them to take over the ownership of the company.  Also in the political arena families often take an interest in government.  While I have some problem with the underlying reason of this it would be wrong to say any family only gets one politician.  My problem is that people with connections to power get power and those connections run in families.  But certainly giving a job to someone they are unable to do because of relationship isn't good either.  What what I am getting at isn't nepotism but rather empowerment through relationship.

When addressing the Evil Bosses that exist within the capitalism system you have to understand a few points.  This isn't an attack on they system but rather individual corruption.  While generally bad it may be the only way to accomplish goals in certain environments and it looks a lot like the standard boss employee relationship.  With the Evil Bosses I have worked for their strategy is to build a network of cronies through their organization.  This is something I have taken to calling a Kingdom of Influence.  Once in place they consolidate power by restricting information and resources that flow out of their Kingdom.  It is sort of like a working Maxwell's Daemon.  Resources and control go in but are maintained within that pocket.  Access to systems is restricted or limited at best.  Basically these kingdoms operate for their own benefit rather than company benefit.

Here you are probably thinking so what.  I have worked with teams that maintain systems and you cant allow everyone to come in ad fuck up your database.  Also it seems normal that you work for your bosses interests that's is the job you are paid for.  A good boss should shield employees form management so they can get on with their jobs.  You are correct.  I remember a conversation with a boss named Brian where I mentioned that "my job is to make you look good" what I was saying was recognition flows downhill.  That is pretty standard.  When you see recognition making a jump is a sign that you may have a problem.  A Director taking a very personal interest in a few individual contributors and then those contributors moving quickly to management may be a bad sign.  Also any time a new boss comes in and quickly hires employees from their last company.  There can be exceptions some people are very good and should advance and some people are very loyal to their bosses.  But you have to take notice what comes next.

When you are working in a good organization you collaborate with other teams and work for common goals.  Kingdoms work internally or offer support in a quid pro quo fashion.  Good organizations have many individuals with Kingdoms of influence you are often directed to a single mouth.  A good organization will accept when their proposals and working style are not used for a project.  The kingdom of influence will plot downfall and often work to re implement their ideas when trouble is met.

Generally the failure of these Kingdoms is their insularity.  They are good at maintaining and growing power but not at getting anything done.  These sorts of organizations are most often in companies where maintaining a product has become more important than development.  Ideas like SCRUM and cross functionalism are foreign to those devoted to a Kingdom of influence.  I have seen a few of these dealt with and both used tactics very much like those used for cancer.  One involved the complete cutting out of those in power and the second just starved them out.  The first as both rewarding and scary as I have never seen senior management directly fired.

Personally I think these power bases clashing has been harmful to every organization I have seen them occur.  It just seems corrupt to see people working for individual benefit rather than the goals of the company or organization.  What is worse is these Kingdoms occurs everywhere from politics to PTA organizations, and outsiders like myself have no hand on the wheel that steers the ship.  I find any organization that desires to extend influence beyond the individual invariably orients itself in the insular direction of these Kingdoms of Influence.  All I know is that direction is one nobody wants to go.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thoughts on Horror movies and how they don't do it for me

I don't get zombie and I don't get survival horror.  I know what sort of geek makes a statement like that?  But that crap doesn't do it for me. When I am playing Halo the flood feel like a chore.  I want to have a gun I can shoulder and drop some dudes with well placed three round bursts.  I think its the Dungeons and Dragon that did this to me.  Undead are less horror and more a flavor or monster you jam your sword into.

If you want to serve up horror for the Rickelman, which is me for the purposes of this article, you need some back story.  Also so progressive rock doing the sound track is always a help just ask Goblin and Tangerine Dream.  A couple of horror films I enjoy are The Keep and Prince of Darkness.  It was wits and knowledge against the ancient evil here. Aliens was also decent firepower is always a good bet as I was a fan of GI Joe as a kid.

Basically these are movies that allow people to win through their own capabilities.  The zombie thing seems it has the odds so stacked that only chance is going to save the day.  I don't get that sort of thing how am I supposed to root for luck? 

At some point isn't that one show on TV enough for the genre?  I mean you have funny zombies, fast zombie and sex slave zombies.  Isn't that enough.  I know there is supposed to be a connection to republicans and everyone likes to rail on consumerism but whatever.  Try something new please.

How about someone takes on the willing lose of self within a group.  The They if you will.  This sort of thing will probably be seen as anti populist though.  I would be up for it maybe a remake of Stalker with the room representing the act of dissolving yourself into a hegemony of the mass.

Or Chuds they work too, Rickelman doesn't mind chuds.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Well this weekend I attended the Ca Extreme video game show.  Its was fun but i really need to bring a crew of folks with me next time.  I always feel weird being away from my wife and not really with anyone else.  Also a large amount of the older games are best when played against someone you know.  You can see from the pictures there are tons of games and a see of people happy to play them.

I am a not a pinball player so that is wasted on me.  but there is enough in the video game side to keep me playing for the day.  There are a lot of old favorites though I almost feel weird getting on those as I could easily play Willow all day if it is free play.  I do better than the people who play before me but I am not as good as the old days in the Eastridge arcade by Sears.

They have a crazy number of pinball machines, at the show of all sorts.  Some are real works of art.  I wanted to take a few shots for my Buddy Mark who is a collector.  Here are the Wedge heads, I forget the maker but Mark would know.  I suck so Pinball machines just are never going to be my thing.

Next are a couple of Super Mario Bros. themed games.  Mark's son Max a fiend when it comes to Mario related stuff.  So perhaps these would be the right pinball games to get him really hocked.  There was another that actually was a video pinball game.  I don't know if I missed a photo on that on but I am not sure about a game without the physical nature that defines pinball games.

Here are a couple of the more odd ball machines they had going.  One is Thayers Quest which was a Don Blue choose your own adventure style laser disc game.  The other well I don't know.  I am not sure if it is a new game or an old shooting gallery game that has been modified.  The picture almost seems like something out of Napoleon Dynamite.  It was a great little shooting gallery game, with nice dayglo colors and was very accurate.  I really would not have minded picking it up.  i would like one of these gallery games in my garage.

Really if you can imaging it, then it was there.  Here is a shot of the cocktail game area. Loads of people having fun.  They even had a cocktail version of Star Castle which is a favorite of mine.

If you notice the rat band above they had that set up doing 80's music.  It was a bit odd seeing that thing sing bad medicine by Bon Jovi.  They even had a Roger Day set up. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Night feels late in the year

These snapshots are at my worse.  The nagging moments where I am holding back falling apart.  Maybe even the rowing moments where one looks up and thinks this being?  With sharp moments of perception that cut at the softness of letting yourself be one of the crowd. The times you think I happier just being a scarecrow in the field, unexamined and content to be apart of the place.  Worry is like a worm that gnawing at the strings and I don't know what I'll be when they break. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some easy steps into the land of progressive rock

With dungeons and dragons online down last night, I was listening to a few progressive rock bands over youtube.  I know this sort of music is not for everyone but I wanted to extend an olive branch to folks you may be interested in giving it a try.   Really there isn't much more underground music than prog, anyone who listens to alternative and Indie rock basically you are mainly listening to top forty pop.  Music is pretty fragmented these days but the stuff is the most generic you can find.

Prog is weird and it intents to be.  You will often be challenged hearing stuff you haven't.  Be that instruments, rhythm or song structure.  Its just meant to be goofy and over the top.  I don't want to dismiss all modern progressive rock out of hand but much of it is trying to sound like styles within the style of 70's era progressive rock.  There are bands like Porcupine Tree and Opeth that do their own thing progressively but there are many that sound like copies of the older bands.

I really recommend you go back to the source for this, its the cleanest at the original.  I am always going to recommend Rush, Yes, Pink Floyd and Gabriel era Genesis.  But I recently heard wind and the wuthering, that isn't that bad, its not a rocker but its alright.  Blood on the Rooftops is nice.    I think that is worth a listen as its still in the progressive era of Genesis.  But stuff like Watcher of the Skies and The lamb lies down are probably the first you should give a listen.

Yes you are not going to go wrong with I recommend the Close to the Edge record first.  But Even the very early stuff is fantastic.  I do like the going for the one record.  You can try the Trevor Rabin stuff if you are into 80's pop.  The songs are not terrible for what they are, they just are not really progressive like the longer format stuff they did in the 70's

For Pink floyd I want to get Meddle.  Not Dark Side, Not the Wall, Meddle.  This is a great start that is nothing like what you have heard on the radio.  This is quiet and folky but prog.  It doesn't have the weight of the music machine behind it either.  This is a band able to do what they want and forging something new.  There is a large amount of what is to come hidden there to find for the careful listener.

Just get Rush's 2112, it will give you some progressive rock cache and its a hell of a record.  This is a rocker it's not hard to like.   The music is great and it flies its flag high in hand.  You will need to listen to what is being said here as its a strangely conservative message for a rock record.  I sort of image Ron Paul has a copy of this record hidden away somewhere.

You next steps will be Saga, Gentle Giant and Camel.  Avoid the Krautrock stuff for now.  It's great but too much of that too early on and you may end up an evil scientist.

Blood on the rooftops

you've taken
what you need
And hide away
from eyes before

Drink deep thine
Blood falling down
from greying skies
turning dry

Suburban burning
Late nights crime
walking streets
jaded turning green

Upward ceiling thoughts
Elevate the moments
to begin being
unity singular again

Different birth
degrees of peace
Sleeping virtue
to be destroyed

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dungeons and Dragons Online Epic Tokens are Fucked

At the risk of being a bit ranty I am pissed off by the changes to epic quests. They are giving far too few epic tokens on both Epic Hard and Epic elite difficulties.  Seriously there are many raids I am completely gypped of tokens on the hard setting.  Nothing no fragments Nothing!  That's bull shit right there. But its Epic Elite quests that really bug the hell out of me.

Running the Epic Elite version of the The Deeps last night I expect the normal full token reward, what I was given was fifty plus fragments.  This was an end of the chain quest that is not the easiest to do.  You have to go down after the quest is finished and battle a demon to get anything.  Are you telling me that on epic elite isn't worth a full token.  I am more pissed than when I ran Devils Assault and got a reward of of seven fragments.  At least there it was Epic Hard, though warchanter CC not being the best I was actually working.

What this does is push players looking for tokens to challenges.  And you know what fuck challenges.  They are not really fun, they are highly repetitive and some characters are just not good at them.  My bard raises his hand, i suck ass in the extra planar castle.  I just hate being coerced into playing a particular style.  It almost reminds me of 40K coming out with a new codex that changes which units you need to field to be competitive.  The reason they do this is to sell models that are sitting on the shelves.  The reason Turbine does this is to sell packs that have been sitting on the shelves. 

I really don't want special treatment as a VIP player but I also don't want to modify what I am playing because of a money grab that I am not a part of.  I'm giving you my cash upfront can you work with me a bit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sleep bedighted summer

Sleep bedighted summer
Hold still hours more
Let hold dreams of winter
and ever broken shores

No words in the morning
nor light streaming in
Just a crippled feeling
of once better days

Better won't fix this
For little hearts left
apart wanting unable
to understand your gone

Give me something to give
those that are faulting

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is Pirating Wrong if you Preorder

This is a question that can be taken a few ways.  But I want to ask your feeling on pirating a show that you have already paid for.  In this case lets say A game of Thrones season 2 in this case.  I am sure there will be a bunch of people who will take this as a question of legality, and I am in fact interested in hearing those responses.  But I as a person believe Legality and Justice to be on near opposite sides of the spectrum.  I think I am asking the more general question of right vs wrong.  Personally I am leaning to the side of this is in fact just and further that HBO is behaving unjustly by not allowing the immediate digital download if you have pre ordered the show.  I say that on the grounds of Leibnitz explanation of justice that not doing someone a favor is in fact unjust, barring it does not divert you too far from our out of course.

But really I want to hear your thoughts on the issue.  Please comment or send an email to jameslrickel@gmail.com

Film Review: Act of Valor

I got a chance to see a couple of movie over the weekend and I wanted to mention one and talk about the other.  The first was the new batman.  It was good but not as good as the last one with the Joker.  It seemed more of a movie to tie up the batman mythos that Christopher Nolan has created.  That's OK i guess, I am not a big fan of superhero movies in general so some of it left me cold.  I was not a fan of the Cillian Murphy cameo that dude just bugs me.  But all in all its what you would probably expect. 

The second movie was something called Act of Valor.  I actually enjoyed this much more than the batman film.  The action sequences were fantastic and utterly realistic.  I think that just worked for me.  The film is about a seal team the quickly gets involved in a plot against the United States.  The action takes place primarily in south America but does a bit of globe hopping. An element of the movie that is new is they used real soldiers in many paces rather than actors.  This really added to the feel of the film.

Here you have people functioning as a seal team really would rather than endlessly firing their machine guns.  They take cover and and work from room to room tactically.  This is very different than the end firefight in Batman which the villains really should have decimated the cops considering automatic weapons and cover.

Reviews for the film are generally bad, often talking about the acting.  The acting isn't great but its a film less about characters than actions and you get a feel that what is being said probably is correct to the situation.  Much of it is in jargon that seems appropriate. 

Roger Ebert commented negatively that he would have wanted to know the characters and have more development.  That could have worked with another story but the film was about action.  They even mention the philosophy of putting away self before the action starts.  I think the idea was to present the team less as individuals and more the team itself.  I think its unfair to ask the film to be something it doesn't set out to be.  I have seen some people mention seeing Saving Private Ryan as a better alternative.  Let me first off say Fuck you that movie sucked.  The first seen was good with the storming of the beaches then it when to complete shit after that.  The sniper seen was an inferior rip of Full Metal Jacket and was completely jingoistic.  That piece of shit manipulated facts to pain the Germans and unabashed Nazi's which was pretty much not the cases for the German Regular Army and the people on the front lines.  They were often on the outs with the party.  Spielberg is terrible I really can only say i liked 1941.  He should be ashamed of what he did with A.I. you only get the Kubrick feel in the scene where David destroys the copy version of himself.  That has a statement of self and being, the rest of the film is crap.

Its not without it's faults.  The connection of Mexican drug lords and terrorist wanting to carry out an attack that would economically cripple the US.  That's a bit far fetched!  Why would drug lords want to hurt their prime customers and even if they did the US would close the border and build a no mans land.  Also the death of the expectant father was something everyone could see a mile away.  It seemed pretty contrived to evoke an emotional response.  Some people have also claimed this is like a recruitment film, i have to say sort of yes.  There is a lot that looks like wow cool they get to pilot a mini sub from out of a real sub that is awesome.  There is a lot that looks awesome fun for a fourteen year old boy.

Other concerns that this was jingoistic hmm i don't know.  The movie is meant to be presented from the eyes of the seals. I don't know if they are reveling in the enemies defeat so much as happy to achieve their mission completion and get people home.  I don't know if there is an America Fuck Ya feel so much as my guys are coming home Fuck ya.  Also it's hard to think a movie that was created with the help of soldier and the military would be negative against the military. That would be as ridiculous as expecting the Batman movie to list DC comics as the evil front for Bane's operations.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Temple of the Wings

I wish someone would open up a Ronnie James Dio's Temple of the Wings fried chicken restaurant.  I don't even like chicken but I think it would be pretty cool to go there and listen to Rainbow in the dark while I had my coleslaw.  I imagine it would have a nice selection of soda on tap and a few in bottles.  Painted labels I mean Dio was total class all the way.  The Black Sabbath mac and cheese would have just a touch of brown sugar like in a soul food place.  If Kenny Rogers can have a roaster this would be huge.  Wings are really the most metal of all foods, totally in you face and loaded with powerful sauce.  Yet like the blue cheese dressing metal has a soft side that frolics through a Sylvan glade.  Topped of with a slice of the holy cobbler that sounds pretty good right now.

Pathfinder KingMaker adventure path thoughts

Well we have been playing in our Pathfinder Kingmaker game for some time now and, while I have written of it, I wanted to throw out a few thoughts.  Generally the idea is strong, you are building up your own kingdom, that's fun someone gets to rule again fun.  But for me a lot of the kingdom building rules are far from the mark.  Other aspects of the campaign while fun seem to fall in a pattern that makes the game more rushed than it needs to be.

The kingdom making stuff is sort of goofy.  It seems designed work where you are slowly building a small town, perhaps from Olegs' trading post.  When you invert that idea and build the higher cost items you are often screwing yourself.  Our party took this high cost approach and started from the Stags fort which gave us a decrease in price of a castle.  The group seems to favor this style as it decrease the cost of lower cost buildings.  This would be good except we have in effect stalled our economy buying higher cost crap.  We seem well insulated from unrest and have solid loyalty but only seem to build every so often and are never really flush with build points.

There are several factors in this Kingdom building that sort of leave me cold.  The first is you seem to have very little drive to build fortifications, i don't know if those rules come in a later module but for now we really don't have much need.  Also you are encourage by the rules to only have a single city which you build to a metropolis, and then later work on other stuff.  Really the rules make building on off structures nearly impossible as you need to develop the land turning it into something other than farm land.  You need the farms to keep your upkeep down so you need them too.  Basically it makes adding a cross roads inn or guard tower out of the question. 

Really I think that is my problem in a nutshell.  Buildings positioned for Role playing reasons are discouraged by the kingdom building rules.  You may want an Inn and shop for resupply points but you are going to need to invest in a complete town.  A row of guard towers along the Kingdoms main road has no roll in protecting the kingdom, its just stability points. Perhaps and even greater thorn in my side is I actually like the early supply of a kingdom phase.  I like capturing weapons and armor for the armory and slowly building up coaches and people allied to the kingdom.  I like doing it by roleplaying.  With the Kingdom Building this happens Poof you expend build points. 

Really if I know how the game was going to change from module one to the second, where kingdom building kicks in, I would have preferred to stay in the first as long as possible.  Working to capture items for the kingdom that would come.

Really this does inspire me to change up some of my game mastering a bit.  I think I would ask a whole bunch of question to players when starting a module series like this.  I would get to know what they like so I could work on including more of that.  It's not just the GM's story it's every ones in roleplaying.

Today the image is stolen from the obsidian portal , they have a much better campaign write up on their site.  I am not playing in that game but I think you should check them out its pretty awesome.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Record Review Bruce Springsteen Greetings from Asbury Park N.J.

I first picked up Greetings from Ashbury Park, N.J. on tape some years ago, wondering just what the hell was being said in Blinded by the light.  Well on that front this is little use as Manferd Mann seem to have completely reordered and worded the song.  But in giving the record a listen it is actually quit good.  There is a lot that isn't what you would expect having heard Springsteen on radio all your life. 

Blinded by the light is a completely different song with Bruce doing it.  It's actually good!  Taking in the lyrics I have little idea what its about other than thinking its full of personal jokes and is secretly filthy.  Its also a good upbeat rock and roll song that doesn't have any hint of what it would become in other hands.

Growing up is pretty standard fare for the time time.  Its post the hippy shit rock and feels of the seventies.  Rebellious and semi fast paced its OK.  I like that you get a more Macho feel of rebellion coming out at this time.  There is something about the music a few years before that is manipulative and slimy.  Springsteen seem upfront about his misdeeds and intentions.

Mary Queen of Arkansas feels weird and a little wrong.  Its an OK song but it comes off a little ill fitting.  Its like the jersey boy is out of his depth a touch.  The guys from the band would probably been able to better realise this song.  Its just a little too chrome where it should be wood.

Does this bus stop at 82nd street is my favorite song on the record.  Its just happy to the point of being joyous.  It's a city songs that feels really connected to who Springsteen is.  Its like he is just flowing out stuff that makes him happy.  It's uptempo and happy but takes a turn at the end that flows into Lost in the flood a decidedly down song.  Its full of suburban melancholy and the night time freedom of youth.  The ending is almost like a movie massacre that blurs into even brightening light.

For you is another good rock and roll song. Sort of a fretting rush of a song that builds over its course finally in a panic at the end.  I think a lot of people may think of this as a Greg Kihn song but its actually originally from this record.

Spirit in the Night is almost Doo-Wopy.  Again nigh time tales of youth on the outskirts of town is the subject.  Its a picture song you are almost left sad knowing so little of what happens after the picture ends.

I am not such a fan of Saint in the City and The Angel.  The later is sort of out of place and not Springsteens strongest work on the record.  The former is OK i don't know it's just not my cup o' tea.

All in all a good record that is probably better than the 80's stuff that bores me these days.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RPG Preparation

I recently picked up a book called Never Unprepared though drive thru RPG.  I have started reading but have yet to make it past the idea phase of the book.  It basically spelling out the case of why preparation is need for a game session.  I think all of use who have sat behind the screen can understand they whys of prep, but this book deals with the whats.  I have yet to get there and start evaluation the book but i wanted to talk about my own thoughts now and then follow up later with post reading thoughts.

For me Tolkien in the king of prep.  The reason I say this is look at the back log of notes he had for writing four books. He basically knew ever direction the stories could go in.  He didn't even need that much information considering his characters were his own and unlikely to turn an unexpected direction.  But you are always left like he had the legends and songs of each region all thought out.  This is my goal as a Game Master.  I want to have a firm grasp of the possible places the party can go.

For me the easiest process is to look at the campaign and what I best understand of it.  The campaign goes right there!  The location of your best understanding where it all happens best.  This will allow you to throw out character that feel integrated and well positioned.  It should give you a solid footing for improvisation as well.  If you understand the building style and plumping you are going to be able to hand impromptu wackiness much better.  But you should also realize you are not stuck to a place you know, you just need to make sure you put in similar work on new locations.

One of the ideas I noticed in Never Unprepared that stuck me as important was the thought of your notes as a database.  I think that is a good idea, and wouldn't mind having an actual database set up with my notes.  I may have to work on that for my own game.  But I think a way to quickly incorporate it now is to make a few lists of character names, in names and far off locations.  You don't even need to do anything else with them than come up with a name.  Just use the names from the list and cross them off as you do.  After using the name you should transition them into your post game notes with regard to how you used them.  Say the Falling Coin is on the banks of the Nyr Dyv and Horatio Smeeg is a troll air pirate. The names are potential on the list and actualized in post game notes.  Those post game notes are important as it allows the part to return to a game element which creates immersion.

The sort of notes you need are really dependent on your players.  If they are going to kill and ignore all role playing then you need stats.  If they are going to avoid every fight then you need ideas on motivations.  A good example of a character motivation guide was the old GDW card suits.  This gave a general idea of motivation be it cash, power, loyalty or what not.  This is a decent bit of information but perhaps noting goals how they may interact with characters to accomplish them is a more useful.  Its important here that combat not be ruled out.  You should have an idea of how far NPC's will go to reach goals and some will be willing to risk their lives.  The combat information that Paizo puts into their NPC's is very good noting when they may break ranks and how they will use abilities in combat.

One thing I have personally considered was using a sort of Myers Briggs type scale for my NPC's.  Some being introverted and wanting to be left alone and others being more than happy to start conversations with the party.  I don't think you will need a full four axis break down on characters but a few of the key aspects is important.  For instance if a character is a quiet thinker IxTx is important.  It may not be as important to know if they are feeling and judging if they are not strong personality traits.  With this you can also give general traits to areas.  The country may be more introverted and insular than the city.  Some areas may value intuitive thought more than feeling will others very passionate.

I think the best thing I have read in the book is going with what works for you.  I can't stress that enough do what feels right to you as a GM.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I still believe (grand design)

there is a trap i would walk out of but must instead spring shut.  a cold hard iron cutting through the skin and the worrisome blood afterward.  Dripping on the carpet threatening a stain. A matter that nags down the moments and reminds me they have past.  Its like the watered down troubles must be met for the teeth and concrete ones to be muddled through.  Give me some escape for the all sides snares are all around.  A happy forgetful day, but even so that's gone to fast and I am back in it.  Burn down the scarecrow shut out my voice, but make it right.

The Problem with Prepainted Minatures

The advent of prepainted plastic miniatures is sort of boon and bane for the RPG industry.  Ideally it gives us cheap painted minis that allow Game Masters that don't care for painting a chance to field minis that look nice.  In actuality they have packages these in random distribution boxes that prevent us from seeing what we are getting.  So we are throwing money out in hopes of getting what we need for our planned encounters.

With the Dungeons and Dragons miniatures the idea was the minis were for a collectible miniatures games.  I guess that make the packaging understandable.  The Pathfinder minis were present primarily as a Roleplaying Game aid which makes the random packs sort of a kick in the balls.  You couple this with them selling singles on their web site for $3 a common and you realize your balls are in a vice.  That price is higher than the developing secondary market on eBay.  There were initially enterprising resellers like Troll and Toad that opened boxes and sold individual minis but stocks sold out quickly.  I was lucky enough to get my hands on 20 or so goblins and a very fair price.  I could use similar number of undead, orcs and ogres.

I guess we have a second set coming out sometime later this year from the WizKids/Paizo folks.  This is going to be called Rise of the Runelords which may or may not focus on that series of Pathfinder Adventure Path modules.  Really its a hope and at looking at the set, there are some OK commons though after the initial set I have my goblins.  They are at least giving us some ghouls commons.  My larger problem is the lack of large commons.  Maybe by nature of the large pack they are trying to give a more random distribution but I really need a bunch of ogres for a decent price as a game master. 

What I would really like to see would be a nice series of reasonably priced packs of goblins, undead, orcs, ogres and random dungeon vermin.  This would be a help to those of us trying to do the minis thing.  It could be on online exclusive thing with coupons inside the boxes or even a flag point give away like the GI Joe manta.  Just please give us a way of getting a nice large selection of minis for a decent price.  Say 32.99 for 15 common small miniatures and 44.99 for 12 large uncommon.  This should not be like investing in Warhammer.  Though unpainted War Machine can almost be picked up for a price around what Paizo is offering online.  That sounds like hyperbole but I have been looking and if you get the right deals you can eBay up a decent Rhulic army for similar prices to the Paizo.com price on prepainted singles.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A little Poem and some of my writing process

 Well this is a bit of a little poem and some of my recent writing process.  I was trying to write more plain language and convey my ideas simply.  So i just wrote what i wanted to say.  You can see that here in the beginning paragraphs.  From there I start working that into a poem.  I focused on the meter and cutting bits in and out to create a working rhythm. 

I wanted to write about the desert and thick seas of grass willowing under a blue sky that goes on forever. I wanted to take a turn western old and battered where the wood holds a hundred years of use and mourns out years without regret.

Something golden and dark under a burning sun whispering always of harvest.  With days taken slow and evenings spoken late.  Broken down drives under strange elder stars. 

What i wanted seemed to fail me.  It was all too romantic and made up.  Some dreamed vignette that set off tales long ago but not for me.  I was not to inherit birds or eagles but crows and seagulls.

I wanted to write of the desert
and thick grass seas willowing
under a blue sky that going forever

I wanted to take a turn western
old and battered where the wood holds
a hundred years of use and mourns out

I wanted Something golden and dark
under a burning suns whispers
always of harvest With days slow

I wanted broken down needing drives
under strange elder stars and eyes
But I arose coming up well short

What I wanted seemed to fail me
it was too romantic and made up
Dreamed tales long ago but for me

I wanted but was not to inherit
Birds or eagle but crows, seagulls
Suburban want forever left dreaming

Friday, July 13, 2012

Toy Review: Battlestar Galactica Radio Control Cylon Raider

RC Cylon Raider
 Here is a toy I dug out of the closet over the weekend.  I was actually surprised I still had it.  It was something of an odd ball toy for me , i was a bit young for an RC toy when I got it.  I don't really know if this was something really appreciated at the time.  But here it is in all it's Cylon glory.  There was a lot of interest in Battlestar at the time as they had a big flap over the toys shooting missiles down kids throats.  I only ever had the lame slightly pop out missile versions of the toys and this thing.   In looking at the toy there are some marks in the bottom corner that look like Toy's R Us style text.  I am not sure but the toy may have originated at one of their stores.

Radio Control Cylon Raider
Popping open the much battered box here is the carton with controller and the actual space ship.  you have pretty long RC wire antennas on both.  You sort of have to feat them back into the box every time you want to put it back.  I remember a Styrofoam cover square but that appears to be long gone.
RC cylon control
 Here is the remote with an idea of scale its not massive, i have short fingers and big hands.  its pretty old school push the button and steer via the wheel.  I remember this thing was not very tough and would only really work on the linoleum and hard wood portions of my parents house back on Fallwood.

Here is the Cylon itself with both top and bottom shots.  You can see some of my Atari collection looming in the background. Having not been a go to toy for me I think its in pretty decent shape.  I am not sure the thing actually works though.  I sort of thing it does not but I could be wrong.  It's sat for year and years so is missing a battery cover on the controller.

RC Cylon Raider
RC Cylon

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday Afternoon

in your arms you are beautiful
And I am the one to be perceived

A broken night or fall of leaves
Some wanderer of the other land

casting stones ripples converge
Your man coming thirst or afternoon

This is hollow, red under nails
Golden day left black in grey

Breath out mustard's coming in
capillaries crush weight reborn

Ever hope wires under insolent
grieving sun shifts listless west

Idunn bring your fruit, brittle
if the speaker, lost of youth

Hers is a wire in midnight
coursing through my air

Shrill that wakes you from sleep
ribbons the bleach fog.

Will be the Villain

I will be the villain and
not cry what i haven't done. 
I will fight for my own
tooth and nail. 

I'll pay with the gold
I earn with my hands. 

I will not cry for the beauty
of a sunset a glorious show. 
I will keep it in quiet
praise it alone. 

I'll be grateful to ancestry
you say did wrong. 

Break this world for my children
and expect you the same. 
I'll lift you over others
long off far away.

My respect to be earned
though I award it just.

I won't be overly warm
Bright eyed dagger in hand.
Cold slow and weary
I won't be false.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blogging Tips from an Unsuccessful Blogger

I know this sounds weird, me giving advice.  I am not successful in the traditional since, I mean for me its great getting someone to look at my crap.  But for the most part my page views are low and I feel most bloggers would have stopped long ago.  That said I really did start putting any serious work into this until a year ago.  I have hear a year to a year and a half of concentrated effort is pretty minimum for getting a blog going.  In any event I wanted to look over a couple of minor successes I have had, perhaps you can benefit from them.

Tip 1: Write more posts like those of your already successful posts

This one is a weird mix of obvious and hard to swallow.  Your views are going to tell you what sorts of posts will make you successful.  If you are getting loads and loads of views on a post, that's the sort of post you should write more of.  The hard to swallow bit is when you hit a home run with something you don't care so much about.  Here at Crescent Star my two most viewed posts are about the Richard Scarry Puzzletown and Hicks Road.  I wrote about Hicks because it is a legitimate interest and I would be more than happy to write about Weird San Jose and Bay Area stories.  Puzzletown I wrote out of frustration that their was so little information on the web.  I really had not thought about doing Toy related posts when I first started the blog.  I have experimented with writing more and they often out perform other topics.

I would suggest you really look at what is working for you with at Statistic view and then using that as your compass.  If something is steering you outside of your area of comfort you have a few options.  Either stick to your guns and Ignore your viewership or fire up a side blog on that topic. 

Tip 2: Write on topics that don't already have a lot of info

Everyone blogs or at least the people who read blogs seem to also write them.  You can probably find four awesome blogs dedicated to your obscure interest.  My successes often have come when I write about things others have not.  Again take that with a grain of salt "Success".  The point is why write to add your voice to the crowd.  Writing on a topic that doesn't have attention is better as you are a needle in a smaller hay stack.

There are a bunch of tools for key word searches that allow you to hunt down phrases that don't have a lot of pages associated with them.  I personally just search and try to write on topics that I don't find information on.

Tip 3: Attach your own photographs to posts

Upload your own photos rather than using everyone Else's if you can.  This is going to add another path for people go get to your blog.  You are going to need to tag them in the HTML and give comments but after you do that image searches may find them and start routing traffic to your blog.  People click on the image and see your blog underneath and may move on to read your information.

Tip 4: Use related forums to post links to your blog.

You should probably get involved in a forum related to the topic of your blog.  Post your thoughts on stuff like a normal forum member but also do your best to take on links to related posts on your blog.  It will also give you ideas of what to blog on.  Forum communities talk mostly in little bits, summarizing and documenting information can be a good post for your blog.

Tip 5: Write stories not Poetry

Writing poetry is like being a in a prog metal band.  Anyone who likes prog metal seems to play in a prog metal band.  People like funny concise tales that are light to read.  Poetry is sort of like that to write but not to read.  The reader has to become something or feel something in a matter of lines.  Most people don't have time for that on their lunch break.  Poetry is a hard sell for most folks, I may love it but it doesn't generate blog traffic.

Tip 6: SEO matters somehow

SEO is wrong.  If its working as intended you intention was wrong, like in an unjust doing ill to mankind sort of wrong.  I am pretty sure the Google coders working on this thing are fucking Chaotic Evil bastards you never see except from behind where you just see their gauntleted hand stroking a cat.  I just want something that is easy to use and accepts something like a string of keywords for each image and post.  What I have is HTML.  I am trying to shit out bad poetry here not learn a useful skill.  But you want to be successful so I suggest learning this stuff.  I am thinking of going to their campus with a sign and protesting until someone comes and sets up my blogger account correctly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A poem inspired by my daughters fears

There's a fall you feel
at the end of the day.
A broken felling
you know won't go away.

Silent and selfward
lurch worried through the night.
Bawling for being
and nothing feels just right.

breath out your worry
Scared little child.
Embrace this living
that I have long reviled.

Don't be the fish
who always longs to fly.
We are all grounded
No matter, hard we try.

Find in what you love
your meaning and it's peace.
In time were burning
Slipped fingers like grease.

Your loss is my loss
I can't turn it away.
Give your love child
It's all we have each day.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Dungeon and Dragons The Menace of the Underdark a review

Thanks to http://fatpenguinblog.com for the image
Well The Menace of the Underdark expansion is now upon us and Dungeons and Dragons online changed.  The game has been simplified and made easier.  Perhaps more alarmingly is a hint of fourth edition D&D mechanics creeping into the underlying game.  All and all I don't know if I like it as I am seeing less solid game play.  This would include coming from myself.

To dig into the expansion a bit they have changed the EPIC system so that there are now three versions of the epic dungeon.  Those are Normal, Hard and Elite.  Normal and Hard are pretty damn easy which sort of sucks.  The Elite is an increase over the old Epic which makes for a challenging run. This has the good effect of removing the equipment barrier from epics as now you can suck dick and do just fine in quests.  It also removes from of the separation between the TR and the non TR character.  As you don't have to fight through Epic quests that are out classing you to get tokens.

The new Epic leaves that you will be going through for level 20 to 25 are a combination of epic destiny and classes.  The class levels can be though of as non specific unclassed level that give a generic set of HP , save and skills to everyone.  So casters will be getting the same HP as the fighter. There are some epic feats which are pretty nice, the Bard song feat is an absolute must have.

The epic destinies are sort of the like the epic version of enhancements.  You start off with the freedom to select one of these, which should probably be the one associated with your class.  From there your points go into an advancement tree that is pretty World of Warcrafty.  These are cool as they allow you to fix problems with your character and are pretty easy to start attaining.  What I mean is you can get Hit point pretty easily through these destinies if you are low by taking the Barbarian tree.  The bard tree auto grants spell level increase which helps with my low DC's.  So I could start working up my crappy paladin and take hit points so he could go from pathetic to just plain bad.

The equipment awards in these quests is also very generous.  New equipment is on par with much of the green steel pieces.  Don't get me wrong you still want your Min2 Khopesh but you can easily do with some off hand that you find in epic quests.  The armor also get you near to the point of epic quests.  Finally some of the Forgotten Realms area quests yield collectibles that can be turned in for almost epic quality items.

All in all this allows for a pretty easy path to leveling up to twenty five and gaining high end equipment.  Changes in epic token yield makes challenges a must for TRing and I have got to say the first run of an epic quest can yield incredible experience points for not a lot of work.  For me this is a bit like the quarter change in coin op games.  You can have a great character with not a lot of skill.  Yes they have defanged many of the time sinks which is good but taking out the difficulty puts a lot more noobs in my pug groups.  And if I am in the group you already have at least one suck player.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Richard Scarry's Puzzletown part 4 People and Vehicles

Richard Scarry Puzzletown Cars
This is my latest update to my series about the 70's era Richard Scarry Puzzletown toys.  This was one of the two sets that came out in 1977 after the first five big sets were released.  I am not really sure where they were sold or how they were packaged.  I got my Rabbit, Pig and their cars from England via eBay.  The colors are almost a little off but the characters come up so seldom that i have no real frame of reference.  I also do not know the names of the characters other than the gorilla is named bananas.  From my first picture here you can see the cars. They are sort of similar to the apple, egg and doughnut car that come from the people, cars and places sets.  The wheels do match those of the cars from the original set though.   They are all two seater and have the same headlights and mini windshield.

Richard Scarry Puzzletown Pig and RabbitThe first two characters pictured here are mine, these are the ones from  England.   You can see the colors are weird as I have mentioned and the pointing is not as good as in the original set.  They still have the green bases that all the figures except lowly and the motorcycle dog have.  These do say 1977 on them.  I think they no longer mention Hong Kong the name is change here.  I think they actually say something like Singapore.

Richard Scarry Puzzletown Figures
I wanted to mention something from the rabbit figure.  You can see the head is not the same as in the hospital patient from the Doctor Loin set.  It has been re sculpted it is smaller as the figure is a bit taller.  One my dressed rabbit the head does not turn.  I am pretty sure this is the case for all of these new figures.

Richard Scarry Puzzletown Cars and PeopleYou can see the two figures in their own cars below.  There is a missing headlight on the pickle car.  This happened basically the day i gave it to my kid.  So be warned a kid that likes to throw things may not be the primary target for a toy of this time.  Especially if you are spending the sort of money it requires to get them off eBay.  Those prices are rough 

This get me to the figure for the banana car the gorilla.  I do have him but my kiddo likes to squirrel away here toys in all sort of little hide holes.  I regret to have broken him off his base as well.   That is how i know the heads don't turn on these toys. The colors of this toy are much more in line with the originals not so garish.  The eyes of the figurine are like those in the new pig and rabbit toys.

Please see my other Puzzletown posts Here and Here.

I also have a post located Here that list puzzletown toys

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Eastridge Mall

Thanks to http://bigmallrat.blogspot.com for the pic
I recently saw that Eastridge had gone through another upgrade.  Change has been a pretty constant companion for the mall over the years but for me Eastridge is the mall of yester year.  I grew up in the Berryesa area of San Jose so it was predetermined that this would be "The Mall" for me.  It was also clear from an early age that it was also "The Shit Mall".

Really it's pretty funny that I have had this association for so long, because there were not many other malls at the time.  The Great Mall was a Ford plant.  Valley Fair was open air and mostly deserted at the time.  Valleco was around but far away.  I think the Mayfield Mall was the only other mall my parents visited with any regularity.  You can see that something like Eastridge becomes the place to go pretty quickly.  But very early on I realized the location was pretty crappy and some of the clientele were pretty frightening.

The First Visit to Eastridge I have any recollection of was with my Gramma and Parents.  I am not sure why but my parents always entered through Penny's and so have I.  They always take the elevator and so do I.  Even to this day some thirty years later I take that nasty elevator.  This was early in the old malls life an it was awesome back then.  There was all this exposed black concrete and sunken seating areas.  There were some hella cool light towers that had ascending lights of various colors to check out.  This was right after Logan's Run it was high fucking tech for the day. This died away pretty quickly and even the nice fountain in the center of the mall has been relocated.

I remember the stores were all nice and on target for the era.  This was not the shit mall it would become a few years later.  But mostly of that first visit I remember the Pie Shop restaurant by the Macy's and King Norman's toys.  Those were awesome!  King Norman's was just light years ahead of the Long's Drugs toy aisle.  The pie shop my Mom and Gramma actually took me too without my asking.  Pumpkin flavored HEAVEN!

This wonderland of pie would soon change though.  The mall seemed to do retcons every few years, as there was always this creeping shitiness that assaulted it.  But the place changed, no pie or King Norman's.  But there were KB and Woolworths now.  Electronics Boutique opened up selling weird computer magazines that contained type written programs you were supposed to duplicate on your Commodore 64.  So there were still interesting stores for me. They even had a record store that sounds odd these days but yep they sold records and tapes.

My family moved nearer to the mall when I was around High School near this time.  This made it a bit of an after school hang out for my friends and I.  The mall was so big and poorly designed that a few kids could get away with murder in that place.  Some one in High School used to steal model train cars from KB toys, and the poor design of the malls second level made it so no one could ever catch him.  Seriously there was a second level in the center that had a four foot disconnect with the rest of the mall.  He just hopped a rail and was impossible to catch.  Still it's odd that a high school student would shoplift model trains.

Skateboards were the thing at the time so my friends would always ride in the mall and get yelled at by security.  They were paid enough to yell but gave up if to you took off.  We also knew the paths in back of the stores.  There is a sort of secret world of back passages hiding in the mall.  It allowed you to sort of disappear and come out in another part of the mall like a secret passage.  Even faster if you had a skateboard, well except for me.

Woolworth closing and Spirit taking up shop for a season was perhaps the sign of the end of the mall. At least for me it was.  Sure I visited the arcade up on the top floor by Sears but the mall continued to fall into ill repair.  There was a whole phase were there were nothing but off name stores in that place.  I instantly thought of Eastridge when seeing the Other Mall part in Mall Rats.  I hear now its all fixed up and nice.  I might even pay a visit and see if any of the old floor tiles from back in the day are hidden around the back corner areas.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Rush vs Wallflowers Deathmatch

I am not sure anyone but me hears this but I want to talk Rush.  OK here is Marcel Conte playing Rush.  You know the best band out of Canada, kicking ass since day one.  Here is a part of the song called "The Necromancer".  The specific name is " The Return of the Prince."  If you don't know this is from Rush's Caress of Steel which is better than 99.99 percent of records and it is a shame on your house if you don't own it.  I could go on but basically Rush rules and kicks all sorts of butt.  You need to buy their records and you will be happier than you are now.

Now that I have cleared that all up lets bring in the competition.  Back in the 90's Jason Dylan and the Wallflowers were heating up the radio waves with their particular blend of I don't know what.  I wasn't really a fan, of anything, at the time but I became aware their song The Three Marlena's.  For me it was like hey what the fuck this is Rush but in like a bad way.  I hear the music as the underlying guitar riff of "The Return of the Prince" being appropriated.  Here have a listen for yourself.  You can tell me if I am wrong.  JamesLRickel@gmail.com is my email address or you can use comments to tell me I am wrong.

I like Marcel's version of the song as you get a bit of the acoustic guitar playing the riff in question on its own.  I don't really know how to pull out just a part of a song so this is the best I can do.  Now if only The Wallflowers don't come and try and kick my ass I will be doing pretty good.  Anyway that is my though for the day.  Hope you have a good holiday America.

A Family Snapshot

Image from http://www.nicholscapguns.com/
As a dad I have an excuse to check out the toy store from time to time.  Sure I say I am looking for something for my Daughter but I also like to check out the boys section of the toy store too.  Checking out the newer version of boyhood favorites and such.  I have noticed one of the go to toys of my childhood missing though.  Where are the toy guns?  I was always a big fan of Dart guns and such, you are only going to find Nerf these days. I have no idea if cap guns are even legal and toy machine guns like I had are beyond consideration. 

The reason for course are politically correct chode nuggets.  You start selling toy guns in a high end toy store and I am sure you are going to have parents groups bearing down on you.  Even a nice quality cowboy cap gun with exquisite balance and solid construction will get you in trouble.

Besides the issue of violence and some hypocrisy with regard to the sale of toy swords, I want to ask a question.  Is not selling something to the children of the more affluent while allowing it to be sold to the less a form of class ism?  Or even racism when you consider the association of economics and race.

In stating this I am not suggesting a universal ban, but rather how our concerns separate us.  In essence we are dividing our culture through the play of our children.  You may notice this is the same argument that was are forcing gender roles on our kids.  It it but here we are forcing class roles.  The more we deny the further we separates. 

My suggestion is buy your kids a toy gun. Imagination play is essential.  Boys like Men are keyed to artifacts when playing in terms of objects, Imagined action is primary.  Often the play of female gender roles is keyed to the dress or uniform.  In limiting you are stripping your child with regard to the role of conflict.  Further your are instilling the notion that conflict is below your class as are jobs of conflict. This is dangerous.

Great Gig in the Sky

I'm struggling and its got through me.  From the ins to all my outlets the work suffers.  Not some other minded summer malaise but a down to the bones hollow that finds no core.  No center of magnetism to be acted upon and thrust this way or that.  Just through and through empty.  An authentic abscess to be welled up with worry and dread.  Swept up and given in to the sea, nevermind control of the moment, it's the rough water ahead that worries.  White knuckle hanging on to hands sinking beneath the water. Calm, Part, Swim, Please!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Illness on the Outside

The day is an IV drip
Waiting and confined.
Only ambling a bit
wheeling on waiting.
Someone's coming soon
to say cloudy what's next.
But they don't come
and hope collides fear.
Regimen moments resolve
the symptom today, but
a new complications soon