Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Partial Party Kill

This post is all about D&D stuff. Feel free to move along if that doesn’t interest you.

The game last night ended with one casualty from the adventuring group. I’m hoping they’ll learn little things about the campaign from this: things like “sound carries”. (I know I'm picking on them, but if you can't laugh at a D&D game, what can you laugh at?)

The party (all first level, by the way) has been wandering around in a crypt trying to eliminate a problem with ghouls that have been plaguing the locals. They’ve long since determined that grave robbers had been at the place long before they arrived, but they did finally find a secret mausoleum that hadn’t been opened yet. So, naturally, they robbed it, setting off two traps that they had already discovered before getting at the little bit of loot therein. OK, I did put some loot in the sarcophagi expecting such, but it’s still kind of impolite. Not exactly a Lawful Good band of adventurers, here. Anyway, the traps were not excessively deadly, but the group did use up some of their healing magic to recover from them.

Of course, getting at that loot involved opening the sarcophagi (which is where the traps were set off) and then breaking open the coffins inside (which were nailed shut, naturally). Chopping through the lid of a coffin with a hand axe is not only uncivilized, it’s noisy. As I said, sound carries; in this case, it carried all the way down the hall to where the Big Bad was hanging out.

Big Bad was a fifth-level cleric. He was a somewhat fragile cleric, having no armor to speak of, mediocre hit points, and a selection of prepared spells that wasn’t exactly optimized for combat (The guy lived in an underground crypt, ok? Create food and water needed to be on his list). Encountered with just his one bodyguard, I figured he’d be manageable even for a party of first-level adventurers; I’ve seen published adventures with similar bosses. Plus, he’d be worth a ton of experience for them.

Alas, as I’ve said, sound carries. Big Bad heard the chopping and decided to see what was going on. Not being an idiot, he brought not only his bodyguard, but gathered up all the other zombies he had in the vicinity, as well. The rating of the encounter jumped from “very difficult” to “overpowering”.

Fortunately, the party was able to hear them coming (the Big Bad’s bodyguard was a zombie dwarf in full armor). Not so fortunately, they rushed out into the hall to take him on. Thanks to the non-existence of his armor and the non-confrontational nature of his prepared spells, they did manage to drop him. One of the players even thought of using a Bull Rush to displace the zombie line so they could reach him.

Of course, by the time they did get him down, he’d already incapacitated one of the party clerics, and the other was soon dropped by a zombie. The dwarf zombie bodyguard fell, but the party’s dwarf fighter was himself brought to the brink of collapse by the two remaining zombies.

The remaining party members, the party rogue and the barely-standing dwarf, began a fighting retreat, leaving the party clerics on the floor to bleed to death (the right thing to do, mind you… staying to fight the zombies would have certainly led to a total party kill). The dwarf used up all his throwing axes and a one-shot magic hammer they'd been given before starting the mission to bring down one of the two remaining zombies, while the rogue pelted the other with a few sling bullets before realizing they were having no effect whatsoever.

Finally, they remembered they had flasks of oil in their packs. Four improvised Molotov cocktails (with very lucky to-hit and damage rolls) later, the last zombie was a smelly heap of burned icky stuff on the floor.

Did I mention that the clerics totally forgot that they can turn undead? They did.

One of the fallen clerics stabilized, but the other bled out and perished, meaning they will have to recruit a new character. Maybe the party will have an arcane spell caster next time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


There's a Java applet by an IBM employee that takes text -- hand-typed or linked from a web page -- and slaps it into a sort of word-collage. Naturally I had to run it against the Saga just to see what would happen. Taken out of context, the result is actually somewhat incriminating.

Click the image to go to the Wordle site and see the thing full-size.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hobbit Script Heads for Disaster

I was afraid something like this would happen. Peter Jackson has decided to write the screenplay for The Hobbit himself, with some help from director Guillermo del Toro. He didn't do enough damage to The Two Towers and The Return of the King, so he has to abuse The Hobbit, too.

Dreary, dreary me.

In case you're wondering why this annoys me, let me explain a bit:
  • Merry and Pippin were not idiots (in fact, they planned and executed Frodo's escape from the Shire).
  • Aragorn was not a self-doubting emo.
  • Legolas was not Neo.
  • Gimli was not cheap comic relief.
  • Frodo was not a damsel in distress, and he never went to Osgiliath.
  • Faramir was not Boromir-light.
  • Frodo and Sam never had a falling out.
It's one thing to edit the story for the big screen; it's another to radically change it. About the only thing he got unequivocally right was Boromir.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kinoki Exposed: Go NPR

Remember how I talked about the foolishness of Kinoki footpads a few months ago?

Well, NPR carried a story about them last night. Seems they went and performed some of the tests we were all wanting to hear about. They did before-and-after tests on Kinoki footpads to see if they actually picked up any heavy metals or other toxins after being on someone's feet overnight. The result? No difference in composition between a used pad and an unused pad: no toxins or metals picked up.

And the discoloration of the the Kinoki pads? Seems that if you hold a Kinoki pad in the steam from a pot of boiling water, it will turn black; something in them darkens when exposed to warmth and moisture.

The Verdict: Kinoki pads are completely useless. I can't say I'm surprised.

I'm also not surprised that the makers of Kinoki didn't return NPR's phone calls.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Long Line

For your instruction herein, when you practice in a chamber, look what board you stand upon; you should in delivering either blow or thrust always step fourth with your right foot upon the same board which the left foot stands on, for look how much you left your fore foot wide of the straight line towards your enemy, you lose so much in your reach forward, as in your practice you may see the trial and used often in practice in some chambers with your friend until you are perfect.
--Joseph Swetnam, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Chapter 12
In a nutshell, to get the longest possible lunge, you should not just move your lead foot straight forward, but actually move it directly in front of your other foot, so your two feet fall in a line directly toward your opponent. If you step off that line by any amount during your lunge, you lose that amount from the reach of your thrust. Interesting. I'll have to practice that when I get a chance. Seems like it would make you a bit unstable on a lunge, but Swetnam's basic stance sounds awfully unstable, too, yet you get used to it after a while.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Know Your Enemy

"This know and remember it well, it is the nature of an Englishman to strike with what weapon soever he fights with all, and not one in twenty but in fury and anger will strike unto no other place but only to the head."
--Joseph Swetnam, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Chapter 12
I guess this just goes to show what influence the behavioral tendencies of opponents in a given area are likely to have upon the techniques developed by professional fighters there.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Music in the Vines

Music in the VinesThis post combines basic entertainment with a bit of food porn. William, Juliana, and I went down to Arrington Vineyard for one of their "Music in the Vines" evenings. It's basically a big, open picnic with a small band. Arrington really is a beautiful place to sit out on a warm summer evening, sipping wine and nibbling something fancy.

KjottsalatWhich brings us to the food porn aspect of this post. I went on a Norwegian cooking spree this weekend, with the help of William and Juliana, of course. We did all the cooking on Friday, and had a dinner of Kjottsalat with Hassellback potatoes and sugar snap peas. All good stuff, and pleasantly cool for summer. Also, on Friday night, I started the Beer Pickled Salmon that we would be having the next day at the vinyard, along with spinach salad, bread, cheese, and assorted fruit. Light fare, but wonderfully decadent, and also cool for a warm summer night. It's a good thing I ended up making a lot more salmon that we actually needed, because the staff at Arrington really wanted to try it.

TablegatingThere's a "tablegating" contest at these events, too, to have the spiffiest table setting. Naturally we wouldn't want to disappoint in that area, and with all the feastgear that SCA people accumulate, we were pretty well prepared for setting a nice table. Alas, no one from Arrington came around to say whether anybody actually won the contest that night; given how overrun they were in the wine room, I doubt they had any time to spare for it. Oh well, we'll be back to try again.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dr. Horrible

I finally got around to watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Not too impressed, really. Joss Whedon has done the musical bit before (Buffy, "Once More, With Feeling"), so that's not much of an innovation. It's pretty much a bog-standard villain origin story, so nothing new there, either. The only thing really new about it is the internet delivery mechanism.

And since I've already gone on at length about accusations that Joss Whedon is anti-feminist, I might as well point out that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is fodder for their claims, since Penny is a classic example of the Woman in the Refrigerator.

Gotta love "Bad Horse: The Thoroughbred of Sin", though.