Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Hammer of War

I really have to stop saying “never.” I said I'd never write a blog – yet here I am, as I am almost every Sunday morning writing a blog. I said I'd never play World of Warcraft – I ended up addicted to it for a year and a half. And, of course, I said I'd never have a MySpace, Facebook or Twitter account, and yet I have all three! So, here's my latest never that's about to be trumped – I'll never play Warhammer. Yeah, right.

Now, I have good reasons to say that I'll never play Warhammer, or it's Sci-Fi cousin Warhammer 40,000 (or 40k for short). First of all, it's expensive as hell! Have you ever priced any of this stuff? The starter kit is $90! $90!? Really? For a friggin' tabletop game, that you have to put the damn pieces together yourself!? Fuck that! Then there's that – the having to put them together yourself. I mean, Axis & Allies was a fairly expensive board game at around $50, but at least the pieces were already together – we opened the box, read the rules and started playing right away. But not Warhammer; oh hell no. You have have put the models together and paint them first. WTF? Several years ago a friend of mine actually gave me a starter set for Warhammer: The Game of Fantasy Battles. He had won it or something. It seemed intriguing at the time, but then I found a hobby shop that sold the extra pieces for it and noticed the price of the stuff. It's like one part model building/painting mixed with one part collectible card game/deck building. You keep building and expanding your army. You buy more models, put them together, paint them, then find other people who've done the same and have table top battles.(1) I like the concept to be honest. Strategy, luck of the dice – I even like the model building and painting thing. But why in the hell do these things cost so much? I'm sorry, but no one is ever going to convince me these things are fairly priced. $90 for a box of little plastic models I have to paint and put together myself is pretty ridiculous. And yet, yesterday I went out and got paints and brushes so I could start painting the models I was given years ago.(2) I'm watching eBay for deals on 40k models so I can start building an army of Space Wolves. I've obtained the rulebook and codex for the 40k army I want to build so I can learn how to play. Truth be told, I'm more interested in the modeling part of the process than I am the game at this point, mainly because the only people I know who could teach me to play live hundreds of miles away, and one of them is even in a different time zone. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the relaxing hobby of building and painting models like I used to when I was a kid. And if I'm going to start building models, I might as well let it tie in to my normal gaming-geek nature and let those be war gaming models, I suppose.

~ JC

(1) To explain, in brief, for those to lazy to click on all the links I've provided and go read up on it for yourself – the starter kits are plenty for you to be able to play the game. But most people get into the hobby as a whole, that being the collecting, building and painting of the models and thereby being able to improve and expand one's army. The game uses a point system to keep things fair, so some guy who only owns, say 410 points worth of models (which is about what the starter box for the Space Wolves I plan to play is) isn't going to get crushed by the guy who owns 2000 points worth of models (like my best friend's Blood Angels army that he's built over several months). The guy with the 2000 would have to reduce his force proportionately so the match is fair.

(2) I don't really plan to play either of the armies that came in the Warhammer Fantasy set I have. I'm just going to paint them so I can practice painting miniatures. I haven't painted miniatures in almost a decade and a half (back then minis were just something we used as a visual aid for D&D and not an essential part of role playing – but that's another rant for another time)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Keep Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Anyone who's read my blog regularly knows I'm a bit of a gamer. My roots go back to 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and I even dabbled a bit in Star Frontiers and Top Secret. More recently I've been playing Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game™ and Rifts® with plans to possibly start playing in the World of Darkness system. The one thing all of these games, and others like them, have in common is dice. Even though the main premise is to create a character and develop a persona for that character, there are situations that just can't be role-played. Combat is the most typical situation (roll to see if you hit your target, roll to see how much damage you did to the target, etc.), but there are others – e.g., you can't just tell the Game Master, “I kick down this door” and that's that; dice are rolled to determine if you were successful or if the door was just to solid for you to kick down. Anyone who has ever played, or seen played, a typical role playing game knows that the dice used are not (necessarily) the typical 6-sided cubes found on a Vegas craps table. Pictured below is my current collection of dice:

As you can see from the photo, the aforementioned cubes are present, but there are several others ranging from 4-sides to the famous D20 (20-sided die). During my off-again-on-again “career” in D&D et.,al. I've owned several sets of dice. Hell, I practically used to collect them* and at one time I even owned a couple of 30-sided dice, although I'm not quite sure why I bought those other than the novelty of them. The interesting thing is, the above set of dice never come out of the bag anymore. With my group being flung from North Carolina to Texas and even all the way up to Michigan and our getting together using online tools such as OpenRPG and Ventrilo, we use virtual dice these days. The dice buttons in OpenRPG that allow us to “roll” for combat attacks and damage serve their purpose I suppose, but sometimes it just doesn't quite feel the same, you know? I love that my buddies and I found a way to continue playing even though we live hundreds of miles apart from each other, but I still miss breaking out my dice bag every week. It also has me wondering about the accuracy of the virtual dice versus the real thing. Now, it's been fifteen years or more since I took that class on Finite Mathematics (and for that matter, I withdrew from it), so I'm not going to attempt to calculate probabilities of rolling a 20 on a D20, blah, blah, blah. But what I did do was roll my favorite real D20 (that would be the purple one in the picture above), the virtual D20 in OpenRPG and a virtual D20 in an app called Dice Bag on my MotoDroid ten times each just to see what kind of results I'd get:
  • Real D20: 11, 17, 5, 10, 2, 4, 10, 9, 1, 10
  • OpenRPG D20: 3, 15, 20, 11, 1, 7, 19, 2, 4, 17
  • Dice Bag App: 19, 19, 6, 16, 1, 11, 8, 14, 20, 4
Ok, so I really don't know what any of that means, but it was a fun experiment to do. Seems like the OpenRPG rolls seemed the most balanced ranging from low to high, while the Dice Bag rolls were a bit overpowered and the real D20 stayed pretty average. Interesting how all three gave me a 1 once while the real D20 was the only one not to come up with a natural-20. Either way, be it plastic, metal, or virtual, I'll keep rolling the dice.

~ JC

*NOTE: I used to own a lot more dice sets than I currently do. During my fundamentalist-right-wing-Christian phase of life, I probably trashed or burned them. Sad, eh? That I'd allow a religious group to so influence me that I'd believe a game could do me spritiual and mental harm? But that's a whole separate issue (hmmm.... maybe another blog topic for the future? We shall see).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Color Me Purple

I have never particularly felt the need to wax political in my blog. Today is a little different, mainly because I have reached a point where I am just sick and tired of all the political rigmarole currently in the news. The frank fact of the matter is, both political parties can suck it! For the record, yes, I am registered as a Republican – but I am seriously considering changing that to Independent. Notice I said Independent and not Democrat. As I implied with my “both political parties can suck it” comment, I have no use for either of the two. The political scene in the United States has become so partisan and divisive that it is a wonder that anything gets done. The two parties spend more time arguing with each other and trying to prove how evil the other is to pay any attention to what the citizens of this country want. Don't get me wrong, I am quite aware that the United States is not a pure democracy – it is a republic (i.e., the people don't vote on every issue; we elect other people to represent us who then vote on said issues ostensibly on our behalf). But that still does not change the fact that the people do get to vote for who represents them in said republic, and those representatives simply have come to a point where they are so concerned with their own agendas that they are failing to do their jobs, namely representing the people.

I will be the first to admit that I am really no expert on politics, but it just seems to me that most people I talk to are more likely to take each issue on its own merits while the pundits and politicians vote on party lines or automatically jump to the conservative or liberal side of every argument. They don't weigh each issue, they just go with whatever their political party's stance is like lemmings over a cliff. I don't subscribe to that point of view – I believe each issue needs to be weighed individually. Our so called leaders have demonstrated that they either don't have the ability to think for themselves, or they just don't give a shit what the opinion of their constituents is on the issue at hand. For example, the health care issue. Now, I'm not trying to debate this issue here, but it is very much a hot button issue so I'll use it as an example of how our government doesn't care about us as much as it claims to. The health care bill was largely unpopular (at least, the way it was written). Even people who voted as they did in the 2008 election because they wanted the health care that Obama promised largely disagreed with how it was being handled by Congress. Yet, it passed anyway! Approval ratings of those involved in passing it dropped virtually over night. Some states even threatened law suits against the federal government. As I said, I'm not here to debate health care, but it is a prime example of how the political machine has started to break down and fail, if for no other reason than that our leaders have decided we're all children to be seen and not heard. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Louisiana coast is another prime example of a government that does nothing. They had weeks to formulate a plan to keep that oil from reaching the coast, and several ideas were given. Alas, the government again sat their holding its dick, and now we have oil in the marshlands and making its way to every beach that touches the gulf.

So, without going into an overly long diatribe, here's my (very brief) take on both parties:
Democrats – claim to be for the poor and working class, but clearly don't get the fact that over regulation of big corporations stagnates the free market and eventually costs jobs because the companies that employ the poor and working class will eventually lay them off or fire them to keep their profit margin (not saying I believe in big corporations, just saying, those companies will fire the little guys before the executives give up their large salaries). The Democrats, in my not so humble opinion, really are leading us down a path toward Communism by their seeming desire to make the Federal Government have its hand in every cookie jar in the country and having a say in everything. They are flaming hypocrites who are themselves millionaires but like to criticize the rich. They come up with social agendas, not out of a sense of wanting to help those less fortunate, but because they feel guilty for having more or feel superior and think only they know what's best for those with less.
Republicans – their claim of wanting smaller government and less government control is total bullshit. Example, how can you say you want more civil liberties and less government control, but then deny civil liberties such as marriage between same-sex couples? Explain that? How can you claim separation of church and state when you perceive that a church's rights are being denied, but still insist that there be prayer in public schools? The Republican party has allowed itself to become entirely to inundated with fundamentalist Christians who want the US to become a theocracy. They've also adopted the attitude of opposing anything the Democrats put on the table just because it was proposed by a Democrat – an “us versus them” attitude that exacerbates an already torrid working relationship.
Yes, I realize that opinions are like assholes – everyone has one and it almost always smells like shit. These are my opinions. Don't like them? Great, that's your right. Now, ask yourself why you don't like my opinion – is it because you sincerely and thoughtfully disagree with my conclusion? Or is it because I prefer to combine Red and Blue to make Purple? As I said, I didn't write this to express my opinions on all the issues and topics ranted about in the news everyday. In general, I don't even really like talking about politics, especially recently, because all it does is lead to arguments. We have become so polarized over the last few years in this nation that it's a wonder our government still functions at all. And with the so called mid-term elections coming up, things are already getting heated even among candidates are in the same party! There are run off elections going on because so many people are vying for the same seat that no one can get a clear majority of votes. Hell, maybe I should have put my name in for consideration; I doubt I would have won, but hey, maybe it would have gotten me a book deal and a chance to be on TV. I mean, that's why these other assholes run for office right? At least, that's how it seems to me.

Until next time kids,
~ JC

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Simply Simple

Ah, Sunday mornings. My blogging day. Roxanne's still asleep. The house is quiet. I've got my music going (softly-ish so it doesn't wake Roxanne). I am on my second cup of coffee. I have my e-cigarette so I can smoke at my desk instead of going outside. In the words of Ron White, “It's gonna be a good day, Tater.” Lately I have been thinking about all the technology we have access to, and more importantly the technology that I personally own. In fact, I was originally going to write a bit this morning about things like extensions for Google Chrome and apps for my Droid. But I think today is a better day to sit back and ponder the simpler things in life. I am definitely a techno-geek; I own gadgets, I read about gadgets I want to own and things that can make the ones I do run even better. The interesting thing is, sometimes I would rather put all that crap aside and just listen to some good music and read a book – a real book not an e-book. It just seems these days that everywhere you look something has an “e” or an “i” in front of its name. As much as I love my gadgets and having access to video games and digital music, sometimes you have to wonder if we've become to dependent upon it. I used to know how to spell, until spell checker. I used to be able to memorize phone numbers, until we had cellphones that could store hundreds of them for us. I actually have an e-book reader app on my MotoDroid, but I still can't bring myself to read a book using it – I guess I just love the feel and smell of the real thing to much. I keep saying that I need to spend more time at my favorite coffee-shop. That's an activity that used to occur a few times a week. Now, it's weeks between trips. I keep saying I want to start reading again like I used to (maybe a book a week but now it's more like a book a month or longer). It's technology's fault I say! The shiny, sparkly lights, the allure of the 3D images on the screen, the having to know what everyone is Facebooking or Twittering all the time lest I miss something [not really] important. We all just need to slow down. Enjoy simpler things, like a glass of sweet iced-tea, a cold beer, a good book, or sometimes just sitting in silence without all the beeping and blinking and flashing distracting us. So, today, I think that's what I'll do. A good book and a lovely beverage, maybe some music (ok, so music will mean I have to use a gadget, but in moderation) and make my Sunday the day of rest it is supposed to be.

~ JC

PS. In way of a disclaimer, I already know I have to potentially go do some errands/shopping later which will totally mess up my whole “day of rest” motif for the day. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do ;-)