D&D: Testing Out A New Way to Roll Stats - TicTacToe

I have never been a fan of point buy system for D&D stats. I feel it lends itself a bit too much leeway for those people who are obsessed with building the "perfect" character build. I am not saying it is wrong, just I like the idea of D&D having a bit of randomness in everything it does to make the outcomes exciting and unpredictable. Typically I use the Standard Array system, but that admittingly gets pretty boring. There is of course the standard roll and drop method too, where you roll 4d6 dice, and drop the lowest number. You do that six times and add up your scores to get your character's scores. That works fairly well, but it can really skew someone's stats if they end up with even two very high or very poor scores. 

I have seen this "TicTacToe" method online which I sort of like, which should give people an option to not feel "locked in" if their roll and drop doesn't go their way. 

Here is how I understand to do it. Do your standard 4d6 roll and drop the lowest. You do it 9 times instead of 6 and place it into a 3x3 grid in the order you rolled it, left to right, top to bottom. You can then select one row and one column of numbers. They can overlap, but you cannot have your row and column overlap your highest number. This should give you a bit more options for choice and compromise and not have to feel so locked into to just choosing six numbers. It might even have you weighing some options or compromise. Do you take a row that has on really high stat with two low ones, or do you take the other row with all three numbers more balanced? 

So in this example attached I chose the 2nd column and last row, resulting in 16, 15, 15, 12,  9, 8.

I could not choose the 1st column and law row, because that would result in two 16's, which are the highest numbers in this case. Thoughts on this system? 


Videogaming: #MyDecadeOnXbox - AbleAmerek

TrueAchievements.com has a cool little summary of a users' past decade on Xbox. It is a cool little insight into my past decade playing Xbox. I am a bit surprised that I have been playing for ten years on Xbox to be honest. I actually think I picked up my 360 back around 2009, and that data is just this list. 

So take a look at this cool little infographic. 

Heilung - What a Great Show

Megan and I went to a great concert last night to see Heilung. Heilung is a sort of folk Scandinavian pagan band. I discovered them on Youtube about a year ago by accident. They were somehow recommended to me through Youtube's recommendation system, and I stumbled into watching an entire concert by them. 

They are doing their first US tour right now and Megan and I jumped at the chance to see the show. We thankfully got tickets and they sold out very quickly. So fast in fact that the show changed venues from the Vic to the Riviera Theatre. 

So the show was a 7:30 show and Megan and thought we would get there early, around 6:00 to get in line. Little did we know, the line extended around the block on three sides. Thankfully we got in pretty early and Megan grabbed some fantastic seats in the balcony. 


So the show started, and it was just as good as we hoped it would be. So enough of all the description, I'll just post some photos and videos. 

Want to hear more of Heilung? Here is the video that I originally saw them on: 

You can also check out their music over at Bandcamp. https://heilung.bandcamp.com


My Year in Books - 2019

I feel like this year was an "off" year for books. Looking back on the year, I don't feel like I was really excited for anything that I read. The vast majority of the books I read this year were in audiobook form. Sabriel was perhaps the book that I enjoyed the most this year, surprising me in how simple and how good it was. It is basically a folklore fairytale that was just a pure and enjoyable read. 

As part of our book club at work (which I think has died now), I read quite a bit of other novels including The Alice Network and A Gentleman in Moscow. Those books were good, but I never was truly captured by them. They served their purpose as book club reads to broaden my horizon, because they certainly were not books I would have read otherwise, but I can't say I was truly drawn into either of them. 

I started reading the Dervish House a few weeks ago, a book that has been sitting on my Kindle for years now, and it unfortunately did not spark my interest in reading. I have slogged through on to the second chapter and it unfortunately just seems a bit too heavy of a book for me right now. I think I will have to come back that that one. 

The Witcher on Netflix right now has in fact sparked my interest in reading again. I have been devouring that show this past holiday week and it has spurred me to get back into the books. I loved the Last Wish, the first book in the series and this show as sparked me to not only go back and read the books, but to also go and finish the Witcher 3 video game.  

OurHome App: What a cool way to track house chores

Megan and I recently came across a cool app that we are using to keep track and manage our chores and other tasks around the house. I have been struggling for a while now on divvying up household tasks. I have admiringly been frustrated as I feel like I am spending my days off doing more house chores than Megan. 

I have always used Omnifocus for my own task planning and project management. While I have used it for my own chores and errands as well, it seems to be a bit overkill for just managing chores around the house. It also unfortunately does not have a  good way to share tasks with other people in a shared in environment, and it is pretty expensive for an iOS app. 

After some searching online a few days ago I came upon the OurHome app, which seems like it perfectly fits the bill. It is originally designed for families to assign chores to kids, but if you read the reviews online it appears that there are a lot of couples using it to just manage their household. They even have a special FAQ section for that. 

OurHome  has the basic "to do" list and tasks list for chores, which is what we are using it for right now, but also has some really cool features that expand upon that that make it perfect for chores and house tasks. 

The app features a really nice "autofill" feature that will suggest different types of chores. You can also peruse their "suggestions list" for various household tasks that you need to get done. You can also assign tasks, setup reoccurring schedules and more. One really great feature is that you can have tasks that are setup to "always be available" everyday. Something simple, like making the bed is available once and can be done by whomever gets to it first. It is very quick to make a task, assign it to yourself, spouse of leave it open for anyone to do and then just move on. 

It follows the GTD metholdogy that i like to use whereas you need to get something out of your head as soon as you think of it, otherwise it'll be forgotten or take up previous headspace. 

One other thing that I like about the app is you can assign reward points for tasks as they are done. It defaults to a number of points associated with how long it takes to complete a tasks. 15 minutes = 15 points. This is a feature primarily aimed for kids, as they complete their chores, they accuse points which they can then cash back in to mom and dad for rewards, like a allowance, a trip to the movies or something. 

I don't quite know what we are going to do with this yet, but Megan and I both think it will be fun to setup some sort of rewards for each other that we can cash in. 

There is also a calendar feature for shared events, a grocery list and a message center for group chats. All, very cool features, but I'm not quite sure if we will end up using those. Time will tell I suppose. 




Book Review - The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a first novel by S.A. Chakraborty, this is a fantastic first entry to a trilogy. City of Brass has a wonderful world set around it. The middle eastern and Islamic setting is wonderfully done. It was exotic and new for a fantasy setting, but grounded in our own world, all while not making me feel like it was too alien to me.

I was enthralled by the context of the deserts, the flying carpets, the Ifrit and more. I was perplexed though with the Djinn culture. At times it seemed wonderfully magical and exotic, at other times a bit too human. The call outs early on in the book to the morning prayers specially stuck out to me, mainly because we never did get a better understanding of what the Djinn religion was, why it mattered, or why Ali was considered devout. These things were all mentioned several times, but never explored, so they felt like they didn't really need to be there. Ali just as easily could have been chaste (which is alluded to) because he was the second born (again alluded to) as it had to due with his religious devotion. I felt Chakraborty, danced around the edges of all of these topics as justifications, but didn't explore any of them deep enough to have them mean anything.

Chakraborty's characters overall I felt were pretty compelling, especially the king and the rest of the actors in the political court. The writing there to show how adept the king was at managing the political balance and teetering civil war was well done. Overall the supporting cast was fantastic.

I had issues with the main three characters though. Nahri, Ali and Dara all frustrated me on how one dimensional their characters seemed to be, especially in light of more dynamic supporting characters around them who seemed to have more depth in their motivations and political acuity. All three main characters were "extremes", so harsh in their views and convictions that I felt them to be unbelievable. Nahri especially had several passages where her self-doubt and self-depreciation came to the point where I said "enough already, I get it". I understand the character has an internal struggle that she is dealing with, but Chakraborty kept driving the point home again and again that it began to detract from the overall story.

The middle section was slow, mostly because of the aforementioned main characters issues I mentioned above. It felt even slower because none of them seemed to really grow or move at all. Nahri still doubted everything she was doing, Ali was still stubborn with his convictions, despite evidence against them and Dara was still an egotistical, angry, zealot, despite several attempts by the story to show interjections of them all breaking those molds. All three inevitably fell back, with almost no change or growth.

The last arc of the book was nicely written. Pieces were set in motion for the upcoming sequel and there were several instances of surprise that genuinely put a smile on my face. Chakraborty did a delightful job in writing suspenseful action sequences and I am genuinely looking forward to the next book. I just hope I can read less of Nahri asking "What? I don't understand." about the events in the world happening around her. A bit less denial and more self-determination would be nice.

View all my reviews

Music Listening: CD - The Wilderness - Explosions in the Sky

 

I was at the library this past week, checking out some new CD's to listen to and I came across this one sitting on the "New Releases" rack. 

Before I get into talking about this more, if you haven't been to your local library lately you should really go. There is a good chance that they now stock all sorts of music, DVD's, Blu-Rays, etc. that you can check out and listen to. It is a really great way to find some stuff. Some libraries even have online resources where you can do this on an app right from your phone/tablet. 

Back to the album, I saw this new CD sitting on the rack entitled "The Wilderness" from Explosions in the Sky. The cover art is what immediately caught my eye and I decided to go ahead and check it out and see what it what was. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a great album here, so much so that I actually went online to find out more information about the band. 

Explosions in the Sky is an instrumental rock band. Pitchfork has them identified as a "post-rock" sound. I have no idea what that means, but I could see how some of the music here would be familiar to those of you who listen to Mogwai or Tycho. There is an ethereal quality to the music, but it still comes across as "rock". Not hard mind you, but there is no mistaking the instrumentation as being guitars, keyboards and drums. I can see this album as being a great one to listen to when you are wanting to relax, perhaps unwind after the day. A vinyl version would almost certainly be excellent for this sort of album as well. Thankfully, they are on Bandcamp so definitely take a list to the link I provided above. I think you all may be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

So how is that D&D gaming going?

Remember a couple of months ago how I stated I was going to be DM'ing a D&D game despite never having played the game before? So, some of you may be wondering how that is going.

Overall, I think everyone is having a great time, including myself. There are certainly some learning curves and road blocks along the way, but I think everyone in the group is rolling with the punches as best we can. There is a quote that I saw online that I think sums up common problems;

 "D&D is a game where a three hour walk takes five minutes and a five minute fight takes three hours."

There has been two encounters so far in the game where the fight dragged on way longer than it should have. Both times the battle took up most of the evening's play time and I could see that several of the party members were beginning to get bored. I wish I was able to do better in those and find a way to resolve the conflict more quickly, but I'll just chalk that up to inexperience and move on from there. 

One of our players and his wife clearly have played a lot, so he has been wonderful to help me out on some rules questions without interjecting himself too much into the role of being a "sideline quarterback". 

Here is a quick smattering of some of the more memorable moments that have occurred in the game so far. 

  • Our Dwarf has decided to carry a door around on his back. He used it as a shield at one point and never stated that he dropped it, so I have just said to him that he still has the door. It has become a funny on going joke. 
  • Our group has decided to pick a fight with almost every person they meet, resulting in the death of several different NPC's that they could have interacted with. 
  • Our Monk promised to help a goblin to oust her tribe's leader, only to end up killing her when she trusted him the most. He actually felt bad about his actions after that. 

Now, we have had a couple of "rough" moments in the game and one of those moments spilled out to a real heated conflict during our session this past Friday. Throughout the game thus far there has been a sort of "mistrust" dynamic between the Wizard and Monk in the group. So far, it had always been a sort of fun mechanic and the two of them had a "Gimli and Legolas" sort of relationship. They would tease each other, etc. Unfortunately, that back and forth spilled out of the game this past Friday and I had my first instance where I had to pull someone aside and talk to them about some conflicts in the game. 

The problem started when our Monk indicated that he was part of the Zhentarim faction. The group had run in with some NPC's from this faction near the beginning of the game and our Monk was not yet playing with us. When he revealed his membership, he did so in such a way that the people playing the game knew about it, but that their characters would not. This resulted in some problems where one of our members began to unreasonably challenge and question our Monk and in the end he actually just decided to stop actively participating in the game at all. 

It resulted in a pretty awkward situation for everyone sitting around the table. I talked to the character and I hope that everything has been smoothed over and we can continue without any issues as we move forward. 

Overall though, I have to say it has been an enjoyable experience playing and DM'ing so far and I can see myself doing more of it.