We had a fantastic summer evening a few weeks ago and I. took Megan out to the Planetarium down in the city for a quick look at the city lights and to get some ice cream.
A few weeks ago I sold my Dirtywave M8 to free up some funds and get an Akai MPC One. The Dirtywave was not jelling with me and I think my days as a tracker users have come and gone. I had the M8 for maybe a year and I was not able to really get anything productive out of it. Now, don't get me wrong, it is a super impressive piece of hardware, the workflow just wasn't quite working for me.
I've had my eye on picking up an MPC for years. It is after all a fairly iconic piece of music equipment in its various iterations. An updated version of the One+ was release a few months ago and at a reasonable price of around $700 I figured this might be my opportunity time to jump into the MPC world.
So far, I have to say that I am really digging the MPC. The sounds alone that came with it or that are available on Akai's website are impressive and pretty deep. There is a lot right out of the gate that can get you going with music. It is apparent though that many of the sounds are hiphop oriented and you can also tell from the legacy of the device how the sort of 80-115 BMP slow groove that comes from sampling exists. The sound libraries reenforce that and the sampling tools sort of reinforce that as well. I am super curious to see what sort of music I make on this device, because while you can certainly make "techno" or dance music, the vibe I get just seems a bit slower tempo.
I am really taking this opportunity with the MPC to dig into the sampling, which is an area of music production I have never been proficient in. The One+ does have some synth plugins, but it appears that the CPU resources are fairly limited, and as I mentioned above, the pedigree just leans into that sampling world. You can see that right on the way the interface is designed, where "Sampler" and "Sample" edit or very prominently labeled on the front panel.
I am working through the Akai Youtube channels introduction series and that is affording a pretty good intro on how the MPC works. It does have a bit of a learning curve, especially as someone who has now 20 years of using other groove boxes. Akai likes to use their own terminology for things. For example "quantization" is called "Time Control" or TC. Projects are broken down into Sequences, Tracks and then Programs. The Sequence is sort of how you would think of Patterns on other machines where you can have multiple tracks loaded into a sequence. Programs are basically the synth preset or drum kit that are loaded into a track.
As far as I can tell the MPC also does not have a linear tracking song mode, as you might find in a traditional DAW or some other workstations. It seems in this respect it does follow the sort of traditional "tracker" style sequencing methodology where you can take your sequences (i.e. Sequence 1, Sequence 2, etc.) and then place them in an order you like to be triggered. You aren't sequencing the individual tracks.
There are a couple of other really interesting features that I hope to dig into more. As one might expect the sampling features are very deep. There is some very impressive tools here that instantly make my realize why this is such a well regarded sampler. It even has a feature where you can trigger a synth via midi to play through a series of notes that can be recorded into the machine as a multi-sample. That sounds fantastic as I can see myself sampling my Command Station. I hope that importing a series of samples already setup as a multi-sampled instrument is just as simple.
So despite the machine itself being pretty fantastic, there are a handful of frustrations with the MPC that I have experienced so far. The first is the pads themselves. They are incredibly firm and have no "give" to them. I'm not sure if this how all MPC's are, but I was expecting something closer to the pads on my Command Station, so there is a bit of adjustment that needs to occur there.
The second issue largely comes down to the product support. The MPC ships without a manual of any sort and to make matters even more frustration the .PDF manual that is online covers all of the products in the currently MPC line (One, Live, X) so moving through it to learn the product is a tedious endeavor. The sample libraries offered from Akai's website also are tied into the MPC Software which you install onto your computer. Looking through Reddit it does appear that there are ways to get around installing all of this software, but Akai intentionally makes it obtuse, utilizing .pkg installer files for the samples. Adding insult to injury on that front, the MPC Software and associated samples cannot be installed onto an external HDD, they are installed onto your computers main's HDD, which I resume most musicians don't do.
Overall though a real nice piece of kit that I am enjoying and I anticipate utilizing quite a bit over the coming months.
We left off from our last session with the party trying to decide on their next steps. Having made a positive contact with Breylor, they obtained a key to the church and the name of an insider at Aces & Tails called Sanmoor, along with a bottle of poison to be used for either target.
We completed out latest session of Cairn this past Friday, and it was perhaps the most interesting session we have played to date. There were no dice rolls at all during this session. It was all role-play. Some players definitely enjoyed this, but I could tell that some others did not care for the session as much.
So, as my latest creative experiment I have decided to give my hand a go at developing an RPG system. I don't anticipate creating anything truly groundbreaking, but I figured it would be a fun experiment to explore the development process and explore different concepts in RPG's.
I have setup a Github site to track the documents as I write them out and I think I'll share those in the coming weeks along with a new development blog as soon as I get a little bit further along in the process. But for now, let's go ahead and share the design concept that I have put together so far for this thought experiment.
Beyond the Torchlight is a simple RPG system that is intended to be transferable across settings, with the intent to make a system that can be played in both fantasy, modern or futuristic settings. It will be focused around a West Marches style gameplay and will allow for tools to build a town and branching adventures from that town.
It's been a few weeks since I have posted an update to our Friday's with Cairn report. Our group has actually played I think three sessions since my last posting and there has been some interesting developments along the way. Let's take a look at how that has been going.
After leaving the Kobold lair and successfully gaining information on the location of the goblins in the Old Island Fortress, our group continued north making their way into in a meeting or war room. The room was damp and featured significant decay to a large table in the center of the room. Cybil stumbled across a pit trip on the inside of this room adjacent to the wet door, which lead back out to the main entrance hallway. She luckily succeeded on her Dex saving throw and was able to avoid damage.
While exploring the room the party observed that there were doors at all four compass points. All of them were of the same construction and opened into this room except the eastern door, which appear to be made of much better construction and with a different iron hinge. That opened into another room to the east (Room 13) which was a storage room for various treasures. This storage room did not have the water damage that the war room had, and in fact had a significant layer of very fine dust, so much so that it kicked up into the air just from the motion of the door opening.
Cwingwald suggested that the party close the door behind them when entering this room, but the rest of the party disagreed. Thankful that they did, because once the party stepped into the room with their torch, they kicked up dust that lit into a significant fireball. Several members failed their saves and took fire damage, while a few other were able to dive back out into the War Room. They quickly closed the door behind them and unfortunately the treasures inside were burned in the resulting fire.
After briefly recovering the party continued north to a long an angled hall filled with columns. In the center of this room was a large statute decorated similar to a Greek solider with a shield and spear pointed down towards a large iron chest on the floor. The face of the statute was damaged and broken on the floor.
Canhoreal had a lock pick set and attempted to pick the lock on the chest. Upon his attempt the spear of the soldier shot down and gave him piercing damage. The party approached the chest from the sides and were able to rotate it 90 degrees to get it out of the line of the spear and upon opening it found several precious stones in addition to some gold.
Continuing through the dungeon the party finally came across the goblins in question. They laid a bear trap in the hallway and enticed the goblins into the hallway and an ambush. They were successful in doing so, but the battle was hard won. During the melee, both Canhoreal and Beatrice went down after failing a Str save, but having Str remaining. Once the goblins were successfully dispatched the party had to make some decisions. They quickly decided that they needed to get out of the fort if they were to have any chance of saving either Canhoreal's or Beatrice's life. They broke off a couple of rotting boards from the table in the war room to use a stretchers and four party members quickly carried the two injured parties out to try and get back to the farmer's place as quickly as possible. The remaining party members took stock of their remaining provisions and followed behind a few moments later.
They thankfully passed their encounters check, but I required both Canhoreal and Beatrice to continue to roll strength saves, once per hour by reducing their remaining Str by 1d4 per hour. Should they reach 0 Str they would be dead.
The party moved as quickly as they could, each making Dex saves again when crossing the river in the canoe, but in the end Beatrice unfortunately did not make it. Canhoreal was able to survive taking a Sundering wound as a result of the combat as well.
The party decided to take stock of their endeavors to date, twice having to escape from the fortress with their lives barely in tact, but without the sword which they were originally striving to obtain. They acquired a decent sum of money and several treasure items that they did have the opportunity to sell.
Running low on provisions they made the decision to retire to Morgansfort and re-assess. They held a brief water funeral for Beatrice and then divided up her possessions amongst the group before making their way back.
Once back at Morgansfort the party decided to part ways with Wenlan and 2Can and pursue other interests. They were informed that there was a town north of Morgansfort called Firston, which would be a place that they could sell their treasures and possibly find other employment. Morgansfort itself was happy to purchase the weapons and armor from Beatrice, but did not have the means to purchase the treasure items.
Before their departure Wenlan sent off the party with a warm farewell and informed them that he was going to attempt the Olde Fort once again. Should the party want to look him up in the future, he was going to venture west of Firston into the wilderness, and he extended himself as a positive friend and relation to the party in the future.
Heading out on the road back to Firston the party was traveling on a relatively path, however, no road is truly safe on the wilderness edge of the Urd Empire. The first half of their journey was without incident, but light rain persisted throughout the day. Late in the afternoon the party came across their first obstacle, which was a Wood Troll feeding on a deer it caught along the road. The road at this location was fairly clear on either side with approximately 1/4 mile of grassland on either side and the ocean to the east and the woods to the west. The party elected to avoid the Troll entirely and spent an additional couple of hours moving through the grassland off the road to avoid the troll. The party rolled a "Group" Dex save to see if they could get past the Troll without notice and every member of the party succeeded.
That evening while setting up camp, most of the party members chose to sleep in their backpacks to avoid the wet ground and the consequences of that action. Their treasures were therefore piled under one of their wagons. The treasure attracted the attention of a Boggart who wanted to get its hands on some of their "shiny and glittery". Cybil deftly negotiated with the Boggart and even caught it in a foot race due to some excellent manipulation by tossing a silver coin at the creature. Upon capture she made the Boggart promise to not bother them the remainder of that night and they received its word.
The next morning the party arrived at Firston and quickly decided to sell their treasure items and dive up the treasure amongst themselves. Cybil decided she was to retire from adventuring, making just over 100 gold total and the party had an opportunity to meet their two new companions.
Gruid came to replace Cybil and is a local of Firston. Known as a loafer, he is a "has been" ranger who now mostly spends his time as a local beggar, well past his best days. He quickly tried to approach the party, seeing they enter Firston from the Morgransfort road, which is an unusual occurrence.
Boroth is also a Firston native and a known gambler who is habitually down on their luck.
The party decided to split up for the day to take care of individual business.
Ysln, Arjune and Chere went to the local church. Ysln if a cleric of the church and wanted to sell a scroll of "Raise Spirit", which the church happily paid for. The local cleric, known as Brother Oldeman was impressed with the acquisition of the scroll and gave a very ornate business card to Ysln, informing her that the church would have other business for her if she was interested. The Church of Tah is a corrupt and opulent church of the empire, known for stealing relics and other ancient artifacts.
Arjune and Chere are both members of the Church of Tah Reformed, and were not pleased with Ysln's interactions with the Brother of the church.
Gruid was able to ingratiate himself with the party by informing them of a local retired ranger and wealthy individual who is looking for some one to hunt down a two headed bear. Gruid is one of the few people who has ever seen the bear and survived informed the party they could meet the mysterious Breglelor Shunderman tomorrow.
Canhoreal decided to visit a local gambling house known as Aces and Tails. Upon entering during the day, he found a very upscale establishment with numerous gambling and gaming tables on the ground floor and a restaurant. The second floor of the building featured a smoking and reading room frequented by "Gentlemen" of the city and was well known for its opulent glass atrium style ceiling.
Canhoreal entered the establishment with his full adventuring gear still on, marking a distinct contract to the high society and well dressed patrons in the rest of the building. He was approached by a Mr. Stillman, the operator of Aces & Tails and local underboss enforced who noted Canhoreal's dress.
He informed Canhoreal that his boss and owner of the establishment had the need of an outside party to take care of a problem should they be interested. He informed Canhoreal and his companions to return later that evening if they were interested. Boroth, who frequents the establishment was able to inform Canhoreal to be care of the proposal, but noted that there was potentially a lot of be gained. The Aces & Tails was run by the Brindlewood family and they were well known as the head of the local crime syndicate.
And that is where we left our last session. The party will reconvene later in the evening to share their propositions and explore what options they have before them.
We left off our last session with our party opening a secret door only to find themselves confront with five orcs in a lit room. The interaction devolved into combat and resulted in two of the Orcs going down and the remaining three running out of the room into the hallway to the ast. Our party, who took a decent amount of damage decided to backoff and re-group.
They piled the two dead bodies in front of the east door to provided a bit of a barricade and they then took a quick ten-minute rest. After considering their options our party decided to head back down the secret entrance and they investigated the previously unexplored tunnel to the west towards.
This Brough them to Room 16, which exhibited a new exit from the dungeon that is partially collapsed and veered with dirt. They once again found themselves face with a potential wolf den to get past to get to the entrance. The party decided to chop off the arm from one of the dead Orc bodies and threw that to the wolves as a distraction. The wolves ended up fighting over the arm and the party was able to exit the first level of the dungeon.
They took this opportunity to head back to the farmer's house to spend a night and rest since Cybil was in very poor shape. With an additional piece of gold the farmer allowed Cybil to sleep in his bed and she was able to regain here Strength, while the rest of the party slept outside.
There was consideration if the group should take the half day journey back to the Morgansfort and restock, but the fact that some of the old fort is now cleared out and people from the fort know that the were headed there, it became apparent that other treasure seekers may try to take advantage of our party's hard work and they instead decided to dive back in.
The next morning our party once again headed back to the dungeon main entrance and this time decided to head south (whereas they previously headed west). They found a pit trap in this southern hallway and discovered a switch on the far side of the trap. They disabled it with a crack crossbow shot and continued their exploration to the south.
It was at this same time that the party decided to wonder whether they should've offloaded some of their treasure either with the farmer or back at the cave entrance. They decided to continue on.
As the group continued they came across another room filled with the sound of buzzing. They discovered a nest of giant bees in this room. While the bees were clearly aggressive the party decided to sprint past this room and continue further down the hallway and found that the bees did not pursue them past 60'.
Continuing on our party discovered the Kobold Lair. Because of their positive interaction earlier with the Kobold patrol earlier they were met with a generally positive attitude. They were able to continue to convince the Kobolds that they were here to hunt Goblins and were given a scroll of "knock" and informed that the Goblin lair was located in the northwest area of the current dungeon level.
And that is where we ended session 3.