Reading: I Really Enjoy Hercule Poirot

I may have mentioned this before online, but the past year or so I have had a really hard time getting into books. One would think with the pandemic in 2020, that last year would have been the ideal time to really get some good reading done. Unfortunately, I really struggled last year to get into anything very deep. 

I was having the same trouble through the first couple months of this year as well, and Megan suggested that I may be in a bit of a rut simply with the types of books I was trying to read. Now, I typically like to read fiction, fantasy specifically, that will give me a bit of escape. I have been just trying to read the same type of thing over and over though and not making any real ground. While talking it came to me that I should dive back into some "whodunit" murder mysteries. I read some Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes stories a few years ago and I really enjoyed them, way more than I would have thought. In fact, Murder on the Orient Express has become one of my favorite books. 

I decided to pickup book #2 in the Poirot series, "The Murder on the Links". So far it has been a delight to read, and I have to laugh at the subtle stabs at Sherlock Holmes that seem to exist in the book.

That brings me though to a website that I want to recommend to everyone. If you have an ereader, I highly suggest you check out Standardebooks.org. It is site that takes public domain books, many of them from Project Gutenberg, re-formats them and puts a cover on the ebook. It is a really nice site and while it is not nearly as comprehensive as Gutenberg, there is a really nice collection of some common books there. I have linked below some books I have picked up there that I have already read and really enjoyed. 

Poirot Series (Books 1-3)

Sherlock Holmes (Books 1-8)

Martian Series (Books 1-4)


D&D: Artbreeder.com - AI Generated profiles for D&D and other cool art

I came across what has to be one of the coolest website I have seen in a long time. It is called Artbreeder.com and it utilizes AI to morph and merge images together. You essentially input two parent images and it will create an offspring. There are several categories on the site that you and select from, so I presume the the AI system has been tweaked for each one to get the best results. As you can see from the image above, where I have the portrait system selected, there are some sliders for various features you can select. 

The results are algorithmic, so you don't have any control over the creation. This isn't drawing, but it is an easy way to get an endless amount of good imagery. I have found the portrait mode to be very useful and something you can easily kill a few hours just going down the rabbit hole on. 

The only quirk I have found with the portraits at least, is that they tend to favor very "soft" female features. You also have to pay a fee to upload your own images, which is understandable, if unfortunate. 

D&D: Testing Bibisco for D&D and Tabletop RPG Planning


I have spent a long time trying to find the right tool and system for campaign planning for D&D. I posted about my struggles and my approach back in 2019, and I have to say that since that time I never found a perfect setup.  I like to keep my session notes to paper as much as possible, and the Tül notebook has severed me really well, but with the past year going fully online for all of our D&D play, that has shifted my approach and perspective a bit. The notebook works great for my individual session planning, but has proven to be a bit harder to manage long term planning and tracking of multiple narrative arcs. 

I have tried a whole ton of different apps for the past couple of years, ranging from Evernote, to Apple Notes, to Onenote and more. I even tried online systems like World Anvil, Kanka and Obsidian Portal. All of them have left me "wanting" in different ways. 

OneNote was a strong contender for a while and there is an excellent template setup online. Unfortunately my work uses Office 365 and at least when I last checked this out in the spring, there wasn't a way to login to multiple accounts for OneNote on a single device, so writing and development became a bit hard. The OneNote template also looked gorgeous, but I found myself often times fiddling a bit too much with formatting and not actually "writing" the campaign out. 

I also looked quite a bit at the various online systems, such as World Anvil, etc. While I did like them, at the end of the day I just can't pay for another online service. They also never felt "quick enough" for me. I couldn't login and get to the page I wanted to fast enough to just "idea dump" when something came to my mind. 

What I have discovered over the past few weeks though is an application called Bibisco. I have found that it has a really nice breakdown of writing sections that works really well for campaign planning, breaking narrative elements into Scenes. This has worked out really nicely for how my brain approaches my D&D planning. There is too much to breakdown into a single blog post, so I have instead put together a video overview of how I have been using Bibisco over the past month or so. The software isn't perfect, and I try to identify some of its shortcomings, but it has been one of the better fits that I have found to date for D&D planning. 

If the developers take a few notes to improve some areas, it could really become an ideal world building application. 

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: Spiritfarer

Every once in a while I come across a game, a book, a movie, or whatever that absolutely hits me emotionally. More often than not, it hits me in such as way that I had no idea that it was coming. Deadhouse Gates did that to me for books and Blade Runner did that to me for film. Off the time of my head I cannot say that I have been hit so emotionally before by a video game, at least in the sort of emotion that conveys sadness, melancholy, and resolution. 

Spiritfarer is that game for me. An incredibly gorgeous 2D side scroller that has you playings as a Spiritfarer, an entity that guides lost sprits to the Everdoor and to whatever lies beyond. I want to make sure that I convey this game to everyone and its impact without spoiling it, because part of the charm and part of the impact that to conveys to you is the story that unfold as you shepherd souls to the Everdoor. 

The Everdoor is a gate, and quite literally the gate to the afterlife, which lends one to ask, where does the game take place? It doesn't take place in the "living world", as it is made clear to you from the outset that not only are the inhabitants, but you too are in fact deceased. I would guess then that the world is a sort of purgatory or waiting room for the next life. Your job is to help the individuals you come across put closure to their lives and help them pass on.

It all sounds rather dark, but it is wrapped up into a beautiful Animal Crossing style package that presents to you whimsical and loving characters who are all represented as various animals. Keeping on the Animal Crossing theme a bit, there is a community building aspect to the game where you have to gather resources and build your residents homes. 

Where the game really gets to me though is in the story moments, the small snippets of dialog that occur between the Spiritfarer and the various inhabitants. You get a touch into all of the character's lives as they reflect upon their successes and failures when they were alive. It is very touching and each time when you finally shepherd your inhabitants to the Evertdoor to say their final farewell, the moment is bittersweet each time. What makes the game so good though, is that they are able to make each characters goodbye mean something. Some of these characters are easily lovable, while others were no necessarily good people during their life. They were mean, perhaps criminals and sometimes dishonest and failures. In the end though, the characters all seem real based upon how they approach their final moments at the Everdoor based upon all of their past life experiences. Some of them are grateful, some are relieved. Others view the experience with resolve or even outright indifference. It seems true either way and in the end the game tells you in no uncertain terms that the time will come for all of us to eventually say goodbye. It is sad, sometimes tragically so, but it is a lesson that we all need to confront eventually in our lives. 

I came out of this game really reflecting upon the experiences and time you get to have with everyone around you and there were times as I played this game, watching the Spiritrarer say goodbye to a companion, and I had to pause in the reflective and quiet moment. It makes you want to hug that loved one you have nearby because sometimes you never quite know when goodbye comes.