tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:/posts Matthew Supert 2024-03-04T02:48:06Z Matthew Supert tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2094232 2024-03-04T02:46:44Z 2024-03-04T02:48:06Z Maison Marginal Artisanal Collection 2024 - Fashion and Art

I saw clips of this fashion show popping up on my feed a few weeks ago and decided to watch the show on Youtube after figuring out what it was. Wow, what an experience. I absolutely loved this show and it really capture a beautiful cross between fashion, visual art, dance and music. The atmosphere of this being filmed under a bridge in France really set an amazing mood. If you have not watched this, do yourselves a favor the favor and take a look. It was just beautiful. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2094230 2024-03-04T02:29:37Z 2024-03-04T02:33:10Z Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

I started reading the ACOTAR series a little of a year ago and the behest of my wife who had been reading these books for quite a while. It was only after seeing the continual clips on TikTok that I decided to give the the series ago, if only to see what the fuss was all about and to connect with my wife on what she was reading.

I liked the first book, but I didn’t love it. I could see the appeal, but as a pure fantasy novel, I wasn’t entirely taken by the story that was presented. I continued on reading the second book and I could see how the writing improved significantly. While working through the series it was interesting to observe my interpretations of the scenes and development compared to my wife. I saw things that she didn’t and vice versa.

By the end of the second book I was hooked. I was really drawn into the world and if I am being honest the love story between Rhys and Feyre was very well written. The overall story was just “OK” for me, but it was the personal moments and the family that she built that really had me invested in this story.

I love that the third book gave us the opportunity to really learn a bit more about the other kingdoms and get to know those characters. The war with Hyburn was a nice topping point to the whole series. In the end I only had a couple of minor quibbles with the final book, and most of those issues arose near the end. The first issue is the sudden reappearance of the Archeron sister’s father. For me it came out of nowhere with no context. I dont even believe Maas connected his coming to Lucien setting out to find the one human queen. The other major issue was that none of the major characters or other lords died at the end of the book. It made for a happy ending sure, but it seemed a bit improbable and removed some of the gravity of the situation.

I was also a bit confused when the other high lords who were able to change into a beast during the final battle. Rhys and Hellion I believe both did this. I though that was Tamlin’s specific power as the lord of the Spring Court? All of the other lords have distinct powers, but if they all can change into beasts what does that leave Tamlin with?

In the end though, this who series was about the relationship between Feyre and Rhys and it had me fully invested. It was touching and quite beautiful and I love how Maas showed how much they actually cared for each other.

I’m not sure if I will continue on to the other books in this series, but I think I am definitely a fan of Maas and her writing, and I will certainly check out some of her other series at some point.


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2078483 2024-01-21T01:59:15Z 2024-02-07T00:01:13Z Book Review: With Fire and Sword
With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is going to be a very hard book to review.
I very much enjoyed this book, but if I am being honest it was a VERY long read. Despite the length this is going into the list as one of my favorite books, and deserves to be up there with Romance of the Three Kingdoms as one of the all time classics.

I did a bit of Wikipedia research while reading it and as far as I can tell, the supporting characters were all real people during the events of the Cossack rebellion.

What I found so fascinating about this book is that it read both as a historical fiction, but also as a historical fantasy. There are multiple passages and scenes where the characters talk about their fear of witches, vampires, and other creatures of the night. At no point are any of these really portrayed as being real. They sort of exist as commonly held superstitions that remained persistent in both the character's and reader's peripheral vision. I found the inclusion of these superstitions both to raise the tension in a scene while acknowledging that weren't actually going to show up. Just their possibility added to a scene like MSG adds that "something" to a dish.

The book also reads easily despite its age. I read the Jeremiah Curtin translation from Standardebooks.org, which is also the Project Gutenberg version. It was very readable translation and a very nicely formatted book. I will caution though that despite the general ease in readability, the names are going to give most people some difficulty. The book does include a pronunciation guide in the back, but if you just roll with the pronunciations as you need to for your own head, you'll be just fine.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes historical fiction, military fiction. Even fans of fantasy will be able to get into this as the structure and writing could go right up there with any fantasy book you've read.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2075893 2024-01-16T02:49:46Z 2024-01-16T02:53:35Z Videogaming: Baldur's Gate 3 is Infuriating

I’ve been playing Baldur’s Gate 3 for the past month or so, since it came out on the Xbox. People have been praising this game since August so I was pretty excited to get into the game. I am a huge D&D and TTRPG fan afterall, so the prospect of bringing that to a videogame seemed pretty exciting.

I’ve just hit Act 3 this past week and I think I am about 60-70 hours in. If I am being honest, I dont think I like this game very much and it almost entirely boils down to the combat.

But before we really get into that, let’s talk about some other things in the game that just don’t seem to connect with me. The game is very heavility influenced by the actual D&D roleplay mechanic system. Unforuntely, that brings all of the similar trappings that come with playing D&D, but without the benefit of having the ability to get contextual information or clarification form your dungeon master. Roleplay is probably my favorite part of D&D and Baldur’s Gate on the whoile does a pretty decent job of this. However, it obfuscates the skill checks and rolls in most roleplay or social situations. I very often will find myself in a conversation which results in a roll, but I have no way to know which character may be most appropriate for the situation or context. Furthermore, when a roll like Persuasion is required I have no idea what the stat for the chracter that I have select is. If the game didn’t explicitly have a dice roll in these situations, I probably wouldn’t care, but if it is going to show me that actual roll, every…single…time at least let me see what my modifier is before I select that as a dialog option.

Contextual clues are the biggest frustration I have with this game. There have been way too many situations where I am walking around the world where combat will just suddenly start, or worse yet, I think it will, and it doesn’t resulting in a conversation that has to preempt combat. Just today I wrestled with a combat scenario against some Githyanki in a hidden library. I must’ve run this combat 6-7 times. After getting obliterated the first time I tried to sneak and get surprise on the enemy for an attack. every single time I would get a spell off and then the conversation would trigger and then waste the concentrate or spell I just cast. I had a nearly identical level of frustration with the combat that occured at the entrance of the Moonrise Towers in Act 2.

I basically had to “cheese” the combat to get an upper hand due to the action economy. Almost every combat has significantly more combatants than your party.

Let’s continue our conversation though on that Githyanki fight and the way it was structured. There were two portals on the sides of the room, summoning in more Githyanki each round. Those portals were placed just sor perfectly to be out of reach of any of my spells like Fireball, etc. This is frustrating game design, because it is almost impossible to know that those exist until you fail at a first attempt of combat. There was no way going into that room to know how to position my characters and accommodate for that specific setup. So many of the combat encounters have this same sort of thing and it is just driving me away from wanting to continue to play.

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2063901 2023-12-18T03:08:20Z 2023-12-18T03:14:59Z Xbox - 2023 Year in Review

Let's take a look at my year in gaming on Xbox. I am a bit surprised at this to be honest. I had no idea that I played 43 games. Deep Rock was definitely my most played game this year. I am surprised at my hours for Starfield. I cranked through that game in a couple of weeks and enjoyed it, but fell off pretty hard after the first ending. I didn't make to any subsequent NG+ games. 



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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2060729 2023-12-10T18:48:03Z 2023-12-10T18:48:31Z The Oscars Could Really Learn from The Video Game Awards

https://thegameawards.com/

The 14th annual Video Game Awards (VGA) were on this past Thursday and I have probably watched this show every year for the past eight years or so. It is the only award show that I regularly look forward to and it really is a testament to Geoff Keighley who has organized and promoted this thing since its inception. 

I think there is something important about how the VGA's are approaching the  award show space that really sets them apart from many of the other shows out there. No one is watching the Oscars or Grammys right? They are boring as all hell. The Grammy's if anything should probably be pretty easy to make entertaining considering it is a music focused show, but the format is just straight up boring. 

The VGA's have nailed it though in creating an entertaining show and they have done it by leveraging the value of the entertainment format. It is an awards show first and foremost, but they do an excellent job of getting away from the endless monologue of "thank you" speeches. I think for all of the awards that they gave out on Thursday, maybe 5-8 people actually came up on stage to say thank you. They even had some of the awards given out at an off-stage camera position and it appeared as if the awardees there read from a teleprompter for their thank you speech to keep it nice and short. The worst part of the Oscars is the endless droning of thank you's that no one cares about from the actors, made worse often by their self inflated philanthropic or political posturing. No one cares and it isn't entertaining for anyone. 

The VGA's also do a really nice job of featuring some important awards on the show that others do not. For example, they do an award for accessibility in gaming, which is something that others need to be doing. Even if the Oscars are doing something like that, they aren't putting that on the screen. 

The VGA's fill most of their time though with trailers for upcoming games, which is the real reason why most people come to watch. They also then fill it in with some excellent musical performances from some of the best soundtracks of the year. The Oscars should be doing this exact same thing. Musical performances, seem like a no brainer, but trailers? That also seems like an easy win of self promotion for all involved. Show us trailers for new movies coming out the next year. Better yet, remember all of that cool and fun bonus content that we got on DVD's back in the day? Give us that content for all of the nominees. That stuff is largely gone as a result of online streaming and some of that stuff is great. That would be an easy way to fill in a show with entertaining information that ranges from a technical/artistic insight to simple outtakes and bloopers. People would love to watch that. 


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2042392 2023-10-31T02:25:12Z 2023-10-31T02:25:12Z I'm Kinda Done with Subscription Services Is anyone else just absolutely fed up with subscription services? Netflix is apparently raising their prices again. Amazon Prime Video is going to raise prices after the first of the year and it seems that Disney+ just raised it’s monthly price. I’m not going to pay $20 a month for Netflix. 

I was listening to a great episdoe of This Week in Tech a couple of weeks ago and they were talking about these recent price increases along with the available content up on the various streaming services. There has been a lot of talk this past year about various services removing content entirely. Netflix did this with the Willow show and HBO and Discovery have recently gotten into some hot water on the topic as well earlier this year. The whole premise of the streaming services when they first launched was that we were going to have all of the back catalog of content available. It unfortunately  seems that we are moving in the opposite direction. 

I’ve also found that since getting these streaming services, I watch less content then I used to. Years ago, even when I subscribed to the Netflix disc service I used to regularly watch 1-2 movies per week. Popping a disc in on a Friday or Saturday night to watch a movie was a common occurrence and even going all the way back to the Blockbuster days I regularly watched a movie once a week. These days I feel like I rarely have any idea of what movies are out and about. 

I’ve had a bit of a change of heart though recently. TikTok of all places has introduced me to some movies that I have never heard of before. Notably they have been some Anime films that have really caught my eye. Do you know where I ended up finding the DVD/Bluray to watch these films? My local library. My library has a ton of movies and access to even more via their network. I have watched more movies from my library over the past couple of months than I have through Netflix or Amazon all year. 

I really think starting January 1st, I am going to strongly cut back on my streaming choices and invest myself back into a weekly movie night with DVD and Bluray rentals. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1897014 2023-10-09T22:30:00Z 2023-10-09T16:36:09Z Investigation Dagon - A D&D 5e Halloween Adventure for Level 16 Characters

Late into the Halloween game, but I wanted to share this adventure I wrote a few years ago and have consolidated into a proper document for other DM's to run. This takes H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon short story and turns it into an investigation adventure. 

I hope you enjoy. 

Updated: 10/09/2023 - Updated to fix grammar, typos, and some formatting issues. Improved newspaper layout for easier printing. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2026035 2023-09-18T00:00:00Z 2023-09-18T00:33:55Z Ridelog: Iron Butt Association - Bun Burner 1500

Back in July the MEWS group did a quick Saturday and Sunday Bun Burner out to Maryland. This was a 1500 miles in 36 hours. The ride was all highway, but we were pleasantly surprised by nice highway roads through Pennsylvania, including some gorgeous tunnels. Dinner in the evening was at By the Docks and was some great crab cakes with DJ's family. 
The ride back on Saturday started out really well, but we did have an incident on the highway in Pennsylvania. Thankfully everyone was OK, but we did have to separate with one member due to a crash. We were able to get back on the road about an hour later. 
Long story short though we made it back to Naperville within our 36 hour window and successfully completed our Iron Butt award. I have my patch and license plate holder coming the mail hopefully in the next month or two. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2026042 2023-09-17T19:43:49Z 2023-09-17T19:43:50Z Ridelog: Quick Ride Down to the Adler Planetarium

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. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2014157 2023-08-20T20:15:38Z 2023-08-20T20:15:38Z First Impressions of the MPC One+

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. 


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2003470 2023-07-24T01:31:55Z 2023-08-14T14:17:48Z Book Review: Redwall
Redwall by Brian Jacques
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I has been probably 30 years since I read this book last and I wanted to give it a go as an adult to see how it held up for me. If I am being honest, I had a hard time reading this one. I am not sure exactly why. It was well written overall, but perhaps the story felt a bit too simple relative to how long the book is?

The book is pretty long, clocking in at just around 400 pages (for the version I read) for what amounts to basically a fairytale or myth. The story is very simple where you have a young mouse setting out on his "hero's journey" to reclaim the lost sword (and shield!) of Martin the Warrior. Everything seems to happen though at a very surface level. Matthias is sent on quest after quest to find the next piece of his equipment, first getting a scabbard, then a shield, and then ultimately the sword itself. He meets plenty of people along the way and has to make friends, but he largely just sort of meets the characters and then bullies them into friendship.

The whole thing kinda felt like it could've been shortened up a bit from the fetch quest and instead brought to look at Matthias himself. He very quickly transitioned into a "warrior" without any sort of proper training and there aren't many personal challenges that he has to overcome in the story. There were hints of some sort of magic or mystical connection to the former hero Martin, but those come and go in a few sentences and are never fully explained or explored.

My second reading also had me quite surprised at how violent the book was. There were quite a number of fairly graphic death scenes. Nothing gory, but they definitely surprised me should this have been read by an 8-10 year old for example.

I'll be honest, rose colored glasses became a bit tarnished on this one.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/2003467 2023-07-24T01:17:10Z 2023-07-25T16:50:02Z Fridays with Cairn: Session 8

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. 


After much deliberation the party decided to try and conduct an assassination on Graves Tailsman. They did not seem excited about poisoning a member of the church, despite his possible corruption. Unfortunately, they did not know where Graves' current whereabouts were, so they decided to split up and complete some reconnaissance. 

Aces & Tails Stakeout

Gruid, Boroth, Ysln, Can and Arjune decided to stakeout Aces & Tails to try and observe the people coming and going, and to try and find their contact Sanmoor. Gruid and Boroth went to the back of the building to see if there was access to the kitchens or any staff. 

They observed on the back of the building a locked door along with two open windows approximately fifteen feet off the ground that could be accessed by climbing the drain pipes. Next to the locked door was a large trash pile. 

Arjune positioned herself at the front of the building and began to preach loudly, accosting the various patrons as they entered or left the building. She wanted to keep an eye out to see if Graves would enter through the front door. 

Ysln and Can both went inside and got themselves a place at one of the common room gambling tables to see if they could garner any additional information. Ylsn was moderately successful while gambling.

Tailing some henchmen

Cwingeld took a different approach to the information gathering endeavor and designed to try and seek out any henchmen in the market district to observe them while they were collecting their weekly "taxes" on the merchants. He was able to observe the henchmen accost a shop owner and he ultimately followed them to a warehouse on the edge of town. Upon looking into the warehouse he found that there were seven henchmen in the building but there was no sign of Graves. Inside the building the henchmen were counting the week's money and Cwingeld clearly observed a large desk awaiting an occupant. Cwingeld overheard one of the henchmen state that Graves would be along later this evening, but they did not know when. 

Aces & Tails Stakeout (Cont.)

Happening simultaneously, the party members back at Aces & Tails did gain their own information. Gruid and Boroth were able to befriend a young kitchen boy named Kyrin as he was taking out the trash from the kitchen. Gruid paid the boy three gold coins to keep the backdoor unlocked.

Inside Can and Ysln tried to gain information from the waitstaff on when Graves might be in residence. The waitstaff did not have knowledge of his arrival, but did indicate that he typically came in the evenings to a private room upstairs to receive his supper. Ysln attempted to gain access to the second floor by indicating she was interested in the sexual services provided by establishment. She was brought upstairs and shown to a private room, but was quickly ushered back down to the main floor when she indicated that she could not afford any of the services offered (ranging from 5-15 gold). 

The information finally broke when the doorman to Aces & Tails confronted Arjune. The doorman asked Arjune to please leave the area because he was disturbing the guests. Boroth rounding the corner from the back of the establishment asked the man if his name was Sanmoor. It was and they found their man inside. Sanmoor indicated that he would not move on Graves himself, but he knew Graves' schedule this evening and could provide chefs clothes if the party needed them. 

Graves was currently on his way to Aces & Tails and was expected to arrive around 10:00 pm, wherein he would take his supper. After supper he would leave and head over to the warehouse district to complete a final tally of the week's earnings, after which he would finally retire to his private residence around 3:00 am.

The party did not yet know where Graves' residence was, but they now had his schedule and knew two of the locations where he would be. Both locations would likely be heavily guarded. Access inside Aces & Tails was fairly easy, at least to the public areas, but the downside is that any action taken in this location would be seen by a lot of people. A full on confrontation would likely not be the best course of action and the party did not know how to get to the second floor. 

The warehouse on the other hand would have very little visibility to the public, but the party did not have much information on the location. They did have time if they wanted to gather more information though.

The Assassination

After much deliberation the party elected to attempt their assassination at Aces & Tails. Can and Ysln remained inside on the ground floor to monitor the situation from the inside. Graves was observed arriving through the front door of the building right on time, and immediately headed up to his private room on the second floor. 

Gruid entered the kitchen area through the backdoor, wearing the newly acquired chef's clothes and was able to succeed a Dex saving throw to act as a sous chef. He then slipped the poison into the drink on the silver platter for Graves and quickly left the building and heading right back to the inn the party was staying at. 

The tray of food was brought up to the second floor and the party now waited. Time went on with seemingly nothing happening until Mr. Stillman eventually came down the stairs. He quietly talked to two henchmen who locked the front door to the establishment and blocked the exit from the gambling room. Can and Ylsn observed Mr. Stillman head to the kitchen, lock the door. Moments later screams poured from the kitchen all Stillman was killing all the chef staff. 

Panic arose in the gambling hall, but the two henchmen prevented anyone from leaving, trapping Can and Ylsn inside. Can and Ylsn had to make a decision. Do they attack the henchmen to try and get out? Do they rally the scared gamblers in the hall or do they wait it out? Thankfully, it did not come down to violence. 

Arjune had a spellbook of "Knock" on her possession and used it on the front door from the outside to open it. The loud noise distracted the henchmen and a rush of people burst out of the gambling room and onto the street. 

Graves Tailsman was dead and the party made their way back to their inn to regroup. Later that evening Mr. Stillman visited the inn. Mr. Stillman knew the party committed the assassination since Gruid returned to the inn with the chef's clothes still on. It was established in an earlier session that the inn was being watched by henchmen of Mr. Tailsman. 

Mr. Stillman appluaded the party's gumption, but warned them not to interfere again as he now presumably took Tailsman's place inside the crime syndicate. 

And that is where we ended Session 8. 
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1998990 2023-07-12T01:37:05Z 2023-07-12T01:43:52Z Fridays with Carin: Session 7

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. 

As I reported in my previous blog post, our players have retreated from the Olde Island Fortress and from Morgansfort . They made their way north to the town of Firston (a town I made up) to sell some of their treasure, and to bring in the two new party members whom they lost.

Our session consisted of the group splitting up to follow up on the three rumors and interests they initiated last session. I'll admit that I did zero planning for this session, so I am actually quite proud of myself for developing these quest lines on the fly.

Aces and Tails

The first visit in the evening was the return to the Aces and Tails gambling house and to visit with Graves Tailsman. Boroth, Gruid and Can met Mr. Tailsman, the "big time" gangster in town. His request of the party was straight forward. He wanted the party to "off" Breylor Shunderman, the famous big game hunter who lives outside of town, and he wanted it done in three days.

His reward was "a favor".

Since the night was young our party very eagerly took this contract. What they didn't know is that this simple hit job was going to become a bit more complicated.

The Church of Tah

Arjune, Ysln, Cwingwald, and Canon visited the Church of Tah to get more information from Brother Oldeman on the relic that the party was to acquire. The church presented a very detailed and lengthy contract indicating that "any and all items identified as possible relics or magical items would become the property of the church". My players impressed me and were able to catch on that this contract would have identified items such as "stamped gold coins" as relics.

They turned the table by changing the date of commencement so they had time to complete their "hit" before heading out of the town to find the relic.

The Two Headed Bear

Now here is where the story gets a bit interesting. The next morning the party went out of town to visit Breylor Shunderman, the famous hunter. They discussed that previous evening that they would try to convince Mr. Shunderman to leave Firston, with the hope that they did not have to kill him. When they arrived at The Shunderman manor, they did not find what they were expecting.

Mr. Shunderman proved himself to be an excellent marksman, shooting a plum out of Ysln's hand from 100 meters away after she picked the fruit from his orchard. Breylor Shunderman is a large man, very well build and muscular. Now in his sixties, he is retired from the big game hunt due to a leg injury which now has him walking with a cane.

Breylor invited the party into his very large manor, which featured taxidermied animals from around the world, including a Mammoth in the front hall.

Breylor informed the party that he setup this manor outside the town of Firston with the intent of hunting the rumored two headed bear. Unfortunately, he is unable to complete that hunt due to his leg. He is extending the offer to Gruid to hunt and kill the two headed bear and as a reward he would offer a silvered break-loading pistol of his own design as a reward. The pistol would come with six bullets totaling 12 + 1d6 damage per round.

The party also noticed some paperwork on Breylor's table which mentioned the name of Brother Oldeman and they were able to convince him to give some more details on this paperwork.

Breylor explained to the party that the Church of Tah was working with Graves Tailsman to control the trade and market inside Firston. Tailsman was using his muscle to influence goods and services and Brother Oldeman was using the church to launder the money.

This information drastically changed the party's approach and Breylor informed the party that he could utilize his influence in the town to get information or access to various locations.

The party now has a decision to make on their next steps.

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1994575 2023-07-01T02:47:21Z 2023-07-01T02:47:22Z So I am Making an RPG

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

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.

Design Concepts

  • Simple rulebook and character creation.
  • Designed for a West Marches style of play.
  • Compatible with a variety of game systems with quick conversion guidelines.
  • Develop a "magic" system that can be applied to various settings, including futuristic settings.
  • Invested in a rollplay.
  • Classless.
  • Single currency gold/credits/marks.
  • Downtime/non-adventuring rules for growth and character development.
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1992033 2023-06-24T22:50:55Z 2023-06-25T18:22:54Z Fridays with Cairn: Session 4-6

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. 

Room 12 & 13

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. 

Room 10 &11

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. 

Rooms 9, 7, 6

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. 

Moving on from the Olde Island Fortress

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. 


On the Road to Firston

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. 


Arriving at Firston

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. 


Rumors and Interests

The Church of Tah

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. 

The Two Headed Bear

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. 

Aces & Tails

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. 


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1971073 2023-04-30T18:26:05Z 2023-04-30T18:28:58Z Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Romantic. 

If I could distill this book down into one word, it would be romantic. And you know, it isn't just because of the love scenes that occur in the latter third of the book. Maas does a wonderful job here of painting a picture of the city of Velaris, its people and its Court of Dreams. Rhys, Cassien, Morrigan and the rest all become real characters in this book that I really felt attached to. They became not only the friends, but also the family that Feyre was longing for.

We really got a deep dive into the mind and actions of Rhys as a character as well and he opens up to the reader in a very touching way, and I really felt connected to him and his motivations. I can see how it would be hard for Feyre or pretty much anyone who knows him, not to love him.

I really only have a couple of real critiques of this book. 

<--Warning Spoilers below-->
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1971053 2023-04-30T17:39:01Z 2023-04-30T17:39:01Z Fridays with Carin: Session 3

Room 8

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.


Room 16

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. 


Room 1

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. 


Room 15

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'.


Room 14

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. 


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1963646 2023-04-10T01:29:44Z 2023-04-10T01:29:45Z Book Review: The Last Dance
The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Last Dance is a pretty solid hard sci-fi book, that takes a primary scientific concept and applies it to the story without bogging the narrative down too much with the technical details. The book takes place on the Earth to Mars orbital vessel known as the Aldrin. The premise of the story is focused around the concept of the Mars Cycler or Aldrin Cycler, which is a physics concept developed by Buzz Aldrin to allow a spacecraft to cycle around two gravitational objects (i.e. Earth and Mars) while utilizing almost no fuel. It's a fascinating concept and sets the premise and location of the entire story.

While the story does hinge on this concept and a pivotal event focused around this concept, the story that is being told is done in a interesting way. Almost the entire book is told through interviews conducted with the crew through flashbacks with Captain Aames. It is a fascinating way to set the tone of the crew and setting, and the character basis of the Captain.

The method of storytelling however is hard to digest though as the book progresses. While the concept was novel for the first couple of chapters it began to wear thin as the book progressed and it made it hard for me to grow attached to any particular character. Especially since the Captain is portrayed as a wholly unlikable character.

I personally struggled to stay with the book at times since I had no idea what the crime the Captain was charged with was until the last couple of chapters when the investigator finally interviewed the Captain himself.

I think the author was trying to setup a narrative arc where the Captain was supposed to be put in a nearly impossible position (view spoiler)[and then making a decision that brought him up for court-martial. (hide spoiler)]

I like that the flashbacks were supposed to lead the reader to a position of understanding why the Captain made that tough decision, but the setup didn't payoff if for the fact that the decision made by the Captain didn't seem to be all that controversial. I feel nearly any reader when presented with the decision and the even minor context provided through the First Mate's interview, would have sided with the Captain. The story's antagonist was plainly vilified and laid plain from the outset of the story that when the final reveal was made near the end of the book, there was no surprise.

That being said the book is worth the read if you like a solid sci-fi story. The storytelling structure is interesting with the flashbacks and does accomplish the goal of telling the reader who Captain Aames is.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1963129 2023-04-08T18:01:02Z 2023-04-08T18:36:36Z Fridays with Carin: Session 2

Our Friday group completed our second session of playing Cairn and we had an opportunity to finally get into some dungeon delving and some combat.

Observations and Changes to the Morgransfort Module

  • Since Morgansfort was designed for the Basic Fantasy RPG, I had to make a few changes on the fly to the gold and treasure settings. In general I reduced the amount of gold found by a factor of ten and also completely disregarded silver and copper pieces. So for example, if the module stated that the characters found 126 GP, I reduced that down to 12. I quickly observed in just the first few rooms of the dungeon that the amount of gold being dished out was a lot and I wanted a part of this campaign to reflect that gold and treasure really do matter a lot. 
  • Word of note regarding scale in the map. The dungeon map on page 31 of the module does not make it clear that the grid is a 10' scale, so the first few rooms I ran assuming 5' squares. This would've changed the encounter with the first floor trap in the west hallway, so something to keep in mind. 
  • A fascinating observation was pointed out to me from my play group while dealing with combat when it was our party vs.1 enemy, which was outlined in a couple of instances in the dungeon in smaller rooms thus far. Since Cairn's "Multiple Attacker's rule has all of the PC's roll and just the single highest dice being taken, my PC's observed they were able to "game" the system a bit if they had at least one PC fail the initiative, since they would be able to act/attack separately after the enemy, giving the PC's essentially "two opportunities to hit" in a single round instead of just one if they all succeeded or failed. Not a huge deal, but just an interesting observation that they immediately latched onto. Perhaps this isn't the intent of the combat system. 
  • Overall combat though went really smoothly and fast and I really liked how it didn't grind the rest of the game to a halt as D&D 5e does. We encountered combat, accomplished it for a few minutes and then were immediately able to move on. Most of the combat in this session was done via theatre of the mind, which is not my group's favorite way to play, but it worked out well for these quick encounters in various dungeon rooms. 
  • I also really enjoy the formatting of the monster stat blocks in the Morgransfort module. The stat blocks are very tightly organized with the monsters in place and with small check boxes to track their HP. Converting on the fly was painless and tracking the combat encounters with the initiative system was also extremely fast and effortless. Screenshot example below.

  • My players had some fun playing with character names a bit. Since the surname table in the handbook is so small we had a few duplicate names. Wenlan Candlewick, whom I outlined in the previous post, shares a surname with our PC Ysln Candlewick. We are playing out the situation where Wenlan is eyeing Ysln, thinking he knows her from somewhere, but he is not quite sure from where. 
    • We also had a hireling roll up with the name of Canhoreal, which is the same as one of the players. That turned into Can2, and then finally resulted in the party calling the hireling Twocan.
    • Finally, and this is my favorite, the young acolyte who joined the group at the end of Session 1 was given a name by the group. Cybil kept calling him "Cannon Fodder", which someone put into an english to french translator on Google which resulted in his name becoming Chair à Canon.
  • For the module I am trying to run the exploration in 10 minute dungeon movements and I have assigned each of my players different roles to track such as overland travel, dungeon cartographer, dungeon turn tracker, banker/quartermaster, etc. It is working out OK so far and my players are getting used to having to track this information themselves, but it is really nice to get off my plate. I think it is something I'll try to incorporate into other RPG systems. I've adapted a few of the sheets from OSE and made some of my own to handout to my players, so I'll try and share those in another blogpost. 

]]> Matthew Supert tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1958673 2023-03-28T14:55:23Z 2023-04-08T18:42:50Z Fridays with Cairn: Session 1 (and 0.5)

Our group had our session 1 this past Friday, or I should say perhaps session 0.5 since it appears that half of my table didn't fully fill out their character sheets or somehow forgot a stat or two. So after about 45 minutes of doing that again we finally got started in Morgansfort. 

Here are the names of the players we rolled up.

  1. Ysln Candlewick (Female)
  2. Cwingeld (Male)
  3. Arjune (Male)
  4. Cybil Burle (Female)
  5. Beatrice (Female)
  6. Canhoreal Studerman (Male)

Morgansfort Primer

For those that might be interested in running the module, it essentially is a fort placed on the edge of the “Western Lands” which are part of the former Urd Empire. The fort is placed right near the edge of civilization which allows for plenty of opportunity to engage in the wilderness. It features three dungeons to explore along with general wilderness areas. The module has a nice bit of information (2-3 pages) that provides enough background information for GMs to give their players a sense of place, but not so much that one can’t easily modify or adapt it to their own setting or needs. A nice summary is provided right on page 1 of the three dungeons and the fort.

There is also a really detailed bit of information of the world’s religions and the fort itself, including details on all of the buildings and numerous NPC’s within the fort. 

Our group had two characters randomly roll up clerics as backgrounds so they took an interest in the religion information in the Morgansfort module. I won't write it all out here, but here is a brief summary. 

The Hundred Gods: Basically the old world religion. Hundreds of gods from the existing inhabitants of this region. I positioned this that most of the denizens outside of the fort, and under its protection followed this religion. 

The Church of Tah (aka the Bethite Church): The official religion of the empire. Known for its corruption and opulence. 

The Church of Tah Reformed: The opposite with members sworn to celibacy and poverty.

Arjune from our play group took to the Church of Tah reformed and had in their background “Discredited”. They played to that nicely, indicating that they had to escape to the wilderness to avoid that discredit to their name. 


Arrival at Morgransfort

When our players arrived at the fort, I directed them to “The Toothless Dragon Tavern” and to the “Iron Helm Inn” for their rumors. Per the module direction they immediately began a conversation with “Bat” who I made as a toothless old koot of a farmer, who gave them the initial rumor for the first dungeon, which was an abandoned ancient fort. 

Cybil was the one who took some initiative to try and find out about other rumors or to find a hireling to go with the party. I used the random character generator on the Cairn website and came up with a ridiculously good character who had stats well above our players and a background to boot named Wenlan. Stats below:

Wenlan Candlewick, formerly a ranger. You have a lanky physique, weathered skin, oily hair, and a rat-like face. You speak in a gravelly manner and wear rancid clothing. You are rude yet serene, and are generally regarded as an entertainer.

You have had the misfortune of being defrauded. You are 35 years old.

Attributes

HP: 4

Armor: 2

STR: 12

DEX: 13

WIL: 17

Equipment

Armor: Brigandine (1 Armor, bulky), a Helmet (+1 Armor)

Weapon: Crossbow (bulky)

Gear, tools & trinkets: Nails (stacks), Cart (+4 slots, bulky), and Bottle

Bonus item: Longbow (bulky)

Starting supplies: 8 gold, a Torch, and three days' Rations

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1958663 2023-03-28T14:38:49Z 2023-04-08T18:19:45Z Fridays with Carin: Session 0
With the running controversy this past winter over WOTC's changes to the Open Gaming License, I took that opportunity to explore some other RPG systems since I was getting a bit burned out on D&D. I have documented some of my thoughts on this items at the following threads. 


With all of that out of the way, I finally found a break in my Friday group to run some Cairn. I was originally going to try and adapt the "Lost Citadel" place setting for this group, but decided to take a different turn and run a pre-published adventure because I honestly wasn't sure if my Friday group would take to playing Cairn. I didn't want to put in the time for all of the custom world building if we only played 5 sessions. 

After a lot of advice and solicitation both on the Cairn Discord and on the OSR subreddit, I settled on running Morgansfort (https://basicfantasy.org/downloads.html), which is a free adventure module from the Basic Fantasy RPG game system. It looks to have a nice balance of dungeon crawling, overland adventure, etc wrapped into a single package. 

About a week ago we held our session zero. Went over general rules and I tried to give my players a general overview of OSR/NSR gameplay. This will be a first time for both myself and my players in this style of game, however we have played a bit of 0E Mothership. I put together a summary page utilizing Craft to hopefully help my players digest some of the info.  

Even with quite a bit of prep and giving everyone paper copies of the rulebook , there was some confusion on the character creation process. Quite a bit of "what do you mean I randomly roll up my character?" sort of questions. Literally all five of my players filled their inventory to max before I had to back them off of that and explain the encumbrance rules and conditions. In two weeks we'll have our first game session where they all arrive at Morgansfort.
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1947264 2023-03-09T02:30:00Z 2023-03-28T15:00:55Z Book Review: Legends and Lattes
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is hard not to re-iterate what others have already said about this book, but when it comes down to it, this is exactly what everyone has been talking about. It is an incredibly cozy and quaint story about a retired adventurer and the people and trials she comes into contact with while trying to start a new life.

The book just simply exudes a level of warmth and charm that you get almost no where else. I can best describe it as a children's book for adults. Everything written here just comes across as incredibly satisfying from the way baked pastries are described to the general atmosphere of the coffee shop, all wrapped up into a warm fantasy-core setting. If you wanted to take the best parts of the Shire, Hogsmeade, and Ankh-Morpork and wrap them into their most wholesome and delectable little packages, then that is what you get here.

The characters are really what make this story shine though and everyone from Thimble, to Cal and Tandri all make this story what it is.

Worth the read all around.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1936042 2023-02-22T04:30:00Z 2023-02-22T03:18:46Z OSR vs. D&D Gaming

As someone who is trying to dip my toe into OSR gaming right now, I have been having quite a few conversations online about the style of play and the general community that surrounds that style of play. 

While doing my research and prep I have observed what I think is a disconnect between what many think OSR is (or should be) vs a modern 5e system. So what does OSR mean? OSR is Old School Revival (or Renaissance) which bases the D&D game on the early D&D editions. I have spent quite a bit of time over on r/OSR and on Discord to facilitate my discussions on how to structure a game. I came into this process thinking that OSR = Rules Lite = narrative forward design. Many of the OSR systems I have seen tend to pull back a lot of the rules and complexity that modern 5e has.  I think the assumption that OSR is narrative focused is incorrect based upon the feedback I hear from the community. Ironically, it almost seems like the OSR community wants more tactical, more grit, more number crunching for battle with out-of-encounter RP to get out of the way. That seems counterintuitive to me when you are pulling away the more complex math and skills you might find in PF2e for example.

I wanted to take a break from 5e with my group because I feel like I am getting burned out on the load of prep that is expected of the DM. Im spending hours each week to prepare maps, NPC's, encounters, etc and my players just roll up to the table. Now my group is pretty evenly split on the role-play vs tactical battle divide of how they play 5e.

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1935889 2023-02-02T17:04:09Z 2023-02-02T17:28:36Z Cairn RPG

Following up on my blog post from a couple of weeks ago, I have been doing some research into various RPG systems that I would like to play. Some of those purchases and inquiries are starting to come to fruition and there has been one system that has really caught my eye. 

Cairn is a New School Revival system, which if I am being honest, I don't know exactly what that means. The term is used online often in conjunction with the Old School Revival (OSR) terminology, which references the D&D methods and designs from the early eighties. I'll talk about that more in another post, but I wanted to highlight a bit of what has caught my eye with Cairn. I'll be summarizing a bit on my interpretation, so this may not entirely be the designer's intent with the system design. 

"Cairn is an adventure game about exploring a dark & mysterious wood filled with strange folk, hidden treasure, and unspeakable monstrosities. Character generation is quick and random, classless, and relies on fictional advancement rather than level mechanics. 

It is based on Knave by Ben Milton and Into The Odd by Chris McDowall. The game was written by Yochai Gal."

The entire rules set is about 24 pages and can be downloaded over at cairnrpg.com. There is some very nice design aesthetic as well around the character sheet and pamphlet. 

One of the key things I would like to try and do with Cairn is to explore some of the tropes and mechanics that D&D 5e either falls short on or that our play group has not explored. For the purposes of my planning, I have solidified around three main concepts that I would like to explore with Cairn. 

  1. Make wilderness survival matter. When characters  venture out into the wilderness the management of their resources and the risk/reward to exploring should be tied into the system. The further they explore, the greater the treasure reward could be, but also the higher the risk. Getting back to a safe haven after your adventure should be considered in their resource management
  2. Make money matter. D&D 5e hands out a lot of money and after a few levels, characters have more than they can possibly spend. Additionally, living expenses become a chore and a waste of time when they have hundreds of gold burning in their pockets. Cairn's limited inventory system may not only help the player spend their money, but also manage all of the items they have and make considerations as to what is most useful for the adventure they are entering into.  
  3. Explore character advancement outside of the traditional “leveling up” system. There is a concept known as “Foreground Growth” where the characters can grow and advance through in the world and their adventures, not from resting overnight. I love the idea of exploring the concept your direct encounters and experiences lead to specific growth. Perhaps you had a close encounter with a Hag in the wilderness and as a result you learned about their critical weakness.  

This would be my first time running a system like this, so I am hoping to build the campaign around an adaptation of "The Lost Citadel" by Green Ronin Publishing. I am hoping that the concept of a single, last human city will help to facilitate this campaign style since the adventurers will have to head out into the wilderness and try to make their way back. Adventuring further from the city can result in increased risk and increased reward. 

Cairn has a lot of nice hacks built by the community to further some of the dungeon and hex crawl mechanics. I think that would be really fun to dig into an explore as a core component of the campaign. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1929535 2023-01-16T02:43:49Z 2023-04-08T18:38:29Z #OpenD&D and ORC

If you are not in the tabletop gaming world, you may not have heard about the controversy surrounding Dungeons & Dragons for the past couple of weeks. In short, Hasbro, who owns Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), who make D&D had leaked an update to their gaming license that would've imposted some severe restrictions upon content creators, 3rd party publishers and pretty much anyone who did anything creative within the D&D world. What is/was known as the Open Gaming License 1.0a (OGL) has been around for around 20 years. This licenses allows content creators to create content in and around D&D without imposing upon WOTC's copyright or trademark. For example, you wouldn't be able to call your book a D&D book, but you could say something along the lines of "it is 5e compatible and has these new monsters I created". 

This all got into a big mess when WOTC had their new OGL leaked. There were many problems with it, but most notably it appeared to revoke the previous license, implied that WOTC could claim the rights to creator's work and required creators making more than $750,000 annually to pay ~25% royalty. It was a shit show to put it mildly. 

Gizmodo broke the story and it put the fandom into a maelstrom as WOTC failed to repond. When they finally did, nearly two weeks later,  the community was not pleased. 

As result, multiple companies in the TTRPG industry have now struck out on their own to avoid any potential issues like this in the future. The backlash to WOTC has been so strong and so swift that they have essentially now created more competition in the market against themselves. Kobold Press has announced that they are making their own RPG system, code named Project Black Flag, which will likely be a 5e compatible system (aka 5.5). MCDM productions announced their new system and Paizo has announced they are leading and effort with multiple other publishers to create a truly open gaming license to be called ORC that can be applied to any gaming license. 

On top of that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cory Doctrow have chimed in with numerous other sites detailing how the original OGL was not even needed and how it even restricted some rights which might be inherent. 

In the end it has been quite a disaster. 

At this point I don't intend to stop playing D&D, but I think this might be an opportune time for our group to take a look at some other RPG systems and try those out for 2023. Paizo has put many of their books one sale this week to encourage some different play. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1924345 2023-01-02T17:45:32Z 2023-01-02T17:45:32Z Folding Laundry

While folding laundry this morning I had a minor epiphany that subsequently lead to a resigned sigh. (The picture by the way doesn't really have anything to do with this post beyond the observation that the ends of this towel have apparently shrunk). For those that know me, you know that I absolutely dread folding the laundry. It is like the bane of my existence and despite all that I found myself folding laundry this morning quite contently, in addition to doing some other minor house chores. 

For the past week I have been off work on holiday and despite the sort of rush of the holiday and family, and friends, I mentally finally have had a chance to sort of catch up with the rest of my life. I even had a chance to enjoy some Netflix, even work on some music. The whole "Fight or Flight" rush of my life had an opportunity to just simmer down and I didn't feel like I had a mountain of horses and other personal items backing up, or at least I didn't feel like I had an urgency to get those things done before the week ended. And I think because of that I was able to fold some laundry today, for an hour or so and not feel any stress about it at all. I didn't have anything else specifically on my list that needed to get done. 

With the end of the holiday looming and work coming back up tomorrow though I can feel the sense of anxiety already begin to creep into the back of my mind. Right off the bat I have a meeting tomorrow morning to kick the year off. 

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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1918808 2022-12-21T04:13:52Z 2023-03-28T15:02:17Z Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book took me a while to finish, but in the end I am glad that I took the time to get through it. My wife has been obsessed with the various Sarah J. Maas books for the past couple of years and has been begging me to give these a go.

All said, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and did enjoy the book. I didn't find it to be ground breaking nor did I find the topics covered to be new, but this was a pleasant read overall with good world building to start the series. The fey kingdoms are interesting and got me interested in the story. So much so in fact, that I am going to give the second book in the series a spin.

That being said I think the weakest part of the book for me was the main protagonist in Feyre. I felt her persistent self-deprecation for the first third of the book was frustrating to get through and the inner monologue portions dragged the story down a bit too much.

I can see why the books though have captured such a large audience, and despite some of the awkward romance portions (which as I understand get more spicy in future books), they never got in the way of the story. In fact I can see how there would be a hyper-sexualized experience when you are dealing with immortal beings that are all gorgeous and have a really hard time getting pregnant.

Time will tell if I am able to make it all the way through the series or not.

View all my reviews
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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1910935 2022-12-01T02:36:49Z 2022-12-01T02:36:49Z Videogaming: Pentiment

This past week I have been knocked out of commission due to a nasty head cold. I unfortunately have never been able to "nap" so I have be stuck on the couch, cleaning up work emails and trying to find something else to pass the time. Too tired to read or engage my brain in any real creative activity I decided to give the recent Gamepass release Pentiment a go, and boy did it hit the right spot at the right time. 

Pentiment is a text based murder mystery game focused around 16th century Bavaria, the Catholic Church, and the Holy Roman Empire. The adventure takes place in the town of Tassing where you have to first investigate a murder at the local abbey. The murder mystery has you as the main character going around the town, looking for clues and interviewing people in the town. All standard "your choice affects the world and people" stuff we have seen in many games. 

What really sets Pentiment apart though is the atmosphere. First the game's art style is a wonderful hand drawn and there is almost no music in the game, with the exception of two notable instances in my play through. It came to be incredibly relaxing while laying on the couch sick. 

The other thing that really caught me about this game is how it built this sense of family and community. The game is really about the people and the families of Tassing. There are three acts in the game that take place over twenty years and through each act you see families grow, some members pass away, and others get married to each other. It was touching and it really grounded me to the characters to see where they have come and where they were going. Finding out that someone from the first act had passed away really struck me emotionally as I needed to delicately navigate how to inquire about the circumstances of what happened the seven years I was gone. 

This was the late 1500's after all and times were tough. Political and religious struggle was bounded by the plague and class warfare and that is reflected in this game. It all came together though in the third act as the game culminates on Christmas Eve. All of your choices an all of the lives of the characters in the game come together on the Christmas Eve celebration at the local inn. All of the townspeople are there and there is this brilliant moment of cultural community that is brought together that just really touched me from a storytelling perspective. That pure sense of community and despite all of the hardships and tragedy that have occurred to the characters in this game, they all soldiered through it together, as a community.

The game can be a bit hard though to get invested in, especially if you aren't prepared for the amount of text you need to parse through. Additionally, there is a beautiful element many of the character's text in the game is different based upon their profession. For example, the monks at the monastery have text bubbles in a gothic font. The local printer has his family's text in a print font. This is a great touch, but can be a bit hard to read at times. Thankfully, there is a "simple font" option for those who want to turn it on, but the game does lose a bit of charm there. 

Also, the other minor fault in the narrative flow is that the game doesn't always give you a good indication of how much interaction and time you have between the scenes. There were multiple instances where I could have interviewed more people, but didn't realize my current interaction was going to progress forward the clock. That was not telegraphed very well early on. 

Overall though, such a wonderful and touching game and I think I might play it again to see how the story changes with different dialog choices and different interactions. Check it out if you are looking for a nice, slow paced game.


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Matthew Supert
tag:blog.matthewsupert.me,2013:Post/1902069 2022-11-14T03:44:00Z 2023-01-03T17:01:24Z Ridelog: Arkanas and Missouri

It just occurred to me that, after switching phones this past fall that I never actually posted all of the highlights from our big motorcycle trip this past fall with the MEWS crew. If I am being honest, I did not journal the trip this year, so instead I'll just go ahead and share the GPS data, photos and videos. 


Video

Photos

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Matthew Supert