Season’s Greetings

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Hellooooooooooo my favorite marmot following followers! It has been quite a while since I’ve poked my head up out of the ground. Looking at the thermometer it seems as though winter is well and certainly upon us and the holiday season is well and certainly underway.

With that being the case, I wanted to take a moment to wish you all happy holidays. May you all be happy and safe and well. This season can be tough on a lot of people and it is always important to keep in it in the back of your mind that even if you aren’t lonely or having a hard time, someone else may be. Be good to one another and remember that we all have far more in common than we think.

If you need me I’ll be back in my burrow playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and not playing Fallout 76 which is what a dumpster fire would look like if it was coded in COBOL, translated into LOGO, then translated again in Visual Basic, finally being sold as a game in the back room of a disreputable hair salon.

Season’s Greetings Y’all!!!

-Stu

Rolling, Trapped in Trappings

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Hello to dedicated readers and the errant link-wanderers alike, it is time for another fitful post on The Marmot Report.  I’ve risen early in the morning, assisted in no small part by a recent bout of insomnia, to commit some more ideas to the vast vastness that is, The Internet. This time around I would like to riff on the subject of the role playing game (or, RPG for the uninitiated).  The subject is not tied to a particular RPG though I use D&D as my reference, or the tortuous process of getting people in a single place at a single time to play which most consider a meta-game, as the likelihood of getting 6-9 people’s schedules to match up is just as fantastical a scenario as cleaving an bugbear in half.

But lo, no, I am not here to discuss those things which I have just discussed.  I am here to talk on the subject of…

Stuff.

Things.

Dice and stuff.

Yes, I am referring to the trappings of the RPG.  The products that you can buy that may or may not be directly related to the game and in most cases are unnecessary, or at least not necessary in bulk.  Things such as dice, notebooks, sourcebooks, dice, backpacks (yes, backpacks), miniatures, hero vaults, dice, pouches, you get the idea.  These items are not required to play the game (probably with the exception of dice, which as I said may be necessary, but not in the quantities I currently possess), but help you to feel as though you are immersing yourself in the game.  They enhance the experience by way of giving one the ability to imbue a physical object with the essence of the gaming sessions and lend a feeling of uniqueness and occasion.  It is a physical connection to that which exists only in our minds.  It is tactile.  It is real.  It is a great way to get rid of the random bits of cash you think you have laying around.

Gaming can be thought of as a hobby, and starting a new hobby can be a wonderful thing.  A hobby can involve physical or mental challenges that push you past your comfort zone, or a way to do exactly the opposite, to lessen the load on your mind and body temporarily of day-to-day nonsense and rigors, a spa-day for your psyche and soles, if you will.  A hobby can be viewed as something that will get you out of the house, or at least out of your partner/roommate/parent’s hair, which is generally considered to be a good thing.

ANNOUNCING

Like almost any hobby, there are various levels of investment.  In the realm for tabletop roleplaying, and again for this I’m using Dungeons and Dragons as a reference point, all you really need is a set of polyhedral dice, your character sheet, a pencil, and a GM who isn’t out to TPK the lot of you at the first roll of a Nat1 (don’t worry, these terms will be explained at the conclusion of the post).  That’s it, that is all you need.  You can get into it for about $10.  If you’re feeling bold and want to toss another Hamilton into the mix you could get a starter kit which includes basic rules for both playing and running a game, as well as a set of dice.  If you’re spending over $20, you’re probably doing something wrong though for reasons that will become clear, I’m not going to judge you.  It could be argued that in the case of D&D,  you could opt to skip the starter set and go right to purchasing of the Players Handbook, which depending on where you purchase it from can bring the initial investment to around $40.  That’s it.  That’s all you need. Unless…

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

Once you get a taste for it, you start to become aware of those things that enhance and your hobby.  The supplemental items.  The sourcebooks. The miniatures.  The rolling tray.  The grid mats.  The dice.

Oh, the goddamn dice.

AND IF YOU ACT NOW

I would venture to say that it starts with the dice.  There are all sorts of dice out there in all manner of material.  With the boom of roleplaying the last several years, there have been tons of entrants into the field of dice making and they have arrived at every price point.  You can pick up a fully functional, completely useful, utterly serviceable and perfectly fine set of plastic dice for around $7.  You roll them onto a surface and they show a number.  Simple.  Easy-peasy.

But if you are foolish enough to peek down the rabbit hole of polyhedral dice, an entire world opens to you.  Dice of every material and price point present themselves for purchase, ready to make your roleplaying experience more unique and satisfying.  There are plastic dice, metal dice, stone dice, bone dice, wood dice, and there are probably dice out there made of Bolivian mountain beaver shit and dice comprised of gluten free compressed corn husk shavings.  I don’t know if there are beavers in the mountains of Bolivia or if one actually can shave a corn husk, but you get my point.

When I first started out, I went for the generic bag-o-dice.  You get 100 or so mass-produced plastic dice.  More dice than you could likely want or realistically use.  You toss them in a ziplock bag or if you are feeling classy you repurpose that Crown-Royal pouch which until last night cradled a bottle in its felty caress.

But you discover specialty plastic dice, with sharp edges that roll more “true” and are less susceptible to the issue of statistically landing on specific numbers (you see the polishing process makes most dice egg shaped and so…..eh, go see for yourself).  They cost a little more of course, but isn’t it worth it for the piece of mind of knowing that your character’s fate is truly random? (NOTE: Most reasonable people don’t give a flip which is…perfectly reasonable)

You have your first couple play sessions out of the way.  You’ve got your dice situation sorted out.  Maybe you’ve picked up a extra set or two because you liked the color or you got tired of having to re-roll your d4 multiple times.  You’re having fun but one of your fellow players shows up with a small box-like object, the bottom lined with a mat of oiled leather.  Curious, you ask what it is and they inform you that it is a “dice tray”.

“Oh”, you exclaim, “So you’re not rolling off of the table and onto the floor.  Nice”

“Well yes, ” your fellow player replies, ” but it’s so I don’t ding the table when I roll.”

“Huh?”

“I just got some metal dice.”  Your playmate presents his new metal dice.

Metal dice?

You stare in awe.  A hunger grows deep inside you.  Inside your wallet your credit card screams as if the holds of a thousand impulse purchases were just placed on your credit card.  You are now trapped in the trappings.  Roll for initiative.

To be continued (maybe)

TERMS:

GM = Game Master (more woke than Dungeon Master).  The individual who manages the rules, creates and narrates the story/adventure, and rapidly loses or gains friends during gaming sessions due to arbitrary decisions that make no sense but whatever, sure, just do that, I don’t care, I totally should have made that jump over the ravine.

TPK = Total Party Kill.  A game master places the players in a scenario that results in the death of all the characters.  This happens when the GM hates everyone they are playing with, has someplace that they forgot they needed to be and has to screw out early or, it is the third session in a row that nobody has offered to chip in for the food and beer.

Nat1 = Natural 1.  In the game of D&D, a roll of an actual 1 or 20 are considered “natural” and can have spectacularly good results (20 – you swing your sword and cut a dude’s arm off) or fantastically bad results (1 – you swing your sword and cut your own arm off).  You can have rolls of 20 that are not “natural”.  For example, if you are playing a character that has a bonus +2 to a particular skill and you roll an 18, the result is 20 but it isn’t a nat20.

Woke = I have zero idea what the hell this means but use it to give the appearance of…something.

 

 

 

 

August Update

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Hello all and welcome to August, the most august of the summer months.  It’s been hot and humid and quite frankly, I’ve not been a fan.  But things being what they are, it is summer and it’s not snowing out so I suppose that is a win. 

Now then, what’s been going on?  It’s been a few months and things have gotten away from me a bit.  An immediate family member passed in June and it still doesn’t feel quite real.  I can’t even say I’ve really allowed myself to process it.  Life itself has been its usual rollercoaster of moody ups and downs and I struggle more with myself than anything that might be going on around me.  But that’s not why you come here.  You come here for the sweet, sweet…something. 

The book You and 42: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams saw publication in June.  Seeing your name in print is a special sort of awesome.  Its shipment from the publisher was delayed however and unfortunately that delay prevented me from showing it to the one person I really wanted to show it to.  Life is fleeting my friends, life if fleeting. 

On the gaming front, I finally bit the bullet and gave Fortnight a shot.  I’m terrible at it but it is a fun way to kill a little bit of time if you’ve got nothing else going on.  The visual design is fun, the gameplay is easy enough to pick up and the crafting, while something I’m no good at, adds a really nice bit of novelty to the game. 

Last month I joined a group to kick-off a new D&D campaign.  It’s the GM’s first foray into the 5th edition ruleset and my second campaign overall.  Our group is huge with 9 PCs and the GM.  That is 10 people to wrangle together in one place.  I think the real campaign is scheduling our sessions, with the resulting gameplay merely an incidental side effect.  My character is a Dragonborn fighter and in our first encounter I cleanly cleaved an opponent in half with a single nat20 roll.  It was satisfying.  In a later session I saw fit to engage in a friendly drinking game but my constitution rolls did not go well with the result being a wall projectile-painted with a soupy mix of ale and semi digested quail and a giant dragonborn fighter passed out face-down on the floor of the dining hall.  Good times. 

Well, that’s about it.  I know, it isn’t much.  The burrow hasn’t exactly been hopping lately but things are looking up. 

Until next time, roll for initiative and watch the skies for a ride off this crazy rock. 

-Stu 

Well Now This is Interesting

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PAX East 2018 is over.  I’m enjoying my traditional day-after recovery day, unpacking, washing wearable swag, sorting through the discarable cruft of promotional material, and discovering that my personal PAX White Whale, the Limited-Edition PAX pin, is nowhere to be found.  I spend three god damned days pursuing that thing and my success in obtaining it was met with an equal mixture of frustration, relief, and accomplishment.

It is nowhere to be found.  I imagine it is currently existing in some secret, hidden place, such as behind some hotel furniture.  There it sits, laughing to itself in its maniacal, evil pin-laugh thinking it has bested me.  You may have won this battle you pinny bastard, but this is a war and…well I’m not sure where I’m going with that, but I think you get the idea. (UPDATE: Found the sonovabitch.  It was in the seldom used and hidden pocket in my backpack, which I can only assume I used so I absolutely wouldn’t lose it)

The real reason for this post is to make a small announcement about something that is a big deal, at least for me.  Through the tremendous efforts of some amazing people, I will be part of a published piece of work.

You and 42: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams has just been announced for pre-order!  The contributions of my alter (real) ego are scattered throughout the book and there is no shortage of notable contributors, including Jem Roberts, the official biographer of Douglas Adams as well as an essay by Martin Adams, of Adams-Smith-Adams, who, if you are familiar with Douglas Adams, should ring the appropriate cognitive bell.  There are also a number of contributors I have come to know and call friends from across the US, across the pond, and all over the world.

Though my contribution is small, my anticipation and excitement for this book is enormous.  Also, author’s proceeds from the book go to Save The Rhino, a cause that was very dear to Douglas Adams himself.

And so, in closing, maybe check it out.

PUBLISHER’S PAGE: https://who-dares.co.uk/shop/you-and-42-the-hitchhikers-guide-to-douglas-adams/

TABLE OF CONTENTS: https://youandwho.weebly.com/you-and-42.html

Till next time,

Stu

Blade Runner 2049 – Nope

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***WARNING: There are probably spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049, turn away now***

Blade Runner was a brilliant movie.  Blade Runner 2049 was a terrible movie.  Placing aside some of the more disturbing issues the first movie had, and make no mistake, in hindsight there are troubling power-dynamics between Decker and Rachael – especially when viewed through a modern lens, it was a stunning film.  Visually, aurally, metaphorically, it was a fantastic film.  I’ve seen the various versions several times (5 different cuts last time I knew) and though it’s been years since I’ve watched the theatrical version,  I have no problem admitting that each version has its merits.  Even the voiceover in the original theatrical still holds a little spot in my heart.

BR2049 was slow.  Really slow.  A slow glacier of slowness.  My boredom grew weary of itself, if that’s possible.  I will concede that the movie was a looker.  Visual effects aside, there wasn’t much else going on.  The set pieces felt empty, disjointed, disconnected.  The characters felt empty, disjointed, disconnected.  The plot felt empty, disjointed, discone…..you get the idea.  I felt nothing for Ryan Gosling’s character.  Throughout most of the movie my prevailing attitude was to just get on with it.  I couldn’t buy into the idea that replicants, so soon after a full-on revolt, would even be allowed to be manufactured, let alone live amongst the public in an apartment.  And what can I say, Jared Leto gave a Suicide-Squad Joker level performance, which is to say it could have been cut from the film entirely and saved us some time.  And the statues of women in all sorts of…interesting…positions?  And really, what the heck was up with that birthing chute?

The ending was nonsensical.  It was painful.  It was not good.

You can probably tell that I didn’t like the film.  Yes, the visual effects were good, but that’s all there really is.  Maybe I just didn’t see the same film all the critics saw.  Maybe I need to see it again.  Don’t hold your breath though.

Eh, your mileage may very.

Cheers,
Stu

 

 

 

Goodnight Stephen

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Dr. Hawking, You are proof that the human spirit and intellect are not bound by the constraints of the human body. Your vision served to expand countless minds, and will continue to do so for at least a generation, if not more. We thank you for your faith in us, your compassion for us, your understanding of the human condition, and your hope. Your hope and wonder drives us all.

Godspeed Stephen, Godspeed.

I Am Ready

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The badges are in, the dice have arrived, the business cards have been ordered (you know, for networking).

Let us be prepared in our preparation of this thing we are going to be doing!

-Stu

PAX East 2018

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PAX is now less than a month away.  This year it lasts four days.  Four days. I’m going to let that sink in.

Four days.

It has historically only taken two days for the event to take its toll on me, and last year, no joke, in January I started going to the gym daily to work up the endurance and immuno-fortitude to endure the event.

The subsequent year has not been nearly as kind to me.  Or, perhaps what would be more truthful to say, is that I have not been nearly as kind to myself.  The couch has been a far too accommodating companion, and the gym is a distant memory of some long-ago place I had once frequented in childhood but haven’t visited in years.  I’d say I’ve added a little over two stones to my bottom line, which if you are a doctor or fluent in arcane units of measurement, you know is not insignificant, or, in fact, good.

So what does this year hold?  I’m not really sure.  I think this time I am the least prepared, not exactly ambivalent,  but not entirely engaged.  I hope to have the good fortune of dining with the Twitch crew I’ve met up with for the last two years (which seems likely as I’ve been made responsible for finding the place we’re all going to dine at), and staying in the hotel attached to the venue for two nights presents me with the opportunity to partake of some of the evening events without all that mucking about in Ubers, trains, and busses.

I’m sure there will be much to see and much to do.  I will use my skills honed at previous PAX to get the good stuff at the merch booth first thing on the first day before I do anything else.  I’ll pack my cliff bars and my water bottle, and I will bravely go forth into the frothy ocean of humanity, PAX Pox be damned.  I will endeavour to post  my exploits and perhaps I’ll even have a video or two.  I hope to do all of that and share it with you because, well, you’re my kind of folk.

And with that I shall end this post.  Marmotinnians, I bid you a good day.

-Stu

 

Annihilation: A Review in Brief

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With a cast whose chemistry is like mixing water with more water, pacing that would make a sloth consider taking up running, and an ending that is as predictable as contracting food poisoning from a mid-summer dashboard aged egg salad sandwich, Annihilation is…not good.

March-ing Forward

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Yup. It’s March. January and February happened. I can’t say that I have much in the way of things to report, but what the hell, here we go:

Monster Hunter has finally arrived on a platform that I actually use. All of the reviews I’ve read have spoken of it very favorably, praising it’s visuals and appreciating the streamlining of certain mechanics. I’ve always been intrigued by the series but I’ve never played it. I bit the bullet, preordered it (the day before) and now it sits on my XB1X, languishing on my hard drive.

I played it the day it was released, but I really wanted to experience the multiplayer aspect of it and that was broken. And besides, whenever I asked around, everyone said they were on PS4. Once it was fixed I didn’t want to jump in with strangers because, well, stranger danger. Social awkwardness doesn’t end at the face-to-face.

And in playing I think I discovered something about my gaming habits at this point in my life. I just wanted to kill some time. I didn’t want to invest the effort to plan ahead, to craft my inventory to match the creature I was preparing to hunt. Now, it might be that over time I’ve lost my ability to focus and immerse myself in a game, or it might be that my now semi-pro level of alcoholism has destroyed my critical thinking abilities, but I just can’t sink my teeth in a deep game like Monster Hunter like I used to. If I’m not interacting with a real person or group to plan strategy and have a solid back-and-forth, I just want mindless, frantic action. I keep telling myself that Witcher 3 is going to the the play through that it deserves (f#^÷ing amazing game on so many levels) but in the end I’ve been playing a lot of Titanfall 2. (a special shout out to Elite Dangerous and Minecraft for some mindless grind-time)

On the tabletop front, I have finally received my copy of WETA Workshop’s Giant Killer Robots: Heavy Hitters. I’ll do a second post with pics. It’s an impressive package and I’m really happy with the miniatures. The GIANT miniatures. I’ve picked up some additional games, one Steve Jackson game on Kickstarter, and there is a new Star Wars miniatures game in pre-release which I could see sucking up more of my income than I would like to admit, but at the moment I’m in a holding pattern with new purchases. The need to pay down the credit card before PAX East 2018 is great. In an ideal world the revenue from my Patreon and my Twitch stream would offset some of the costs, but for that to happen I would need a Patreon and a Twich stream, neither of which actually exist.

Here we are. This is the end of the post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Your coat should be in the back room, but I’ve had a problem with security in the tunnels lately so if you can’t find yours just grab one. That sort of makes it like game, yeah?