Old News: April 20, 2004 to May 16, 2004

12:32 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
16 May 2004 (Sun); Post #478
We had an interesting HackMaster game last night. Turned out the dwarf I had bought my +3 Daggers of Vital Organ Seeking from was a charlatan (they were only +2 Daggers). Well, he got his; we used Goldaff and Anyat to sneak into his room at an oppulent inn, disable the bedwarmers (the preferred term in Farzy for "ladies of the night"), and tie the bugger up (threw him in Goldaff's pocket of holding). Then we totally looted his room (got an Amulet of Life Protection, a Crossbow of Doom +3, an Everfull Quiver of bolts, eight Bolts of Horrendous Pain, and a Ring of Hefty Damage).

Also, we were attacked at The Drooping Stormy Ring by six gnome titans, one of whom was an eighth level fighter with a Mace +4, a Shortsword +5 (which I managed to snag for 3,825 gps), gnome-sized Chainmail +3, and a Helm of See Invisible. Incidentally, I landed the killing blow on him. Also took out one of the fighters unassisted with my Dagger +2 and my new Dagger of Interrogation +5. Anyway, that was after Justin's new character (yet another elf assassin) poisoned me with Withering Red. Managed to get the antidote in time though. Oh yeah, he also had me robbed by a gang of thieves (they stole my backpack; I did kill one though). This led to me being captured by the thieves' guild (fortunately they only held me for one night).

What else? Oh, we bought an inn near the thieves' guild. 1,200 gps. Each party member owns 11% and Bobo, my hireling, paid 400 gps for a 33% share. And Phill, Drew, and myself went to school (the university in Farzy, got classes with the master scout). Drew and I were privately tutored for two weeks to learn the Double Backstab skill (normally only available as a talent; also got two other new skills: Appraising and Mocking Jig). Oh, and due to the truly massive amount of gold I recieved this session, plus my various exciting adventures and conquests, I made it to seventh level (63,835 experience so far; so I need to go to school again next session).

IRL, I figured out what was wrong with the system I was building. The problem had seemed to be a bad HD, but it was actually that the 1st IDE channel was bad. So now the CD-ROM and HD run off IDE2. Oh well. Installing Win 2K Pro on it right now. I really like the case I used for this machine... it's this $24 Apex mid-tower. Can't say much for the motherboard though, obviously.

Downloaded all of the currently available Gantz episodes (1-5). Also grabbed the 350 mB Frasier finale AVI. Really good show.

BTW, I typed up the party charter (the way it was written in pen was difficult to read and too cluttered). If anyone wants a personal copy, here it is:
hm_hells_caterers_party_charter.doc [23.0 kB; MS Word DOC]
We really need to amend this thing; it's too ambiguous on certain points, IMHO.

4:04 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
14 May 2004 (Fri); Post #477
I've been making a lot of additional forms for my HackMaster character record to keep track of stuff. I really prefer them to the default two-page record (and figured others might as well) so I collected all of them and the original PC record PDF on this new HackMaster Resources page (link added to the Gaming section).

We had a sealed-deck Magic: The Gathering tournament tonight. It wasn't much, just JD, Drew, Matt Tomsinski, and myself. One Onslaught starter, two Eighth Edition boosters. No prizes. But it was fun (despite JD's constant cheating — kidding, kidding!). Drew won the whole thing, I came in second. He played a white/green/black deck, I played a white/red/green. All the matches were for the best two out of three games. Here's what the ladder looked like (it was pretty simple):

5/14/04 Magic Sealed Deck Tourney ladder

Penny Arcade had a coloring contest last week that I entered. Of course, my submission [129 kB JPG] was nothing compared to the "honorable mentions" (scroll to the bottom of the linked page), but I didn't think it was too bad. Tycho even replied to my e-mail personally and said (quote): "Looks pretty good to me." There's been idle talk about some of us possibly going to the PA Expo in Bellevue this August. Sounds like fun, would be another chance to get sushi if nothing else. And I could get my Year One hardcover signed.

Started watching this anime, Gantz, that looks promising. The first two episodes are very kafkaesque, which might annoy some people but really hooked me.

Most of you have probably already heard about this stuff, but just in case:
The new Half-Life 2 E3 2004 demo video (700 mB, available at FilePlanet or via BitTorrent).
Nintendo's dual-screen (DS) gameboy, announced at E3. (There's a funny image comparing it to Nintendo's old "Game and Watch" [175 kB JPG] from 1982.)
Tom's Hardware Guide's "Modding The Xbox Into The Ultimate Multimedia Center" article (from yesterday's Slashdot post). Neat stuff.
Maddox's new "You're not Dave Chapelle" rant.
The Red vs Blue Mother's Day PSA video.
Origins Awards Nominees announced. (SJ Games got nine nominations, KenzerCo got four.)
I really need to go to bed.

2:48 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
11 May 2004 (Tue); Post #476
Full Metal Alchemist just got licensed in the US... by Cartoon Network, no less. This means that, aside from them screwing up the series by editing out the gore/violence and employing bad voice actors, FMA episodes will no longer be fansubbed and released as torrents. I managed to pull down all of episode 31 before ANBU yanked the tracker though. Argh.

Our last two HackMaster sessions have been pretty exciting (well, for the thief-types anyway). We had one Friday night and another late Saturday night. On Friday, we explored some old ruins (apparently, it was once an orcish temple for a demon-god) where my thief, Sheshko, found a pair of Hip Waders +1 and, unassisted, killed a giant spider in a single blow (used his Dagger of Venom +1). On the way back to Frandor's Keep, the party found more pack apes. Goldaff assassinated one, two were fought, then we looped back and backstabbed/fought three more. Made 250 gp per head and got free boarding for life at the stables in the middle bailey.

Justin's character (whose name I can't remember) and mine had found a chest near the pack apes filled with women's clothing. Inside it, there was a hidden compartment with a small trap. Sheshko, at great risk to himself, removed the trap and retrieved the contents: a gold bracelet covered in runes. Of course, he warned Justin's character repeatedly not to put it on. What did the fool do? Put it on. Turned out it was cursed: a Bracelet of Gender Change. So now the fighter owes my character half its value (estimated to be about 3,000 gp).

After that, the party met with Harkas who said to come back in one week. At some point, my character saw a man being pilloried. Asking why he was there, he learned that the guy had been found inside the keep's most guarded warehouse (supposedly impenetrable to thieves). Sheshko paid the guy to tell him his secret (i.e. there are tunnels that run under the river and falls and emerge inside the warehouse in a fake crate) and bribed the guards to whip him less. Then Sheshko hit the Burning Dog (a bar which is actually a thieves hangout) and was lucky enough to buy a map of the warehouse interior (ran something like 1,000 gold plus 10% of the take, IIRC) and a vial of sleeping gas extract.

So Goldaff, Te'Pal, and Sheshko infiltrated the warehouse while Justin's character, Kherami, and Anyat distracted the outside guards (using their feminine wiles and my Fascination Egg). Goldaff assassinated three guards and hid the bodies. Then Sheshko disabled an alarm (attached to a tripwire) and we looted the treasure room. My character actually died when a poison trap shot four darts at him and he failed his poison save, but Drew lent me a "Free Mulligan" coupon and he lived. So the party killed all the ppl who might know about the crime, got a heavily trapped armoire opened, and got out of town.

Saturday's session mainly consisted of us traveling to Farzy (killing eight orcs who were planning to ambush us on the way), getting stuff identified, and selling things. Next session, a bunch of us are going to school so we can raise our stats/thief abilities/skills since we leveled. (Sheshko's currently 6th level and only 6,000 EPs from 7th.) In Farzy, my character picked up two Daggers of Vital Organ Seeking +3 (traded in my old +1's). Notable loot we got from the warehouse raid: a portable hole, Boots of Elvenkind, a Dark Cloak, a Ring of Improved Invisibility (Goldaff's), a Ring of Pass Through Walls (Te'Pal's), an Ioun Stone that regenerates 1 hp/turn, Gauntlets of Wuss Slapping, a Switchblade +2, and a scroll of Limited Wish.

Besides HackMaster, I've been playing Knights of the Old Republic for the PC (got it from Drew). It's okay, but I'm always a little annoyed by how linear (predetermined?) these types of games are. Want to kill that guard? Not an option. Want to tell this crime lord he sucks? Too bad, it's not on your response list.

12:24 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
6 May 2004 (Thu); Post #475
Been playing this flash game, Spaced Penguin, a lot. So far, my high score is 553,442. Downloaded episode #1 of Kyou Kara Maou. I won't know till I see one or two more eps, but it looks kind of good. Then again, [sic] Chrno Crusade looked awesome in ep 1. About finished with Reaper Man. Will prolly finish it tonight. Lately, it's been getting a little too Xanth-y for my tastes. The Death/Bill Door and Fresh Start Club story lines were very entertaining, but the whole wizards/snowglobes thing was just kind of annoying.

MagicTheGathering.com has been featuring some Fifth Dawn card previews... neat stuff. Can't wait for June 4th; Drew and I are definitely going to pick up a box each.

On May 11th, the Invader Zim Vol. 1 DVD comes out. Oh, and Sealab 2021 - Season 1 comes out July 20th. Anyway, I just ordered The Triplets of Belleville (and pre-ordered Invader Zim to get the free shipping).

Got a test in CS230 (chapters 5, 6, & 7) tomorrow. Planning on going to IF afterwards (hopefully Dan will have my Walking Dead TPB). Heard Justin's scrapping his magic user in the Hackmaster game so he can play a fighter instead. Drew's pushing for a Friday night session since he has to work pretty much all day Saturday. Okay, time for bed.

Yakima orchard, road, sky
Some orchard I saw in Yakima yesterday while looking for a 2,250 sq. ft. single story with 504 sq. ft. attached garage.

8:33 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
3 May 2004 (Mon); Post #474
Oof. Working lots lately. Yesterday, I set up a Dell system for a home user, then today I cleaned out and backed up a point-of-sale system for a business in Kennewick (nasty stuff; 470 objects found by Adaware, plus a Blaster worm variant). Tomorrow, I have to go photograph four homes in Yakima for that Moses Lake real estate company. Got three homework assignments due tomorrow too. Argh.

Finished Guards! Guards! a while ago; now I'm reading Reaper Man. Very engrossing. I was up till five this morning reading it.

Planetes #25 came out Saturday night. Incredible episode. I won't say any more about it since pretty much any further comment would be a big spoiler. Can't imagine what's going to happen in #26 (which is the series finale). This is definitely my favorite anime series yet; I'd even rank it ahead of Cowboy Bebop. Full Metal Alchemist #30 came out on Sunday... just grabbed the AVI about an hour ago. Came down at 105 KB/s. Haven't seen it yet, but I'm almost current (watched #29 during lunch).

Played my second session of Hackmaster on Saturday. It was fun, but three of our players missed hours of the game. Plus a couple have a fairly tenuous grasp of the rules. Oh, and Hanwool's forbidden from doing anything on weekends now I guess. Anyway, it was cool. We robbed a merchant (got 14 spyglasses, 2 suits of full plate, etc.), wiped out a gnomish jeweler's shop (Drew/Goldaf assassinated him while he was appraising my black pearl), learned a dirty secret about the currency at Frandor Keep, fought two huge pack apes, and stole a 56,000 GP ruby from a mad hermit. And my character actually met his patron gawd (you have to spell it that way in HM), Rigel, face to face (he healed my dwarf pack bearer hireling and destroyed our gem). Hopefully next session we'll get to do some more dungeon crawl adventuring. Module B2: Little Keep on the Borderlands rocks.

Something funny I grabbed off pics.bbzzdd last week.

2:44 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
27 Apr. 2004 (Tue); Post #473
There's a big dust storm outside. Weather.com says the winds are only 25 MPH, but things look awfully grisly out there. The sky's a very solid wheat* color.

Yesterday, Drew and I made backup Hackmaster characters. He made a gnome titan fighter with just about every quirk and flaw possible (but astronomically high stats) and I made a dwarf cleric (WIS 20, woo). Then I beat him repeatedly with various Magic decks.

BitTorrent is awesome. I've already downloaded this week's new Frasier, Law & Order: SVU, and That '70s Show episodes before they've even aired. Couldn't find tonight's Scrubs (3x21) though.

BTW, I just read that a GURPS Girl Genius book is in the works (being written by Kaja Foglio) and will probably be coming out around Q2 2005.

*When it comes to colors, my vocabulary is pretty limited. So I tend to refer to charts like this one to name the proper shade. Granted, it doesn't sound especially manly, but at least one can be accurate. And typing out the RGB code instead would be a little too nerdy, even for me.

1:40 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
26 Apr. 2004 (Mon); Post #472
Kill Bill Vol. 2 was pretty good. I was surprised just how different it seemed from the first movie. Things were less "fakey" (remember how hokey the plane flying into Tokyo looked in the first one? Most everything is slicker, like modern films, in the second.), the soundtrack was less impressive (and far less memorable), and there were fewer surprises. It was still fun though. The "Bill" character was pretty cool, but it was hard for me to not concentrate on his slightly-comical lisp. The child-actor who played The Bride's daughter was surprisingly good. Incidentally, I think all of us who've seen the movie were wondering why Uma's character's real name was bleeped out until a certain point in Vol. 2... I did some Google searches and turned this up:
TARANTINO: Well, I guess that the main reason is that I want you to think of her as the bride. Alright, I wanted to strip her name out of it, but you're going to find that out towards the end of Volume II, but I just wanted her to be the bride, but I didn't want to have to do any artificial gymnastics of why they never mentioned her name. So, I wanted to be true to any given scene, but still have her known only as the bride.

Anyway, we had the GURPS Upsidaisium/Steampunk game on Saturday. Hanwool's parents aren't letting him leave the motel on weekends now, so he couldn't come and Akna was run as an NPC. Everyone made the trip across the Atlantic to London via zeppelin with a ten day layover at Midpoint (a ½ sq. mile aerial base with a strong RAF presence). Sarone was nearly killed in an explosion while attempting to assassinate the Mad Monk of Canterbury (who turned out to be an older spark-turned-archdiocese who worked for General Etheric in the late 1850s). It was the quick reaction of the rest of the party (though not their bravery; none of them could bring themselves to charge into the burning building) that saved the servant of Moloch. Justin had to use his "one" and still came very, very close to pushing up daisies (he ended up with disfiguring burns and had to spend 6 weeks in the hospital).

When Sarone was released, he convinced the team to travel north of Manchester to explore some ruins that were to be torn down by a coal mining operation. Seems a "historic society" team had already combed the area though. Around this time, everyone was getting a little tired of following Sarone around trying to summon his demon-god, so the party had a discussion about travel plans and decided to visit India by way of Germany (Punabi and Tom were collaborating). Well, somewhere over Hastings Sarone decided to off a teammate (in service to his master, of course). The unfortunate soul? Akna. A short contest of ST later, the Inuit fell 5,000 feet to his death.

Later that evening, Punabi, having learned of Akna's "accident," sent his rope into Sarone's room to neutralize him. After a struggle, Sarone found his hands bound. He managed to escape with his newest power— Specter form. He turned insubstantial and floated through the walls of his cabin to Punabi's quarters. A fight ensued. Punabi slashed at Sarone with his scimitar a few times successfully, nearly defeating the Virginian, but was later incapacitated (and then, killed) by a lightning blast from Sarone. At some point, Tom rushed in with his pistol and was knocked unconscious. Kai, fearing the dirigible was going down, collected everyone on the flying carpet in the hallway.

Amazingly, the three remaining PCs survived the fall, crashing into a forest near the coast. The tumultuous ride through the trees left everyone bruised and beaten though. Sarone was so injured and exhausted (his powers fatigue him severely) he could only lie against a fir while Kai and Tom debated murdering him. While they argued, he made a desperate plea to Moloch for strength and protection. Against all odds, his request was granted. He became insubstantial and revitalized, but was surrounded by a very substantial aura of annihilating heat. He used this ability to chase down and kill Tom, setting many fires in the process. Unfortunately for him, the effect was only temporary. After two minutes, he materialized and fell onto the ground (which had transformed into a pool of molten slag by virtue of his proximity). He managed to claw his way out of the lava, but later died in the fire. Kai ran away, the only survivor of the party.

It was a very exciting session. Ryan was awarded 20 CPs and allowed a chance to recover his attributes lost to character deaths because of the curse. He had a 1 in 3 chance of recovering each point and managed to regain 5 out of 6 of them. We decided that the campaign would be picked up at some indefinite point in the future (IRL). In-game, 10 years will have passed (making the next campaign starting date August, 1890). Next week, we'll probably be playing Ryan's Hackmaster game.

Speaking of Hackmaster, I bought the Garweeze Wurld Gazetteer and the Garweeze Wurld Atlas at KenzerCo's web site. For some reason, they're only available as PDFs; no real world books exist. While the detail and quality are very high, the makers neglect to mention a crucial detail about the Atlas: it only covers a 2,000 by 1,000-mile chunk of the setting (sections D7 and E7). That was unpleasant to discover. I double checked the web site too... they never say the Atlas is incomplete or only part of a series. Anyway. I'm looking forward to running my level 4 thief some more. This evening, I wrote the beginning of a background for him so I'd have a better feel for his motives and personality. Basically, he used to live in Maur-Haud'Feem, the elven nation, but was exiled (bringing Great Dishonor to his family) for dealing with trespassing Barcenoran timber cutters. After that, he lived as a recluse in the woods east of the Arkrudaisin Mountains for nearly fifty years.
(I'm still working on it.)

I made this Thief Abilities & Treasure sheet for Hackmaster (it makes it easier to calculate the thief ability percentage scores and has sections for the different types of coinage and gems). Here it is if anyone else wants to use it:

hm_thiefabils_treasure_sheet.doc [26.5 kB; MS Word document]

4:11 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
24 Apr. 2004 (Sat); Post #471
My frickin' Magic tournament got canceled. Not enough ppl signed up. The evening wasn't wasted though, since Jones invited me to a Hackmaster game (he GMed). It was awesome; we played through the Quest for the Unknown module. In Hackmaster, you don't get to pick where your stat rolls go, so you usually choose a class after rolling 4d6 (drop the lowest) for the seven attributes. I got a 12 STR, 14 CON, 17 DEX, 9 INT, 11 WIS, 15 CHA, and 17 COM, so I made a Sylvan Elf thief. I then dropped CHA by 4 to raise my DEX to 19. Definitely worth it. Anyway, we totally pwned a gelatinous cube, a troglodyte, and some lizard men. I made out with 5,738 gold-pieces worth of coinage (249 platinum, 1000 silver, etc.) and 1,905 experience points. This was enough to bump me up to 4th level (I started at level 3). Can't wait to get my magic loot identified (I got this bluish-green dagger with dwarf runes and a very nice helm that seems enchanted... oh, and a rock shaped like an egg that seems to Fascinate ppl). Thanks to a magical outcropping of mica in tunnel #9, my Comeliness increased by 25 percentile points and my HP went up by 6 (both effects are permanent!).

Anyway, Drew and I are going to go see Kill Bill Vol. 2 before the GURPS game tomorrow. Bought some MTG packs at the mall... got a foil Wirewood Channeler, an Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and some good zombie and goblin cards. Went through and boxed most of my decks. Also revised the goblin and burn decks (I was going to play my burn deck in the tourney tonight). Earlier this week, JD and I split a box of Scourge, then a box of Onslaught.

Crap, I gotta go to bed.

Hackmaster: Player's Handbook; cover
The Hackmaster PHB.

11:54 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
21 Apr. 2004 (Wed); Post #470
Just wanted to remind my players that at last week's Upsidaisium game I requested digital copies of everyone's characters. I'd appreciate it if you'd all ('cept Justin, who already did it) e-mail me () the GCA/PDF/TXT files of your character sheets.*

Additionally, everyone who submits a digital copy of their character's current inventory will receive a 1 CP bonus. Be sure to annotate the locations of your property properly. "Loose" items will be wherever the GM chooses to assume they will be.**

BTW, I signed up to play in that Type 1 tournament at Northwest Cards & Comics on Friday. I think the entry fee is just a pack of Mirrodin (~$3.50) or something like that. I'm thinking about playing my burn deck.

Took my CS230 chapters 1-4 test today; think I did well. Polyphonic Spree - Light & Day is a good song. Actually have to go to CS213 (12:40 pm) tomorrow. Argh.

*Failure to comply with this request prior to April 24, 2004 will result in a one to three, inclusive, character point penalty. Should your character lack the necessary free points to pay this fine, the Game Master (hereafter, "GM") shall be free to deduct the points from existing advantages, attributes, or skills, possibly rendering them nonfunctional.
**For example, vials of strychnine without a proper container/location annotation can be assumed to be kept in a vest pocket. Aheheh.

GURPS Character Sheet

6:58 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
20 Apr. 2004 (Tue); Post #469
Picked up Guards! Guards! and Reaper Man at Barnes & Noble today. Started reading Guards! Guards!. It's pretty good. Actually, all the Discworld books are pretty good, except Moving Pictures and Eric, IMHO. Those kinda sucked. Eric more so than Moving Pictures.

Just got back from doing some tech work for some ppl in Pasco. Gotta go to CS231 in about 10 minutes.

Yesterday, when we were driving by the railroad bridge in Kennewick, JD told me this story about his dad that was pretty entertaining. Apparently, his dad used to jump into the river from that bridge for fun. Well, one time he was out doing this and hit something a few feet under the water that he couldn't see. Turned out it was a cow. A very, very dead cow. Anyway, he had jumped in feet first and ended up going through the corpse. When he surfaced, he was already puking and had no idea why.

Cute anecdote, right?

Since I prolly won't build that storm-combo deck I mentioned last night, I was tinkering with some other ideas. The stuff I'm looking at now centers on Shifting Sky plus CoP: Red and Blue Elemental Blast (throw in a bunch of cheap white or blue creatures with protection from red) or possibly a deck with Braids plus Soul Foundry (continually force your opponent to sacrifice land/ artifacts/ creatures; you could also throw in Muscle Slivers and other creatures with cool "when ~ comes into play" abilities).

Okay, time for CS231.

12:10 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
20 Apr. 2004 (Tue); Post #468
Had the GURPS game on Saturday. The party mostly hung out in Webster Springs, but ended up in Washington after traveling with a wagon train. Sarone and Punabi exchanged barbs, then blows... later, Sarone got arrested for beating Punabi and leaving him bound and bleeding on the floor of his hotel room. Anyway, the team had to go bust him out from his new life as an indentured servant... this resulted in the death of a farmer, a shotgun wound for Tom, and the razing of a farmhouse. Everyone found out a little more about how the curse works: after 9 hours of separation from the group, a person has to make a Will -1 check once per hour; failure equals death. Oh, and Punabi, Kai, and Akna spent a night in the livery drinking all the tonics they stole from the traveling salesman (two of them nearly died, one gained psychic powers for a couple minutes). Also, Sarone nearly died from strychnine poisoning.

I designed a storm-combo deck which I had planned on building IRL, but it turned out to be a little more expensive than I thought it would be and I'm having some problems with my two preferred card sites (CardHaus is out of stock on a lot of stuff I want, CardKingdom's shopping cart is FUBAR'd). JD and I went to Best Bett and this place in Richland (can't remember the name; everyone calls it "lotion" though). The Richland place had a ton of MTG ppl there just playing matches. I want to go sometime this week and try my favorite decks on some new ppl (Pariah, Burn, Super Time Warp, my new Fast Black Pumper deck). The guy at the counter told me they might be having an unsanctioned Type 1 tournament there this Friday. Might try that.

Full Metal Alchemist #28 is out. Still no Planetes #25 though. I bought a 6 DVD Cowboy Bebop box set on eBay for $20. Looking forward to that. No, the seller doesn't live in the Philippines. Finished reading Promethea Book One. It's okay; I'll pick up volume 2 when Dan gets it. The story got really good right at the end. The term "science-hero" is starting to bug me. It was quaint in Tom Strong, in Promethea it just seems dumb.

Everyone (well, Drew and JD) seems to be reading Discworld. I used to be really into that setting. Since I'm out of stuff to read, I think I'll try to pick up something in that series at Barnes & Noble tomorrow.

Need to go do laundry and sleep.


Promethea holding the caduceus.

"The world is my lobster." — Henry J. Tillman