Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Balticon 51

Another Balticon has passed. As usual, it was great to see nearly everyone again. A special shout out to my friend and author J.L. Gribble who attended this year as a panelist! It’s always cool to see someone you know behind the table giving their expert opinions.

You should totally buy her books!

Several of my favorite authors weren’t on the program this year, including Myke Cole who was at Phoenix Comicon. With his books doing well, and his TV career developing, and a new game in the works, he’s outgrown Balticon as he’s outgrown his t-shirts. Maria V. Snyder had just returned from Africa, so wasn’t on the schedule, but she did stop by the registration desk to say hi.

Spent some time chatting with Keith DeCandido about books, Star Trek, Supernatural, and life in NYC. I was shocked and saddened to learn that his Star Trek novel Articles of Federation is apparently out of print. One of my top favorite Star Trek books out there. Well worth reading, and it’s available as an e-book. I snagged the first 2 Supernatural books he wrote (my only swag this year!) and am already about halfway through the first one.

As usual, I spent a lot of time at registration. Enough that I not only got the tshirt, but also a free pass for next year!

After going to Balticon for over a decade, some of the panels get repetitive, and the science track (my favorite) no longer has the appeal it once did. With everything available on the internet in terms of science news, there’s rarely anything discussed that I don’t already know about. I do intentionally avoid paleontology news specifically so that I can fully enjoy Dr. Holtz’s Dino Update.

Once change this year which I was thrilled to see was the inclusion of games, not just game related panels, on the program! In specific slots! When I first went to Balticon gaming was very much shuffled off into a back corner and mostly ignored. It’s nice to see it being more fully embraced.

The costumes/cosplay this year were, as usual, fantastic.

And I even spent a bit of time doing some mapping! Okay, not actually a lot of time... but it still counts!

All in all, I had a great time, and I’m already looking forward to Balticon 52!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dark Day in Felstad

On April 29th I attended my final game as part of the ongoing Maryland campaign I'd been playing in. The scenario was Run of the Rangifer scenario, combined with a custom Eric’s Rune Stones scenario.

Eric's scenario involved runestones represented by scrabble tiles. The tiles would be handed out facedown to the players, and placed on the table, like treasure, still facedown. The players would then try to collect the tiles, and at the end of the game would get Experience Points and Gold Coins for the number of tiles they collected. If your wizard could "decipher" the runes and make a word from the Scrabble tiles they retrieved, they would get extra EP and GC. Each tile was worth 5 EP and 10 GC, but if you could make a word from them you would then square the number of tiles you used in the word, and multiply that times the 5 EP or 10 GC. Each figure could carry 2 "runestones" unencumbered, but carrying 3 or 4 would count like a treasure. Four was the maximum a figure could carry, and for combining load purposes, all regular treasure was said to equal 3 runestones. Each player started the game with 5 tiles and one regular treasure to place on the table.

Quail's Report

"I have a war to stop... No. I have a war to end, to win. And he's keeping us here, looking for a weapon that will help, because he can't remember where it is. Or so he says. He's keeping something from me." The Warrior complains.

"An apprentice shouldn't talk about their master like that." Gnolly growls.

"I'm not his apprentice!"

Bouncing down the stairs the Doctor grins at both of them. "I've found something!"

"About time!"

"What are we waiting for? Daylight's burning."

The day was clear as the Doctors approached where they’d seen the Rangifiers in the ruins. Figuring that if anyone knew the secrets of Fellstand, they would Now if only they could find some way to talk to them…

Turn 1
An unnatural Darkness falls upon the city...

"Hey, who turned out the lights?" One of the players at the other end of the table dropped a Bottle of Darkness, reducing line of sight to a mere 12"!!

Doctor Ecclescake tries to mind control the closest Rangifier, but the creature’s alien mind resists.
Doctor Payne fails to Fleet Feet the Templar, while the thief charges forward and grabs a tile.

Turn 2
Dr. E fails to Mind Control the Rangifier, and moves forward to keep it from attacking anyone else. The Ranger charges in to protect the Doctor, and injures the Rangifier.
Dr. P again fails to Fleet Feet anyone.
From behind a ruin a Zombie Troll lumbers out, drawn toward the sounds of combat. The Rangifer hurts Dr. E.
Harad gets into combat with Lucy.
The Wraith Knight appears!

Turn 3
The Ranger attacks the Rangifier, trying again to protect Dr. E, but gets injured in the process. Dr. E knocks out the Rangifer.
Dr. P finally succeeds in Fleet Footing the Templar, who charges in and “kills” the illusionary Lucy.

The zombie troll charges Dr. E, and knocks him flat.

Princess rushes behind the temple to tie up some minions, but doesn't survive against the strange yellow things...

In the temple, the Rangifier and Wraith Knight fight, the knight killing the beast. It then charges down the stairs and slays Elfie! Lady Elf hides (for the rest of the game)

The Ranger shoots and kills Bob the Thug.

Turn 4
Dr. P uses his sonic screwdriver to Blind the Wraith Knight!
As the Templar begins his charge toward the blinded Wraith Knight he takes a bold and an arrow to the chast and falls bleeding into the snow. Harad grabs a treasure, and the Thief runs off the board. Dunadain grabs a token.

Turn 5
Dr. P Fleets Harad
The Wraith Knight shakes off the blindness. And 2 armored skeletons shamble toward the party.

Turn 6
Dr. P tries to Blind the Wraith Knight, fails, and runs.
Gnolly and the Wraith Knight flail ineffectively at each other. The Treasure Hunter takes down 1 of the skeletons, but is stabbed by the other, dropping. Dunadain runs off the board with the token.

Turn 7
Dr. P again tries to blind the Wraith Knight, gets the setting right, but the WK resists.

The treasure wasn’t nearly as bountiful as last excursion, with a mere 110 gold recovered. However the Grimoire of Brew Potion was a nice addition to the the TARDIS’ library!

The Survivors! (Lady Elf not shown, as she was still hiding, forgotten by all)

Doctor Ecclescake survived with a minor bump on his head.
The Templar and Treasure Hunter make a full recovery, while Princess is badly wounded. Elfie and Harad didn’t survive their injuries.

And as this was my final game with the group before moving, the guys got me a going away present!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Inspirational Image: Demon Queen

Part of me looks at a picture like this and thinks "this is an ancient demon who is, quite frankly, bored with the whole "Queen of Darkness" shtick. Not that she's looking to be an angel or anything, but something different..."

The other part of my brain thinks, "No, she's perfectly content being a demon, powerful, beautiful, and terrifying. The whole redemptive story arc is for losers!"

By Chris Cold

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Tale of Two New Treks

A Tale of Two Treks
Star Trek Discovery’s first real trailer premiered Wednesday, and I watched it, repeatedly, with cautious optimism. There’s a lot going on, some things I don’t like, some things that I do. Keep in mind, this is based on the trailer alone, and I reserve the right to change my mind.

Initial Likes:
Diverse Cast: Just gonna get this out of the way, but the two lead characters are female? And neither of them is white? Plus the rest of the cast appears to be just as diverse? Excellent.
The Feel: While definitely taking ques from the JJ-Verse, this still, mostly, feels like Star Trek. Starfleet, Vulcans, Klingons, etc.
10 Years before Kirk: There’s a lot of potentially interesting storytelling to be done in this era. On the other hand, it also puts it about 15 years (give or take) after the split in the timelines between the Alpha universe and the JJ-Verse.
Klingons: Excellent. Classic villains of the era. And they aren’t the swarthy TOS Klingons either!
Uniforms: As much as I like the PJs in Space look, these look good.

Initial Dislikes:
My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone, to sense the coming of death. I sense I coming now.” There had better be a *really* good backstory for this…
The Ships: Granted, we haven’t gotten a good look at them yet, but my initial feel is unimpressed. Like many, I did not care for the teaser of the Discovery that was shown a while back, and was glad when the studio said that it wasn’t the final version, just a teaser…
Another Half Vulcan? Really? We’ve already had this story with Spock. Twice now.
Uniforms: I am a little sad that the Enterprise’s chevron seems to have been adopted fleet wide at this point.
Klingons: Crap, they’re the JJ-Verse Klingons. Please be more interesting than what we’ve seen, and please don’t dump on everything shown in TNG/DS9/Voy…
Lens Flairs

Classic Aliens: Let’s see some Andorians and Telerites! We got them in Enterprise, let’s see them here!
Stay Away from TOS: It’s a big universe. I don’t need to see young Spock, young Kirk, etc. Wait, Sarek and Harry Mudd are in it? Oh… well… Don’t screw it up?
Universe: Wait, which universe is this set in?

On the flip side of things, there’s Seth MacFarlane’s new show The Orville, which visually feels much closer to classic Trek than Discovery does, but... fails on so many other levels. And it isn’t because there can’t be humor in Star Trek. In fact some of the best moments in Trek are because of the humor! Hell, Galaxy Quest did an amazing job spoofing Star Trek, while at the same time managing to make one of the best Trek films ever made.

Yet this? In the trailer we get bathroom humor, sexist gender stereotyped humor that feels like it’s from the 80’s or 90’s… It just doesn’t come across as funny. Okay, the bit with the blob was cute, but is there going to be enough here to sustain a TV show? To make it a show worth watching? I have my doubts.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Inspirational Image: Sapphire Knight

When I first saw it I thought it might have been another set of 3D printed armor, but this is actually crafted from leather!

By Azmal