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Grand Theft Everything Electronic: My House Edition

We were robbed today. PS3, Wii, digital camera, brand new laptop — all gone. Beware, geeks! You are the target of the money hungry and the criminal! They don’t care about you or how you were finally getting the hand of Red Dead Redemption. They care about their meth habit. At least, that’s what they care about around here. Your mileage may vary.

The theft occurred in broad day light at our home. They kicked in the door, ransacked the place, but only took the small electronics — left our thousand dollar television, which was nice of them I guess. (Or they couldn’t stuff it in a bag to manage.) This leads the police to believe it was only one guy. It doesn’t matter though — the house looks like an army went through it, sacking and pillaging like Vikings.

Right now I’m sort of in shock. I’ve activated LoJack for Laptops which I hope will help in the retrieval process, but who knows what happens next.

Ladies: Keep your serial numbers. Mark your goods. If they turn up at the pawn shops, find them, report them! Hopefully, my attempts at protecting my laptop via software and so forth will bring some of our things home. At this point, however, it’s only waiting.

It’s not a happy wait, either.

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Dragon Age: Barely Awake…

So I finally got around to finishing up Dragon Age: Origins – Awakenings. (Or however they want to juggle those words). I have to say that was the most expensive DLC in history and the least enjoyable.

I finished in under 20 hours of game play. I pursued most of the side quests, but not all. The lack of character interaction was really a killer for the enjoyment factor – it took all the fun and light ‘between quest’ time out of the game, which was a factor that had really made it for me previously.

What I did like is that the ending ‘story’ did factor in my character’s past — she returns to her beloved Alister and life for her goes on. I just wish that it hadn’t had to go through this really crappy expansion for her to get this apparent storybook ending. But hey, the first game resounded with the themes of war and sacrifice and Awakenings… well, Awakenings didn’t resound with much of anything. It wasn’t a trumpet of a game, it was more like a slide whistle.

Either way, it was okay game play– just repetitive and boring quests with no fun times at camp to spice things up. The characters they created were pretty flat, and didn’t get any more three dimensional because there was simply no way to interact with them beyond a scant cutscene here or there for questlines. It simply wasn’t that fun. A five out of ten at most — mediocre might be an excellent description.

I’m also stymied in FFXIII, which I’ve actually begun to enjoy now — but have hit a boss battle I just can’t seem to quite conquer. It’s the Doom status in the final phase and the reset of the Stagger bar. It’s just not fair, I tell you. If we can’t Stagger the bugger and we’re suddenly on a time limit and can’t remove Doom, THEN what, huh?

Ah well; the weekend has been full of dissatisfaction. Lackluster games, the weekend tabletop game canceled — how has YOUR gaming gone this week? Got that achievement? Rocked that boss? Leveled up?


They can be taught!

So we’ve been continuing the battle of the the better meal at my house, and so far we only have one major hold out — our ‘problem’ player who only plays sociopaths and installs and plays games while we’re around the gaming table and almost never arrives on time for anything (which is a big problem when he’s driving other players).

It seems that sending out an email a day before announcing what food we’re making and leaving it at that has gotten most of of them on board. Several have asked for use of the kitchen to start making food as well, and in two weeks one of our players will be making dinner with my blessing in my kitchen. Two others have volunteered, and we’re working on a potluck style dinner every two weeks.

I’m hoping this will stick, as well as make them feel ‘invested’ as opposed to being ‘mothered’. Either way, I’m pleased with the step in the right direction. The last two games we’ve done well– two weeks ago there were no left overs, and last night the root vegetable and beef stew that was prepared got rave reviews from our gaming group (the meat was so tender it fell apart in the pot!) and made me bless my crock pot… I look forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow at work for lunch!


Multipass!

The computer is your gateway to new and exciting people! Yes, some may be sociopaths or pedophiles, and some of them are simply dicks. But still, what would the world be without people?

On second thought, don’t answer that.

I like to play with people. I like cooperative games a lot more then I like competitive games. I enjoy being a story with fellow players in my tabletop games, and I enjoy smokin’ a Spitter before she vomits all over my team mates in my newly discovered love for Left 4 Dead (1 or 2, they’re all awesome.) I enjoy it. I enjoy the broader (and usually older) community on PC connections then I do on say, XBox — in fact, XBox Live is a reason we chose to go PS3 instead of XBox (along with the Red Ring of Death, general catalog being superior on PC, etc). It’s got a bad reputation. I just wasn’t interested in dealing with it. So the computer is my box of choice. I prefer single or dual player on console, and I enjoy a broad range of games from puzzlers to shooters on my PC.

And now I’m using it as a Tabletop aid. A friend of mine, who I have known for going on ten years now, used to run a tabletop Exalted (2nd edition, for the curious) game online as his regular gaming group spread over several states. They added a few other friends, and wa-la! They used Google Wave as their first tool for it’s ease of sharing documents and having a ‘bot’ dice roller you can ‘invite’ your group communications. (This is still how they do dicerolling.) But to expedite the communications process, they set up a group Skype and now we all spend 2-3 hours voice-gaming over the internet.

So now I have a new Thursdays group, and I look forward to seeing how this works. I’ve been gaming — roleplaying specifically — since I was about eleven years old. I am now thirty-two. This is two decades of gaming books, and if I wasn’t ashamed of it’s well loved, tattered shape I would photograph the first gaming book I ever bought — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. Fangirl? Yes. Do I care? No. I’ve done statted, non stated, consent-based, ICC=ICA, you name it, I’ve played it across various platforms and tools. But I think, after the laughs shared over Skype Thursday night, this should be a fun experience if my schedule allows me to keep up with it.

In the other end of the spectrum, I’ve found the cooperative campaigns of Left 4 Dead to be highly rewarding with good pals, some laughs, and even getting the husband involved. I bought both games while they were on sale on Steam after The Passing DLC had become available. It lead to a lot of fun times with friends, and I eventually convinced my husband to get it. We did some with friends and some friends-and-bots campaigns, and enjoyed every minute of it. He’s a little frustrated with some of the gameplay elements, but I think it’s all part of the fun. I’m on Steam if anybody wants to give it a crack, and welcome others into my gameplaying circle. Just be aware I tend to have friendly fire accidents. Shooters are not normally my usual choice for gaming, but I’m getting much better with them!


The Care and Feeding of Your Gaming Group

I like to cook.

Scratch that. I like to cook a lot. I like to cook big meals to boot. I like to cook all sorts of things. I love Asian flavors specifically but I branch out whenever possible. I own several cookbooks, and I recently upgraded my kitchen appliances with the same passion I applied to choosing the new video card and monitor for my computer.

This becomes a problem. When we used to run a different game at my place, I cooked before every game. Apparently this didn’t fly with my gaming group. They actively resented my good-deeds (that I did without being asked, happily and without complaint) and when that game closed, these players said straight out said to my then-boyfriend-later-husband that they would no longer game at my house because I ‘forced’ them to eat.

Note that they couldn’t tell this to me. I was intensely offended when I was told about this exchange months later, but nobody apologized or even acknowledged that I was aware of this rudeness. Life goes on, though. My husband and I married, and his house and my house became the same house. He was running his Shadowrun game, and by God, he was running it in his own home. When he moved, the game moved. Nobody could argue with that logic — he wasn’t carting his books across the valley just because they didn’t want to be inconvenienced with my hostessing.

So the snubbing began. I’d let them know that I was preparing a large meal and they were welcome to join. They’d arrive, maybe one would partake but the rest would feed themselves before or after the game rather then take my freely offered, no strings attached food. No money or supplies were requested. They brought drinks and snacks of their own volition. But my efforts were routinely snubbed, to the point that they’d show up late after eating out and a top it, brought desert from a restaurant despite that I had made a full meal and desert for them and told them ahead of time I was doing so.

I very nearly threw them out that night, but behaved myself as best I could in the face of this insult. However, this is pretty much the only gaming group we have, and so we put up with these sorts of shenanigans and blatant disrespect. It was things like that that we had to warn folks about when our newest player asked about joining our group. They had decided they didn’t want to play at a decent hour, they wanted to come over at 10:30. They didn’t want to eat with us. They basically wanted to do things only on their time schedule, at their whim, and nothing else.

Our new player, however, has none of these bad habits. He is courteous, gracious and a very genteel man. We had him and his girlfriend over for pre-game dinner, and enjoyed ourselves. When I mention I’d like to make something, he’s the first to volunteer a side. His presence is actually a moderating influence, it seems, on some of the bad habits of our gaming group. This week when I said that I’d be making shrimp creole before game, they were all quick to let me know they’d be happy eat with us and brought sodas. I admit, we also used his schedule– and our need to take him home as he and his girlfriend only have one car– to leverage an earlier starting time! Yes, the GAME MASTER had to leverage against his own player group, because they had decided that starting at 10 was what they did for all the other games, and they’d do it for this one, regardless of what he wanted.

This means I’m very grateful for our new player, and enjoy his presence for more then just what he brings to the table not only as a player but as a nice person and a calming presence. I am also pleasantly surprised that being ‘good’ in front of the newbie has made them less of a pack of dicks. I mean, it’s not all that bad. We wouldn’t hang out with them if they didn’t have redeeming qualities. It just seems that a lot of the time, they’re just Big Boys who don’t want a Mommy, and I suppose that’s what they see my efforts to feed them as, though I can’t imagine why– I’m hardly matronly.

But I like to cook, and I like to game, and I don’t see why the two shouldn’t meet regularly. I don’t try and cook for game that’s not at my house — so why should sitting down for a meal with friends and then grabbing the dice bags be such a crime?

Boys. Can’t live with ’em, can’t feed ’em. What can you do with ’em?


The week (and then some) in review

Things have been hectic here; we picked up Final Fantasy XIII (gorgeous, but I have a lot of gameplay complaints that can really be summed up in Penny Arcade form), bought and beat (with an Angel of Death score) the Chaos Rising expansion for Dawn of War II, and also picked up a new monitor that is lovely and really makes gaming easier on the eyes. A 23″ Samsung LED that’s crisp, bright, and was a little over my budget but so worth it. We also had tabletop last Friday, and will have the alternate game this Saturday (Iron Kingdoms and Shadowrun, respectively; Paladin of Menoth and Wolf Shaman, for the curious), but there’s nothing really exciting to report on that just yet.

Right now work – or more appropriately — the husband’s work — is eating what couple time my husband and I find together, so I got a lot of gaming done this week. I’ve knocked off some hours of FFXIII, and I finally got my Shaman to ding 80 and then ran a ton of 80 Regular Instances (ICC 5’s and ToC) to get her some gear and prepare her for the heroic’s grind…. which I already do with a Protection Warrior, Holy Priest, Hunter, Warlock and the Death Knight I almost never play. I mentioned sixth eighty, right?

However, Twitter has brought a gem to my door; the local Big Boy Nerds, the The Geek Show, is produced by Zack Shutt. He’s put out a call for at least one people-person geek and web developers. As the former and not the latter, I don’t expect to make the grade on his new project and get a job with him, but I am curious and I figured, what the hell. So I’ve DM’d him and we’ll see what happens there. I can’t say I’m unhappy with my current job– but I’m not happy there, either (and I am often situationally unhappy there, but that’s another story for another time).

I hope to find some time to write about the two latest expansions I dealt with: Dawn of War II’s Chaos Rising and Dragon Age: Awakenings, but I’ll save that for the weekend, I think. I’m told it’s All Hands so I’ll have a lot of free time without the husband.


Shadowrun with a new player

We added a player to our Shadowrun game this weekend; a friend who had migrated from out of state to be with his long distance lady that I knew from a forum or two. They both came over early, had dinner with my husband and I, and we got to know them a little better. We’d met the player before, but this was the first time interacting with them as a couple, which is sort of important to us as we have few married or otherwise committed friends who share our interests and are tolerable human beings; we know other married  or ‘serious’ geek couples, but they tend to be the worst kind that gravitate to each other and make each other worse, not better.

The lady was something of a geek herself, but she is low key and not very active. She’d gamed with her significant other but not much else, and had neither the time or really the enthusiasm to join the game, so she simply came to dinner to meet and greet her boyfriend’s friends. This bodes well for him — it means she’s willing to let him have his life and she have hers separate from each other when need be, but doesn’t talk down to us or to him for these nerdy interests.

So we had a nice, home cooked meal (I prepared lemon chicken with sweet and sour stir fried turnips and carrots), talked extensively about life and work and nerdness, and little before game was about to start, she excused herself and went her way.  We helped him finish his character while we waited for the others to show up at our new time (eight o’clock) and settled in for what turned out to be a very productive game.

I think our new friend will work out well with us. He kept up with our jokes, tolerated that most of the group brought laptops and set them up (we have a very tech heavy group — and many use netbooks to handle character information and/or sourcebooks) and I think both starting earlier and adding a new player helped them be more alert and on better behaviour in general. We’ve had problems with the computers being a distraction in the past (and I should never have given them the code to my wireless router) but we’ve all had our distraction slip-ups.

Our new player kept up, RPed accordingly and while he’s a very straight-laced character in a group that’s a little wild, I think things will work out okay. We made our pick up, headed out and had a stop off in Salish country (for those who have an idea of what that means) and then found our that our Rigger pilot got hijacked while in a deal and half our cargo was being demanded as tribute. We don’t even know what the cargo IS; it’s in a briefcase that’s attached to the write of a young elf Rat Shaman on his vision quest — a total non-combatant! We don’t have the key to the cuffs, to the briefcase, nothing.

It’s gonna be a very interesting session! We’ll be playing again in two weeks – next week is our Iron Kingdoms game. Our new player won’t be in that game (it’s too established to really bring anybody new in) but I think once it’s wrapped we’ll be able to integrate him more thoroughly into our other games if he decides he wants to.