Monday, January 14, 2019

Horoscopes, January 14 2019 edition

Aries:
The darkness is hungry. Stockpile all the light sources you can: candles, lamps, flashlights. Make sure you have plenty of batteries and fuel for the generator.

Taurus:
They're behind the walls. They listen, and they wait. They know all your secrets, the big ones and the small ones. Today would be a really good time to look for a new home.

Gemini:
Stay away from water today. Any water. If you're thirsty, have someone make tea for you - but tell them to get the water all the way to a boil, and make sure the tea has at least five minutes to steep before you try to drink it.

Cancer:
It's buried under that tree you used to play in. It won't be easy to find, or to dig out. The tree's roots have claimed it for their own.

Leo:
You'll have the most horrible nightmares tonight, but they don't actually mean anything. They're just random anxiety couple with snacking too close to bedtime.

Virgo:
Look twice -- look carefully --before making that left turn. This is very, very important.

Libra:
There's something following you. You can't see it. You can't hear it. It is every bit a fearsome and malicious as you fear. It can't stand to hear people singing, though.

Scorpio:
That restaurant you were planning to eat lunch at? Wait until next week for that. Go somewhere else, anywhere else, especially today.

Sagittarius:
Today would be a good day to take some time and really plan out the details of your revenge. It will make all of 2019 go much more smoothly.

Capricorn:
You'll get your lab results back to day, and they'll be... ominous. Especially because you didn't know you were getting tested.

Aquarius:
A dark stranger will be watching over you today, but he won't do anything to help. He's just watching, waiting for it to happen.

Pisces:
Stay close to other people today. Don't go anywhere alone. Trust me on this.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Return of DnD Night

So, last week our characters had a large battle, and then departed to deal with an elite squad who'd been sent to burrow under our wall so that they could pass troops and materials into our lands without difficulties. That breach was supposed to take place at Southpoint, which had been one of the five gatehouses along the wall until the Sol Povan army decided that it wasn't worth maintaining and sealed the gate.

We arrived at Southpoint to find that a small family of lizardfolk had been living in the ruins of the old gatehouse support buildings, and actually fixing them up with bits of whatever they found. They had some tunnels under their "home", but their tunnels were now "haunted". Also, they pointed out another group over on the far side of the wall, who had set up a large and colorful tent and were definitely Up To Something.

We concluded that the people in the tent were the elite mercenaries from the invading army, so naturally our bard strolled over to distract them by playing folk music at them. (In the real world, of course, this sort of behavior is forbidden by the Geneva conventions, but this is D'n'D...) The rest of us descended into the "haunted" tunnels beneath the lizardfolks' building after convincing them that we were, in fact, there to fix their toilets.

Things went... badly.

The "haunted" tunnels were haunted by skeletons, including two wolves and two Girallon skeletons -- very possibly the same ones we battled as living creatures last week. Meanwhile, as the group descended the stairs and moved to engage the skeletons, a pair of bad guys used a wall of ice to cut off our sorceress and promptly kidnapped her. This is bad. One of the two bad guys was the same Solarii who had come to warn us of the elite force trying to tunnel under this gatehouse, while the other was a Cassadia. (Cassadia turns out not to be a person so much as a convenient identity, or possibly an order of sorceresses who all use the name; either way, very definitely on the Bad Guys side, here.) This is worse.

The bard, meanwhile, found only two guards inside the tent and managed to subdue both of them through a ruthless combination of Charm Person and lullabies. The large wagon hidden inside the tent held a bullette, a giant burrowing monster also known as a landshark. (Cue the old SNL jokes, because we certainly did.) He then poked around until he found a chest that had... lots and lots of little bags full of ground-up gems. Which immediately caused the landshark to perk up like a two-month-old puppy. Which is almost exactly how the gnome bard treated it.

Back in the tunnel, the main group managed to put down the skeletons, then break back out past the wall of ice. One of the lizardfolk was yelling that the bard was in trouble, and sure enough we emerged to find that a bunch of armed warriors had come up from another tunnel on the far side of the wall, and were surrounding the tent.

I am here to tell you that while we rushed to attack them, it was the bullette that made all the difference. That thing is big, and tough, and (once all the bad buys were dead) surprisingly snuggly as well. So at the end of the game we'd killed four skeletons and twenty or so elite troops, we'd prevented the Bad Guys from connecting their tunnel to the existing ones, and we were missing our sorceress (who is also our linguist, which is almost certainly why she was taken).

Revenge. Will. Be. Ours.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Daddy Takes A Vacation Sort Of

As you can probably tell from the complete lack of activity here on the Blog o' Doom, I took the last three days off. Part of this is just to get some time to myself, which has been at least partly successful. The other part was to get the boys started back to school, since they began their new semester yesterday. The idea, of course, was that I would get everyone back on schedule, then have the days for some rest-and-activities of my own.

Unfortunately, I needed a lot more rest than I realized, and also I'm apparently much better at keeping everybody else on schedule than I am with myself. So the time off has not been as productive as I'd hoped, but it's still been good. Plus, we've gotten boys to school two days in a row without anybody melting down, so I should probably just take the win on that.

Despite our best intentions, I have not managed to play D'n'D with the boys at any time during the holidays; I hope to fix that this weekend. But mainly, I plan to go to bed tonight as soon as the boys do, possibly with some melatonin, and try to be thoroughly rested when I go back to work tomorrow. So, anything that doesn't get done this afternoon is just going to have to wait.

Things I haven't done:
Run DnD for the boys
Any real writing

Things I have done:
Gotten the new Windows 10 laptop up and running (which, wow, I always forget how much work that is)
Run a lot of laundry and cleaned up the kitchen a bit
Drunk a lot of tea
Read the first two books of K.B. Wagers' The Indranan War series, which are essentially space opera and a great deal of fun: politics, intrigue, violence, explosions, well-developed characters, a strong Found Family vibe, and suitably villainous villains. (I need to come back and do a proper review of these, and I probably will once I finish the trilogy.) If that sounds like your kind of thing, check them out.
Played DnD

Things yet to do:
Yeah, that would be the writing

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Post: DnD Night, Finally

Earlier this week I finally caught up on where we are in the campaign (the one where I'm a player, not the one I'm running for my children). Essentially, we've brought powerful magical weapons back to the fort and they made a decisive difference when the massive army on our doorstep decided to attack the fort. (Between what we've learned here and what our earlier set of characters discovered, someone powerful is playing a very deep game; there's some legitimate reason to believe that this entire invasion -- composed of barbarian tribes, bugbear tribes, several mercenary troupes from the far side of the desert, at least a handful of girallons, and we're-not-sure-what-all-else -- is actually some kind of feint.) The would-be invaders, after being repulsed once, stayed put for three days; then the lord's Solarii (basically, a knightly-ish order for very-high-level characters of any class) scried that one of the larger mercenary companies was moving, and was sending expeditions to attack the gatehouses along the wall.

The available Solarii went with sections of the troops from the fort, one to each gatehouse -- except for the troops of Captain Sacha, under whose command our characters originally soldiered. Captain Sacha was being sent to the southernmost active gatehouse, and there simply weren't any more Solarii available to accompany him. So he appealed to our characters for assistance and naturally we went with him. (We're still technically soldiers of the fort, and drawing pay, but we'd been out on special assignments for several months, and our current place in the chain of command was... uncertain. So having Sacha request our services as a special unit actually kind of clarified our role within the fort and the Sol Povan military.)

At which point we got to try out our DM's latest attempt to combine mass combat/wargaming rules with regular Dungeons and Dragons. (We're using 3.5 edition, if you're curious and didn't know already.) It... actually worked pretty well, at least to my eye. He has a spreadsheet set up in Excel where he assigns a challenge rating to each unit (which are generally either 16 soldiers or 1 special/higher-level character) and when they come into conflict each side rolls a D20 and compares the results. Depending on who came out ahead, some bonuses for environmental factors (like, say, firing from a fortified gatehouse which offers height and cover) and whether the combat is reciprocal, one or both sides loses some percentage of their troops/hit points. (By "reciprocal" I mean that if you have archers firing down on advancing infantry from the top of a wall, the infantry don't damage the archers regardless of how they roll - but if they roll well, they lose a lot fewer people. But if if you have two infantry units in melee, it's reciprocal and both sides take casualties.) It's basically a way to have the characters participate in a large-scale battle, but one where -- because of their comparatively high character levels and the way that affects personal power in D'n'D -- they can still affect the overall battle with their individual actions.

And while it's not perfect and it still has some wrinkles to iron out, it basically works.

(The other approach, in general, is to reduce the overall battle to a collection of smaller encounters with the larger battle serving essentially as the background/setting for those scenes. From a writing perspective, you can also sort of write about the opposing armies and/or individual units as opposing characters, but that doesn't translate well into the typical D'n'D experience. It could probably done if somebody cared to put in the time, or if you did something akin to switching out to classical wargaming for a session, but I don't know of any native systems for it. This approach, while not perfect, does a surprisingly good job of bridging the gap between those two.)

So: fighting from behind/atop a fortified wall with five units of line soldiers (four of which could also serve as archers) and their five lieutenants and the captain also acting as one-individual units, our... 80 line soldiers plus 4 ballista plus 9 exceptional individuals annihilated some 400 would-be invaders, plus their general (who should have been a more serious threat, but he had planned to approach in an armored chariot and we killed the dire boar pulling the cart with a ballista shot in the first round), plus two girallon using tower shields who were effectively siege towers in their own right. We lost, I think, roughly half of our troops, including one of the lieutenants. It's been a long time since I considered majoring in Medieval Studies, and the power imbalances in D'n'D skew things more than a little, but that seems about right to me for infantry assaulting a fortified position with one battering ram and two (monsters who might as well have been) siege towers.

We concentrated on the foot on our first round, to slow their advance; when their archers responded, we realized we needed to take them out in order to survive long-term, so on the second round we switched (very effectively) to attacking troupes of archers. The general lost his armored dire boar in the first round, and wound up huddled in his armored battle chariot for most of the combat, until we'd killed enough of his troops to allow the ballistae to start making it a target. Clearing out the archers let the infantry advance relatively unmolested (after the first round) but once the archers were gone there nobody left in a position to damage us and we were able to whittle down the advancing infantry until they reached the walls (and, actually, even after). The girallon were tougher, and were the first up the wall -- like I said, they were essentially siege towers, except they were actually monsters -- but we were able to wear them down, mostly from a distance. The fighter managed to trip the first one when it made it to the top of the wall, and while he took a lot of damage from it that probably kept everything from going horribly wrong.

By the time the general realized we were smashing his shelter and charged the wall, it was too late. The archers were busy elsewhere; the people shooting at him were the ones aiming the ballistae. He... didn't last long.

And my elvish rogue/ranger (who is quite effective as an archer) got to wipe out a couple of companies by himself, from atop a tower behind the walls (Legolas-style, I rather imagine) so I was quite pleased with the session, as well as the outcome.

Shortly after the battle ended, one of the Solarii arrived from the next post up. He'd come to offer aid that we clearly didn't need, and bring warning of an elite group that was apparently planning to tunnel beneath the wall at the southern end, where the final gatepost had long ago been sealed up. So we surrendered the soldiers of the line to his command, took the captain and his lieutenants with us, and headed south to deal with this new threat.

We slept first. Even with magical healing, you do that after a battle.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

...Okay, fine, I'm sick again

So I'm trying to get the boys (and the family in general) back on schedule before they start school again next week. Firstborn did fine; he got up and exercised, then wandered off to watch videos. Meanwhile I had to carry Secondborn out to the couch, and he has yet to open his eyes despite lights, prodding, and Pokemon going on the TV. He's just out. And frankly, I am too - I'm still suffering from a bit of sore throat/cough/low energy that I'm pretty sure came into town with the extended family. (It's not as bad as it was for them, but it looks and feels like a milder version of the same stuff, and I don't seem to be shaking it off.) So... sick day for me today, and early bedtimes for everybody until further notice. Ugh.

I'd make some snarky comment about how this is a grand way to enter 2019, but honestly I'm still just pleased that I didn't spend most of the 2018 holiday season this way.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Resolutions

Okay, it's here. In 2019, I will:
  1. Do more writing.
  2. Take better care of myself.
  3. Be kind to people.
  4. Summon the dark gods from their restless eternal entrapment and plunge the world into darkness, fire, and silent chaos.
  5. Learn to bake!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Holy Poot

Well... we finished with Christmas, finally. Beautiful Wife's side of the family left town Saturday, after something like a full century of being here. Century? Maybe it was just a week. Whatever. That actually went really well, it was just exhausting. And I don't think any of us ended up with the plague, though it was touch-and-go for a couple of days in there. Then on Sunday, we did Christmas for my side of the family over at my brother's family's new house, so my side of the family was covered as well. And once again: good, but it probably would have been more enjoyable if we were all less completely exhausted.

It's New Year's Eve today, so naturally I'm at work. (I could have taken it off, but I honestly didn't realize we didn't get it as a holiday.) So, y'know, no rest for the wicked. Or the IT department, though I suppose that's much the same thing. I do have tomorrow off, at least, and it sounds like we're going to have the weekly Dungeons & Dragons game even though it's New Year's Day (or National Hangover Day, as I like to think of it). But I keep wanting to be able to take a few days off and just stop - and I kept thinking that would happen sometime during the holidays, but it never did.

Still... if I can make it through this week, I did take the first three days of next week off. That's when the boys go back to school, and this will help me get them back on track (and free up my Beautiful Wife to do some last-minute preparation for her next semester). Maybe I can finally get some emotional-recovery time in there, too.