Category Archives: Personal

Mind Dump: Podcast Edition

So I did a pocket dump the other day and was thinking about lists and whatnot and I though of another thing I could toss out here: Podcasts. I got into podcasts incredibly late in the game, I think I’ve only been listening to a few of them for a little over a year now, but I’ve found a handful of them I really like. While there are a few, like Hardcore History that I would like to listen to, I simply can’t get into a 4 hour+ podcast. I’ve found the 30 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes mark is ideal for me, and of course shorter ones are fine.

I more of less look like this half the time I’m listening to them…

So here are a few of the podcasts that I do enjoy. Please feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

Art of Manliness – The Art of Manliness podcast focuses on interviews with interesting people, innovators and experts in their fields on topics that anyone, male or female, can use to enhance or otherwise improve their life. I find it educational and interesting.

The Human Animal – The Human Animal podcast is a fitness podcast run by Matt “freefitguy,” a trainer focused on functional movement and primal fitness. It explores a lot of concepts that will be familiar to people who are into the paleo lifestyle, but holds a lot of value for those who are just interested in being health in mind and body.

The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast – The only subscription podcast on my list, this one focuses on the literature of H.P. Lovecraft (duh). I picked this one up after the Necronomicon-Providence 2013, and while I haven’t listened to a ton of episodes it touches on my favorite genre of fiction and my favorite author. Each episode explores a different Lovecraft story and the media it has influenced since it’s publication.

The Random Show – This is the only video podcast on my list. Run by Tim Ferriss (see below) and Kevin Rose, this one is exactly what it says, a random conversation these two have on no-particular schedule that they video. They cover whatever they are reading at the time, fun new products they’ve been checking out and other things they are interested in at the time. They have also filmed episodes in China and Mexico. You can watch these on YouTube or iTunes.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Probably my favorite podcast is The Tim Ferriss Show. Spawning partially from The Random Show, Tim Ferriss started sitting down to interview people who have influenced him, who he’s friends with, or just who he has really wanted to have a chat with before if they are willing. Guests include Kevin Rose, Joe De Sena, Margaret Cho and, most recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger. My favorite part is when he asks them what their morning routines look like, what books they give most often as gifts, and who they would most like to punch in the face.

Welcome to Night Vale – Last but not least is the only “fiction” podcast I listen to, Welcome to Night Vale. Done in the weird tales style of H.P. Lovecraft, WtNV is just highly entertaining and well worth listening to the first few episodes of. I was hooked after one.

And that’s my list. Again, feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

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Morning Routine

So I’m trying to get back into a morning routine. There are 101 reasons for this: It helps get me moving in the morning, it wakes me up faster, it starts my day off more productive, it helps me make sure I’m at work and ready to go when I want to be, not when I have to be, etc. My morning routine is fairly simple, but with room for flux depending on the day. Figured I would outline the concept and see if anyone else had any ideas or suggestions for improving it. And perhaps my routine can help someone else kickstart their own… So without further ado:

And this is about what I look like when I wake up…

6:00 – Wake up – The basic idea here is to beat the sun up, so my actual wake up time fluctuates by season. Right now I get up at about 6am. In the summer I’ll actually get up at 5:45ish, which is usually right before or at sunrise here in New England.

6:00-6:10 – Meditate – I like to start my day off my clearing my head a little and giving myself some focus, this lets me get moving a little faster in the morning. I usually only meditate for about 5 minutes, but I drink water and go to the bathroom before hand, so my actual start time changes.

6:10-6:30 – Work out – Until I can get back into the gym I’m taking 20-30 minutes to work out in the morning now, doing body weight exercises to get the blood pumping.

6:30-7:00 – Breakfast – I pretty much eat the same thing every weekday, sausage, scrambled eggs and spinach. I add a little black pepper, garlic and paprika to the eggs, and sometimes I spoon a tablespoon or two of salsa on top.

7:00-7:30 – Shower, shave etc. – Morning grooming. This can take anywhere from five minutes to half an hour depending on if I need to shave or do anything else in the morning.

7:30 – Off to work – I try to get moving by 7:30 because A: It lets me get started on work before anyone else is in the office distracting me, and B: It lets me run errands in the morning if I need to, take the trash out on my way out the door, etc.

That’s it… morning routine broken down. Once I get back into the gym that will change a bit, but otherwise that’s the thick of it.

Do you enjoy these posts, or find them boring and trite? Let me know in the comments!


Pocket Dump: 2015

I haven’t done a “pocket dump” in a while, and actually I don’t think I’ve ever posted one on here. This is just a quick run through of the items that usually reside in my pockets, and whether or not I actually use them, haha. Without further ado:

Hand tooled leather Yellow Sign wallet from Sova Leatherworks.

Back right pocket – Custom made leather wallet from Sova Leatherworks (currently on hiatus). Handworked Yellow Sign with eldritch writing etched into it. Wallet chain is a random one given to me by a friend.

Back left pocket – Keys on a carabiner. House keys, band practice space key, parent’s house key, bike lock key, mini LED flashlight and a “Snapper” – an oversized knotless paracord tie with built in bottle opener, backer reward from the first Fishbone kickstarter.

Front right pocket – Opinel No 9 carbon pocket knife. Burt’s Bees lip balm. Loose change.

Front left pocket – Second pocket knife (no-brand locking folder), iPhone earbuds, matte black Zippo.

Jacket pocket – iPhone 5C in black rubber Incipio case.

Watch – currently a Casio G-Shock solar, older model. Waiting for my Vostok KGB automatic mechanical movement to be repaired.

Misc – Glasses (RayBan, dying, need to get new ones). Black paracord bracelets. Necklace with Celtic knot ring (purchased in Ireland) and three Feng Shui coins on it, lip ring.

I carry all of these things every day, with the exception of my pocket knives, which I remove when I’m going to places I think they might be frowned upon (state buildings, concerts). I also often carry around a bag with a few more items in it:

Bag – Chrome Metropolis Messenger. Pens and pencils, plastic camping spork, Moleskine notebook and backup throw away for scrap paper. Gerber Suspension multi-tool, Sharpie, mini-bic lighter, medical tape, 2gb flash drive with Windows recovery tools on it, mini-Maglite flashlight with LED upgrade, Boy Scout pocket knife, 20-sided die, hacky sack, eye drops, emergency bike light, K3 Performance Power Tube chargeable battery, Bauhaus K50 titanium carabiner w/ bottle opener (kickstarter), bike repair tools and tire pressure gauge. Mini-first aid kit, mini-survival kit in altoids tin, zip-ties. Bandana, umbrella, 5′ paracord, 2 non-climbing carabiners, plastic bag.

Need to upgrade my pocket carry slightly. I’d like to replace my secondary pocket knife with a clipped folder, probably an Ontario Rat-1 plain edge. I’d like to get a more powerful pocket flashlight, a Fisher Space Pen and a pocket comb as well to round out what I carry on me, instead of in my bag. I’d also like to add a Gerber Shard to my keychain as an emergency multi-tool. Little upgrades, but one’s I think will come in handy more often than not.


A treatise on game design – Part 2

See part 1 here.

The effort that goes into creating a game set aside, the sheer amount of theory testing that you have to do can deter many people from undertaking such a project by itself. Personally, I don’t even really have the time to do it, but it’s a pet project of mine so I try to fit it in. That has made finalizing many of the new ideas that I mentioned in part 1 more difficult than I’d like, but at the same time has set me up to produce a pretty solid game once I am able to finish the details.

To recap – I’ve redesigned magic use, set some customized skill selection and create unique Characteristics and Secondary Attributes for players to use to inspire more realism in the game. This sets me up for a survival horror, post-apocalyptic setting with ease.

In order continue driving that realism, there are a few other factors that I felt had to be set in motion, but more on the game end than the character/player side of things. Creating an environment that felt familiar-yet-alien, a scarcity that continued to demonstrate the essence of survival throughout the game and the right atmosphere in NPCs and world interactions that would make the players feel like they were struggling to survive, let alone thrive, in this setting.

Fallout InventoryFrom my experience there are few tabletop RPGs that do this successfully. I’d love to hear about any systems that do. However, there are plenty of video games that succeed in this area with flying colors – most notably Fallout, Wasteland and DayZ. These games capture the essence of survival without making it seem over worked or boring – although some might argue that the obsessive inventory micromanagement needed in the more recent Fallout titles detracts from the game.

To convey these ideas I decided to take another look at items and equipment. There are three primary factors that I think contribute to the right ideas that I’m going for with these areas of the game – scarcity, durability and wastefulness. Making the player feel the scarcity of food, ammunition, water and helpful items like armor would generate the survival feeling quite well. At the same time, adding a durability score for weapons and armor would help encourage players to think twice before charging into combat, with something other than hit points to consider losing. If one’s armor is at low durability, two hits might make it fall off and then you have a much larger problem. And finally, the idea of not wanting to waste items. If you have a few scraps of leather and rivets to repair an item, is it more important to fix a breastplate or create a new pair of gloves? Which will provide more value over time? These factors have to be introduced to the players in a way that doesn’t make the game seem overly complicated, but drives the… necessary hoarder mentality for a survival situation.

Perfecting these areas of the game is the next step (and where I am currently at), but I need to actually test them with players. I feel like once these aspects are perfected in a way that makes them a pertinent part of game play but doesn’t detract from the game as whole by being too much of a focus, I will be able to finalize the game rules and focus more on the setting again.

The easiest way to set durability is with a percentage system, much like anything else in BRP. Scarcity can be controlled in game by affecting characters hunger and hydration attributes over the course of a session with no food or water to be found. The real trick I feel will be imparting the importance of using resources wisely without simply using trial and error. This will be the next step, and hopefully I can perfect it soon and offer some more data and insights into this process.


A treatise on game design – Part 1

About two years ago I wrote about an RPG project I was working on at the time. While I still haven’t completed that project, I have put considerable more thought into it and I feel like it’s time to revisit the subject. My efforts in designing a game system from the ground up, and consequently a game world and story, have changed greatly, and now I’m working toward a slightly different goal.

The golden arches of a new age.Ultimately, developing an entirely new game system proved pointless in my efforts. I was trying to develop a system that would incorporate several new factors into it, but when all was said and done it was significantly easier to take another system – BRP, or Basic Role-Playing – and adapt it to my needs. My original idea was to create a system that used a broader range of options for combat, magic use and skills, and expand upon a percentage-based roll, much like BRP does. After working through several theories and trying to fine-tune a few ideas, I realized that it was much easier to just use BRP for the system, as all the other ideas I tried were more complicated – a direction I definitely didn’t want to go in. There is no reason for a game system to be more complicated than BRP, and the games that are are just too hard to get into because of it.

Following the decision to use BRP rather than develop my own system, however, I decided that I needed to create some customized rules to go along with it, mostly regarding the use of magic. BRP has a very basic magic system that works like any other skill within the game – roll a percentile dice and get below a skill number. Magic systems tend to become oversimplified if you follow this approach, with little room for specialization or growth.

In order to avoid this problem I decided to create a separate skill chart based on BRP‘s skill system, but focus on in depth customization. Players can select from different schools of magic and then select choose spells that then act as the skill.

Example: Player 1 selects the Pyromancy school of magic. He or she then has a certain number of skill points to assign here at character creation based on a formula – which is still being developed, sorry. Player 1 has 60 points to assign, which he or she decides to sink into two different spells – Fireball and Heat Manipulation. This allows Player 1 to create a sizeable ball of flame that can be launched at a target, such as a fire to light it or an enemy to damage it, while also manipulating already existing fire’s temperature – cooling a fire in order to keep it from spreading, perhaps, or increasing its heat in order to melt steel. Player 1 puts 40 points into Fireball, allowing him or her a moderate chance to create one of whatever size is preferred, and high accuracy when throwing of it. This leaves 20 points for Heat Manipulation, allowing for a low margin of success, but one that can be cultivated later.

This type of system allows for complete customization by the player while still keeping it simple and controllable by the game master.

However, there are so many other considerations that go into creating a game that is unique that I had to dabble a bit more with the BRP system and customize a few other factors. For one, certain skills didn’t work for the world I was creating, while a few new ones were necessary. The BRP rule set is designed for mostly real-world, modern settings. By adapting this, I can easily customize it for a post-apocalyptic horror game. I removed skills like Accounting, Anthropology, Drive, Pilot and Psychology and replace them with Barter, Ride (Horse), Magic, Scavenge and other skills more appropriately suited for survival in a harsh wilderness. This allows me to focus the ideas of the game more and set a better mood.

The final touch was in creating a system to control health. Not hit points, but rather disease, starvation, dehydration and other factors that would be more likely to affect the players. I decided to steal a page from Call of Cthulhu for this one. Much like Power affects Sanity, and the new rule set for CoC includes Luck – I could incorporate Hunger, Hydration and other attributes. This would allow me to create a pressing need for players to conserve water and food, and set a threshold for when their hunger began to negatively affect their ability to perform actions.

To be continued…


Youth and Video Games

While the matter of whether or not parents should allow their kids to play whatever video games they want is an entirely superficial one, and one that I have strong opinions on, the plethora of children playing multiplayer games online – like Call of Duty – is both frightening and pathetic. It’s not that I don’t think they shouldn’t be allowed to play games, though I don’t think a violent first-person shooter is the right game for someone under the age of 14 to be playing, but rather the intense dread I feel whenever I log into a multiplayer lobby and hear the shrill, pre-pubescent screech of one of these bratty little shits.

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the fact that they are almost always better at the games than me. That doesn’t bother me. I play Call of Duty for the 4-player Zombie mode, not traditional multiplayer. It’s the fact that these whiny brats jump into lobby’s (as they are known in the game), throw a plethora of four letter words around (where are their parents and why aren’t there bars of soap on hand?) and then proceed to do everything humanly possible to annoy the other players within the game. This includes, but is not limited to, kill stealing, hogging weapons and in general being a nuisance.

The worst part is that this behavior isn’t limited to the 14 and under club. College students and, presumably, grown adults share in these same activities. There’s a reason I rarely play these games any more, and it isn’t because I don’t enjoy them.

Case in point: I just logged out of a… 1-2 hour session of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – Zombies. While it was, for the most part, enjoyable, there reached a point where one of the other players began whining about trying to accomplish something (note: something that benefited only him, not the other three of us), and how we weren’t helping. Albeit, teamwork is the name of the game, this never sits well with me. And then I start becoming an asshole.

Immature people exist. I can cope with that fact. Immature people play video games – hell I’m probably not the most mature person in the world. However, the fact that I’m forced to interact with immature people in order to play these games is why, for one, I don’t play some of them, like World of Warcraft, anymore. I’m going to choose to distance myself from these types of players because they make the game unenjoyable for me. Now I just wish there was a way to make sure I never encountered them again.

On a related note: Parents – please pay the fuck attention to what your children are saying and doing on their Xbox’s. Or they might end up growing up like me.


Once more unto the breach…

Making a habit out of this is harder than I ever give it credit. I want to write. I have the ambition to. I even have the motivation. But then other things distract me, like video games, or… working out. So I end up… not. It does give me good fodder for updates though.

So it’s been… nearly five months since my last post. Since then I’ve dropped “several” pounds (30 or so), played some video games, written some stuff and, in general, been a very busy boy. I proposed to my then girlfriend, now fiancee, and Christmas has occurred. A busy time for all, and no time for anything.

This, of course, doesn’t make me special, or stand out from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people who did probably much of the same over that time period. However, it does mark several momentous occasions in my life – notably the proposal. Of course, it would have been far more interesting if I had updated here around the time that had happened (Halloween, for reference), but again – busy.

So the question is… why am I updating now?
Good question.

The answer, I guess, is because I want to. I want to write more, I really do. I just always get sidetracked. I sit here waiting for a scheduled Google+ Hangout with a group of friends from an online forum and I was thinking “Hey, now’s a good time to knock out a blog post.” And I was right, it is. But what to say…

I recently beat Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which was an excellent game. I’m looking forward to picking up the… third in the series? Lords of Shadow 2 when it comes out next month (Note: I probably won’t get it next month). Yes, “2” is the third in the series. A Nintendo 3DS game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, is the direct sequel to the first title, and it was released for the Xbox Arcade in October. So I’ll play that next.

The game relaunches the Castlevania franchise with a new storyline and approach to the classic series. I appreciated what was changed with the game, what was kept, and how subtle nuances that made it feel like a Castlevania game were worked in. The biggest change… “feel-wise” for me was the music. The Castlevania games have always had amazing soundtracks, and this title was no exception, but none of the classic songs were there, like “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears.” They were missed, but I enjoyed the game’s soundtrack nonetheless. Mechanically, it felt much like playing the Playstation 2 Castlevania titles, but more polished. Overall I’d give the game a solid 8/10.

Since then, I’ve started playing Dishonored, which is fantastic so far.

Other than that (and the proposal) life has been… normal. Work, food, gym. I just got over debilitating illness – my first in a year – and my stomach is still touchy about what I put in it, but all in all things are looking good. Band stuff has been steady, the Call of Cthulhu game I run has been good. All in all times are good. And I’m not even waiting for the other shoe to drop… what has become of me?

Look for another update this weekend, hopefully… and more time in the future. For now, I go to listen to music, prepare for the Hangout and dream of dark skies and madness.


Returning to Arkham…

Or at least Somerville.

NecronomiCon-Providence ended Sunday, late afternoon, as the stars came out of alignment, and we made our return to the northern Boston area. Now… yes I could have posted Sunday evening, or even Monday – but truth be told I was exhausted and worked Tuesday so I decided to push this off for a day or two.

So let’s start by talking about the convention. First off, it was amazing. A huge thank you and shoutout to Niels Hobbs, Anthony Teth, Carmen Marusich and the rest of the The Lovecraft Arts and Sciences Council. You gents and ladies did an amazing job bringing everything together, despite running around like chickens with your heads cut off throughout the entire weekend. 2015!

Highlights! Well gaming was certainly up there. For those that don’t know, I run a Call of Cthulhu game every other week, and have been running games in general for years. However, I rarely get to play in them and I have, in fact, never played Call of Cthulhu (before this weekend). So that was an amazing part of the weekend. Playing in Jeff Carey’s and Mark Morrison’s games was a unique experience, especially with Mark, who came up with a one-of-a-kind scene on the fly and ran it for the group of us playing with him Sunday morning. We even walked up to Prospect Park up on College Hill to play – a site were Lovecraft used to sit and write.

Beyond the gaming, there were a lot of other amazing things that happened over the course of the weekend. The Emerging Scholarship Symposium panels were unique and interesting (although a bit deep for 9 a.m. And of course, listening to S.T. Joshi speak was a fun experience, especially considering how powerful of a speaker he is.

I also got a chance to talk with some major players in the CoC tabletop universe, like Scott Glancy, Mark Morrison, Tom Lynch and a few others. Oh, and Sandy Peterson was there. Of course, those conversations took a turn toward writing for the most part, and I may have some more interesting news related to that in the future.

For anyone interested in catching up on more information on the convention, Mike Davis of The Lovecraft eZine has been posting videos on his YouTube page, and one attendee, “Steve Ahlquist,” has posted some videos on his own page as well.

Moving on from the convention though… we’re back in the thick of Lovecraft Country, and happy to be home with our cats. Stay tuned for more, soon.


To the land of Lovecraft

The stars align once every so often, and when that occurs hundreds, nay thousands, gather in a mecca of sorts – Providence, R.I. – to discuss and celebrate the life and writings of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Less poetically put, tomorrow marks the unofficial start of the NecronomiCon-Providence, which officially begins the following day on Friday. Crista and I will be traveling down by train to spend the weekend basking in the glory of my favorite American writer and the otherworldly horror of which he studied.

Tentatively, we will attend panels on Forbidden Knowledge in 19th & 20th Century Modernism; Religion, Philosophy and Cosmic Horror in HPL and other discussions of The Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraft’s work, as well as gaming and attending other various events around the city.

Should you be in Providence for this forsaken weekend, check out the festivities, and if not… Wish you were here.

I will be posting upon our return, and perhaps during the events, if the mood strikes me.

Till then.


Monday Fitness Update

So once a week, now that I am actively working out and trying to lose weight and get in better shape, I weigh myself and take my general measurements. Neck, chest, bicep (right), forearm (right), waist, hips, thigh (right) and calf (right). This is to track progress and get a better sense of where I am at in general. A combination of weight, neck and waist measurements can give you an approximate body fat percentage, and it helps motivate me to keep going.

Monday morning, after my workout and shower, I take all of these measurements, log them, and then go about my day. I also keep track of how many calories I ate over the previous week (Sunday-Saturday) and how many I burned, to get an idea of if I’m eating enough, eating too much or not working out enough. So, without further ado – here is this mornings’ measurements.

Weight: 185 lbs
BMI: 25.1*
Body Fat %: 23.79

Neck: 16″
Chest: 42″
Bicep: 13.25″
Forearm: 12″
Waist: 39″ 😦
Hips: 38″ 😦
Thigh: 23.5″
Calf: 16.25″

*I’m 6′.

For reference, I ate far too little this week, at only 10,854 calories (I should be hitting at least 12,000), but my burn totals were pretty fantastic at 19,175. Now I just need to boost my intake without letting the burn suffer.

I lost 4 pounds this week, which is kind of insane. This could be due to a variety of factors, but I honestly expect it to go up slightly next week, probably to 186. However, if it drops again to 184 I’ll be happy. My main goal is to drop waist inches though – to at least 36″, preferably 34″. If I can hit this goal in another 4 weeks I will accomplish my first question/mission/challenge for Nerd Fitness and hit level 1!

Today… I still have a good bike ride to do (plus a Call of Cthulhu campaign to run), so I need to head out to eat dinner and get ready for those things. Expect to see a similar post to this every Monday, and some more interesting content coming soon.


Oh hey look at that…

So yeah, it’s been well over a year since last time I posted. Life has been hectic. Work, play, more work, less play, some lifestyle changes, etc. But I’m back! Here’s what has been going on.

I’m in a band now – Origin of Inertia. We do nerd metal, it’s a thing.

I started changing my diet and eating Paleo – which is basically the removal of heavily processed food, most simple carbs and grains and legumes from your diet.  Basically, I don’t eat bread, pasta, sugar, baked goods, potatoes (often), rice (often), cereal or beans (often). It’s interesting, and I definitely feel healthier and like I have more energy.  Plus it’s an awesome excuse to eat steak. Every. Night.

I also started working out – then stopped – then started again more recently with more motivational support. It has been great. I feel stronger and I have more energy (again).

I’m drinking less. What?

I’m running a biweekly Call of Cthulhu game, woo creativity!

So what does that mean for Aberro Specus? Well, with all the “lifestyle” changes I’ve been making the primary goal is, kinda obviously, to be happier. And non-work-related writing makes me happy, so my goal is to start posting here again, and stick with it (the hard part). I’m going to make it easy on myself with some sub-goals.

  • Post once a week.
  • Post quality content.
  • Talk about shit that is actually going on in my life as well as random musings.

That’s it. The Nerd Fitness community takes a gaming approach to fitness and setting goals, so I’m going to incorporate this into mine. So hopefully that will keep my posting. There are several new types of posts that will show up then, in order to keep myself organized and motivated:

  • Workout related stuff (sorry if you don’t care)/weekly journal of fitness and nutrition.
  • New life goals
  • Home improvement projects

That last one might have thrown you – but the idea is that I’m funneling money saved from drinking less and some other things into getting some new furniture, and more importantly, building new furniture – as well as some other things for the house. So stay tuned there.

That’s it for now – Stay tuned for the first weekly fit/nut update on Monday.


RPG Project

Post-Apocalyptic World

Something like this would be a Post-Apocalyptic survivor junky's wet dream...

I’ve got the general makings for a pseudo-Post-Apocalyptic RPG setting running around in my head and I haven’t decided what to do with it yet (including whether I should scrap it or not).

The basic idea is a serious world, as most PA tabletop RPGs are a bit tongue-in-cheek, and that’s about it. Other than that I’m still torn between quite a few options, some of which I am going to lay out here.

Setting – The setting of an RPG can sometimes be the most important thing. Most Post-Apocalyptic worlds or either Realistic, Horror, or Sci-Fi. But there are many other options as well – High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Western, Victorian-era, even Steampunk (haha no). So what time of world would I want to play in? Idealistically the game that comes out of this project would be adaptable to whatever setting the players want. If the rules allow for slight variation or customization, then you can transplant them from Horror straight into a Victorina-era Post-Apocalypse complete with vampires (or some such nonsense). So my thoughts are to design for a vaguely Realistic, maybe Low Fantasy-style world, but with complete adaptability.

Rules – Ah the rules. If the setting is the flesh of a game, the Rules are the bones of it. For creation testing, I will probably keep this in a D20 rule setting. Everyone I know that might be interested in playtesting knows it already, it’s easy to adapt, and most importantly I know it like the back of my hand… Wait, where’d that scar come from? Anyway. Ultimately I’d like to adapt whatever rule set that I use to come similar enough to feel comfortable to the players, but unique enough that… um… it’s unique.

Characters (Classes and Races) – Ah yes… to continue the terrible analogy, if setting is the flesh and rules are the bones, the characters are the blood of a game – the life force. Every game as characters, that’s the point. So what do I do with the character options? Well in part that depends on the setting. If this is a High, or even Low Fantasy setting, could players pick Elves and Dwarves for their classes? Ehhhh… yes. But what about Victorian, Horror, Western, etc.? What are the options there, just Human? Ideally, I would like to create a… rough outline of races based more on location. Think Midnight or Elder Scrolls: Oblivion/Skyrim for those more familiar with video games. The Northerners are a tall, stocky group with these natural skill sets… while Southerners are lithe and agile with these natural skills… That sort of thing. And if those goes well, addendum rules for Fantasy races are always an option. But at that point shouldn’t you just go play Eberron?

Finally, we come to the most important aspect… what makes a game Post-Apocalyptic? Well, that’s actually quite easy (to me).

Any PA-style game must have four basic elements to it, other than a ruined landscape (which, honestly, it doesn’t have to have).

  • A feeling of survival.
  • You must scavenge to survive.
  • Scavenging includes finding items to repair or replace current equipment… and health (you can’t just go to a shop and buy a new gun or some penicillin).
  • And a feeling of fear.

These may be the most important points for me in this game. If I capture those perfectly (or at least well) then I will be happy.

Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or comments, feel free to leave them.

~Ian


Top 5 Post-Apocalyptic Movies

Post-Apocalyptic TokyoSo, as I mentioned before, I kind of like the “Top 5” post idea, and I figured I’d run with it for a little while, or at least until I run out of things to make lists of.

This week I decided to run with Post-Apocalyptic movies. I’ve written about this before, and as some of you may know, Post-Apocalyptic movies are some of my favorites. And not just in movies, but comics, video games, and books as well. So without further ado, my Top 5 Post-Apocalyptic movie recommendations…

5. 12 Monkeys – A science fiction, post-apocalyptic/time travel film by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) based off of the French art-film La Jetée. This movie is just fun. Watch Bruce Willis go/be crazy. Watch Brad Pitt at his wackiest since Fight Club. It’s just a good, entertaining movie. With some rather peculiar social commentary slid in, but who cares about that, right? I recommend this movie almost solely based on the fact that it’s fun. I mean, the acting is phenomenal, the cinematography is phenomenal, and the story is damn good, but over-all I think the best reason to watch this one is for entertainment.

4. The Stand – The T.V. mini-series based on the novel by Stephen King, The Stand is really, really damn good. The acting isn’t… always there, but the story is just good. Take a world ravished by a horrible disease, then add a surprisingly non-stereotypical battle between good and evil, and you get this odd mix of “wow this is really good” and “okay, I actually didn’t expect that.” The Stand also slides in ahead of 12 Monkeys almost purely based on the fact that it’s long. Now, in many cases “long” is a negative way to describe a movie or show, but in this case it works out to be positive. The Stand has a very delicate, well balanced story to tell… and without the length of a mini-series I don’t think it could have been pulled off. If this was a two hour movie? Forget it, you’d end the movie going “meh.” But in this case you end it going “Cool.”

3. The Last Man On Earth – Ahhh… a Vincent Price classic. Almost a heavily remade movie. Many of you probably know it better as The Omega Man or I Am Legend. Not only is this the story of… literally the last man on earth (which is epic as far as post-apocalyptic stories go) but also a story about zombies, or vampires, or whatever you want to call them in this case. Based on the novel (actually, it’s almost a short story) by Richard Matheson – I Am Legend, this movie is not only classic as far as age, but classic as far as quality. There is something about horror movies made in the ’50s and ’60s that really makes Mad Maxme giggle. The best ones are usually a little cheesy, but so original and intelligent that it is impossible to find fault in them. Half the time the acting is atrocious… but I still love them. This get’s the solid number three spot because it’s just… amazing. Simply put.

2. Mad Max – Remember when Mel Gibson was cool? Or at least a good actor? I do… This movie is the pinnacle of post-apocalyptic movies for me. dystopic future, insane gangs of bikers and rabble… and one man trying to hold his life together in the midst of all this insanity… and how he reacts as it falls apart. I think the power behind this entire movie is how well it captures humanity. How we break when everything goes to hell, and how the mindless masses are driven to insanity by the freedom/prison of a world-wide incident. It’s beautiful, really, if you look at it from that point of view. I have to say, that no matter what, this will continue to sit as one of my favorite movies, not just post-apocalyptic ones, for a long time.

1. [Insert time of day/random word here] …Of The Dead – I love zombies. Most of you already know that, so I don’t go too deeply into it, but I felt I had to preface with that. I think more importantly here is that I love post-apocalyptic zombie tales. Put a group of people in a worst-case scenario game, and eventually someone will mention a zombie apocalypse. And George A. Romero is the master of that genre. No one else has ever been able to capture the essence of his films in the same way. Not only are they rife with the fear and dread of trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse, but the social commentary… and commentary on humanity in general, is utter amazing, and spot on. Not to mention how far ahead of their times these films are. And if you truly want my recommendation on these, watch them in order… but my favorite by far is Day of the Dead.

Diary of the Dead

Ah... filming zombies...

And there you have it, my top 5 post-apocalyptic movies. If you want more information on these films, or other post-apocalyptic films that I like… comment.


Top 5 Things I Learned From D&D (or Gaming in General)

Tabletop Gaming at PAXI felt like I wanted to write a gaming post this week, but couldn’t decide what to write about. After Mondays gaming session with Brandon, Crista, Dave, and a couple other friends, I’ve been thinking about how I learned to be a “Dungeon Master” – or for a more general gaming term – “Storyteller.”

A little background: I started gaming when I was in middle school, about 13 or 14 years ago. I know people who have been gaming much longer than that (since before I was born, in fact)… but to me that seems like a generous portion of my life. And like most teenage nerds, I started off with good ‘ole Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D 2.0. A very, very heavily modified version, which included many features from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series… and the fact that I was a “half dragon, half water-elemental” with an intelligent, talking bastard sword didn’t help either. It was an interesting game, I’ll leave it at that.

After that game finally went the way of the Dodo, I discovered World of Darkness, specifically Werewolf: The Apocalypse. While I really enjoyed the game world, Werewolf wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. Yes, it’s fun and all, but I’m not big on the “yay, I can turn into a giant monster and rip things in half” aspect. So I looked into the other systems in the World of Darkness, and found Vampire.

Vampire: the Masquerade was definitely my cup of tea. A subtle blend of politics, power-struggle, and dark, brooding angst. Perfect for the socially awkward teenage nerd who likes metal and punk music… Moving on… So I started to devour Vampire, and ran a game for 4 years. The same game. It was epic, and I had players crying at certain plot twists. This is where I really learned how to run a game. Then I went off to college. End of gaming career for 3 years.

During my fourth year of college at Northeastern I moved into this mildly-crummy apartment with my then friend-who-is-no-longer-a-friend-and-shall-not-be-named, and Brandon, whom I had never met. Eventually, Brandon and I got to know each other and became good friends, and he invited me to play D&D with the group he gamed with. I had not played D&D since my early introduction to gaming, so I read up a bit and tried to get into the swing of things very quickly. 3.5 was the edition at the time, so it was a drastic change from what I had learned on, but much easier to comprehend, so I fell back into things very quickly.

Metal DiceTo wrap up this story, since then I haven’t really stopped gaming, except for a few months here and there when I’ve moved and whatnot. It’s become a staple of my life once again. Sadly, when I was living in Delaware the group I gamed with changed games more often than socks… so we never stuck with anything long enough to get a good story going. But now that I’m back in Boston, let the epic gaming commence!

So, now that I’ve ranted for a while about my gaming background… on to the actual point of this post! So, through all of this thinking I’ve realized that I’ve learned five, very important, lessons from gaming. Lessons that, in most cases, translate well into the rest of my life. These lessons are as follows:

5. “Lawful Good” people are dicks. It’s true. Every gamer, at some point in their gaming history, has been in a party with at least one Lawful Good character. And he (or she) is a Dick. With a capital D. Lawful Good characters are the most likely to start an in-party fight. They are the most likely to completely ruin a perfectly good strategy. And they are the most likely to impose their belief system on everyone else around them. Starting to sound like anyone you know in real life? Exactly…

4. Good plot twists generally involve people dying, or at least making everyone think someone died. Look at any Soap Opera. 99.9% of the time the plot revolves around everyone thinking someone is dead, or discovering that they aren’t dead, they’ve just been living in Aruba for 15 years. In any good story, someone dies. It’s bound to happen. It pretty much has to happen. Basically, kill off a major NPC, kill off a minor NPC, kill off your players. Hell, kill off GODS if you want. You’re the Storyteller, do what you want. When in doubt of a good twist in the story, kill something. It usually works. Though, on that note…

3. Combat sucks. Combat is both the most rule intensive and time consuming part of any game. Combat is also, usually, the most liked or disliked part of any game. I know gamers who refuse to play D&D because it’s “combat oriented” and I know gamers for whom D&D is the only game worth playing for that exact same reason. And guess what? Take a step outside and what’s the biggest problem you’re likely to encounter (next to maybe poverty)? Violence. War, gang violence, domestic violence, crimes of passion, etc. So guess what? Violence (combat) sucks. But I do think it’s healthier to deal with it with dice and numbers on paper than with a Glock or Stinger missile…

2. The Players Rule. You might be the all-mighty, all-powerful Storyteller… but without players, you have no story to tell. Or at least no one to tell it to. And important thing to remember in any game is that if your players are unhappy, and I don’t mean “hey, you killed my character” unhappy, I mean “this game is boring and your plot sucks” unhappy, then you won’t be happy. You have to cater your game to the players. Your players love combat? Don’t play a low-combat game. Your players love political intrigue? Play Vampire: The Requiem or some, similar, politics based game. Cater to your players. The same can be said in real life. If you want to actually have, you know, friends, you have to be open to what other people like/want to do. You can’t control every little aspect of your life, because if you do, don’t bother trying to form any lasting bonds or relationships…

And finally…

1. “Don’t be a Dick.” Wil Wheaton said it best. I don’t think I even need to explain how this applies in gaming and/or real life. Just don’t be a dick. DM/GM/Storytellers have the greatest reputation for making or breaking a game based on how much of a dick they are to the players. Give your players some leeway. Don’t force plot points if the players don’t want to go in that direction. Don’t railroad your players. And don’t change the rules at your whim because things aren’t going your way… or rather… are going too easy for the players. If you can’t make a game that challenges the players, maybe you’re the one that needs to fix something. Plain and simple – Don’t. Be. A. Dick. And I really don’t think I need to tie this one in to “real life.” Seems self-explanatory to me…

Thank you, and goodnight.


Top 5 Things I Dislike

Indy SnakeRiffing off of Brandon’s post about how the word “hate” is oft misused (and in following suit, also admitting that I am guilty of this occasionally) this is my list of things I dislike.

This is also going to be short – as I must LOAD ALL THE THINGS onto the moving truck today. So without further ado…

5. Humidity – Seriously. I dislike it. Heat I don’t mind SO much, but humidity drives me nuts… can’t stand it. The humidity is too damn high! (Yes this post is going to be full of meme’s, deal with it…)

4. Allergies – I love cats. I am allergic to cats. I own cats. My allergies bother me. This is my own damn fault… but they are too damn cute, and too damn fluffy, to not love. So I deal… but I still dislike allergies, or at least the fact that they exist.

3. Extremists from any religion – Yes, I’m looking at you WBC. Go to he… wait, nevermind…

2. Bigotry/Self-imposed Ignorance – Anything beyond this statement is a waste of my time. Enough said.

and 1. Snakes. Okay, so not really. I actually like snakes. But it gives me the chance to say two things. A: “Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” AND B: “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

Thank you, and goodnight.


Big News

Well, I promised a big news update this week, so here it is.

On October 1st, 2011, Crista and I are moving to Somerville, MA. For those that don’t know Somerville is north of Cambridge, MA (where Harvard is), and is part of the Greater Boston Area. So yes, I am moving back to Boston. Not for school either. Crista and I have found an apartment and are going to be living and working in the area. Eventually I’ll hit up Grad. schools, but for now I’ll just be writing and whatnot. This is pretty exciting for both of us, and we are looking forward to being on our own. It was extremely nice of my parents to let us live with them for a while, but it’s time to strike out. Head off into the big, wide world.

So those of you who have been following my various exploits of the past few months, you can safely assume I won’t be working on the Lazarus movie anymore. I feel quite confidant that if they choose to continue with the project they will be successful, and I have discussed the use of the script I wrote with them… but that’s over and done with for me now. Moving on!

For those of you interested, we are moving into a 3 story, recently remodeled Victorian house. The owners are wonderful people, about our age, who bought and have been working on the house for two years now. We are moving into the first floor, and the apartment is pretty spectacular. We’re really looking forward to seeing it in person. Here are a few pictures if you are interested (with the previous tenants belongings in it).

Someville Apartment Collage

From left to right (top to bottom) 1 - The front view. 2 - The dining room. 3 - The living room (empty). 4 - The kitchen.

And there it is.

Now if any of you are wondering, we are still looking for things for the apartment. Mostly furniture stuff (a kitchen hutch, bookshelves, etc.). But we’re pretty set also – anything we get at this point is extra for us, so we aren’t too worried about it. Right now we’re just packing, taking inventory of our (too many) belongings… and getting ready. This is a big change for Crista, and an exciting one for me… so it’s taking some getting used to. Plus it’s a little stressful, but these things usually are.

Anyway… I have packing to do tomorrow, so I need to get some rest. If you have any questions… feel free to comment or drop me a message :).

~Ian


Language Is The House Of Being

HeideggerStarting this off with a quote from Heidegger, as revealed to me by my favorite Philosophy professor was probably an evil thing to do. Because it sets the tone for this post… and any post in which something Heidegger related is the tone should cause you to hate me. Because at worst, you’ll hate me for reading Heidegger, and at best, you’ll just get a massive headache and hate me for that. And, on a very rare occasion, you might be interested in what I’m saying. But that just puts you into the same boat I’m in as I write this… so poor, poor you.

So… Language, a wonderful topic, which Kas picked for our weekly theme. Fascinating stuff, language. I could talk about the “elasticity of language,” but… I think Fry and Laurie already covered that…

But I digress. Language is the house of Being. For those of you who haven’t read Heidegger, there is a reason that the “B” is capitalized here, but that requires an entirely separate post to explain (actually, probably more than one). I will try, probably in vain, to explain the sentence, without delving too deeply into utterly confusing Heideggarian terms and philosophy. So… here goes.

In Heidegger’s Sein Und Zeit (Being And Time), he attempts to address the problem of the “fundamental question of the meaning of Being.” Primarily, how to even ask the question. The entire idea of Being is so complex and complicated that it is a “loaded” question anyway. And Heidegger pushes this even further by demanding that I, the reader, his “student” of sorts, ask the question properly. Of course, the basis of basically the entire 488 page book is how to ask the question properly… so he believes that this is an extraordinarily difficult question to ask. But the most important thing to remember when delving into the book, and the question, is that quote. “Language is the house of Being.”

Now… if I was going to do this properly I would take each word in that sentence and break it down to its roots, getting to the meaning behind the word, before trying to reconstruct the sentence… but again – an entire separate post would be needed. So for now I will address one part… which I hope will convey the complexity of the sentence. And it’s the word that probably raises the most questions in the sentence anyway – house.

Language Family Tree

It makes me quite sad how inaccurate this chart is...

What does Heidegger mean by “house”? Well, house has many different connotations. It can mean a building, which surrounds and shelters. It can mean a home, in the sense of where I “belong.” And it can mean other things as well… But let’s focus on house as a “home…”

A house is, as I mentioned, both a building and an idea. When I refer to my “home” I usually don’t mean the building I live in… I mean a place, or specifically, my idea of a place. If you really want to delve into what that means, go read Brandon’s post, because I think that covers it better than I could here. But yes, an idea of a place. My “home” is where I am happiest. This could refer to a building where my belongings and loved ones are. Or it could refer to the city I love being in. Usually it refers to some combination of the two. Or if I’m feeling particularly pompous Caring, it refers to this planet, Earth, which is my home for obvious reasons.

So what is the house, or “home,” of Being? Why is it “Language”? Well, in relation to Heidegger’s attempt to answer the question of the meaning of Being, this becomes fairly obvious. The only way to properly ask the question, is to properly formulate the question – use the proper language. This is where it gets tricky, because how do I know what the proper language is? Trial and error seems to be my general method… but I digress. Basically, if I don’t use the proper language, I can’t ask the question properly – which seems like a fairly obvious statement, but it goes much deeper in this case. Who determines what the proper language is in this case? Well… that’s what Heidegger tries to do for 488 pages… so I’m not going to attempt it in an 800 or so word blog post… sorry. My suggestions. Read the book. Or rather… forget you read this post. If you read the book you might try to hurt me… I have a feeling Brandon is already going to try and beat me with a shoe now…

Oh, and just to clarify – this was not a philosophical attempt to explain Heidegger’s Sein Und Zeit in laymens terms… it was simply a rambling rant on how language is a fickle bitch. Please don’t assume you know what Heidegger is all about just from this post… hell, I’ve read the book and TAed the class for 3 years and I don’t think I even know what the book is all about.


Writing, an Adventure in Itself

TyperwriterAs a writer, in particular a freelance writer, one has to occasionally turn a blind eye to certain things. Editors making changes to your work you don’t agree with, being paid far less than you think you are worth for certain jobs… etc. But you also get to do something you love – write. Because honestly, who would choose to be a writer if they didn’t love to write. It’s a trade-off. But how do you really get into the writing process? And how do you deal with those little things I mentioned?

As with most creative work, I think it would a fair assessment to say that a lot of people give up after a few attempts at becoming a writer. You get maybe one or two stories/articles published, and then there’s a dry spell, and you go looking for a 9 to 5 job again, and never come back. But then… some of us are stupid crazy enough to keep writing… The ones who end up crazy, broke, or both. So again, how do you deal with this? Drinking is an option, though your liver might decide it doesn’t want to continue its lease at the end of the year… And of course there’s smoking. But are there healthier ways?

I don’t know, tell me if you find one please.

Furthermore, what’s the point of dwelling on it? If you fail, no big deal, lots of people fail. If you succeed, you’re lucky. Just go for it, right? But how do you balance striving for your dream… and starving? At what point do you say “This wall of whiskey bottles and peanut butter jars can be my fortress of solitude no longer?” Well, if you really love it, you don’t. And they find you full of whiskey, with peanut butter smeared all over your face in a frenzied attempt to stave off the purple weasels living in your underwear (which you aren’t wearing).  Or you say “The hell with it, I’m going to sell my soul and get this published…” and make a few bucks off of an article you really only spent 10 minutes on Wikipedia researching. But hey, it sounds good, and they’re willing to give you 25 cents a word for it… right?

Will Write For Food

So really, how do you take away all the bullshit and get to what you really want to do, get paid to write? You don’t. I guess that’s the sad bottom line. You deal with it, or you find something else. Because in the end, if you actually want to make money doing this… you deal with it. And you hope that one day you’ll be lucky enough to be half as rich and famous as Stephen King. But until then, you deal with it to pay the bills.

So what’s the point of this rant? I’m not sure. Part self-motivation to stick with it. Part inspiration for you, my loyal reader (note the singular – hi mom). And maybe part explanation. I write because I love it. I write because there’s nothing else I can think of doing and still be happy. Perhaps I write because there is a problem in my brain… either way I know I’m nuts, but this is what I want to do. And by Cthulhu… it’s what I’m going to do.


Home Again, Home Again

So – I’m home from my cross-country adventure. It’s good to be back amongst the cats, dogs, and with Crista and my Dad. Though driving a 16 foot Penske truck across country was fun.

Right now, I have a pounding headache for some reason. I just wanted to update and say “Hey! I’m not dead!” Or something like that. Also there will be an in depth post about the trip at a later date, which I am working on, including tons of pictures taken by my mother.

So for now, hello to all of you once more… it’s good to be back. Now where is my whiskey?

~Ian


A Letter to a Younger Me

So, as many of you know, we have a weekly rotating theme amongst the blogenning. This weeks theme was chosen by Brandon, and is in fact – a letter written to ourselves, 10 years ago. Also, sorry for the lack of updates this week, things have been hectic. So, here goes.

Back To The Future

Don't worry, this isn't how time travel works...

Dear Ian,

Relax. It’s okay. I know… flashy portal appearing in front of you, a piece of paper popping out. Just weird. But it’s cool, I promise. Apparently we’ve mastered time travel. Although… we can only send letters back… it’s odd. Anyway.

How’s it going? You’re probably pretty bored. Poland, NY sucked, I know. But it gets better. You do get to go to Boston for college, but not the school you’re thinking of at this point. And you meet some damn awesome people, I promise. Though things don’t go perfectly, it’s better than a lot of other options. Also, don’t worry so much about your major, you’re going to change it once you meet a certain professor anyway.

I probably shouldn’t reveal too much of the future. All I have to say is keep reading… and watch more movies. There are some interesting things going on in the near future, and you’ll want to be a part of them. Speaking of… something crazy is going to happen in a few days… don’t ignore it. It’s going to change a lot of things in this country, for better and worse (mostly worse)… so stay on top of things.

Life does get interesting here in the next few years. You get to travel, see parts of the world, and have fun doing it. Don’t rush things though, and remember to pay attention to the little details. Also, stop caring so much about what other people think of you. They don’t matter. You do. If you’re happy that’s all that matters, so relax a bit. Remember, no one’s perfect, in fact, most people avoid perfection. So just be yourself, to hell with everyone else.

So… I know this finds you well, and I know you can’t write back. But just say hi to the cats for me, and give mom and dad a hug.

~Ian (at 25, almost 26)

P.S. – The winning numbers for the MA powerball on Feb 14th, 2004 are/were 10-24-25-35-43… Enjoy.