the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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294a/365: Dungeoneering

294a/365: Dungeoneering

Based on Claire's interest in my still-missing Dungeon! board game, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on Kids Dungeon Adventure, a PDF set of rules for creating dungeon crawls using the blocks and toys you already have. I didn't know what to expect, but it held Claire's interest all afternoon as she helped me set up the dungeon and then explore it on a quest to rescue one of her stuffed animals from the clutches of a two-headed blue dragon. Claire completely ate it up; she'd get tense during combat and shout encouragement to her characters as she rolled the dice, and when she made a big hit or defeated a monster, she'd whoop and cheer in triumph.

The DIY aspect of the game extends beyond the "bring your own toys" ethos; the initial setup involves printing, cutting, and packaging up treasures to be discovered during the quest. Plan for at least an hour or two beforehand to get familiar with the rules, prepare those other things, and lay out the dungeon.

It feels a little incomplete for a paid product--it's heavier on the suggestions than rules, and could definitely use a little more polish--but in the end, it's a great idea and worth rewarding, as $6 is nothing compared to the joy of watching my daughter get so excited about gaming.

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294/365: Super Munchkin

294/365: Super Munchkin

We ended up having an impromptu tabletop game night last night with friends and friends of friends, and after Cards Against Humanity wound down, we found ourselves engaged in a game of Munchkin (which is essentially Dungeons & Dragons boiled down to pure silliness).

I spent most of the game stuck at level 1 while everyone else plowed ahead, but by good fortune, cunning plans, diplomacy, and well-timed betrayals, I catapulted myself into contention for the win. I was feeling pretty bad-ass about having two races and two classes, as well as some pretty good equipment, so I shot this to commemmorate the experience. Rather gratifyingly, I won the game after an epic effort to prevent the player before me from winning left everyone else devoid of useful cards to prevent my ascendance to level 10 and victory.

In true Munchkin spirit, I'm treating this as Saturday's photo even though it had still been Friday when the game started. I even allowed for it when I set up the "rules" for myself!

71 days to go.

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293/365: Pirate Plank

293/365: Pirate Plank

I picked up the Lego Pirate Plank game last weekend and it's proven to be a huge, huge hit at our house. Claire has a surprisingly good grasp of the strategy, which mixes personal survival with finding the best ways to screw up your opponents. For what seems like a simple game, the gameplay is really quite rich!

72 days to go...

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51/365: Bejeweled

51/365: Bejeweled

I recently gave Liz a coupon for a free download of Bejeweled. I mocked her one night for playing it for an hour straight. Then my daughter insisted I try it. And then I got hooked.

So, number 51 here is a tribute to our colorful new time vampire.

You have been warned.

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27a/365: The Paper Party

27a/365: The Paper Party

Here's the latest incarnation of our Dungeons & Dragons party, in wonderful papercraft form, thanks to Eric Wright, one of our players. They're prone to toppling, and Øgus the greenish half-orc keeps having problems with his right arm falling off (alternating with his head), but they're otherwise pretty awesome and add a lot of joy to the game.

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6/365: This Is How We Roll

6/365: This Is How We Roll

After weeks without our Friday AD&D fix, we finally got the group back together to continue our adventures in the Caves of Chaos. Today we followed a band of hobgoblins carrying the corpse of our fallen assassin into an omnimous, foul-smelling cave that quickly became an obviously-evil temple, started scouting around, and launched into combat with a group of some kind of malevolent acolytes and a room full of their pet zombies.

Yessir, good times.

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Turntable.fm Spins Me Right Round

Awesomed

Let's be honest--I have a problem, and its name is Turntable.fm.

In case you haven't discovered it yet, Turntable is a social music discovery service that takes the form of a DJ party. You log in, join or create a room, pick some songs you like, then hop up on stage and, when it's your turn, impress everyone with your superlative musical taste. Every "awesome" vote gives you a point, which converts immediately into ego-boosting gratification and eventually into fancier choices of little cartoon avatar; too many "lame" votes and your song ends immediately and the spotlight moves to the next guy in the line. And down in the corner is a chat window, so that everyone in the room can interact, discuss, be silly, or help keep the room running smoothly.

Sometimes rooms have a permanent, genre-based theme; sometimes they do theme nights ("Death or Cake" is still one of my favorites); sometimes they're totally freeform. I really enjoy either doing themes or just riffing on whatever got played before me--the creative constraints can be demanding but ultimately very rewarding.

I first started hanging out in some small rooms with friends and coworkers, but soon discovered that Neil Gaiman would occasionally visit and thus I started gravitating to some of his rooms, which had collected a nice group of smart, open-minded, and polite folks. Neil doesn't seem to be on quite as often any more, and his rooms have died down, but core chunks of refugees seem to have banded together to start other rooms that are just as much fun. I've found myself quickly making new online friends that I look forward to "seeing" and spinning with regularly--much the same kind of bonds that I remember forming with the random strangers I'd meet when playing MUDs long, long ago.

Turntable is still in beta as I write this--you need to be Facebook friends with someone who already has an account in order to play. If you do choose to check it out, I'm on as "ExileJedi (@mpirnat)"; in the evenings, I'm usually in Scarytrousers' Laundry Service, and by workday I'm occasionally in AGI The Cave with coworkers. Now and then I'll start up ExileJedi's Epic Win, whose main rule is no songs under seven minutes. There are a few other dynamics I want to experiment with--a "Thunderdome" room with a two-DJ max for intense back-and-forth action, and probably a room capped at three DJs, as I've discovered that three players yields a surprising amount of joyful chaos.

This is a powerfully addictive and very fun service, and it stirs a particular feeling that I haven't felt since my glory days as DJ on WRUW--that pure, joyous rush of finding just the right thing to play is so, so gratifying. The immediacy of the feedback makes it all the more potent. It's eaten many of my waking hours, and frankly, most of my sleeping hours as well.

And, yes, when your favorite author gives you an awesome vote, it feels great.

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You Nuked My Battlestar!

Pretty much out of nowhere, I suddenly decided that what the world really needs is a Battlestar Galactica-themed version of the classic Battleship game. Besides the obvious cool factor of having a board full of miniature BSG ships, I think there's a lot of depth to be added by tweaking the rules a little bit:

  • The human player can choose to "jump the fleet" rather than firing a shot, allowing the player to rearrange the locations of all of their ships.
  • The Cylon player can return any destroyed ship to the board per turn until the destruction of their resurrection ship, in addition to their normal "take a shot" action. If the Cylon player doesn't have any destroyed ships, they can instead opt to repair one "hit" from a non-resurrection ship per turn in addition to firing a shot, so long as the resurrection ship is still in play.
  • Both sides have a limited number of nuclear weapons which, rather than targeting a single point on the game grid, will have a several-coordinate blast radius. Nukes are only available to their respective players so long as there are battlestars or basestars in play.
  • The Cylon player has a number of sleeper agents in the human fleet; the Cylon player can opt to activate a sleeper instead of firing, which will result in one hit against a human ship of the human player's choosing.
  • The human player may sacrifice a battlestar to destroy a Cylon basestar.
  • After some as-yet-undertermined number of turns, the human player can produce a stealth Viper, which can be relocated on the grid every turn or which can be sacrificed to learn the location of the Cylon resurrection ship.
  • After some as-yet-undetermined number of turns, the human player gets a second battlestar.
  • And, if you're not afraid of Season 4 spoilers, if the human and Cylon player get tired of endlessly killing each other, they can opt to partner up and "go find Earth," at which point the game is over and they both lose.

Cylon raiders and heavy raiders seem like one- and two-hit vessels to me, while the Colonial Vipers and Raptors are probably single-hit ships. Basestars should be relatively large (suggesting a much larger field of play than the standard Battleship grid) and maintain a six-pronged X shape target profile. Battlestars would probably need to be three spaces wide so that the flight pods can take hits too. Obvious choices for other Colonial ships include Colonial One, Cloud 9, Demetrius, the Astral Queen, Daru Mozu (the tylium refinery ship), mining ships, Space Park (the "spinny ship"), and numerous others. Clearly, getting the balance right on both Colonial and Cylon sides would be important to proper gameplay.

The reaction from my coworkers who are also fans has been very positive, so I suspect that if the appropriate corporate behemoths could work out the licensing, they'd at least sell a few units to us. In the mean time, if you feel like giving it a whirl, go for it! The rules definitely need some fine-tuning to make sure gameplay is properly balanced, but they should be at least a good start. If you do end up trying it out, I'd love to hear how it went.

So say we all!


[Edit 7/14/2008 @ 23:19] The collective unconscious appears to have reared its ugly head--turns out I'm not the first to have this idea.

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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