Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Walk to Mordor... my work to a Ren Fit new year.

Since 2001, Christmas Season in our home has included the then current Lord of the Rings  movies. This year with the final Hobbit movie at the theater, we were able to watch all six films in order over the Christmas-New Years season. And this new year, I restarted my fitness tracking with the Sparkpeople Website, after all when I used it consistently before I had lost weight.

However, I got bored of the site, and it fell by the wayside. This time, I'm trying to tie my nerd obsessions into the plan to keep my interest. My wife heard this idea and serendipitously found an exercise mention of Walking with Frodo, that led to chasing links and finding the Nerd Fitness Website.

Thanks to the wonderful blog post by Steve (of said Nerd Fitness) Into Mordor , I have begun the walk this year. I'm off to a slow start (the Hobbits in the books did 18 miles the first day, and I did just short of 1,) but I am hoping to make it a consistent increase in my exercise and endurance.

Unlike the Nerd Fitness blog suggests, I'll be using heavier shoes. And due to my particular nerdiness, I plan to wear at least partial garb (Renaissance /Medieval Clothes to the norms reading.) So for now, in the cold weather the heavy wool cloak just feels right.

I am a member of the local Amtgard,  which is a Medieval/Ren/Fantasy Battle Sport & Live Action Role Play (LARP) group. But due to conflicting schedules I haven't been able to regularly attend for years. Even when I have been able to go, I primarily play a Archery based support type fighter... not the quick 'Stick Jock' swordsman.

I also should mention the chainmail I built a few years ago. My chainmail is overly thick guage, made from reclaimed materials (mainly old furniture springs) which translates to a 90lb 3/4 Hauberk that drops to almost my knees. So when I can make it to Battlegames I'll wear the armor, and on the walks I'll add at least the 1 lb gloves. Recently I've taken to grocery shopping with bags under the cloak, but if just walking for the walks sake, I'll wear the armor then too.

So I will be incorporating Swordplay Exercises, and Weight Training, combined with the endurance and eventual speed training that should add into the fitness that will result in more effectiveness on the Larp Fields as well.  My wife also gave me a Sword Exercises both for swordplay and fitness DVD, so I'll be using the gloves to add weight to my sword movements- thus speeding up my LARPin (much lighter) swords. So as the hobbits had to learn swordplay along the route (beautifully displayed in the 2001 'Fellowship' Movie's extended version) my quest will include similar lessons.

I am planning that as I make different landmarks, I can blog about my quest in relation to the story. So, as another goal- I think I will re-read then as well. This should make for an interesting quest. As for now (8 miles in at posting), I've just had the last sights of Hobbiton from first slopes of the Green Hill Country. 

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet."
JRR Tolkien-The Fellowship of the Ring

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Game Developments - The 'Woof' Moment (Part 1)

I'm an old school table-top gamer, and most times the DM. I think that in gaming, world-building  is an art. But there are moments that change worlds. The Butterfly Effect can and does play havoc on all realms, real or otherwise. Let me tell you about one of these moments that has become infamous to my local gaming groups.

This particular event happened early with a new group. I was the DM, and the group consisted of three couples plus one. Myself, my wife, her boss, a rival fiber shop owner, her husband, and another couple. We only knew the last couple by a few brief meetings.

Now my style of world-building is based upon small to large, start with building a taste adventure. Then let the world grow around the players back stories, decisions, and off-handed comments. Expand the world as the game grows, throw out as many adventure hooks as I can and the world grows based on what the party does and does not try.

So, in this quick adventure, there was a trap room. It was an arena, based on the current MMA tv shows, the room had bench seating around a raised octagonal platform. The trap was that if two creatures entered, only one could get back off - two enter, one leaves. A pretty standard low level cheat trap- knock one player to death's door, drag them off and heal-or loose a low level character thus establishing that I will kill players to a new group. Either way as a DM I win, I either have a group that thinks and puzzles as well as hack and slash, or I've established that there is a real threat to the characters in the game.

However, the party didn't find the room early, but after leveling and spending some cash at town. And the kicker was that the Monk (Linnaya - played by my wife) had nothing to buy. So while everyone else was re-equiping, she decided to 'spend more than a war-dog to buy an ankle biter pampered pet.'

She then immediately fed the dog elegant meals (she said she had no use for the money) and then named the dog based on what it said... thus 'Woof,' became her pet. And followed her to the dungeon, and the trap room.

Now, in trap room the party is searching the abandoned arena stands, and the Rogue heads onto the arena floor. Linnaya called for Woof as she had found some meat jerky and was going to 'treat' it to the pup, this caused the dog to walk into the arena with the level 2 Rogue. It should be noted that the Rogue is being played by the wife of the couple we had only met in  passing.

The Arena lights up, with obvious magical fields of energy surrounding the arena.  Panic ensues, and the party figures out quickly that the Rogue can't get off the platform. Thinking she might trick the arena, she grabs the dog, and tries to take it off the platform at once. The magic shocked both of them for a whole 1 point of damage, and bounced them back. The dog did not like this, and bit the Rogue for another 2 points of damage.

So now the Rogue starts asking the other players for ideas. The Dwarven Fighter kept in character with the advice "Obviously, you kill it. Then you've won." This spurred my wife back into character with the startled whine " You're not going to kill my dog are you?"

So now my wife kept to character, and the Rogue player who didn't know if she was 'in character' or actually going to be pissed if the NPC dog died, and carry that through for retribution, or worse in RL interactions.

Then someone suggested (I think it was the party Bard) "You know, you don't have to win."

So, after looking across the table to my wife (and my wife staying in character) and across to me (while I was having a hard time but managed to keep a straight-neutral face) the Rogue player finally decided that maybe discretion was the best option, dropped to the ground and yelled "I yield!"

This was too priceless a moment for me to let go, so I improvised a totally different ending, with magical fanfare and a blast of mystic energy swirling through both the Rogue and the dog, and set them both off the arena surface. Then taking the Rogue's sheet, I subtracted 3 permanent HP, a few skills, and 2 INT points- which I transferred to the NPC sheet of the dog. She was now a first level Rogue, and the Rogue lost the equivalent of a level without the benefit of loosing XP (leveling  at the XP requirement for 3rd to get back to 2nd, with the increase continuing for the rest of the character's life.)

But this had some unexpected world repercussions...               (Part 2 soon)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Game Developments - Rummy in reverse.

First post of the Year- Maybe I'll even be able to keep up this New Year.

I've enjoyed games all my life. to quote Shakespeare "The play's the thing." But most games wear out. There are only so many times that you can answer the same trivia questions. Most tactical games are decided by early moves (Australia in Risk is like the center square in Tic Tac Toe,) and even the strategy involved in traditional card games can get old.

Let's take Rummy for instance. I first played Rummy with my father as the follow up to Go Fish. I learned  Rummy wiki-rummy  as the variant where "rummy" was the word used to indicate that an opponent has made a mistake and discarded a playable card- and thus allowing the speaker to take the card from the discard and play it themselves.

It was a great kids game. But, I left it behind (or so I thought) as a late teen. There were bigger and better, more complex card games out there... but because it was a classic, and my wife and I both enjoyed it, it became our go-to travel game.

But alas, again it started to loose it's luster. We tried speed games, long term huge point games, and a few other variants. The first one that stuck and became our first go-to game, was the 100 point two player speed variant.

The basic scoring (numbers 5 pts, face cards 10 pts, Aces 15 pts - or 5 pts if used as 1's) and in this version the players scores count against one another. First player to a positive 100 score wins. This negated a scorecard (at the end of the round, I had 45 you had 70, so your up +25. Only one players score is all that carries forward) making for an easier travel game.

This worked for quite a while, and the scores quickly swing back and forth for a lively game, or slam closed in a runaway (yes it is possible to win in a single hand,) but again, it slowly faded. Then, my wonderful wife had a brainstorm- what if you flipped the game to change the tactics. So after some tinkering back and forth on rules for forcing your opponent to play or challenge (uno style) we came to our current rules for 'Reverse Rummy.'

2 Players
Object- to force your opponent to play to 100 positive score.
Both players starting hand is 10 cards.
Basic Rummy Play and scoring.
   Special Rules-
           Rummy- If a Card being discarded can play,  you may 'Rummy' forcing the discarding player to play the card for points and discard again.
           Forced Play- If a card in the discard becomes playable, you may direct the next player to take and play it instead of drawing. This only works if you force the move before the other player draws.
           Bluffing- As the other player cannot see you hand, bluffing is a part of the game design. However, it can get carried too far, so we added a challenge rule. Choosing to challenge forces the opponent to reveal their hand, and playable cards go into play and draws a single face down card that counts against the player at the end of the hand. However, there must be a risk for the challenger, so if no playable cards are revealed, then the challenger draws three cards face down that count against the challenger at the end of the hand. This also adds a bit of mystery as those cards could break expected runs, or groups especially during a long hand.
           Caught- At the end of the hand (once a player has gone out) the other player reveals their hand, any playable cards caught in hand count as twice their normal value against that player. This does not include cards that the player had no ability to play (last hand draw to pick up the pile.) but does include cards from the discard that make cards in hand work. This means if you are caught then you must pull the cards from the discard, but do not get the other cards to count against your score.