Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magic Trees

I don't use miniatures much, mostly because I am not talented enough to paint them, but to kill some time in hospital, mt wife bought me a 'magic tree' from the dollar store. Its just crystals grown on cardboard, but it struck me that they'd made a great fungi forest. Plus the cystals are fragile, which would be a great house rule for spores.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

13 Assassins


Finally saw it and am very happy to have done so. I've not played any Samurai games, but I've read a fair chunk, and the one thing that Western reflections of Samurai never get right is the ultimate futility of the lifestyle. Anyone ever thinking of running a proper Samurai game must watch this and Seven Samurai.

Kids in the Hall Saturdays

Fasinated by the proccess!

No words ... just bask in the awesome

Gaming Stuff

In gaming news, I had a long talk with a buddy who wants me to run something on G+ while I'm stuck in hospital. I've sent out a feeler whether anyone is up for it and if so do they want to continue with Ghostbusters, or run some old skool D&D.

I've also decided that rather than come up with a whole new world, I'm just going to fold the BURPY Nether Regions into my existing game-world of Nood, which is my lame attempt to mix "The Colour of Magic" era Discworld with Nehwon.

I also have this idea that links Dungeon traps with gremlins, but I have to smooth out some of the edges

What the Heck Happened?

Had a minor setback with the cancer stuff. More details here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kinda has Cancer and how even non-gaming wives can help.

I haven’t forgotten about this blog, but the chemo kickbacks make it hard to concentrate. However, with just over ten days before I’m due back in hospital for round two, I’m actually starting to feel a little better. While I have these precious few moments of clarity of mind, I decided to dump all the cancer stuff over to a new blog, Kinda has Cancer and get back to gaming basics here.

My wife is a pop-culture nerd, has a geek-girl crush on Simon Pegg and would go to ComicCon in a heartbeat. However, she never developed any appreciation or even much knowledge about RPGs until she met me and to be perfectly honest, she was a little hostile at first. Since then, however she has flipped through some of my Talislanta books and talked to me about why I like them. She still thinks the idea of rpgs is a little silly, but she at least appreciates why I like them more than video games.

Yesterday she had a day off and I was even able to take her through the basic set up of BURPYS and the still to be properly names, Playing Card Dungeon. I figured that if a person with no frame of reference could understand what was going on, it would be a good acid test for the playability of the game. It went rather well, with her offering two very good suggestions, “Can this be played with other genres?” And, “Why call it a dungeon? Is this part of D&D or are you doing your own thing?” The first of which had me picturing Pulp and Sci-Fi spin offs and the second causing me to again serious question what I want to call this thing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Iron Clads

For all your steampunk needs.

via. Retronaut.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Five side effects of Chemo they don’t tell you about…

Chemo is toxic stuff. The nurses put on haz-mat clothing before handling your IV bags and if you’re in-patient for treatment, you at least get the luxury of your own room because it is dangerous for other people to use the same toilet.

But the truth is, the dramatic side effects you see on TV, the vomiting and hair loss are not that common anymore. For many treatments, hair loss is minimal to non-existent and while you will get nausea, they treat it pretty seriously nowadays. During treatment, I got at least two bags IV a day just to control the nausea, followed by one prescribed pill and as much Gravol as I wanted. When your system is getting pounded by cancer and the chemo drugs, the last thing they want is to be worried about your weight.

At some point, you are still going to end up puking like you just pledged Delta Tau Chi, but the point is, they don’t want you doing it all the time.

However, there are some side effects that they have not warned me about, some of which they can control, and some they can’t.

Chores
For five days they pumped nine hours worth of fluid into my arm, most of which is just saline water to carry the chemo drugs and keep me hydrated. It also means I had to pee ... a lot, usually while dragging the bane of my existence, dubbed IV-88. This (the peeing, not the naming your IV machine) is actively encouraged by the medical staff because the chemo is building up in my body and this is making my fluids toxic. Keeping your legs crossed is not advised for the long term health of your bladder.

Visitors are not suppose to use my bathroom at the hospital, and for the first week of my recovery periods at home I am suppose to use only the small upstairs bathroom, as well as keeping the door shut at all times so that the animals don’t go in.

If I happen to use the downstairs bathroom, I have to wash off everything before the wife uses it, and in a few more days I will have to scrub down both bathrooms top to bottom.

For the same reason, I have to do all my laundry separately as well. If there is one thing you really want to do on your first day home is five days worth of stinky hospital clothes!

So, come on cancer patients! Get ready to scrub some toilets and washing sweaty socks.

What? Who said that?
All Drugs Have Side Effects. Chemo is a nasty drug designed to hunt and kill, but like Dick Cheney on a duck hunt, it doesn’t really care what gets in its way and it will blast perfectly healthy tissue right in the face if it dares stand in its way. The first drug they were going to put me on had a pretty good shot at turning my lungs into tissue paper, then they realized that I might need lungs and switched me to one that will use my bladder as an artillery range instead.

The drug they can’t switch out will damage my hearing. They say it’s only a possibility, but I already have enough hearing loss to be recommended for hearing-aids, so I doubt that my luck will be that good.

When we got this news, the wife started laughing hysterically. It also had the audiologist cleaning puke out of his booth since they realized too late that they shouldn’t be sticking tubes down the ears of the guy who just finished five days of chemo.

Pain
My skin hurts, my hair hurts, my head hurts and stomach hurts, but those I was told to expect. However, my hands and feet are killing me and no one can tell me why. Best guesses are something called Hand-Foot syndrome, where minute amounts of the chemo leaks out of the smaller capillaries in your extremities leading to sunburn like symptoms, but I don’t have any of the redness or swelling. Or it could be something called Tumour Lysis where the excess amounts of protein in my system from the tumour and other tissues breaking down leads to gout-like symptoms. Or it could be arthritis brought on by the combination of the chemo and my Crohn’s disease. No one seems to know and the oncologists and GI doctors are playing hot potato with the file.

So in the meantime, I shuffle around on painful feet and have to hold any glasses with both hands and open pill bottles like your Great Aunt Ivy while the poor dog whines and wonders why you’re home all day but can’t take her for a walk. I thought a bath would help … it would have been easier to just set fire to my slippers.

Hiccups
The single most annoying, and not uncommon side effect are the f*cking hiccups!

This actually happens often enough that they expect it and have meds they can give you at request. The problem with that statement is, ‘at request’. No one tells you they have these miracle meds until you’ve spent the first night in synchronous diaphragmatic fluttering agony.

The morning after my night in hell, just after I mentioned the hiccups to the nurse and she said that they could have given me meds for it, is the closest I have ever come to committing violent murder. How dare they keep that a secret? There should be a big fucking sign right when you enter the cancer ward: IF YOU HAVE HICCUPS, PLEASE BUZZ THE NURSE! SHE HAS PILLS!

The Death of Whitney Houston
Who knew?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Things You Didn’t Know About Getting Cancer

The Tests Results Are Wrong
There are lots of things that can spot a potential cancer; Xrays, CT scans, endoscopes, mammograms, bend overs, ball-handling in the shower and my personal favourite; when the wife allows you to do a manual breast exam. However, these identify only POTENTIAL tumours. From there you usually have to go through one or two more doctors and hopefully one refers you to a lab to get a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a piece of the potential tumour where it is then looked at by a trained professional who identifies what kind of cancer you have. Sound simple, right?

Nope. If you are lucky, the biopsy will fail because of contamination or insufficient samples and they schedule for another one, a few weeks to a month later. If you’re unlucky, they accidentally pick out some healthy tissue instead and tell you that the extra arm growing out of your liver is just a harmless fat deposit.

Not to mention that cancer is an incredibly complex thing, and the pathologists who look into those microscopes are only human. You get one coming in all cranky because his wife is sex-txting the pool-boy and his kid just announced his intention to drop out of pre-law and travel the world following Lady Gaga’s world tour, you could be royally screwed.

Doctors Will Lie to You
Doctors do like to look stupid. They spend a lot of time and money to get through med school to raise themselves above the masses and leave mundane forms of address like Mr. and Ms. behind them. They are DOCTORS damn it!

Actually, chances are they ARE smarter than you, at least about mediciney stuff, but as TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy will tell you, they still have a lot to learn about the complex desires of the human heart.

So partially, they lie to you because you’re stupid. It is no good telling you exactly what has gone wrong in your body, because you likely won’t understand it. So they give you the Coles Notes of the Coles Notes version, which means they are gonna gloss over and avoid trickier subjects unless they have to, like exactly how they are going to take a look at that giant polyp up your behind that looks suspiciously on the Xray like a My Little Pony.

They might also lie to you because they can be lazy pricks. I was initially referred to a surgeon who flat out lied to me and said the lab had not sent over the results of my biopsy. I knew this was a lie because the doctor in the ER where I’d spent the night before was able to see the results. The surgeon had glanced at the report, judged it to be non-surgical and tossed it into some file where it waited for FIVE WEEKS to be sent to an oncologist where it belonged and I could finally start on proper treatment. Five weeks can be a lifetime for some cancer patients.

Nor can I even call him on his dickishness because once the chemo is over guess what… the dick doctor will be in charge of my case again.

They Don’t Know What is Going On
As I said, caner isn’t just one thing, it is more like a catch all phrase that describes thousands of different conditions. Which means that if your cancer isn’t obvious, the oncologist have a lot of sorting to do to figure out what is going on.

I’m currently on my second day of chemo of a five day in-patient cycle, followed by two weeks home rest before coming in for another five days. This will go on for three months before surgery. And you know what, they still don’t really know what I have. I’ve been cleared of lymphoma and testicular cancer, but my bloodwork is still going haywire and I have a seven inch Kuato sitting inside my chest (hence the needed surgery), but Kuato wouldn’t cause the blood test results and is usually an indicator of something else. So, what is it?

Too bad they are cancelling House.

It Will Be Expensive
I am a full time employee whose salary will be cut by almost 50% while I’m off on extended sick time, plus the drug costs down the road. The wife is a student working part time with another year to go.

Yeah, this is going to suck.

Patience is a Virtue, and a Curse
We’ve all seen the movie or the TV show where a character is diagnosed with cancer in a few days after first noticing a lump… bullshit. It can take months for you to go from your GP, to a specialist and finally to an oncologist. Shiva help you if your file gets to the wrong sort of specialist along the way, because that will eat up weeks. Some of it you will just have to suck up, close your eyes and think of England.

However,

Do not grin and beat it. Be a squeaky wheel. Call every week for that test result. Ask to see another doctor or if nothing else, pester your GP until she’s run every test she can and she’s sick of the sight of you.

Once treatment has begun, don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions. Tell your doctors everything and everything then watch them scramble to come up with an answer, (My farts smell like Skittles, is that normal?) Trust me, the embarrassment will fade pretty quickly and soon you’ll be dropping your pants in front of strangers and asking nurses to check your stool samples with grace and aplomb.

I’m sure more things will occur to me as I go, but until then, Good Luck!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kids in the Hall Saturdays: Special Edition

Its all Bruce's fault!

Posting will be non-existent for five days as I am going into the hospital for in-patient chemo. Xrays done when they removed Keven, my gallbladder, back in March revealed a teratoma tumor in my upper chest. Teratomas, while harmless enough on their own, are indicitive of other germ-cell tumors such as testicular cancer. They aren't sure specifically what I have right now, but given the idiotic amount of time that has past since the lump was first identified, my oncologist wants this to start now.

I'll be back in about a week! To the followers and lurkers, keep them dice rollin'!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Its the end of the world as we know it, and these girls look fine...

 

John Varley and the Slow Apocalypse

John Varley is my all-time favorite author. Back in high school I was a voracious reader of Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels, though at the time I had stuck mainly to the ABCs of Sci-Fi (Asimov, Bradbury and Clark) and was happily plowing through the fantasy of Tolkien, Eddings,  the occasional Brooks (I liked the Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold books, but I've never been able to get through any Shanara) and was just discovering Terry Pratchett.  My favorite spot was a second hand shop called Book Heaven that had a huge selection of speculative fiction and it even had a pretty good comic/magazine selection. It was a regular Saturday ritual to walk down to the shop and spend a good chunk of the meager paycheck I collected working as a stuffing bags and lugging cards around at the local IGA.



In second hand shops, I tend to throw books that looked interesting into a pile and stop when I'd hit my budget. Thinking this was a Fantasy novel, it looked interesting and I tossed it onto the pile. Besides, the inside cover had centaur boobies!  It probably wasn't until a few days later that I actually cracked it open and started reading…



And at fifty pages in, I had NO idea what was going on, but I was hooked. The 'edgy' characters (Lesbians! An Immortal Alcoholic! Crazy People!), situations (Sex?) and the totally original setting grabbed me like nothing ever had up to that point and I muddled through the book as best I could and immediately went hunting for more  books by this Mr. Varley. I eventually discovered (this was the days before the internet, though I did dial in to the occasional BBS) that Wizard is the second in a science fiction trilogy about a group of astronauts that, while on a mission to Saturn, accidentally discover a "Titan", a hollow moon-sized alien that is capable of creating a livable environment on its inner surface. The Titan calls herself, Gaea.  

I actually read the third book, 'Demon' next before finally getting my hands on a copy of the first book, 'Titan'. My advice, start with Titan, it will help you figure out Gaea's native races and interior geography much more than the following books.

I then found that Mr. Varley had written other books and I immediately went out to fine the "Eight Worlds" science fiction setting where humanity has been evicted from earth by aliens from Jupiter who might be trying to save the whales, or possibly use Earth's oceans as a breeding pool.  Humanity then has to make do scraping out an existence on the remaining planets of the solar system. The collection of novels and short stories cover the entire range of human history from soon after the eviction to their expansion into a larger galaxy.

[Novels include  "The Golden Globe", "Steel Beach", "The Ophiuchi Hotline" plus the short story collections of "The Barbie Murders" (also published as "Picnic on Nearside") ," The Persistence of Vision", and "Blue Champagne". ]

He has other books, including the clone story 'Mammoth', the time travel 'Millennium' (which was made into an hilariously AWEFUL movie) and a trilogy (Red Thunder, Red Lightning and Rolling Thunder) about a family on Earth just before the eviction by the Jupiter aliens, which I didn't like as much, but have still read twice.

John Varley recently announced his new forthcoming novel, 'Slow Apocalypse' and I am eagerly looking forward to awarding it a place on my John Varley shelf!



The announcement has made me want to dive back into the Gaea/Eight World books (never mind the fact that my to-read pile now threatens to collapse my nightstand – this is an unexpected danger of having a wife who works in a bookstore) and I might be inclinded to do more of a gamer's eye this time.

 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Land of Quod

Beyond the Wall
This is all that we know…

For one thousand years, the land of Quod was ruled by the Yob-Slobbersloth, the Beast from the Black Star and his Dark Clerics. The sky was cloaked in night and terrible creatures stalked the earth. The Dark Clerics walked unmolested as they seized the most beautiful, most pure of the people for their hideous, inhuman rites in their Obsidian Temples. And so it went…

Then one day, a young man by the name of Kal Bladesemmer dared to strike down a Dark Cleric who had come to take his wife for the Obsidian Temple. The cleric’s guards fought back and in the ensuing battle, Kal’s wife was killed and their village was burned to the ground. Kal was wounded, but survived, fleeing into the hills where he was nursed back to health by an old hermit under a curse of silence called Whisper. When Kal’s wounds fully healed, Whisper began to train him in the forgotten ways of the Morning Knights, a mythical order of guardians and warriors from long before the coming of the Black Star. After five years of gruelling training, Whisper bestowed upon Kal the legendary Sword of Dawn and made him swear an oath to defeat Yob-Slobbersloth or die in the attempt. And so it went…

Kal Bladesemmer was soon joined by a group of likeminded companions who’s names have become Legend: Rhiannon, the Priestess of Dawn; Nakor Swiftbow, the Elven Archer; Poe Vladus the Night Mage; Darven Sunsheild the Dwarf; Harf Littlefoot the Thief; Jorm Munganare, the Iron Priest; Xerxes the Wizard; and finally the infamous Fell Darkpath, now known as the Traitor. And so it went…

After many years, and many adventures, including the betrayal of Darkpath and loss of brave Littlefoot, the companions finally defeated Yob Slobbersloth in the halls of his Star Palace and cast him, and his Dark Star into the Realm Beyond. They returned to Quod as heroes, but heroes in a land torn apart, unable to heal itself and without leadership or guidance. The companions decided to divide the land equally; Jorm took the lands north of the Iron Fjords; Darvin the Dwarf took all the Southern Mountains; Poe Vladus took all the last east of the Screaming Cliffs; Nakor Swiftbow returned home to rule the western forests know as the Eternal Glades; Rhiannon claimed the small peninsula that bears her name; while Xerxes claimed only one island in the middle of the Ringed Sea and the established the Second Lyceum of Magic. Kal Bladesemmer took the central regions and build a mighty castle there that he claimed belonded to all his companions. At the centre of the castle there were arraigned seven empty thrones around a giant circular table. In a great ceremony, each companion pledged to rule their lands fairly, and to only to sit upon a throne when there in Castle of the Morning Star surrounded by his or her fellows. And so it went…

An age of peace came to Quod. No one is sure how long it lasted, but the first cracks appears when Darven Sunshield laid claim to the Green Hills on the border of the Eternal Glades. Nakor claimed that the hills contained the ruins of an elven city and was therefore sacred, but by the time the matter was brought to the attention of the other companions, Sunshield’s dwarves had already dug deep into the hills. Meanwhile Jorm and Poe had quarrelled over raiding Iron Men from the north and Undead intrusions from the south. Kal quickly organized a Council of Thrones and demanded all attend, but before but before all could all be summoned, some terrible, cataclysmic event occurred in the city of Ulmar, home of the Second Lyceum that unleashed the swirling storm known as the Final Tempest. And so it went…The Tempest expanded slowly, but inexorably across the land, swallowing everything in its path. Already torn apart by petty battles and despite the pleadings of Rhiannon and Kal, each companion decided to fight the Tempest alone. Here the records become sparse, but we do that the last region reached by the Tempest was our home, the Peninsula of Rhian. To spare us from the storm, Rhiannon made a deal with the gods, her lifeforce would be used to create a mighty shield over our lands, one that could protect us from the Tempest. And so it went…

Records of that time tell that when the Tempest hit, the shield rang like a mighty bell, but it held, though for two years our sky was cloaked in black clouds and people claim to have seen terrible things beating against the shield, high overhead. And so it past and the skies cleared, but the shield remained to protect us from whatever terrible damage had been done beyond our peninsula. Five hundred years have past in peace, but still the last of the Knights of Morning stand by the Last Bridge to this day, watching the shimmering patterns of the shield.

And so it went until the day when Old Rolf, the Morning Knight arrived at the Temple of the Sunrise with terrible, terrible news; Two days past, a swallow had settled on the wheel of an ox cart. Our shield is weakening, and soon the terrible forces from beyond will decend upon our peaceful land. It is up to you, the brave volunteers to venture forth beyond the shield and explore the lands beyond. There is no guarantee that you will return, but should you survive, we beg of you to find some way to send word back to us of lays beyond. The survival of all you know depends upon it. May the morning light always be upon your face …

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ye Old Curiosity Shop

Now these are some awesome treasures for a delving party to find! I now HAVE to include mammoth tusks in the treasure table ...
 

King Solomon's Mines

Watching the 1950 film version of one of my favourite books as a kid, 'King Solomon's Mines', which has the distinction of being the first film shot on location in Africa. Unfortuntely, it takes a lot of liberty with the story and dumps much of the adventure I remember in favour of yet another dreary love story between Quartermain and the created-for-the-film character of Elizabeth Curtis. It is more travelogue than adventure, but still a pretty good film, and a heck of a lot better than some of the versions that followed.It did make me want to go and dig up my old paperback. If there was ever a good literary foundation for an RPG adventure, King Solomon's Mines is it. It constantly boggles my mind why Hollywood can't just film a straight version of some of these incredible old adventures.

Kids in the Hall Saturdays

More John Pinette, because he was freakin' hysterical live and he performed a heartbreaking rendition of 'Somewhere Over the Buffet'.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Star Wars Samurai

Any good SW fan should know that the film was inspired by "The Hidden Fortess". Here artist Clinton Felker returns the favour with these amazing art prints. Check out his blog for even more awesomeness!

The Dungeon Builder's Guidebook

Busily writing the Playing Card Dungeon (seriously need a jazzier name) book and a buddy lent me a copy of the Dungeon Builder’s Handbook, an AD&D sourcebook written by Bruce R. Cordell.

Its chock full of good ideas and I’m eagerly reading through, but it is becoming very clear that the book is an artefact of a different time. The entire first chapter outlines how to justify your dungeon and its ecology. The book seriously wants you to being building your dungeon not with corridors, rooms and traps, but with building a viable foodweb!
"Realistically, portraying the ecological interation within a dungeon setting requires you to consider the dietary needs of the creatures living therein.."

The game is called DUNGEONS and Dragons. All you ever need to justify a good dungeon are the words “ancient insane wizard”.

Still, the book is very useful and a lot of fun. Recommended for anyone planning an old school dungeon hack.

Leather Bracer of +8 GMing!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy John Pinette Day!

My wife corralled my friends into getting me tickets for my birthday. I'm the happiest critter on the whole Moon of Endor...