Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Yes, we have done a woeful job of updating the blog as of late (Cory's last posts notwithstanding). Here is a pictoral essay of what has been going on.

The cactus that we got from Cory's grandma bloomed. The blossom started off as a large pod, opened up for a while, then closed and fell off. It was strange and beautiful. Interestingly, in WI in the winter, a cactus requires more water than you would think.

Cory and I made our first (and second) trips across Lake Wisconsin via the ferry. We didn't know what to do, but the GPS did.

Cory and I went to the RA reunion at UNI earlier this month. Guess who else was there?

We got complimentary passes to eat at the Redeker dining center (now called Piazza). Before we got there, I told Cory we should count all the pajama pants we see (mesh shorts and sweat pants count, too), but the first twelve people we saw were all wearing pajamas, mesh, or sweats, so we decided that we should count people wearing regular clothes, like jeans. But as soon as we got inside the dining center, we were so confused about how to actually get food, we forgot about the counting. After wandering around to all the different stations, where Cory took one of everything, we finally secured enough food to comprise the weirdest meal of all time (black bean burger + butterscotch yogurt + chinese stir fry + cotton candy ice cream).

The actual RA reunion was held in the new McCloud basketball arena, which is a much better building for basketball than the UNIDOME.

The reunion was held in the Alumni Association box behind the basket. Great seats.

Cory's been rollin' some 20-sided dice with his buddies.

We got a kickin' pre-lit Christmas tree.

And we also got over thirty inches of snow. I went to the nearby golf course today for a little cross country skiing. I didn't stay long because it started snowing again. As of the 11 inches of snow we got Thursday-Friday, we have more snow this year than we did last year at this time (remember over 100 inches of snow last year?). We are under a winter weather advisory for tonight with 4-6 more inches of snow. We fly out to visit Cory's parents on Monday, so hopefully the snow will be finished by then.

On that note, Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ravenloft, Redux

So avid readers will remember that I DM'd an online Ravenloft 3.5 ed game on Fantasy Grounds with some buddies of mine a while back. Specifically the "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" game, though we never got into the Castle itself. This was my fauilt, as I didn't have the patience anymore to convert maps and dialogue into type form anymore, and the Castle itself is such a huge project I just gave up. It didn't help that I had made an agreement with a guy on the FG forums that I would convert the realm and encounters around the Castle and village, etc. into FG format and he'd do the Castle itself, except after I sent him my stuff he never reciprocated. That was pretty much the end of it.

Anyway, avid readers will also remember that I have a new local 4e D&D group I have weekly games with (in-person!). Well, they just got transported into Ravenloft (Barovia, specifically) and fought their way into the center of a besieged town, which is under seige by '30 Days of Night'-style zomb-ires (I've altered the EtCR a lot for 4e). Anyway, one of the players plays a halfling ranger/rogue who's a living turret (*pew pew pew*), and he writes a bi-weekly journal of our games in-character. As his last game was their first foray into Ravenloft, I figured my old players and fellow Ravenloftians might appreciate reading it. I've also come up with a new Fear/Horror/Madness percentile-based system into our Ravenloft games that is very Call of Cthulhu-oriented. So far its worked out pretty good and the players seem to like it, so I may post the details of the system in another post.

Just for reference, the characters are Rong the Dragonborn Cleric of the Raven Queen, Arjan the Half-elf Paladin of the Raven Queen, Wil Blackburn the Human Man-at-Arms, Colibri the Tiefling Fire Mage, and KinKal the Halfling Ranger/Rogue.

Journal of KinKal Issue R1

There was a chill in the air as we got our bearings in this new place. It was dusk and a thick fog hung about the forest the bordered the road. The land we had left was snow-covered but here there was none.

We started off in the direction of the town – perhaps someone there could explain where we were. As we moved down the road the fog seemed to get even thicker and a misty rain began to fall. Though I believe the actual temperature was warmer than where we left, the wet air chilled me. And I had a feeling in my gut…something here was just not right.

We eventually reached a gate in the road flanked by two large statues whose heads had been removed. There was no wall beyond the gate or any other reason for it to be there. The thick forest was as it had been on either side of the road.

The gate creaked open – probably a bit of breeze…though it seemed pretty calm. It just seemed creepy but I wasn’t about to let a creaking gate scare me and strode forward. As the rest of the group followed through the gate slammed shut behind us. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and the feeling of dread increased – that was clearly not natural.

I shook off my doubts and we continued forward but there was still that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something wasn’t right.

We broke from the woods as the rain increased from heavy mist to a constant drizzle – not enough to soak you, but enough to be cold and annoying. A town lay in a low spot thick with the ever-present mist. However, we did not see any signs of life – no fires, no light, no smoke from chimneys. As we got closer we could see that the doors and windows of all of the buildings were boarded up.

The muddy road showed signs of recent foot travel from many sets of boots, and with the puddles on the ground and rainy weather they couldn’t have been very old. So someone had to be here, somewhere.

A noise up ahead grabbed our attention – there seemed to be an overturned cart of some sort with humanoid figures around it. It was hard to tell what exactly they were doing though the thick fog…but as we got closer it became clear – they were some sort of sick undead creatures feasting on dead humans!
I felt the bile rise in my throat; these were no simple mindless zombies but were instead actively feasting on the dead bodies! Our new addition – I had learned his name was Wil Blackburn – charged forward but the sickly creatures were faster than they appeared and after deftly dodging his blows started swarming around him.

As the paladin marched forward and launched into his attack, he was assaulted from the flank down another street. Fortunately he avoided the attack as the rune-covered creature caused the ground beneath him to open and attempt to swallow him.

The fast zombies gave out a high-pitched scream which was answered from distant rooftops. As we cut down the zombie hoard more of them poured in from the rooftops, surrounding Wil and Ahrjan, while the rune-covered enemy pressed forward. Wil managed to get tangled up with a zombie during an attack and dropped to the ground, managing to get a face full of muddy water which momentarily blinded him.

We were looking a bit pressed and I still felt the horror in my gut. Still I pressed forward a bit as the rune-covered evil sent a wave arcane fear over our front rank. Meanwhile Wil had gotten up and cleared his eyes, but in his drive to strike his foes got his flail tangled and tossed it across the road.

The cart we had seen was now an inferno as Colibri’s bursts had caught that as well as the enemies. I saw a cold determination rise in Rong as he stepped forward and called on the power of the Raven Queen. A shadowy burst of divine energy radiated out from him and several of the creatures screamed as they turned to dust! Ahrjan pressed forward but was trapped by the earth attack and could not reach the runed enemy.

My arrows finally started flying true and I felled a pair of the disgusting creatures that were coming over the rooftops. We had now turned the tide, but the leader was still standing. Rong stepped forward, again invoking his god, and smote the thing. There was a terrible scream as the runes glowed and the creature seemed to collapse in on itself.

Ahrjan yelled some nonsense about that being “his” enemy to defeat but most of us figured it was just more of his “life is pain” morose crap and just nodded until he stopped. Rong seemed a bit surprised at the reaction but little seems to shake the huge Dragonborn. But then again he could have had a look of complete fear for all I knew – his face never seems to change no matter what the situation.

All was quiet…for a moment. Then we heard the scream of another of these wild zombies. The fire – it was clearly visible from most of the town and we pressed on to get away from it before we had more visitors.

Clear of the fire we came upon an open crossroads. In the middle there was a man lying face down. We all suspected…well something. Colibri poked the body with some magical force to see if it would arise as a zombie but it was truly dead…for now. Still, I’d seen enough ambush situations to go marching into this. No, always change the rules when you suspect an ambush. So I quietly climbed to the roof of one of the buildings to our right. Moving stealthily I noted a figure on a roof opposite, seemingly watching the corpse. It was hard to see through the fog but it seemed to be crouched in a pose suggesting a zombie, not a human. I took careful aim and fired – the arrow neatly pierced the creature’s neck and it pitched forward onto the street with little more than a thump.

The group approached the man and he seemed to have some sort of amulet on him – an old symbol of a sun god of some sort. I stayed on the roof, watching for more enemies while the group searched the body. Suddenly they looked up at the building he appeared to be fleeing when he died. I could see in their eyes that something inside was not right. Colibri gave out some sort of scream and started looking around as if he were surrounded by enemies. Before we could act he had launched a spell at Ahrjan. A moment later the madness seemed to clear from his eyes and he looked confused. Ahrjan slapped Colibri to try to clear his senses but it was obvious he now knew he had been affected by some sort of delusion.

Meanwhile Rong and Wil had gone in and taken care of the floating apparition practically before I could get into the building.

We sat to rest a moment but heard the sound of combat farther along the street. It appeared we were not the only ones fighting zombies in this dread place! So off we raced toward the sound. I checked my supply of arrows on the way; a little more than a single quiver. Hopefully there was someone in this forsaken place that could make a straight shaft and put steel to its tip [after all, in 4e I can’t craft anything…].

We came upon what appeared to be the city center. There were barriers constructed across the roads entering the square but one was broken and zombies flooded through the breach. In the middle a single armored female struck down zombies with gusto, but was hard pressed and wounded.

The barriers were high – clearly made to slow the advance of the quick zombies. It took some of my teammates a bit of effort to clear the obstacle, but it hardly slowed me down. Two arrows took care of two zombies currently attacking the armored lady. She looked up a bit surprised at the sudden aid and I simply smiled; “Yes ma’am, the heroes have arrived.”

With our help the zombies were quickly dispatched – even those foul things that hurled globs of putrescence at us. Without hesitation the lady – who we later learned was Ashlan and a Paladin – started directing people to rebuild the barrier. But before we could get very far with that the ground shook with giant footfalls. I could help but wonder what this place was? Where had we ended up? Was this some sort of slow death set upon us by some evil god? Perhaps there was no end to the flow of living dead and it was simply an inevitability for us to join this army? The thought shook me – slaving was my most hated issue but eternal servitude with the torture of the cold pain of death lingering forever?

A barrier burst open, shaking me out of my thoughts. A zombie the size of a house stood in the newly made breach. I hesitated, wondering how something this foul could even exist. Well, that didn’t matter now, let them come and keep coming. I will fill them with arrows until I have no more, then I will cut them with my swords until I create a pile of bodies so high they can no longer reach me! And somewhere, somehow a bard will sing songs of the crazy Halfling that slew an army of zombies!

I let fly with arrows but the shaking of the ground threw off my aim. Wil strode bravely forward but the creature swung its massive hand at him. Though it struck Wil with the force of a battering ram its back swing had hit a building, knocking lose a tall tower. The tower collapsed on the giant zombie causing massive damage!

The group pressed hard, seeing even more, smaller zombies following the giant beast. Apparently the falling tower had done a lot of damage as the big zombie fell under our assault. Still I had a feeling – something was not right. And correct I was, as moments later the thing got back up! I launched arrows burring several deep it its rotting flesh. Rong, Arjan, Colibri, and Wil smashed, burned, and cut not only the giant zombie but all that followed and soon all of the dead had been returned to their rightful state.

Ashlan thanked us and introduced herself. She indicated that the attack seemed to be over for now and we should retire to the tavern to rest and recover.

Even in the warm tavern I could feel the chill inside me. This was not the normal chill of wet, cold weather but a chill that touched something deeper. Should I fall from this evil and rise as one of these foul creatures I truly hope that my companions will destroy me and ensure that I do not rise again. I most certainly will not hesitate to do the same to them.

Maybe this is some test from the Raven Queen for Rong and Ahrjan? Perhaps I was just unlucky enough to be caught up in the “test”? Whatever the case, perhaps I should at least learn a bit about this Queen and what it is I can do to keep her satisfied.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Duck and Cover

Fallout 3 is going well, and I think I'm rolling on into the endgame (and my level XP is maxed) so I thought I'd waste everybody's time with an album of Dr. Atomic's Post-Apocalyptic Development. I took screenshots occasionally throughout the saga and so, without further ado, here they are.

Here's one of the good Doctor fresh out of the Vault.

After a time, he joined up as a hired gun on some trading carvans. When those same caravans were ripped to shreds by Deathclaws, he wandered the wasteland...alone.
After facing raiders, ghouls, mutants, and giant Mole rats, Dr. Atomic came across an old military installation, where he was able to procure some combat armor, which he wore (and constantly kept repaired) for most of the game.

Soon he earned enough money to have his own house in the town of Megaton, and outfitted it with a full Science lab package, where he could do his research in peace. Note: The only real research you can do in the world of Fallout is build bigger and better weapons, which is fine with me. Though aspirin or toilet paper won't be reinvented anytime soon for these poor folks.

Much later I encountered the Brotherhood, and they taught me the finer points of Power Armor. On a mission for them to retrieve a G.E.C.K.* I was captured by some bad guys that like to do nasty experiments on folks, but quickly took care of them after freeing a fellow Vault Dweller (from a different Vault) that was held captive.

He was there a little longer than me, you understand.

Now we are ready to go face the big bad, if I can just figure out where he is. Do I have a chance to save the world of Fallout? Maybe I better check my Pipboy...

*Garden of Eden Creation Kit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hallowscream Scare-a-bration

Thought I'd take a breath from being totally captivated by Fallout 3 and post some pics of our Halloween party this last weekend. Yes, we had a Halloween party, because Sam Hain requires sacrifice...of gummy bears and beer.

Auto-image upload oscillator.....activate!

Halloween '08! W00t!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dentural Wisdom

So I got my wisdom teeth yanked out of my face last Thursday. Why are they called "wisdom teeth" in the first place? I mean, you only notice them when they are hurting you, or the dentist takes an x-ray and says you'll have an orc-mouth if you don't get them pulled immediately (yeah, right doc), so I don't really see the wisdom in their presence. Maybe in the long long-ago we used to get our back teeth knocked out real easy by chewing on bark and rocks and such and they were like shark-replacement teeth for our hairy ancestors. Either way the result today is that I gotta miss two days of work while my jaw swells up to the size of a cantaloupe and I get hepped up on grams of ibuprofen and prescription narcotics.

I decided not to let the extreme pain-killers go to waste on just getting my teeth pulled though. I figured as long as I'm taking multiple 600 mg Ibuprofen tablets and get a nice shot of who-knows-what to dull the pain of my jaw being partially broken for a day or so, I might as well take this opportunity to deal with my major bad habit (note that I only have one because I am otherwise flawless -- pride doesn't count).


I know what you're thinking, "But Cory, with all the problems facing the world, what with the oncoming economic collapse, peak oil, and zombie plague, how is caffeine a major bad habit? Its cheap, easy to make, and keeps your brain power cylinders operating at the expected 4000 rpm to optimize your superhuman productivity!"

True enough, you, but how about this: have you ever had to make a fire in the cold? Know how much that sucks? Now try to make a fire in the cold...with a killer headache. Yes, you can stockpile coffee (as I have), but when the mutant zombie bikers are roaming and the fallout is coming down you don't want to have to venture out to super-duper mart, putting your life needlessly at risk, simply because you need coffee!

Anyways, I got the two-birds/stone idea from Mary's dad, and I gotta say so far its working splendidly. Its been a solid four days without caffeine. Doesn't sound like very long to you, huh? Let me give you a synopsis of my intake at work each day last week, and you'll understand what kind of withdrawal that is:

Cory's average work day:

- 6:45 am -- Make one pot of coffee. Drink one tall travel-mug full (+4 cups) with breakfast (I put a couple ice cubes in it to cool it down).
- 7:45 am -- Refill travel mug with coffee, drink on the walk to work (+4 cups).
- 8:30 am -- Crack open one of the Monsoon energy drinks (lo-carb) I brought from home, drink it up (+1 energy drink).
- 10:00 am -- Refill travel mug with crappy coffee from breakroom. Drink until lunch (+4 cups).
- 11:30 am -- Eat lunch with Mary. Drink a small styrofoam cup of coffee with lunch (+1 cup).
- 1:30 pm -- Crack open second Monsoon energy drink I brought from home. Milk it until 2:30pm (+1 energy drink)
- 3:00 pm -- refill travel coffee mug with crappy coffee from breakroom before maids clean it out. Drink for rest of day at work (+4 cups).
- 5:30 pm -- Get home, rewarm remaining coffee in pot. Drink the rest of the pot over the course of the evening (+4 cups).

Total average intake of coffee per work day: 21 cups and 2 energy drinks (lo-carb, of course, gotta watch my figure). And by "cups" I mean the English measurement of the cup (8 fluid ounces).

Now, most of you probably think that's an inhuman amount of caffeine to take in, and you'd be right. Some of you may not even believe me, but that's only because you didn't know me back when I polished off an entire 12-pack of pepsi in one sitting while playing Fallout (the first one) in my parent's basement. Cullen remembers. I lost a Constitution point that day and gained about six pounds on the spot. Either way, that's not good for humans.

Considering that chocolate is not good for dogs because the caffeine could kill them (well, theobromine kills them, but its a caffeine derivative so stop being so technical), I figured I'd stick this guy in the bud.

I've felt the headaches, but it hasn't been too bad thanks to prescription pain killers. I'm such a cheater. I have gotten a little nauseous from not having coffee on Saturday and today, but I think its passed now. I have noticed a major increase in my desire to nap. Tomorrow is my first day of work with no coffee, we'll see how it goes. I'm sure my coworkers will be put off by my non-buzzed personality and general laidbackedness.

I know other people break their coffee habit the old fashioned way with perseverance and cussedness, and I think that's great. Having the fortitude to go ahead and shake off the effects of addiction with pure willpower is to be commended.

But I'm a chemist, and I fight alkaloids with alkaloids.

The moral is: When you choose the battlefield, you can overcome any obstacle!

...with narcotics!

Friday, October 17, 2008


SO I finally read through the 106-page bailout plan, and I can officially say that we are all boned. All the stuff about the gov't owning the banks and whatnot is in there, word-for-word, along with a bunch of other crap (the formation of a group called "TARP" - "Troubled Asset Relief Program") which won't help. Also, its quickly becoming obvious that "increasing the liquidity" of banks so they will go back to lending to folks, which was the justification by Paulson for the big push-through, isn't working worth a damn. What are the banks doing with all that free money? Probably buying gold and freeze-dried food, like we should all be doing.

So, without further ado, I present to you the five-part Demo for Fallout 3 (to be released Oct. 28th, and yes I actually preordered it from Gamestop -- I've never preordered any game before, but this one is going to be incredibly awesome). Once you get home or whatever from work, its well worth watching. Watch the first part of the demo, and if you can resist watching all five, you're a stronger man than I.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Now go get it while the dollar still has value!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

#1 Movie in America!!

Readers, weigh in: Did our friend and immunologist Dr. Surfbum Cooper help make Beverly Hills Chihuahua that #1 movie in America last weekend?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sisters Abroad!

Since Cory spent his vacation days attending GenCon, I had to come up with something even better to spend my vacation days doing. To Europe!!

The smallest Smalley and I flew into Frankfurt, Germany and were whisked away to Heidelberg by her most hospitable friend from the Smalley hometown. We ventured out to the country side via train to Bad Dirkheim to enjoy the fall wine festival.

These folks are serious about their wine as they sell it in pint glasses.

To France!!

The Palace of Versailles is amazing and was my favorite part of the trip. As you can see, I was not able to capture all of its vastness in one photo. As its height, 22,000 people lived at Versailles.

There is lots to see of Versailles in addition to the castle including the Hameau de la reine (hamlet complete with mill and livestock).

To Paris!!

The Cathedral of Notre Dame...

San Chapelle...

And everyone altogether: The Eiffel Tower


Arc de Triomphe:

That was a long day.

Back in Heidelberg, we finished up at the Castle.

Assorted notes: I ate chocolate croissants every day. There is no where to go to the bathroom. The portions at restaurants were just the right size. Beth's friends that we stayed with amazing hosts and I am very grateful! (And thanks to Beth for a lot of great pictures!)