Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sally Forth; It’s a Hero’s Horizon.

Sally Forth; It’s a Hero’s Horizon

I’ve talked about Dungeon & Dragon’s 4th edition before, about how I tried to give it a fair shake but at the end of the day it just wasn’t as enjoyable to me. And there is no shame in that, it was a different kind of game, one some still enjoy while others did not. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But without getting into the whole can of worms I’d like to take a step forward past 4th to talk a little about the final D&D Next Playtest Packet. I know there are still those who decry and ridicule it for the very point that it isn’t 4th edition, calling it a failure, lacking innovation and little more than a bland throw back to bygone editions. And they are entitled to their opinion. It’s as simple as that.

The underlying truth though is that Next has been shaped from the ground up to fill a hole among fans, to reach down and find the pulsing primal core of the game and breathe new life into it. Things were seen from the vantage point of those behind the scenes that needed addressing, so they are; to ensure years of enjoyable entertainment to come.

And I for one am excited by everything I can see. Time will tell for sure though, so we’ll all have to wait and see where this course will take us. But in the mean time let me highlight a few of the things that stood out to me;

  • Simplicity as a strength – Everything presented speaks to the very heart of the game. From the brilliant advantage/disadvantage mechanic all the way to the base math itself things are fun and functional.
  • Flexibility without losing focus – Classes have been reduced to their core premise while showing that there are still options to stand them out from themselves. Rangers are done right; Druids are not just a player and his obligatory pet, while Clerics have access to ranged attack magic as well as healing.
  • Flavor and fun – Most importantly everything looks fun. You have Rangers who can shoot arrows with nature spells like Hail of Thorns to rain down a shower of sharp spikes from your projectile. Bards who can inspire everyone to victory. Paladins who champion good and can summon up that power to smite, sending radiant power right into their blows. Thematically everything feels right, nothing feels like a repeat. No matter what edition you started with or prefer what you find here will be familiar.
  • Versatile and Proficient – New elements shine a pleasant twist on some old characteristics. Take some of the most classic weapons in the game like long swords, quarterstaffs and the like. They have always been staple gear for various iconic heroes and always been useable with one or both hands. Now you can take advantage of some weapons with the versatile trait to wield two handed for a die step up in damage! A long sword’s d8 becomes a d10, meaning the weapons truly become more versatile. And a stunningly simple approach in the form of proficiency handles so much so well. A scaling proficiency bonus provides a key component to replace base attack, saving throw, etc. Proficient with that weapon? Great, add your bonus to the proper stat on your attack roll. Not good with that great axe you snatched up to protect yourself? Sorry, no bonus for you, it’s just you and your strength to deal with your own disadvantage. Easy to figure, easy to implement and feels balanced so far.
  • Modular Mages – The Wizard has long since been the default spell caster within the game. However other magic users have come along the way like warlocks, necromancers, etc. The way Mages are presented it would be easy to implement such other themed traditions under the Mage heading without having to recreate the wheel each time. Which also opens the way for a primer to pave the way for player/DM’s to create custom subtypes to fit their own games.
  • Multi-class, multiple alignments – A welcome sight was the inclusion of rules for cross classing into other classes. Want to play noble knight of the realm who secretly studies the arcane arts? As long as he has the appropriate attributes (i.e. – he’s smart enough for his lessons) he can do just that. To further add options the 9 alignments are back, meaning that depending on the theme of your story the heroes can run the gamut of saints to villains. Dark anti-heroes, self-centered alcoholics, anything you could consider playing.
  • So much room for growth – As a foundation this material looks to me to be a great basis for growth, adaption, and expansion. There isn’t a lot of clutter, everything is condensed to its core elements and so much room exists for building onto.

There is still far more to take in and digest, too much to get into here. And some aspects I can’t really comment on without testing out further. But I can easily say nothing in the materials prompt a single moment of rageface, an ounce of disdain or any disappointment. Only excitement and hope for what is to come.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Latch Perspective.

A Latch Perspective

Sometimes it is the simplest of things that can really make us take the time to stop and smile. Take a common ordinary door latch, for example. Without a way to latch a door closed you might have a bathroom without privacy. Now even a little hook and eye latch – perhaps one of the least mechanically complicated devices known to man can remedy such a problem. And it isn’t hard to install or operate. It is the very example of a basic fix.

See about a year or so back we ran into a problem, the door to one of our bathrooms (the only one with a door as a matter of fact) busted on us. To be precise the door knob’s internal mechanism failed and left the bolt stuck in place preventing the door from being opened. At which point I had two macho options available; bust down the door or systematically dismantle the door knob and remove the mechanism. I went with the latter.

Later I managed to rig up a workaround for a time before eventually settling on adding a simple latch to the door. To replace the entire door knob would have required not only new parts but work to the wall and door as well to accommodate it. Trailers aren’t designed for easy repairs or standard replacement parts.

In short I fixed the problem using my hands, some stuff that was handy and basic hand tools. I check it every time I use it to ensure it hasn’t backed out or anything else. Some folks might put it out of mind until there is a problem but maybe I’m just wired weird. Anyhow, with my recent wrist trouble I had been concerned about potentially not being as able to fix things in the future. But looking at that latch made me realize how stupid that train of thought could be. Instead of worrying over what might be a problem, my perspective needed to be shifted. I had fixed that door, it wasn’t masterful – but it worked.

Therein lies the secret; sometimes you latch your perspective closed, you blind yourself. And a latch isn’t a complicated thing; you can fix it if there is a problem. It’s all in how you look at it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

All Ahead One-Third.

So yesterday I broke down and agreed to go for a visit to the emergency room about my wrist. For those of you not married allow me to translate; I wisely chose the option of being taken by my lovely wife instead of some less favorable alternatives. In short - my wrist has been killing me and it has only been getting worse. Even trying to care for it at home.

What my little visit did grant me was some understanding, a couple prescriptions and a rather effective brace. To be clear I am confined to ONLY using my left hand. So for now much of my daily routine is shifting, and may continue to do so. In about a week I have to try and get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon to consider the next step in treatment - namely injections to try and directly reduce swelling/inflammation. Barring that it's surgery for carpal tunnel then.

So for the time being I am going to carry on ahead, even at reduced speed to finish refining Gauntlet for release as an ebook and see where things go from there. I apologize to anyone who might have visited recently looking for new stories and the like, given time I hope to return to full speed. In the last few weeks I have come to accept that it is far better to rein things in now than to risk a future without the ability to continue doing so much of what I love.

Wish me luck, and all the patience I can manage, something tells me I am going to need all I can get. I hope Gauntlet will prove just as enjoyable as some of my other works so far. And in the meantime let me know what you think about any of my stories so far, I would love to hear any feedback on them.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Word On Wrists.

A Word on Wrists

My whole life I can honestly say has been spent devoid of any merit of muscle. To be frank, despite any efforts to the contrary I quite simply have never been known for my physical prowess. In fact, it can easily be attested by any number of those who have ever known me that even when I was engaged in sports or other activities of my youth did I ever distinguish myself. Basically the best I can ever claim is a tireless tenacity, appreciative attempt and perhaps a passable skill.

Now, it can also be said that I didn’t shirk from sports either. Growing up I spent my summers playing baseball, while switching to basketball and football during the school year. Over time I slowly began to step back and did take up bowling instead. I was even enrolled in gymnastics and karate for a time. But alas, as I grew older I found less and less pleasure in such things.

Perhaps it could be argued that my lack of innate ability colored my view about such activities, or it could possibly be said that my shifting focus towards my academic pursuits pulled me away. Either explanation is equally within reason I suppose. However neither is really the point of the matter currently.

What is at issue is something else entirely, a matter some people might not even think about much. Actually, I can regretfully admit it is something I recall in passing having heard about briefly but was rather ignorant of.  You might laugh but it is your wrists oddly enough.

Now, it is one of the first things some people say when they hear that you are suffering with a problem affecting your wrists that you simply work at your computer too much. Things like Carpal Tunnel and the like get mentioned and typically it is generally assumed you must have caused your current condition somehow.

But, you see, here is my problem with that whole train of thought. It isn’t simply a concern for those of the computer-oriented persuasion. Nor is Carpal Tunnel and other such medical misfortunes something that is only suffered by those crafting code or skilled secretaries. As an example I can offer my own father; a man who until recently virtually never even used a computer or the like. However he has worked for years in the labor industry; using his hands and body if you care to be blunt, on a daily basis. And he has had somewhere around 3-4 or more surgeries on his wrist alone.

Why is this even something worth talking about you might be wondering, and I don’t blame you if you’ve asked yourself that very question. For me it has become a rather recent topic for contemplation. You see, in the last week or so I have found myself dealing with some trouble with my right wrist and it has become something that has worried me. And with such consideration it has inevitably lead to me reviewing a series of events that I had always shrugged off.

I write on a daily basis, or at least try to anyways. Currently it has been centered on me trying to edit and refine my latest little story; Gauntlet. Now, most of my tinkering with the tale has just been some rewording here and there to be fair. But I have done some rewriting where needed too. However, I have also been wearing an old wrist support and trying to limit how much I make use of my right hand to be cautious.

Writing though isn’t the only thing I do. I also do the dishes, work on the laundry, and occasionally try to fix something electronic, electrical or any number of other things around the house when I am able to. In short, I don’t just set and type away for long hours on end. And even though I don’t make use of a traditional computer desk ( my pc setup consists of a monitor on a end table beside my recliner with the tower tucked neatly beside it in my living room) I do consciously make it a point to watch how I hold my wrists when typing etc.

But I cannot disregard the fact that for a long time when I was working and putting myself through college that I did in fact a lot of work with my hands. And before that I had hobbies that also included a lot of use of my hands as well. I have never been the hulking handyman who strains his back heaving about loads. But in contrast I have always been the little guy who crawls into, around or under something and spends long stretches working on things with tool in hand.

I think what I may be rambling my way towards is the point that all this type of work over time may have had a strain on my body that I never really noticed before. When a sharp pain might spring up my forearm like a sudden shock I merely ruled it our as a result of working with my arms above me for too long. Or when I had to shake my hand and wrist out to remove a tingling tidal wave it was just from my hand getting tired from gripping my tools.

Whatever the reason or self-sold explanation I never stopped to consider the long term effects. Now some may argue that a family predisposition might be involved that has my own anatomy at fault, and that very well could be. I can’t rule that out at all, but one thing I think anyone can take from this is not to ignore your body in any way. It doesn’t matter how big or how buff you may be, or aren’t; pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. If you’re picking something up without lifting with you legs because you’re stubborn enough to think you can just power through it you may be hurting yourself. And if you’re just doing something as seemingly innocent as playing a video game each day for a bit while your wrist lazily hangs askew from its grip on your mouse you might be dooming yourself to discomfort.

I’m no expert on the matter, far from it. I used to do the little stretches and things before my shift at work or when warming up before a practice. I recall vaguely hearing some bits and pieces mentioned here and there about the dangers of Carpal Tunnel, Tendonitis and other things but was basically ignorant. I mean I knew what not to do and that it was a problem but as far as symptoms to watch out for or what it really was – not so much.

And right now I haven’t seen my doc yet so I can’t even say that it or anything of the sort is even my problem. I could have strained/pulled something putting a stack of dishes up or any number of things. But now I am trying to educate myself better and take a serious look at such health concerns even if they seem trivial. Because later down the road they could become worse, and if treated early perhaps prevented.

So, take care of your hands and wrists folks. You use them to interact with your surroundings far more than you realize. Try not to take them for granted.