31 January 2007

Intermission

I was planning to continue the fiction non-stop over the next few days, without boorish distractions from Real Life (tm). However, I have to post today.

Molly Ivins is dead.

Now, I'm probably more of a conservative liberal than anything else. I rarely talk politics here, mostly because I'm not really into arguing. I think that freely expressing our opinions is one of the greatest boons of living in the United States, and anything that threatens freedom of speech is a cause for concern.

It's not like I knew Molly Ivins, except through her editorials. I started reading her Creator's Syndicate column regularly about a year or two ago. I may not have agreed with everything she wrote (albeit, I did agree with most of it), but she was funny and insightful and scathing. It was love at first read. On more than a couple of occasions, I considered writing to her just to give a thumb's up, but I never did work up the nerve. Today, I wish I would have written to her, because now I'll never have that chance.

More about Molly can be read here, her last column can be found here, and a tribute to Molly can be read here.

So I'm somewhat bummed by the news. No, I didn't know her, but she certainly made me think on more than one occasion.

30 January 2007

Sahm's Tale, Part 5

Yelling above decks caused Sahm to stir. He opened his eyes in the darkness and looked around in vain. The rocking of the ship was less pronounced, though he could still feel the waves beneath its keel and hear the creaking of the masts echo through the hull. His mouth was bitter and sour-tasting, and his head ached. He swung his legs out of the hammock and lowered himself gingerly to the floor. Taking a tentative step in the direction of the door (or so he hoped), Sahm's head swam and he slipped, falling noisily to the ground. He cursed himself, scrabbling through a wet patch that stank of vomit – his own, though he didn't remember throwing up in his humble, closet-like cabin – and crawled to the door.

Outside, the light of the morning sun was just peeking over the eastern waves. The wind had dissipated, the storm passed. The ship's crew went about their business, as if he wasn't even there. A couple of sailors glanced his way, their eyes yellow in the dim light, but they made no comment, nor did Sahm expect them to. He made his way to the bow of the ship, pausing to let a group of sailors pass by. One of them muttered something, but Sahm ignored it. He'd heard worse from his own people, let alone from this mongrel breed of men from the north. Their insults washed over him like a gentle rain.

Once at the bow, he removed his head-wrapping. The stained length of cloth was haphazardly wound, anyway, thanks in part due to the restless sleep he'd endured the previous evening. His dark hair, freed from the wrapping, fell to his shoulders in a lanky mass. Sahm faced the sun, knelt on the weathered planks, and made his prayers to the sky. He prayed for forgiveness, for he had many sins for which to atone. He prayed that his family be spared humiliation for the things he had done. Most of all, he prayed for her, that she be forgiven for their mutual transgressions. His prayers finished, he rose wearily to his feet and wrapped his head with his turban. Securing the end of the wrapping, he placed his hands upon the ship's rail and stared at the horizon.

He had not always been a religious man. The faith had taken him by surprise. Lonely men seldom forsook their gods, and Sahm was no exception. He had seen amazing things in his time as a caravan guard. Likewise, his single taste of massed warfare had reinforced the fact that he'd rather believe in something than to die a faithless infidel. Even if the crows picked out his corpse's eyes, and the ants burrowed into his guts, Sahm knew that his true essence would fly amongst the clouds, one divine wind amongst many. He could think of few things finer than that.

"Four more days," came a gruff voice from behind. Sahm recognized the voice immediately, and turned to nod to the speaker. Kliner was the ship's captain. He was a savvy merchant who had been sailing the oceans since Sahm was a little boy. The man was older than he looked. Underweight, was Kliner, with short brown hair, a pair of mischievous hazel eyes, and a face that somehow resisted the weathering effects that the elements ultimately brought to bear on men of the seas. "The storm blew us a wee bit off course, and now the wind has fallen to little more than a breeze."

Sahm nodded that he understood, and tried to hide his disappointment. He'd expected to arrive at his destination tomorrow. Four more days on this wretched boat; he didn't know if he could manage it.

Kliner smiled, as if he knew exactly what Sahm was thinking. "Don't fret none," he said. "Keep to drinking water, and you'll be fine. The boys may not like ya, but I doubt they'll let ya die on their ship. 'Fraid of ghosts, they are." It seemed that the heathen prospect of his ghost eternally walking the decks of the ship had kept the crew from taking their assaults beyond mere insults. Sahm was glad for that, suddenly. He also felt that Kliner, being an honorable man, had likely been keeping an eye out for him. "Get yourself a drink, maybe try and keep some bread down." Kliner winked, then walked off towards the stern of the ship. Several of the men nodded to him deferentially as he passed.

Graven, the Halfling, was amongst the sailors that Kliner had passed. He looked up at his captain with wide eyes, as if he were hoping to be noticed. Kliner walked by, offering little more than a curt nod to the diminutive crewman, but it was enough. Graven smiled to himself after Kliner had passed, but his mirth faded when noticed that Sahm was looking at him. His eyes narrowed as he returned Sahm's gaze, and then he went back to work.

Halflings. Sahm's father had once said that the gods had created the little folk so that men could feel like giants amongst them. Sahm was not so sure. If the Halflings of the north were anything like those of the deserts, then Sahm could only hope that he could stay out of their way.

28 January 2007

Sahm's Tale, Part 4

The caravan was attacked by desert tribesmen in the middle of the journey's fourth week.

The time had passed quickly, and nothing of ill consequence had occurred since they'd left Uman. Aliz was, it seemed, within their grasp, and the men grew complacent as the expedition drew to a close. Qadil grumbled at their careless manner, exhorting them to be vigilant, but they laughed at him and called him an old fool when his back was turned. "Misfortune visits most often at dawn or dusk," he would chide, using an expression that was far older than he was.

Sahm allowed himself to experience a cautious sort of relief, despite Qadil's constant warnings. This trip would bring him a healthy sum if the cargo sold well, and Aliz was a rich metropolis filled with all the wonders of the deep south. Gold, silks, exotic beasts, ivory, and fine eastern steel. All he needed to do was find another caravan to escort back to Uman, and he could retire for a while. Perhaps, he thought, settle on a wife. That should please his mother.

Hashim had talked of nothing but the strange woman in the passenger wagon for the past three weeks. He seemed obsessed, craning his neck none too discreetly if the wagon's flap so much as fluttered in the wind. Despite himself, Sahm found Hashim's boorish interest contagious. He often found himself stealing a glance when the lady's servants entered or emerged, but he never caught sight of the lady herself. Qadil caught him gazing at the wagon one morning, and nudged him gently with his crop.

"The watchman's eyes should gaze at the horizon," he said. Sahm had blushed in response, which brought a chuckle from Qadil.

Sahm climbed into the saddle, and absently patted his horse's flank. It was a fine animal, a gift given to him by his father on his sixteenth birthday. He'd named the horse Asianne, or "rising sun," due to the golden color of her mane. Two years later, his brother had joked that the horse was the only bride that Sahm would ever have. The jibe had angered him, though he didn't show it. He would have been angrier still had he known how true it would ring five years later.

The two rode out ahead of the caravan. The drovers had yet to harness the camels to the carts, and the cooking fire still smoldered in the chill morning air. Neither spoke. Instead, they listened to the sounds of the desert around them. They moved slowly, checking their mounts' speed, until they'd gone two hundred yards or so. They could see the wagons and carts in the distance, lining up, and they could hear the drovers whistling and clicking their tongues at their beasts as they did so. The cool breeze had gone, replaced by a sudden stillness in the air. Sahm shivered.

He glanced to Qadil, who was looking back at him. "Did you feel that, too?" Qadil asked, and Sahm nodded. The two looked back in the direction the caravan in time to see a wave of horsemen, ant-like in size at this distance, descending upon it from behind. The rear guards, their bellies full of breakfast and their eyes still sandy with sleep, had not yet noticed. Qadil muttered a blasphemous curse and dug his heels into his horse's flanks. It leapt forward with a cry as if stung. Sahm did the same, spurring Asianne to follow Qadil's lead, even as the bandits loosed a volley of arrows at the rearmost carts.

The rear guards cried out in alarm. Their voices, made small by the distance and drowned out by the pounding of his horse's hooves, were cut short as the shafts of arrows pierced them through. Qadil had been right after all, Sahm thought.

26 January 2007

Sahm's Tale, Part 3

The roiling of the sea churned Sahm's stomach. It was a malady that he'd been cursed with since he'd set foot upon the ship. He had barely kept anything down for a week, and the weakness in his legs and arms was a telling result of his nausea-induced starvation. Speed was essential, or else he might have plied his skills on a northbound caravan instead of paying what little gold he had left for a passage northward by sea. Such a course wouldn't have been wise, for the men who sought him knew his manner. The caravans leaving Uman would be the first place they'd look.

Like the desert, the sea had its share of bandits. The rough weather that had risen suddenly as the shadows had grown long with the coming of night would keep the ship safe for the time being, but it presented its own dangers in return. Storms, brought on by nature's fickle whim and fueled by the winds that he worshipped, could tear boats to matchsticks and leave few traces of life behind. Sahm muttered a silent prayer as he gripped the rail, his knuckles white with the effort.

Pirates, they called them, these bandits of the waters: vagabonds who rode the waves in vessels both great and small, preying on wealthy and poor alike. Sahm did not fear them, and would, in fact, welcome the change of pace were such an encounter to occur. It would likely mean a quick end to his voyage, given the state of the crew. Though they seemed competent sailors, he didn't sense much fighting spirit in the men that crewed the ship he rode. Like as not, they would heave-to and allow their assailants to board without struggle.

"Best get below decks!" a crewman called, and Sahm turned towards the voice. It was the one they called Graven, a young Halfling with chestnut hair and a northerner's complexion. Sahm knew of Halflings, having seen them in his own homeland. The desert Halfling tribes were aloof, moving from oasis to oasis with the shifting sands of the wastes. Occasionally they would trade with the caravans that Sahm had accompanied, should their paths cross. On other occasions, they would raid them, quietly stealing into camp at night to pilfer cargo, or ambushing them en masse if the opportunity presented itself.

Sahm nodded to Graven. He could see that the weather was not going to improve. Though he despised going into the ship's cramped body, he saw little choice. The place stank of humanity, mold, and the creaking of the timbers was all around. Even though the horizon would not be visible, the violent reeling of the ship could still be felt. In fact, it seemed more pronounced down there, as items suspended from the ceiling swayed and swung in a manner that was far from hypnotic.

One more heave, Sahm thought, his stomach sour and his head beginning to ache. He retched over the side, but naught came up but yellow bile and foam. Spitting, he crept towards the ladder that would take him below, to the hammock that he'd scarcely slept in since his exile began. Graven watched him intently, his face betraying little sympathy for Sahm's discomfort. He, like the rest of the crew, was of northern descent. The men of the Southern Empire were good partners in times of peace, but the armies of the South had also been known to march north in search of conquest. A long history of war fueled distrust between their peoples, and Sahm could not blame the small sailor for his prejudices. He feared that he would find little hospitality at his destination, either.

The hammock waited in the dimly lit chamber, swaying with the rough tide. A lantern, suspended from the ceiling by a carefully-secured wire, swung in time with it. The room was close, little more than a closet, but it was a sanctuary of sorts. He climbed into the hammock weakly, shivering with wet and sickness, and closed his eyes. Anywhere but here, he thought. Had she been worth this? How could he have known, at the time, that his path would lead him here?

No, consequences were the last thing that had been on his mind.

24 January 2007

Sahm's Tale, Part 2

The sands of the desert had cooled, though the breeze out of the west still carried a trace of the day's dry heat. The wagons had been circled, and tents of various shapes and sizes had been erected around them. Three small fires were burning low within the ring of wagons. A handful of men stood near the fires, talking in hushed tones. The scent of strong coffee mingled freely with the earthier smell of the animals that had been tethered nearby. Sahm sat within earshot of the assembled men, rubbing the blade of his shamshir with an oily cloth.

He'd ridden ahead of the caravan that day, which meant that he was allowed to rest that evening. Tomorrow night he would patrol the camp's perimeter, probably with Hashim or Qadil.

He sighed forlornly in spite of himself as he thought of being paired with Hashim. The man — hells, Hashim was practically a boy — prattled on like a woman. He was full of gossip and vanity, bragging about his father's wealth and the endless herds of camels that roamed his family's extensive properties. The discussion, which was always one-sided, grew tiresome quickly. It was all that Sahm could do to hold his tongue once Hashim got started. If there was a bright side to patrolling with Hashim, Sahm was unable to determine what it was.

Qadil, on the other hand, was an older fellow, probably a dozen years Sahm's senior. He'd been a caravan guard most of his life, and his lined and weathered face revealed untold wisdom and knowledge. When he spoke on patrol, which was rare, it was to convey something of importance. Sahm had learned quickly to listen to Qadil, and he had developed a great deal of respect for the older man. The one time that Qadil had spoken to Sahm at any length, he'd talked about his family. Two wives, fourteen children (ten of them boys), and a number of horses waited for him back home. He made a comfortable living riding with the desert caravans, his experience commanding quite a sum from the merchants that employed him.

The caravan had set out from the great city of Uman ten days ago, the silks and spices in its wagons destined for the vast markets of Aliz in the south. Passengers had also come with the caravan, occupying a richly-appointed wagon that was kept close to the center of the column as it trundled along the winding north/south road. Sahm had seen two of the passengers, servants or slaves by the looks of them, running about in the mornings and evenings, fetching food for the mysterious guests in the opulent carriage.

As they scouted that morning, Hashim had boasted in a whisper that he'd spied the enigmatic travelers the day before. "A woman," he'd said, looking sidelong over his shoulder in the direction of the wagons in the distance.

Sahm shrugged, trying to seem uninterested in the boy's nattering.

"Her eyes are like jade, Sahm," Hashim continued with a sigh. "Skin so fair, it would seem the sun has never had the pleasure of shining upon it. And her face..."

At that, Sahm shot Hashim a disapproving glance. "You saw her face?"

Hashim held up a hand, trying to hide the wayward grin that fought to manifest upon his chapped lips. "I could not help it, Sahm. Had you been with me, your eyes would have been held captive as well."

Sahm grunted, intrigued in the tale despite himself. "Is she alone?"

Nodding, Hashim went on. "She has servants, of course. Young girls, mostly, but none of them anywhere near as lovely as she is."

"Of course not," Sahm said.

"Five more weeks," Hashim mused. "I'm sure you'll have a chance to catch a glimpse of her, Sahm. Don't be jealous of my good luck."

"Don't worry," Sahm replied. "I'm not."

Yet Sahm was, even though he didn't want to admit it to himself. Much less admit it to the likes of Hashim. He'd seen twenty-three years, yet he'd never found a woman that he cared about enough to marry. His mother wrung her hands endlessly when she thought of her son's perpetual bachelorhood. His father was somewhat more forgiving, though even he was growing tired of the endless matchmaking. Sahm's brothers had all married. Aside from his youngest sister, who had yet to see her eleventh year, each of his siblings had found a bride or been married off to a husband.

He didn't particularly mind the bachelor's lifestyle he'd become accustomed to, but he did occasionally wonder what he was missing. The girls his parents had introduced him to were, by and large, vapid and naïve, insufferably young, with little knowledge of the world outside of their bedchambers. Homely, too, despite their mothers' attempts to hide their features with veils and heavy robes. Sahm could not be bothered to pay much attention, and like as not his would-be brides would leave his father's house in tears. Mother would wag her head, and Father would roll his eyes, but they never seemed particularly surprised at the outcome.

"Your eyes seem far away," said a familiar voice, rousing Sahm from his reverie. The blade of his scimitar shined yellow-orange in the flickering firelight. Looking up from the folded steel that had once served his grandfather, Sahm saw that Qadil had addressed him. "Might I intrude?"

Sahm nodded, and Qadil sat down next to him. Crossing his legs, the older man pulled his sheathed dagger from within the folds of his robe and placed it near his feet. "What troubles you?"

Sahm shrugged, sheathing his scimitar in his plain steel scabbard. "Brides that might have been."

Qadil chuckled at that, scratching his chin thoughtfully. Despite his weatherworn features, he was a fine-looking man, with grey-white hair and a closely-trimmed beard. His hazel eyes twinkled in the firelight. "Pretty ones?"

By way of reply Sahm scoffed, following it with a wry chuckle.

"Your first wife must always be beautiful," Qadil said. "Otherwise, your eyes will wander. You'll save the ugly ones for your second and third wives, if you know what's good for you."

"I can do naught but trust in your wisdom, sahir," Sahm said.

Qadil waved his hand dismissively at Sahm's compliment. "You are young yet, Sahm. You will marry in time, I am sure."

Sahm nodded quietly, and turned to look at the fire even as his thoughts turned to the caravan's mysterious passenger and the rumors of her beauty...

23 January 2007

Sahm's Tale, Part 1

Sahm was uncomfortably aware of the biting, salty wind that caused his eyes to redden as he stared into the distance from the prow of the mighty ship. Better to have a loyal horse beneath him than the surging deck of a trader’s vessel, he thought miserably. Despite its placid appearance from the relative safety of shore, the ocean was a veritable desert, the countless sands replaced by briny, forbidding depths. There was little comfort in the analogy. To lose oneself here, thrown overboard by storm, or madness, or unruly crew, was to die and be forgotten.

He was a man who knew the wastes of his homeland well. Sahm had ridden across the breadth of the great desert many times, in service to half a dozen caravans. He had leant his bow and blade to the protection of the goods and folk of his country, loosing arrows at bandits, raiders, and the unholy spawn of the shifting sands. In between these meandering jaunts, which often lasted months at a time, he served with his father and brothers in his lord’s army.

It was not often that they were summoned to fight at the behest of the Caliph, but such a thing was not unheard of. Even Sahm had seen the ugly face of war, where men became beasts driven by bloodlust, and were rarely tempered by faith. There was no war here, upon the waves, unless it was between the sea and the endless sky that sat above it. The sun was setting, and the planets and stars had started to reveal themselves in the eastern sky. The sight of the stars in the heavens drew Sahm’s thoughts to another night, several months past, spent in a much better place...

21 January 2007

Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain

The Unspeakable Cat is a weblog I put up a while back, as a sort of joke intended to cheer up my wife. The central character is Hastur, who is Amy's fat, grey cat. We named him Hastur in part because we are both fans of the Chthulhu mythos, and in part because he's always been somewhat naughty.

Hastur in Kittenhood

Though affectionate, Hastur prefers to seek attention on his own schedule. He is still naughty, generally on a daily basis. His badness includes lots of cat-like behavior, such as clawing at the carpet or sofa, leaving stinking piles of waste on the carpet to protest our son's dubious affections, and rampaging in the wee hours of the night. His favorite things to ingest are milk and raw beef.

Hastur Loves Milk, Especially When It's Not His

He's quite fond of eating. Sometimes Hastur is so enthusiastic that he eats way too much and ends up doing his bulemia impression all over the carpet. He never learned to bury the things that he deposits in the litter box. Rather, he paws at vertical surfaces nearby: walls, the exterior of the litter box, or whatever else is available. To say that Hastur's spoor smells bad is a cosmic understatement. In all my years, I have never smelled anything worse.

Hastur "Buries" His Litterbox Leavings

It's a lot to tolerate, I suppose, but I manage to do it despite my aversion to his occasional extra-litterbox leavings.

I got out of the habit of updating Hastur's blog, but I've recently started up again. It's mostly a creative outlet, albeit an absurd and occasionally scatological one. Feel free to check it out; read the archives. Comment, too, should you feel moved to do so. Hastur won't mind. And if you're really nice, maybe he'll be merciful to you when the world inevitably collapses beneath the weight of the Great Old Ones...

18 January 2007

17 January 2007

Definitely Not Duracell

My laptop battery is in its final death throes. No longer will it hold a charge.

Given that life without my computer is unthinkable, I've ordered a new battery from Dell. Expensive? Yeah, it was. Can I afford it? Yes, just so. I'd planned to spend said money on something less utilitarian, but I know that I'll be happy once that battery light stops blinking red.

I had news today. It was good news, but not to me. I can't say I expected a different answer, but I am, nonetheless, somewhat down about the whole thing. Should there be a next time, perhaps I will have better fortune.

I'm hankering to DM/GM again. It's been too long. I think I've lost my train of thought, the one that was chugging around my brain in December. Derailed by neglect, I may yet bring it back at some point. For now, the future use of my dining room table is uncertain. My dice, unused, will remain in their little black pouch, set aside like impotent orbs that once brimmed with random chance.

The good news is, my blood pressure has gone way down. As in, it's normal. I don't feel much of a difference (and I likely won't). I guess that's something that I should be happy about, hm?

I complain sometimes about waiting. Well, in a couple of instances, at least, my waiting is done. In at least four other instances, it continues. At least one of the latter cases, the impending birth of my daughter, has a definite due date. The other three remain unknown.

14 January 2007

Why Am I Not Surprised?

I don't often bring up politics here, but today is different. From CNN:

President Bush, facing opposition from both parties over his plan to send more troops to Iraq, said he has the authority to act no matter what Congress wants. "I've made my decision, and we're going forward," Bush told CBS' 60 Minutes.

Emphasis is mine.

A typical response from this power-hungry administration. So much for democracy or public opinion. I continually get the feeling that this country is being run with a "father knows best" mentality.

I, for one, am not a child, and the way that the Bush administration operates continues to be incredibly insulting to the citizens of this nation.

Cost of the Hobby

Is gaming too expensive? Are the prices charged for RPG products too high?

Five or six years ago, I might have answered "yes" to both of those questions. It didn't stop me from buying books and other gaming products, though. I've always found ways to keep my costs down, to look for the best bargain I could find.

There was a time, many years ago, when I worked at a local game shop for $5.75 an hour. As an employee, I had a 20% discount on anything I bought from the store. Needless to say, I sunk about half of my income into the store, and came away with a stack of books over the course of my 13 month stint in retail. The fact that I still lived at home in those days, without rent or a plethora of bills and expenses hanging over my head, was partly to blame.

After leaving the game store for a more profitable position with a company in the manufacuring industry, I was no longer privy to that employee discount. In fact, after spending 5 days a week for over a year in the store, I rarely paid my old employer a visit. I suppose I could've gone down and begged my old co-workers to ring me up with their discount, but that seemed ill-mannered.

Instead, I started to patronize a store down in Clairemont called Dwarf Mountain. Dwarf Mountain discounted everything, even CCGs and miniatures, at 20% off. It was like a built-in employee discount, except I didn't have to work there. Their selection of products was good, too. I also patronized a comic shop in Escondido that had a frequent buyer program, wherein you'd pay $10 per year for a 20% break on certain comics and all gaming books.

I don't know how long I profited from these discounts, but eventually Dwarf Mountain went out of business. I don't know why, though it seemed that the other game stores in the area felt that whatever had happened had been well-deserved. Though the comic shop remained in business, the frequent buyer program was eventually revised. Instead of the membership fee and built-in discounts, it turned into a "buy $100 and get a $5 gift certificate" sort of program with stamps and cards used to track purchases.

The only other alternatives left to me was buying products online, or finding them used. Amazon.com offered substantial discounts for everything from CDs to books and movies, while another game store in San Diego (Game Empire) had a pretty hefty selection of used products. Between the two, I kept my collection growing despite the fact that my financial obligations had continued to grow year after year.

These days, I still buy the lion's share of my products online. I don't buy all of them online; I do patronize a FLGS, but I usually only buy card and board games there since the RPG selection isn't very good: they only stock the RPGs that sell well, which means D&D and NWoD. I buy all my D&D books on Amazon, and I don't play NWoD. I've asked about other titles, but they're not willing to stock them.

I'm not averse to paying full price for products at local game shops, but the discounts I get online, combined with the lack of incentives and poor customer service I've experienced at the larger stores, guarantee that Amazon will continue to get my money for years to come. There's also the question of travel: outside of the smallish store nearby with its limited stock of RPGs, the rest of the stores are thirty (or more) minutes away by car. The price of gasoline and the time it takes to drive there and back definitely add into the equation.

So, back to the question of expense. Are RPGs too pricey? Let's reckon that the typical hard cover book with 220 full-color pages runs $30. Individually, this doesn't seem like a lot when you consider that the book might contribute to hours of entertainment for you and your friends for years to come.

Compare this to a computer or console game title, which routinely runs $40 to $60. Unless the game has a lot of replay value, it's more than likely that I'll play through it and put it away once I've completed it (or been defeated by it). Say I spend 30 hours to beat a $40 game. That comes out to about $1.30 per hour, just for my own entertainment.

If I use a given $30 RPG book in a campaign that lasts for five six-hour sessions with a group of five players (myself included), that comes out to $1.00 per hour (or $0.20 per player per hour). Given that I will continue to use the book for years to come, so long as I'm still playing the RPG in question, it will probably end up paying for itself. Compared to the console game that I will only play once, or maybe twice, before I shelve it, I think that's a pretty good deal.

It's not that simple, I know. Role-playing games aren't designed with the one-time purchase in mind. Each product line must grow and evolve in order to maintain some measure of profitability. I choose to buy a good deal of these books, especially those that pertain to the games and settings that I enjoy, as well as the ones that I do freelance work for.

Other players who don't have the professional interest that I do will obviously have a different outlook. To them, the $30 per book benchmark might seem like a lot of money to spend. Casual players, especially, might only ever buy one book (core rules for a system, perhaps). In that case, I think the value per dollar of RPG books is a matter of opinion. My opinion is that the prices of books, taken together as a whole, can be quite intimidating. If, like me, you try to maintain an up-to-date collection of 2 to 3 titles/product lines, it will entail a significant investment for anyone.

In my experience, virtually any hobby requires a significant investment of money and time. Anything from riding dirt bikes, to collecting stamps, fishing, reading books, or going to the movies will end up costing you a hefty sum in the long term. I know people who don't bat an eye when they pay $50 for a pair of shoes, a purse, or a meal in a fine restaurant, but will look at me like I'm crazy if I mention the cover price of my Player's Handbook...

10 January 2007

Thieves' World Gift Set

This month, Green Ronin is releasing the Thieves' World Gift Set: a ginormous set of five books dedicated to gaming in Sanctuary. Along with the original titles in the series, it also contains an exclusive fifth: Black Snake Dawn, an adventure set entirely in Rankan-era Sanctuary. The asking price is $100, which is a great deal.

Also, looks as if anyone who preorders the Gift Set will receive an added bonus: a book plate signed by Lynn Abbey.

For more information, check this link.

07 January 2007

New Year's Sushi

Last week, on New Year's Eve, Amy and I (and the boy) drove down to San Diego and picked up some sushi fixin's. Our typical shopping trip includes cucumber, avocado, masago, nori, and sashimi-grade tuna. We also needed some Japanese mayonaise, which is a little sweeter than the American variety. As it is, we've got plenty of rice, vinegar, and hot sauce in the cupboard.

The market we go to is down in Clairmont, called Mitsuwa, is an Asian market that sells all manner of Japanese foods, not to mention books, magazines, videos, and just about anything else you can think of. As it was New Year's Eve, the place was packed when we got there. We managed to get in and out pretty quickly, and once back to the car we packed our fish and masago in our portable cooler to make sure it stayed nice and fresh.

Once home, with Stephen in a much-needed nap, Amy went about the chore of making sushi rice. I don't remember all the steps required to do this, but I know it involves rinsing the rise mutliple times, steaming it, and mixing it with rice vinegar and other stuff in a special wooden tub called a hangiri.

Later in the evening, Amy got to making the rolls. We enjoyed California rolls and spicy tuna rolls. All told, we spent about $15 on fish and ended up with five whole rolls (with leftovers!). Anyone who goes out for sushi knows that $15 will usually buy you one or two rolls, depending on where you prefer to go. There is a certain savings involved, though it is also a lot of work (though not as much work as baking cookies).

So, without further ado, I present what Nikchick refers to as "food porn": pictures of Amy's sushi rolls. We plated them on some sushi plates that our friends JD and Keri gave us for Christmas.

California Rolls with Masago

Given that fish was involved, we had plenty of interest from our cats. The chili sauce used in the spicy tuna rolls wasn't their idea of good eats, though, so the felines were held at bay somewhat.

Hastur Presents: Spicy Tuna Rolls

As we ate our sushi dinner, we watched one of the DVDs we received for Christmas: The 'Burbs. An awesome movie, if I do say so myself, though probably not to everyone's tastes. We were in bed before midnight, but I do recall hearing some firecrackers at the midnight hour's passing. It's odd, because only a few years ago, I would've insisted on drinking to excess and staying up until midnight on New Year's Eve. I guess I've outgrown such indulgences...

03 January 2007

Happy (Belated) New Year

I've been lax lately, blog-wise. Not much to say, really. The holidays are behind me, which means that I should have more time. Theoretically. At least until the new baby arrives, sometime around February/March. All bets are off then.

Haven't done a lick of gaming lately, unless you count the occasional card game. Schedules have been too conflicted to schedule anything meaningful. Given that one of my regular players has consigned himself to a life of servitude in a Starbucks that is part of a local B&N, I wonder how much we'll be seeing of him in '07.

I've been reading a little, though. Picked up Expedition to Castle Ravenloft with an Amazon gift certificate, and I'm liking what I see enough to consider running it. I'm not generally a fan of published adventures (unless I'm mining them for ideas), but this one seems flexible enough that I might enjoy it. I'll probably put my own spin on things.

The Liberty game is gearing to start up again, so at least I'll be playing something...

As far as work (meaning writing, as opposed to the orthodontic salt mine), things are in stasis presently. I've got a project or two promised to me later this year, but no dates are set yet. I do have some rules that I need to finish reading. Outside of that, I get to hurry up and wait. I'm wondering if I should beat the bushes a little bit, but I also know that once I get something else lined up, all Hell will break loose with my current obligations and I'll be swamped.

Then again...I'd sort of like to be swamped. It either means that I'm in demand, or that I'm too stupid to say no to a project. Or, more than likely, both are equally applicable.

I've got some photos I need to download off the camera so that I can properly document the holidaze on my Freelance Father blog.

The boy is now three months from turning two, and he's definitely showing signs of terrible twoness. I was naive to think that my son would be different somehow, that the terrible twos were for other children and not my own. I was mistaken. Life is now a near-constant struggle with the child for dominance, punctuated by much cuteness and love (which makes it hard to stay annoyed for long). His favorite word is "no," and any question posed to him is answered the same way.

"Do you want a bath?"
"No."
"Do you want to read a book?"
"No."
"Can you say 'car'?"
"No."
"Can you say 'no'?"
"No!"

You get the point.

I also seem to be developing a case of the Christmas Crud, which (I'm sure) is closely related to Con Crud. My co-workers have been sick and feverish, which means that I, too, will probably grow sick and feverish in short order thanks to the germ mill. I made a comment to a co-worker last week that it seemed to me that the only people who were in the office were the sick ones. Everyone else was on vacation or holiday. Except me, condemned soul that I am.