Return to Sandpoint and a Sinkhole

The citizens of Sandpoint called on their heroes again, this time to investigate a sinkhole that devoured a guard patrol. The party made their way in and found a passage blocked by a planar creature. They defeated it handily and entered into the main room.

In a large room covered with scribbles, a gaunt figure greeted them. From his position at a desk above a pool he asked them questions about Thassilon. When they got tired of answering, seven circles around the room lit up and they were attacked by summoned hounds boiling with magic. Fortunately they were well prepared and defeated the Scribbler and his beasts.

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Against Mokmurian

The party barricaded themselves into the room with the Sihedron rune for the night. Jusy trapped the door. In the night they heard a voice asking if the small ones were there.  Then someone opened the door and triggered the trap. A giantess identifying herself as Conna staggered into the room to tell them of Mokmurian’s location. She refused to join them in combat but was happy to give them details of the layout of his lair.

After resting, the party ventured further down. They found a golem guarding a giant cauldron out of which came runeslaves. A frigid room full of zombies was the next challenge. Finally they came to Mokmurian’s throne room. Mokmurian summoned up inter-dimensional hounds to assist him. Despite the hounds and the fireballs Mokmurian flung around, Jusy, Theo, and Tinder took him down.

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Information in IT

One of the biggest soft skills I’m trying to develop at work is distributing information in usable ways within the organization. I’m digging into DevOps to see if there are ideas there I can apply.

It turns out that a real world organization has more than two factions, and that greater gains can be perhaps realized by getting everyone on the same page as much as possible. But that doing that is potentially very hard.

….

That notwithstanding there are many practical ideals that befit such solutions:

  1. Information should be made widely available, understandable, and understood within an organization.
  2. Actions and decisions should be tied to the ultimate mission of an organization, and should not focus on short-term gains at the cost of long-term goals.
  3. Failures should never be hidden (at least internally). Any catastrophe is a critical opportunity to investigate short-comings and improve. Here particularly the practice of “blameless post-mortems” is highly valued.
  4. Old ideas and decisions should be recorded, explained, and not forgotten. They should also be revisited.
  5. People should be cultivated (as the word culture is derived) along with the organization. This may involve people learning new skillsets and working across multiple competencies.

In general, I think this can be summarized as enabling continuous improvement through continuous learning.

From What is DevOps?

 

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What are the best day-to-day time-saving hacks?

What are the best day-to-day time-saving hacks? – Quora.

I really liked this answer from Marius Ursache

—–

It’s not about time. It’s about energy.

We try to squeeze as many hours in one work day, to be “productive”, but in the end everything depends less on time, and more on your focus, motivation and overall well-being (all of them linked directly with energy levels).
I’ve recently talked about my productivity techniques obsessions in an internal presentation at Grapefruit, and the resulting presentation is on Slideshare: Productivity porn
Some of the key findings:

  1. Decide what’s important because in 5 years, 80% of what you do today will not turn into anything. It’s just busywork, no useful outcome.
  2. Sleep, food and exercise can help you triple your outcome, because they increase focus, motivation and energy levels.
  3. The 2-minute rule: if you can do something (like replying to an email, or a house chore) in 2 minutes, do it now. Planning it for later, remembering it, doing it in the future will take 5 minutes or more.
  4. The 5-minute rule: the biggest cure against procrastination is to set your goal not to finish a scary big hairy task, but to just work 5 minutes on it. You’ll find out that most times it continues well beyond the 5 minutes, as you enter a flow state.
  5. Seinfeld’s productivity chain: if you want to be good at something, do it every day. Including on Christmas, Easter and Judgement Day. No exceptions.
  6. Tiny habits (Tiny Habits w/ Dr. BJ Fogg), highly linked with the 5-minute rule, helps you create good habits quickly. It works, I tested it.
  7. Your memory sucks. Get everything out of your head, even if you’re a genius. Write it down in a notebook, put it in your todo-list app, on your phone, talk to Siri, I don’t care.
  8. As few tools as possible. I’ve tested most of the todo managers and finally stayed with Cultured Code‘s Things app and Google Calendar (iCal is ok, but Google Calendar integrates well with Gmail, my default client). It doesn’t matter what you use (pen & paper are fine) if you understand the next rule.
  9. Routine beats tools. You need discipline, and this means for me two things: I plan my day first thing in the morning, and I write a short daily log every day. This helps me stay sane, prioritize well, scrap useless tasks, and do what matters. This saves me hours.
  10. Pomodoros. That’s timeboxing—for 30 minutes do only the task at hand. Nothing else: no phones, email, talking to people, Facebook, running out of the building in case of fire. Nothing else.
  11. Always wear your headphones. You don’t have to listen to music, but it will discourage people to approach you.
  12. Email scheduling and inbox zero. Don’t read your email first thing in the day, don’t read it in the evening (it ruined many evenings for me), and try to do it only 3 times a day: at 11am, 2pm and 5pm. And your email inbox is not a todo list. Clear it: every message should be an actionable task (link it from the todo app), a reference document (send to Evernote or archive), or should be deleted now.
  13. Same thing for phone calls. Don’t be always available. I always keep my phone on silent, and return calls in batches.
  14. Batch small tasks. Like mail, phones, Facebook etc.
  15. MI3. Most important three tasks (or the alternative 1 must – 3 should – 5 could). Start with the most important first thing in the morning.
  16. Willpower is limited. Don’t think that willpower will help you when you get in trouble. Make important decisions in the morning and automate everything possible (delegate, batch etc.). US presidents don’t have to choose their menu or suit color everyday—otherwise their willpower will be depleted at that late hour when they should push (or not push) the red button).
  17. The most powerful thing. Always ask yourself what is the most powerful thing you can do right now. Then apply rule #4.
  18. Ship often. Don’t polish it too much—as they say in the startup world, “if you’re not ashamed of your product, you’ve launched too late’!
  19. Pressure can do wonders. Use rewards or social commitment. We’ve recently done this with the new Grapefruit website. The previous one took 2.5 years to launch. The new one took 2.5 days and we did it over one hackathon weekend (+Monday).
  20. Scheduled procrastination. Your brain needs some rest, and sometimes that new episode from Arrow can do wonders that the smartest TED talk won’t.
  21. Delete. Say No. Ignore. Don’t commit to schedules. I love the last one, it’s from Marc Andreessen, because it allows him to meet whomever he wants on the spot. A lot of people will hate you for this, but you’ll have time to do relevant stuff. Do you think you’ll regret that in 20 years, or doing something for someone you don’t really care about, just to be superficially appreciated.
  22. Fake incompetence. It’s a diplomatic way to apply the previous rule.

—–

Now of course the trick is to apply these.

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Past Lamashtu’s Lamias

The party moved into the cave with the chanting lamias. Despite the lamias casting clouds and blasts of darkness at them, Theo, Jusy, and Tinder took them down fairly easily. They found some scrolls depicting tortures in service of Lamashtu.

From there they followed the sound of the clanging and found a pair of giants working on weapons. The giants were dispatched with ease and the party decided to hole up in the sihedron room. 

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Beneath the Giants’ Fortress

After leaving the cramped tunnels, the party found themselves in another set of tunnels, these scaled for giants rather than kobolds. They chose to follow the north path towards the smell of cooking and scoped out the dining hall, hoping to poison the giants. The giant cook attacked with her ladle but wasn’t much of an obstacle. They dumped her into one of her pots, liberally spiced with poison.

They then went through a secret door and fought a giant. He barely had time to call for help before falling to their onslaught. Some bears came their way but they ducked back into the secret door. Moving north they found a shrine haunted by a horrific image of a giant being slaughtered.

The party then found a particularly well built room with filled with sihedron runes. As Jusy made his way across the room, a gigantic rune-covered hand reached out from the ground to grab him. Two of the biggest giants they’d seen so far, their bodies covered in runes, pulled themselves out of the ground and attacked. The first one got a shot or two in before being killed, and the second one retreated back into the ground after triggering an earthquake. Bob healed the party up using a wand and Theo taunted the giant back out of the ground. He got some good blows in before joining his friend in death.

Jusy rounded a corner and found himself face to face with a trio of red dragons. The first one hit him pretty hard. Bumaro charged in and chopped its head off. Then Tinder melted the second one with her acid bombs. Finally after some stabbing, Bumaro finished off the last dragon.

They peered around the corner and spotted lamias chanting.

 

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To the Valley of Giants

After checking around Sandpoint a bit, the party checked with local Thassalonian expert Brodert Quink to see why the giants might be interested in a rock from the Old Light. He offered his theory that the Old Light was an ancient weapon and defensive structure. Jusy wondered if the giants might want to build a similar structure for defense.

The party followed the giants’ trail back to a mountain pass with giant steps. The pass was guarded by a group of hill giants who were easily defeated. Theo’s day was brightened when she found the hill giant’s loot.

Looking into the valley beyond the pass, the party saw large numbers of giants camped around a fortress. Rather than going through the giants, they opted to sneak around the perimeter. They found a cave full of webs crawling with deathweb spiders. Tinder’s bombs dealt nicely with the crawling vermin.

As they moved down a tunnel beneath the fortress walls, a group of redcaps moved in to attack. Theo planted herself in the narrow tunnel to block the redcaps’ advance. Jusy heard a noise above them and managed to block a trapdoor, frustrating creatures that tried to ambush the middle of the party. An enraged kobold came running in halfway through and got a few blows in before being vanquished.

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Defending Sandpoint

Following the battle with Barl, Jusy and Theo returned to Sandpoint accompanied by an alchemist gnome, Tinder. One fine morning, they heard a series of crashing noises to the north of town. Rushing up there, they found Hemlock and a couple of guards facing a couple of stone giants tossing rocks at the gate. Tinder lobbed a few bombs at them, but then the party saw another group of giants heading in over the east bridge and decided to leave the giants to the guards.


Stone Giants Raid Sandpoint by yanimator on deviantART

Theo grabbed a cart and donkey that were blocking the bridge and pulled them to safety behind the city gates. Tinder stood atop the wall and lobbed bombs at the giants and their dire bears. Theo’s dwarven defenses stood her in good stead holding the bridge against the giants. Jusy slipped into position to flank and the three of them dispatched that group with skill.  As they were fighting a dragon flew overhead and another group of giants pulled themselves onto a dock to the south.

The group rushed south and intercepted the giants as they were striding up the street. These giants proved to be tougher opponents and drove the party off before continuing on their way to the northwest. The party hid in the shadows for a bit to recover as the dragon flew by and set the theater on fire.

Approaching the Old Light ruins, they saw the two minions digging through the rubble. One pulled out a round stone and the giants headed north. Tinder targeted the leader with a bomb from a rooftop and Theo taunted the minion with the stone. The minion bashed at the doorway and attacked Theo, but with Jusy’s aid she took him down. Jusy hid the stone in the remains of the house. The chief giant pulled out a horn and started blowing it. He started looking for the stone and Theo and Jusy took him down too as the dragon flew in. Tinder ducked into a nearby house. As the dragon chased Jusy and Theo, Tinder lobbed bombs at him. Theo was knocked unconscious by the dragon and it looked like Jusy was going to do the same when a couple well-placed acid bombs took the dragon down.

Posted in Rise of the Runelords | 1 Comment

Rob’s Guide to Writing Good Aspects

I don’t know if I’ll get around to running a FATE game any time soon, but I like this Guide to Writing Good Aspects.
Good aspects:
1) Grant permission
2) Make you awesome doing some things
3) Hinder you in some circumstances
4) Complicate your life
5) Create setting

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The very hungry rust monster

The very hungry rust monster is cute little comic.

Of course the one time I sent a rust monster after someone’s sword it turned out to be a crystalline sword. Dang sword. It is now a sword of legend in our group for how very broken it was.

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Bashing Barl

The party headed deeper into the cave and decided to follow the clanging sound first. They found a number of ogres making huge weapons. Despite their numbers the ogres weren’t much of a threat.

Next they spied three hideous creature working weather magic around a cauldron. After sneaking in, the party managed to surprise them and dispatch them quickly.

Finally the party moved into confront the ogres’s leader, a stone giant. He didn’t seem very interested in the fight, only joining in after his minions were slain.

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d12: Lamenting The Death of Dungeoneering

I hadn’t thought of this before. I think this is why my attempt to run Tomb of Horrors in 4E wasn’t much fun.

In 1st edition D&D, you knew if someone found an item hidden under the bed because they said they searched under the bed. You knew if they detected the spider lying in ambush because they said they checked the ceiling

via d12: Lamenting The Death of Dungeoneering.

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Workout routines

These are some fun looking themed workout routines. I might give these a try for a bit of variety.

(Via Lifehacker)

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Access Control Lists and the Fellowship of the Ring

I enjoyed this explanation of Access Control Lists using the characters from the Fellowship of the Ring http://book.cakephp.org/2.0/en/core-libraries/components/access-control-lists.html. I’ve had to explain ACLs to a couple of colleagues and this is a beautifully clear explanation. Then again, maybe I should run it by some of my non-coder colleagues to see if they understand it.

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(Via @ferretthimself ‘s Twitter feed )
Image from haleyhss http://fav.me/d60qizz

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Tactics matter

Turns out the unnamed ninja cunningly dodged the ogre’s devastating blow. The stealthy types moved into the cave, past a dragon’s bones and a giant statue with a Sidhedron medallion. They found a number of ogres playing cards with a pair of giants.

Rather than fight the ogres and giants directly, the party decided to lure them back to a deep pit. With WhyD’s grease spell and Jusy’s trip-rope trap,  a giant and an ogre slid right into the pit. A rough battle ensued with the ninja nearly dropping again. Thanks to their well thought out tactics the group lived to move deeper into the ogre’s lair.

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Alas Unnamed Ninja

As Theo recovered her strength, the rest of the party wandered around Turtleback Ferry. Brecca spnt some quiet time recovering alone. WhyD asked around and found out from Wenda that the leader of the Black Arrows was seen heading into the swamp west of town. A young teen girl stared at WhyD and babbled about how impressed she was at WhyD’s fighting against the goblins and her amazing moves.  The unnamed ninja skulked about the town, standing on rooftops in the rain. Bumaro just hung out around town. Jusy swam down to the sunken Paradise barge and found that the doors had been barred from the outside.

GhostThe party decided to head over to the swamp. They were flagged down by a pixie, Yap, who begged them to help his mistress. Her heart was broken and now the swamp is dying. The party followed Yap into the depths of the swamp and found a clearing with a murky pool in the middle. As Brecca entered the clearing, the wailing ghost of a nymph rose from the pool and asked why they had come. She begged them to recover Lamatar or at least some of his body so that she can reincarnate him. They agreed to go to the ogre stronghold to recover him.

Rather than make their way past Fort Rannick, they opted to navigate to Coal Lake and scale the cliff to get directly to Hook Mountain. Thanks to Brecca’s fly spell, scaling the cliffs proved easy. Despite the bitter cold the party found their way to the Hook Mountain Clanhold. Jusy and the unnamed ninja suck around and observed the entrance. When the ogre sentries swapped out, the party moved in to attack. Theo was happy to unleash her hatred of giants upon the ogres and fought one toe to toe. Jusy moved in to flank, WhyD encouraged the group with her performance. Brecca worked to keep Jusy alive when the second ogre charged in to attack. The unnamed ninja moved in to flank and was splattered across the landscape by the ogre’s hook. A short battle later and the two sentries were down.

Posted in Rise of the Runelords | 1 Comment

The end of the Grauls

The party headed upstairs from Mammy’s room and found the Graul’s sleeping area. Jusy disarmed a chest trap and found a little bit of cash and severed fingers. The attic workshop had little of interest besides a few flasks of acid.

Heading into the basement, they found a storage room then a very wet area with a huge tentacled plant, another ogrekin and his pet rats lurking in the shadows.  The tendriculos’ long reach was threatening and the flanking rats were annoying, but they fell quickly enough to the party. Behind the tendriculos they found the Garul’s treasure, including a shocking composite shortbow for Whyd.

The last room was the one sealed to contain undead. They burst the door open and Arcmort’s eidolon charged in. Three small spirits floated above three tiny skeletons and reached out to touch the eidolon. It dropped instantly. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, the party ran out of the house and into the rain. Since they’d gotten most of the treasure and the house was disgusting the party decided to burn it to the ground. As greasy smoke billowed up, they saw the small spirits wandering in the burning house.

Since Theo needed restoration, they decided to head back into town with the two surviving Black Arrows (the traitor acquired an axe in his head at some point while they were exploring the house).  The local cleric, Maelin Shreed, healed Theo’s strength damage over the course of two days.

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Graul Homestead – First Floor

Mammy GraulAs they moved into the Graul home, the party was joined by Arcmort Warbottle and Bumaro. Upon opening the side door, a wave of stench left Jusy and Brecca sickend.  The kitchen was a mess of rotting meat and vegetable matter and swarming with insects.  Jusy disabled a trap on the dining-room door, then checked out the basement door. The dining room had scraps of unidentifiable meat on the plates and a human head as a centerpiece. Theo moved into the dining room and smashed a trap on another door. Jusy disabled the last door trap and Whyd moved into a room with two ogrekin. One had floppy limbs and the other had tiny little legs on a huge body.  The party dispatched them quickly and moved out into the hallway. They found a room with fetishes hanging all over it and a valuable jade ring on one of the fetishes. Another room had magical script keeping undead locked into it, so the party bypassed it for now. Arcmort’s eidolon burst into another room just ahead of Jusy and found a grossly obese ogrekin woman, Mammy,  and three corpses.  Shadows poured out of the corpses and attacked as Mammy flirted with Jusy and blasted the hallway with ice. The shadows stole Theo’s strength, but Bumaro made short work of them. Jusy and Theo managed to down Mammy.

————–

With such a big party, I tried something different. I ran the whole thing as one big encounter and rather than doing initiative I just went around the table – “What do you do” and kept cycling that way. It worked pretty well and kept things moving.

 

Posted in Rise of the Runelords | 1 Comment

X-Card

This idea is interesting: X-Card.  I’m playing Rise of the Runelords with my group right now and I’m worried that some of the descriptions may be a little too gross or otherwise bother my players. The biggest thing that stops me from implementing this is the awkwardness of the initial conversation. Maybe I’ll be brave and bold and give it a shot.

More on the XCard, its use and further links.

( via a Fred Hicks post on Google Plus https://plus.google.com/105843491826683668595/posts/iqTXhr5ZsUb )

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Artist Puts Disney Princess Filter On 10 Real Life Female Role Models

Artist Puts Disney Princess Filter On 10 Real Life Female Role Models. I really like the thought he put into drawing appropriate, yet Disney-ish outfit for each of the ladies. (via @ferretthimself ‘s Twitter feed)

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