Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons- 5th edition

Wizards of the Coast is releasing the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  I've played DnD since I was ten, back in first edition.  Currently, I'm in a campaign using DnD 3.5 (third edition with some rules modifications).  Some initial thoughts looking over the new Player's Handbook:

* Some background- the 1st edition was groundbreaking- but it was also complicated as hell.  If you ever read the comic Knights of the Dinner Table , with their ridiculous charts and tables?  Yeah- 1st edition was like that.  A lot of groundbreaking work- but enough dice rolling to make your eyes bleed.

Second edition started off by simplifying things- but then they brought out splat books.  Books with variations of classes and races.  And with so many splat books out, it wasn't hard for people to find unbeatable combinations.  It was really unbalanced (all of the editions have some class balancing issues- but 2nd edition was extremely bad on this one)

Third edition- my favorite version, easily.  Allowing people to constantly switch classes gave them variety without the ridiculous rules from the 1st edition.  It was complicated, but nothing like first edition.  All in all, the best version of the game.

Fourth edition- it was a MMORPG (computer game) on paper.  It felt like less of a role-playing game and more of a combat tactical game.  And everything was so damned cookie-cutter; Every 8th level fight was one of two types.  I bought the books and tried to play, but lost interest.  Now it sits collecting dust on my bookshelf.

With all of that in mind, here's some thoughts on the new version of the game:

* Fifth edition- my first thought is that it's back to being a RPG.  Less tactics, more character development, more options.  Considering that I wasn't interested in fourth edition at all, this is a plus to me.

* It appears simpler than 3rd edition- the proficiency bonus goes up by overall level, so no more skill points.  There are backgrounds instead of feats

* I would really like to have seen some sample characters to see how everything fits together.  Just reading the descriptions, all of the powers seem jumbled together.  Some examples of each of the character classes might help clean things up.

* Balance issues?  I'm sure there are some.  Everyone who plays DnD min/maxes (aka, tries to find the best angle to help their characters succeed).  The rule in DnD used to be that wizards were really weak at lower levels and really strong at high levels.  They've strengthened spellcasters at lower levels (more spells, more HP)- so I'm curious if they've also lowered their potency at the high levels compared to other classes.

* Personally, I'm happy with third edition.  But if a player thought 3rd edition was too much paperwork, I could see where 5th edition would appeal to them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014-2015


New England 11 5
Miami 9 7
NY Jets 5 11
Buffalo 3 13

Cincinnati 10 6
Baltimore 8 8
Pittsburgh 7 9
Cleveland 6 10

Indianapolis 10 6
Tennessee 7 9
Houston 7 9
Jacksonville 4 12

Denver 11 5
San Diego 9 7
Kansas City 8 8
Oakland 4 12


Philadelphia 11 5
Dallas 8 8
NY Giants 7 9
Washington 6 10

Green Bay 11 5
Chicago 10 6
Minnesota 9 7
Detroit 7 9

New Orleans 10 6
Atlanta 9 7
Tampa Bay 8 8
Carolina 6 10

Seattle 13 3
San Francisco 10 6
Arizona 7 9
St. Louis 5 11

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pro-Wrestling and appealing to two audiences

(Warning:  This post is about a meta-analysis of the WWE.  Consider yourself warned)

There’s two audiences the WWE is trying to appeal to:  The young kids and the teenagers.  Sure, there’s longtime fans like me- but we tend to stay with the fed thick and thin.  The WWE thrives as a business when they appeal to one or both of those audiences.

In the Hulkamania years they appealed to the 7 year olds.  And it worked- until the 7 year olds grew into teenagers who thought that Hogan wasn’t cool, and they weren’t able to recapture his appeal with anyone else (Luger, Diesel)

In the “Attitude” era, the appealed to the teenagers.  And they were incredibly hot for about five years.  But then the teenagers grew out of wrestling- and since they hadn’t appealed to kids, they was no next generation of fans ready to watch them.

So since then, they’ve been trying to appeal to both.  And in this John Cena was a boon.  He was the uberface the kids could get behind- so the WWE could always rely on him, and concentrate on appealing to the teenagers with other cool faces (HHH, Orton. Punk).  They had other faces that appealed to the kids- Undertaker, Rey Mysterio- but Cena was the absolute cornerstone.

((As an added bonus, Cena was so fun to hate for the teenagers that whoever Cena was facing would usually get face heat from the teenage crowd))

But now Cena’s nearing the end of his run.  He’s been the face for a decade- twice as long as Hogan, Rock, or Austin.  That’s incredible.  But it’s ending- and while the WWE has people to fill the ‘cool face’ role to appeal to the teenagers, who is going to fill the role for the 7 year old fan?

They’ve tested out other guys to be that uberface- remember smiling Shaemus?  But it hasn’t taken. 

I’m suspecting that the reason Brock Lesnar is getting such a megapush is that they want to build the next kids uberface- and what better way to launch him than to beat the guy who broke the Undertaker’s Streak and damned near squashed John Cena?

Right now, they are looking at Roman Reigns for that role.  And honestly?  He’s probably their best bet.  I don’t know if he can appeal to kids the way Hogan or Cena did- but I KNOW guys like Shaemus can’t fill that role.  Reigns might be able to (notice the emphasis on the ‘Superman punch’?  Tell me that’s not appealing to kids)

In retrospect, losing Daniel Bryan really hurts- because Bryan was the only guy who appealed to both sets of audiences equally.  The kids loved him because of the “YES” chant, the beard, and that he was so small that he was the underdog.  But he pulled off fantastic matches and had enough snark (“Mr. Small Package”) to appeal to teens. 

But they have guys who can appeal to teens- Ambrose leads the pack right now.  Ziggler might be able to do that.  Hell- I still have hope for Cody Rhodes. 

But they need that uberface for the kids- and I think the whole purpose of building up Lesnar is to sacrifice him for that next uberface to the kids.

And if I’m wrong and he loses the belt back to Cena- or to a part-timer like the Rock?  Then it tells me the WWE doesn’t think they don’t have another uberface close to being ready.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crowning Moment of Awesome- 07/19/2014

Weird Al Yankovich has a new album and is revealing 8 videos over 8 days on his website.

My own opinion is that the first three videos ("Tacky","Word Crimes", "Foil") are especially incredible- funny and brilliant music parodies.  Weird Al has been putting on fantastic work for over 30 years.  Watch and enjoy.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

So- back on the diet

Weight's been creeping up.  Which annoys me, because I do work out on a regular basis.  I know the reasons- I eat too much, I eat too fast, and I eat the wrong kind of foods.

So- back on a diet.  A friend of mine lost 50 pounds on the Paleo Diet, so I'm giving that a try.  Or at least partly- I'm willing to give up grains and dairy, and even eggs and beans for a few weeks (during the initial purge).  But they can take my caffeine when they pry it from my cold, dead, still-shaking fingers. 

On a semi-related note... There's a stand at the West Side market that sells dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and they are fantastic.  I love strawberries, but two days after buying them they start to go bad.  But dehydrated, they still taste great and can last for over a month.  I'm getting so hooked I'm contemplating buying a dehydrating machine myself...

(And hey- fruits and vegetables are on the Paleo plan.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

NBA Post-Draft thoughts

Thoughts on the NBA, just after the draft:

1)  I have loved the moves Cleveland has made recently.  Everything I've read about David Blatt makes me think he'll be an outstanding coach.  The Spurs have shown that playing Euro-style pass works, and Blatt has been coaching for 30 years.  And it doesn't hurt that people rave about him being an offensive genius.  

2)  Drafting Andrew Wiggins was the right move with the #1 pick.  With Embiid injured, it came down to Wiggins and Jabari Parker.   And quite frankly, the Cavs already have a player like Jabari Parker in Anthony Bennett.  We need a small forward, and Blatt's system works with uberathletic wings.  Wiggins was the right choice.

3)  I don't blame the 76ers for drafting Embiid- he has the highest ceiling.  But drafting both of their first round picks on guys who won't play this year?  Man, I feel for the 76ers fans.  I get the concept on paper, but this next year is going to be ugly.  And, having just seen a long rebuild, I can tell you it's harder to turn the switch to 'on' after a few years of a culture of losing.

4)  LeBron's not leaving Miami.  Wade and Bosh wouldn't have opted out if they didn't have a plan in mind to keep all three and restructure their contracts to reload.

I'll give the Heatles credit- they have played their cards brilliantly.  They joined the weaker conference at the right time, and have walked all over the Eat into four straight Finals.  If they were doing so for my franchise, I'd love it.  Am I pissed that LeBron is showing dedication and loyalty to Miami that he never did with Cleveland?  Yes- but I'm over it.  LeBron will retire a member of the Miami Heat as one of the best players of all time.

5)  Jason Kidd is either a maniac or a genius- he just pulled a power play that will get him removed as Brooklyn's coach and into a sweeter deal with Milwaukee.  Given Brooklyn's aged lineup and lack of future draft picks... this may be a ruthless way to get out of Brooklyn before the bill comes due.

6)  Five Predictions for the upcoming season:
  1. If Noel doesn't come back 100%, the 76ers might lose 70 games.
  2. Rajon Rondo gets traded from Boston to Sacramento
  3. The Miami Heat resign James, Wade, and Bosh, and have enough- not for Carmelo Anthony, but for 2 free agents (say, Luol Deng and Shaun Livingston)
  4. Anthony Bennett will emerge as one of the five best players from the rookie class of 2013
  5. Jabari Parker will win the Rookie of the Year (Milwaukee needs scoring, and he fills an obvious hole for them; I still prefer Wiggins long-term)


Monday, June 16, 2014

Business Concept: The Game's The Thing

Spent the past week at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio.  Had a fantastic time- played in two LARPs, one game of NSDM (National Strategic Decision Making), several 7th Sea games- really enjoyable.

In the dealer room, they were giving a demonstration of the game Mage Wars.  The game looks fantastic and fun- but it's also $60, and I'm not sure when I would play the game.  So that got me thinking...

Here's my idea:  A coffeehouse or bar (the bar would make more money, but also has a much higher overhead) that also doubles as a gaming room.  The place would have several tables and chairs, and a stocked bookshelf of every board and card game that would be interesting to players.

Anyone can come in and buy a drink or sit down.  If they want to borrow a game, they have to pay a fee.  I'm thinking $10 allows anyone to borrow any game for the day- but you can buy a subscription- say, $100 for a full year.  During that year, you can come down to the bar, borrow a game, play it with friends while drinking, and return the game afterwards.

The bar owner makes his money, not just from the drinks, but from the subscription fees.  And people would pay a once a year fee to stop by and use any game in the system.  So a group of four could stop by once a week and play Mage Wars one week, Cards Against Humanity the next week, 7 Wonders the third...

I've seen businesses like this for computer games.  But computers require a much higher level of expenses, compared to board games.

It gives people (a) a place to play and (b) a library of games.  It gives a bar a good theme that isn't being used, and I don't think the upkeep would be that much.

This might be a workable business concept.