October 26, 2017

Mackinaw: A Lumberjack Role Playing Game

For the past two years, I have created a tabletop role playing game as sort of a creative exercise. These pamphlet sized games allow me explore many different creative items at the same time, such as rules design, writing, graphic design, and illustrating. Starting with Umami Chef in 2015 and followed by Dicey Heists in 2016, I figured it was time to stretch my creative legs once again by creating a 2017 RPG. After deciding that this was something I wanted to do, I set about looking for inspiration on what to base this game on. It took me a little while to find inspiration, but I finally found it.

Earlier this year, a I started podcasting with a couple of friends with whom I play tabletop role playing games with. Our natural after session discussions were now directed towards the internet for all to see, and it's pretty fun. Out of this podcast, Split The Party, a joke sprang up regarding our favorite trees and spurned into a joking "Split The Tree" segment of regular episodes, and this is what inspired the 2017 RPG.


Mackinaw is another one of my pamphlet RPGs which puts the players in control of a group of lumberjacks, trying to survive on the New Year's Eve of 1900. Named after Stewart Holbrook's Holy Old Mackinaw, the RPG's lumberjacks and lumberjills need to weather some force of evil and surrounds their logging camp as they prepare to ring in the new year. Lumberjacks in Mackinaw are composed of 4 skills (Logic, Moxie, Brawn, and Rapport) reflecting the typical core attributes of other RPGs. The highlight of the system is the Skill Tree, which is intended to help spread the spotlight around the gaming table without the game master having to keep tabs on players. As the players make rolls, they spend dice out of their "skill tree". These skill tree dice will then slowly replenish and grow back as other players make rolls.

While the rules are ready for play testing, the pamphlet itself still needs a little work. There is some temporary art, and the layout will probably change a bit as well. But right now, you can download and print out your copies of Mackinaw and get a taste of the logger's life luxuries while surviving an apocalypse with your trusty axe.

Download Mackinaw here and if you like it, hate it, or have any suggestions for the game, leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter at @The_M01e.

September 14, 2017

Dorksgiving Stuffing Recipe

The family stuffing recipe that I use to make the stuffing for Dorksgiving. This is not a stuffing used to fill the turkey, but I don't see why it couldn't be!

Ingredients:
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Bag of Bread Crumbs (cubed)
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning
  • 1 box of Chicken Broth
  1. Chop and saute celery, onion, water chestnuts, mushrooms. After 5 minutes add butter in pan to melt. 
  2. Add breadcrumbs and poultry seasoning to large bowl and mix. Mix in cooked vegetables. Pour in chicken broth and mix. Add water as necessary until it looks like stuffing. 
  3. Bake in oven if desired.

September 13, 2017

Crafting My Perfect Game Room

Over the past 3 years, board gaming and tabletop role playing has grown from being a hobby to being a way of life. With two regular RPG groups for both me and my wife and random board game nights, it was becoming such a hassle to find a place in my house to play games. If the dining table in my kitchen wasn't covered in stuff, my kitchen in shambles from dinner, or the card table and chairs not left out from the last time, it was a hassle to put together. On top of that, the environment didn't feel conducive to playing. The kitchen or office/living room would feel cramped.

It got even worse when you needed to add the card table in the kitchen!
So I set out on a mission. I was going to craft my perfect game room using what I had and or could get relatively cheaply. But to create a game room you need to start with the hardest part, the room. With all the rooms on my 1st and 2nd floor being either an office or bedroom, I turned my sights to my basement. Luckily, my wife and I had done some cleaning down there semi-recently. A group of friends had wanted to start podcasting and a room in my basement was turned into a studio. But the basement wouldn't have been my first choice of rooms with it's CMU blocks, band-aid colored paint, low ceilings, and dark light fixtures.

Would you want to play games down here?
The table is, in my opinion, the most important part of any game room/setting. It will make or break your comfort and experience of playing. At first, I played around with the idea of turning the unused pool table into an imitation Geek Chic table (RIP). I was going to pull the metal feet of the pool table to lower it to a more acceptable/comfortable height and clean/refurbish the felt. But the more I played around with it, the more I decided that it wasn't what I wanted. While the lips of the those fancy gaming tables look nice and keep all your bits from flying off, I don't feel they are that comfortable for the 3 hour gaming session. I wanted a regular wooded dining table, but I didn't want to spend the money on such. But then there was a ray of hope. I was lucky to learn that with my parents moving, they had our old dining room table that they wanted to get rid of, and I swooped on it. Even though it was VERY beat up, it would be perfect for gaming. The table had two ends that would slide into the table when not being used. It could expand to give everyone space during an RPG or big game, and could collapse to play those smaller board games. The table itself was in rough shape though. A decade and a half of abuse in a 3 children house with animals, friends, and parties had not done it well. I attempted to refinish the table surface when I finally got it home, but my lack of wood working knowledge showed. I attempted to sand it down by hand with too fine of a sand paper, then applied a deck stain to it. Needless to say, the results were not great. The table looked splotchy and felt rubbery. But what ever. I needed a table to open the game room, and this would have to do.

Not great.

But it would have to do.
So then the game room officially opened, even though work was still to be done. The larger space and table really did the trick. It felt less cramped and there was space on the table for drinks. I spent time tracking down some affordable banquet style padded stacking chairs that really help make sitting in one place for 3 hours more doable. The game room was working.


Dice & Drinks

Perfect chairs for long time gaming.
Over the next few months I continued to work on fitting out the room. I happened to win some beautiful RPG themed wooden drink coasters at AcadeCon 2017. I decked out the walls with some nerdy and dorky artwork. For my 26th birthday I commissioned a piece of art from a friend to fit my game room. Other than being a little cold in the winter, it felt nice to be down there. But one thing kept nagging me. One thing that kept this game room from feeling perfect.

AcadeCoasters provided by https://www.rpgcoasters.com/
Custom art by Bex (https://www.girlilly.com/)

Lookin' good!
That damn table. Oh how it annoyed me. Like a scratch on your new car. Most people might not notice it, but you see it every damn time you step in or out of it. So in June of this year (2017) I decided tackle this table, correctly. I spent a good month before hand reading articles and talking to people about wood workings, learning as much as I could before I started. It seems simple. Sand, sand again, stain, sand, finish, sand, finish, sand. I borrowed an orbital sander from my grandfather, picked out some General Finishes stain and finish (Antique Cherry and a satin polyurethane), and went to town. A week later of shirtless sanding and staining, a mistake or two, and a lot of patience, I was the happiest man in the world. The table it ultra smooth with an amazing color. Your skin no longer stuck to it like the old rubbery stain that was on it before. Dice bounce of it with an incredibly satisfying knock. It is a dream.

Some of the pits from bubble from the deck stain.

Goodbye deck stain!

Oh, hello there Antique Cherry.

Oh, you so shine!

Results!
  While there is still more to be done to make it the ultimate game room, it is still pretty damn great at the moment. I would like to replace the door to the studio with a more modern looking white one (the current one has a hole in it on the studio side) and hide the entry to the nearby laundry room a bit better. A mini-fridge to keep companions drinks out of my kitchen fridge would be a luxury item and a cleaned up work bench would probably help as well. I would also like to stain the gas meter box that you can see in the first few pictures to something a little nicer. But until then, it's pretty damn great.

Relax! It's game night!

June 27, 2017

Split The Party Podcast

A couple of months ago, some of my Saturday night RPG group decided to start recording our post game discussions. These round table talks at a rectangular table have been spit out to the Internet as the Split The Party Podcast, which is currently available online and on iTunes. If you're interested in any gaming and general geekery podcasts, give us a listen and be disappointed. We're still working out how to do technical things properly, but we seem to have no shortage of content.

The podcast has been a fun creative exercise that spun off from the Splitscreen Show, a video game podcast done by some high school and college friends. After converting a room in my basement into a unprofessional recording studio, and the equipment from the Splitscreen Show being left down there, it was easy enough to just start recording our Saturday night post game discussions. Both podcasts have been fun to edit (or learn to edit from) and have become a stable creativity sink for me.

I think that's really all I have time to write about, so look for me on the other site: http://splitthepartypod.com/

April 14, 2016

Fort: Bose SoundLink Color Speaker

I enjoy listening to podcasts. They make the work day go by a little quicker and I can typically learn a thing or two or have a laugh. Having most of these podcasts on my iPhone meant I could listen to the in the car as well. But at the end of the work day or drive, that would be it and I would stop listening to them until the next time I got to work or into a car. I wanted to listen to podcasts when I got home, but I don't like working around the house with earbuds in. So I started looking at an Apple TV to broadcast my podcasts to the TV and speaker system, but I already had a Google Chromecast that did most of what an Apple TV did. So for the longest time, I just didn't listen to podcasts while I did house work.

Cut to a Bose store in an open air shopping mall in Virginia on December 26th, 2014. The shopping mall is crammed with people and my then fiance dip into this store and start playing around with the gadgets. That's when I first met the Bose SoundLink Color bluetooth speaker. It was expensive when compared to most of the bluetooth speakers I was looking at before this. At $130, I can't even really recommend it to people as a must have, and I was a little hesitant to look at it for too long. But that's when I hit the play button on top of it, and Daft Punk's Random Access Memories started flowing out of it, and it was incredible.

On the drive from Virginia back to Cleveland, I had multiple conversations with the fiance about the thing, and whether or not I should buy it. I knew I wanted it, and after she told me her grandmother had given us some cash for Christmas it was pretty much settled. She had purchased a set of Bose headphones while we were in Virginia and was loving them. We stopped by the local Bose store before we even got home (I also bought the Daft Punk album on iTunes as well).

The Bose SoundLink Color is a great speaker for its size and power. Its battery lasts me several hours of continuous play time. Its small enough that I can throw it in a bag or stash it anywhere in the room I'm working in. It sounds very good when playing podcasts and my general everyday music on it. Its ease of use and sound quality has impressed both my wife and her sister, which both now own one.



It's so nice to have a small portable speaker with such great sound. I know listen to podcasts and music while doing dishes or cooking while not having to blast it through my TV's sound system. I've used it in every room of my house now, and I love the thing. I don't take it outside though. The next day after buying the SoundLink Color, I visited my parents who bought a cheap bluetooth speaker. While there is a incredible difference in quality, I use the cheap Sony speaker as my garage and outside speaker.

I would highly recommend this speaker to anyone who wants to listen to high quality music while being ultra portable. Students in dorms or People in apartments will love this as they can take their music and podcast in any room they want. Bose makes some great products, and don't be fooled by other companies or reviews in which a speaker with a ton of bass is a good speaker. The Bose SoundLink Color's range is what makes it great.

March 25, 2016

Fort: People Socks

In the middle of 2015 I decided to pick up some new socks that weren't my normal black/gray/white ones. I wanted something more fun and colorful. Well, I picked up some sporty green and orange socks from the local department store. They were okay, but they weren't exactly what I was looking for. So for Christmas, when my father in law asked me what I wanted, I told him to get me comfortable socks. What I received, were two packages of People Socks.


Found on Amazon for about $30 for 4 pairs, People Socks are billed as hiking and outdoors socks. These mostly wool socks are thick and comfortable, giving my feet the extra layer of cozy they need for the Cleveland winters. After many washes, they still are holding up just like the day they were purchased.

It took a little bit of getting used to before I was 100% comfortable wearing these. When you first put them on after wearing your everyday Hanes they feel heavy, feeling like a pair of wet socks. That was initially off putting, but after a week or two, I was all on board these. These are my go to socks when I'm at home and am not required to wear black socks.

I highly recommend these socks to anyone looking to improve their weekend comfort. These are easily going to be the best bang for your buck when it comes to increasing your comfort. High praise to my father in law for selecting these. My only hope is that they make a pair completely in black so I can wear them with my dress slacks to work.

A quick disclaimer though, I did receive these socks in the winter. I'm not sure if these will be the right socks for you in the summer. I'm also not much of a hiker, and can't vouch for their integrity after hiking miles on them. I suspect they are designed for cooler temperatures based on the "About" page on their website.

March 24, 2016

Fort Guide: An Easy Man's Guide to Comfort

I'm a man that's easily content with what I have. Laid back and easy going, I like to pinch my pennies when I can. I'm pretty utilitarian when it comes to purchasing new items, and fret any purchase over $20 most of the time. That was, until I went to Italy on my honeymoon in February of 2015.

In Europe, there didn't seem to be too much that was utilitarian. Everyone dressed fashionably, no matter what the conditions were. Us schulbby Americans stood out like a sore thumb with our bland North Face jackets and tennis shoes. So when we returned after our adventure to the old world, I vowed I would start improving my style.

But improving your style is expensive, and runs counter to what I grew up doing. Stylish clothes were expensive, and they could only do so much to improve the style of a man of generous proportions like myself. So I decided to change the target for my original goal. I was going to buy comfortable. But while doing this, I found something that surprised me. Part of your comfort, is style.

With this revelation, I charged forth into the world and started my discoveries of the stylish comfort. Clothes, tech items, foods, and daily practices of comfort. Now, a year after I started my search, I believe I've gathered enough experiences to give some advice to other guys (and gals too) who want to enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle. And that's were Fort Guide comes in.

Fort Guide will be a weekly article reviewing select items from my past year that I have tried to improve my comfortable lifestyle. Every Friday you can expect to find a new article detail my experiences with something and how it stacks up to the old way of living. I hope to introduce new people to great products, and I'm going to start tomorrow with something that I've only had for the past three months: People Socks.