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November 29, 2004

If You Build It, They Will Come

That’s the theory – or maybe the blind hope – I’m operating on by establishing a Cairns Roleplayers Group over on Meetup.com. I found out about this service via The Forge, and it looks like a good way of organising a gathering of like-minded people.

In fact, here are some existing groups in Sydney that I think will appeal to a broad segment of my readership: Firefly, Roleplayers, Xbox and SciFi/Fantasy.

Oh, and here's one for a certain Melbourne reader: Buffy.

November 28, 2004

Comfy Chairs 4 Sale!

Vickie and I just bought ourselves a couch on eBay. It'll be going in front of our TV where our green armchair and rocking chair are now - which means we need somewhere for our green armchair and rocking chair to go.

Rather than just put them straight on eBay, we're wondering whether any of you folks would like them. Most of you have sat in them at one point, so you know how comfy they are.

Would you be interested?

November 26, 2004

Mutant Experience Fortune Cookies

Over on Greg Costikyan's Paranoia XP web log, Allen Varney is asking for "fortune cookies" - those little one-line quotes that appear on the bottom-right corner of almost every right-hand page in Paranoia XP - for the next supplement, The Mutant Experience. If your forune cookie gets published, and you provide your real name, Allen will "do [his] best to list it in the credits of the supplement". Get in quick; Allen's given a deadline of Monday, November 29th.

Speaking of caption competitions, the Halo 2 comp has been running for a week now, and I've only received two entries! Come on, people! Where's your creativity? Your wit? Your greed for free stuff?!?!?

November 25, 2004

Okay, now you really must be joking...

Species was a pretty good thriller with an interesting SF/horror angle, a nifty design by H. R. Giger and some decent actors.

Species II was a cheesy horror sequel with horrid dialogue and woeful misuse of said decent actors. At least H. R. Giger's design was kept fairly intact.

Now it seems MGM has gone and made Species III, and it hasn't even made it to theatres. From what info I've seen, the only recurring cast member is Natasha Henstridge - and even then, it looks like she's only in it for the first minute. From the photos, it looks like they've even managed to cheapen H. R. Giger's design.

You have to worry when even the clips have extensive disclaimers.

November 24, 2004

15 Questions on Gaming

Matt Snyder has got on what he calls an "RPG Meme Bandwagon" and posted fifteen gaming-related questions on his LiveJournal. I found out thanks to Ginger Stampley and the 20' By 20' Room, and, as may well be obvious, I decided to answer them myself.

1. What is the first RPG you ever played?
The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (Red Box) with two friends from high school (Year 7) - specifically, EvilHayama and the Cazman. The solo adventure in the Player’s Handbook gave me the impression that these roleplaying games I'd heard about for ages were just more “Fighting Fantasy”-type things - until Hayama put a couple of grid-paper dungeons together and DMed the Cazman and I through them. Interestingly enough, I'm the only one of the three of us who got seriously into RPGs. (Cazman turned into a Battletech nut for a while, but the complexity killed it for the rest of us.)

2. What RPG do you currently play most often?
Most recently, my wife and I have been playing in a Bubblegum Crisis game using the Hero System. That’s sort of ground to a halt over the last few months due to real life issues.

3. What is the best system you've played?
You know, I’ve not done as much playing as I have GMing – so I’m actually tempted to say D&D Third Edition. Of all the systems I’ve played in the past few years (which aren’t many), it’s the one I think I like the best.

4. What is the best system you've run?
I’ve tried running a Heavy Gear campaign over the last couple of years, but I’m starting to develop a distaste for rules crunch or anything else that slows things down as a GM. So I'm tending more toward Jared Sorensen's iSystem games (InSpectres, octaNe) nowadays.

5. Would you consider yourself an: Elitist/ Min-Maxer/ Rules Lawyer?
Elitist, I think – I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to who I game with.

6. If you could recommend a new RPG which would you recommend? Why?
Paranoia XP. It mightn’t be a “new” game, but it’s the latest edition, it's got my name in it and frankly, I think it has some of the best GM advice ever. I'd also like to pick up Primetime Adventures sometime soon, so I'd definitely recommend it if only to get some players in.

7. How often do you play?
We used to aim for once a month, but over the past year we’ve been lucky to get together to game once every couple of months.

8. What sort of characters do you play? Leader? Follower? Comic Relief? Roll-Player/ Role-Player?
I think I like the leader role; I like making decisions and actin upon them without too much sitting around and talking.

9. What is your favorite Genre for RPGs?
Like the rest of my life, Science Fiction with Big Machines.

10. What Genres have you played in?
Science fiction, fantasy, supers, with a dash of horror and cyberpunk. A little more action-adventure/comedy lately.

11. Do you prefer to play or GM? Do you do both?
GMing, really, although I do indeed do both.

12. Do you like religion in your games?
If it adds depth, motivation and conflict without players using it as an excuse for munchkinism, absolutely. Few of my players do, though – Sydney roleplayers seem to be a fairly militant atheistic/agnostic bunch.

13. Do you have taboo subjects in your games or is everything "fair game"?
I like my games to be PG-rated overall, more in terms of PC activity than session content. I do prefer straight-up, action-adventure-style conflict and problem solving over angst and the dark side of human nature, which usually rules out potentially taboo subject matter.

14. Have you developed your own RPG before?
Made a half-arsed attempt at a Monty Python RPG in high school with some mates, biut that's pretty much it.

15. Have you ever been published in the Gaming Industry? If so... what?
Sort of. I’ve had a couple of bits of mine show up in gaming product; one being the Sydney section in Bubblegum Crisis: EX, and the other being the character dialogue on page 87 of Paranoia XP.

November 23, 2004

Meet Memento Mori

I just got back in from a quick after-work trip to Cammeray to meet with none other than Jared A. Sorensen, the demented genius behind Memento Mori Theatricks and his lovely wife Rebecca. They were out here to catch up with Rebecca's extended Australian family, and were able to spare an hour and a half to catch up with the RPGnet Forum Memento Mori Sydney Posse - which turned out to be just myself and Ken Finlayson.

It was a very pleasant couple of hours. Jared's a witty and intelligent bloke, as is Rebecca (well, except the bloke bit). We talked geek culture, elections, RPGs, spousal co-op computer gameplay. Turns out that not only has Jared worked at LucasArts (bastard), but he was also involved in the production of Neverwinter Nights (double bastard). He also managed to convert Rebecca to gaming, and she's volunteered to be the Memento Mori Booth Babe for the upcoming GenCon SoCal in Anaheim. (He encouraged us to come along to a GenCon sometime, but Vickie and I don't feel particularly safe in visiting America consindering the current US administration - we'll give it another four years before we start planning a visit.)

Not only did Jared sign my copies of InSpectres and octaNe, but he and Rebecca gave us a lift from Cammeray back to North Sydney train station, something they didn't have to do (I don't think we'd've had too long to wait for a bus), especially considering they'll be spending tomorrow hurriedly packing for their seventeen-hour flight to Frisco via LA.

I also have photos! They're a little on the grainy side, unfortunately.

November 21, 2004

Vipers, Clear To Launch On Ten

Okay, so Vickie and I were watching the Australian Idol Grand Finale this evening. We've been enjoying this year's competitin, and have been pretty much behind Anthony Callea ever since he knocked both our socks off by performing The Prayer as his Idol's Choice. (I wish I had a voice like that.) All our best to Casey Donovan, though, and frankly, considering her talent, hers is a well-deserved win.

But anyway, the last commercial break before The Big Announcement is made, Channel Ten puts on its "Big Event TV 2005" ad, and in amongst the announcements of next year's Big Brother (does anyone really need to ask why I don't believe in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god) and Australian Idol (and this new talent show, The X Factor) they not only announce that there's going to be an ongoing series of The 4400 (not entirely surprising, as the miniseries did wrap with this very "it's really a pilot" feel), but...



Yes, I am fucking stoked.

UPDATE February 11th, 2005: So: First half of the mini was tonight. Who watched? And who'll be back for the second half tomorrow?

Garage Sale December 12th

On the general topic of selling stuff, Vickie and I are having a Garage - well, Carport - Sale on Sunday, December the twelfth, starting at 9 AM and ending at 5 PM or when all the items we have up for offer are sold (whichever is earliest). We'll have gardening books, clothes, craft books and materials, household items, cookery books, novels, magazines and the odd computer game. Please wander along with your cash and take away a bargain!

If you need our address or contact details, please send me an e-mail. We'll have signs posted in the area, so you shouldn't have much problem finding us!

New Auctions: Novels and Tie-Ins

Hi, everyone,

Just a quick heads-up: I'm getting rid of some more stuff on eBay. Nothing actually RPG, but one lot of RPG tie-ins and three other lots for sale: my Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green novel collection, the WorldWar alternate history/alien invasion series by Harry Turtledove, an abridged Star Trek: Spaceflight Chronology from 1979 and a 1983 British annual for the Thunderbirds 2086 animated series!

November 19, 2004

The Metrosexual Tarot

Speaking of Mitch Evans' StumbleUpon photoblog, I found this while reading through it. I think it's hilarious (especially the Major Arcana), as will probably anyone who's a serious socialite (or at the very least regularly watches Queer Eye). It's by the same guy who created the Silicon Valley Tarot.

Nothing More to Confess

A bit of bad news today. Mitch Evans, the Doc who owns and operates Doc’s Blog: Confessions of a Game Addict, has decided to close his web log down. “I've been finding less and less enthusiasm for the blog,” he writes. “I have a high article to response ratio. That tells me that the topics I cover must be a bit off-target... Talking to myself isn't what I had in mind. :)”

Mitch goes on to write, “If there's anything you would like to keep, I suggest you archive it now.”

I’m sorry to see the blog go, although I must admit, I’ve not participated in at least the last ten Game Dreams Mitch posted. Still, I can understand Doc’s reasons for shutting the blog down. My ongoing, if sporadic, posting to and development of my web log is a tad more narcissistic; I can cruise along on the gratification of seeing my words up on the web, even if no one reads them (feedback is always great, though).

It seems as though a lot of people are going through something of a transition period at the moment; segments of their lives are coming to an end, suddenly or otherwise, and they're taking stock and either making changes or trying to figure out how to ride the changes that are being made to and around them. It's always a sad time; the familiar is either gone or slowly changing into something unfamiliar.

Still, every change brings something new; every ending is a beginning. Mitch himself writes, "I've decided to put the $40 per month I use to keep the blog and storage areas up to better use." Whether it'll be on something else web-related, I'm not sure, but if it is, I look forward to seeing it (at the very least, he's becoming quite involved with his StumbleUpon photo weblog). In the meantime, I’ll be sure to archive the Game Dreams before they disappear.

November 18, 2004

Local Wildlife, Part 2

Remember that family of plovers that wandered into our front yard a couple of months ago? Well, two Saturdays ago the two kids decided to come trundling back in - except now, they're all grown up!

Not those little puffballs anymore!

Well, not quite grown up; we think they're both juveniles still. They're pretty gutsy, too; they weren't too bothered when I wandered out to the car, and I even had to wait at the bottom of the drive for them to get out of the way before I pulled out.

Not only that, but when I got home with the shopping, they were still foraging in the front lawn!

Put the Game Down and Step Away from the Xbox!

[UPDATE 10:02PM December 10th:] The competition has been closed; winners will be announced in a separate posting at 8 PM Australian Eastern Daylight Time, Sunday December 12th, 2004.

After showing some friends the “Busted!” image I whipped up, I came up with another caption (specifically, the one in the heading) – and started wondering, “What could the IMAGinES community come up with?” Immedately, an idea popped into my head: Why not actually run a caption competition and give the best caption a prize? Heck, the Penny Arcade guys give stuff out all the time!

So here it is: The first ever IMAGinES Caption Competition! Tell us what the Master Chief, zealously guarding the IMAGinES Xbox, is telling the mysterious interloper bearing a sneakily-procured copy of Halo 2!

Say What?

IMAGinES is giving away three prizes to the entrants with the three best captions:

  • First Prize: A Halo 2 Series 1 Puma – er, Warthog! This licensed toy from Joyride Studios is a detailed replica of the Gauss gun-equipped Warthog from Halo 2. It’s approximately 19 centimetres in length, and comes complete with scale miniature figures of the Master Chief and a UNSC Marine, both armed with Battle Rifles! Show your geek pride and run down Grunts* while making “Brm brmmm!” noises! (Retails for AU$29.95)
  • Second Prize: The Halo 2 Original Soundtrack, Volume One! The Official CD of the game includes mixes of Halo 2’s dynamic soundtrack created by Bungie composers Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatore, plus rock tracks from Breaking Benjamin, Incubus, Hoobastank, Nile Rodgers and Natara inspired by the game! (Retails for US$13.50 on Amazon.com)
  • Third Prize: Our Personal Collection of Spider Robinson Novels! Vickie and I have both bought significant chunks of SF author Spider Robinson’s works over time, and we’re giving the double-ups away! You’ll win a copy of:
    • The Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon Stories: The Callahan Chronicals, The Callahan Touch, Callahan’s Legacy and Callahan’s Key, the collected short stories and novels about the barflies, aliens, talking dogs, mad scientists and leprechauns of Callahan’s Place, a bar where shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased.
    • Lifehouse, a story of two con-artists who stumble across a conspiracy that wipes people’s memories - and of two ultrapowered conspirators who’ll stop at nothing to keep their secret…
    • User Friendly, a collection of short stories and essays.

This competition is only open to entrants with an Australian mailing address. I’ll be paying enough for domestic parcel rates as it is; I won’t post the prizes overseas!

To enter, send me a single e-mail with “Halo 2 Caption Competition” in the subject line and one to three captions in the body text (as text please; no images either in or attached to the e-mail). Your e-mail must include a valid return address. The competition will close at 10 PM Australian Eastern Daylight Time, Friday, December the 10th, 2004.

Entries will be judged by Rob and Vickie Farquhar (hereafter “the Judges”) on the following conditions:

  • Wit. Captions will be judged on humour, cleverness and originality. (Note: If a caption is submitted subsequently to an entry to which it is identical or very similar, the subsequent entry will be disregard in favour of the prior entry.)
  • Appropriateness to the Image. Captions must make sense when placed within the Chief’s speech bubble on the photograph. Any caption that is or seems out of context will be disregarded.
  • Simplicity. Captions will be judged on brevity; a caption must fit inside the speech bubble and remain legible. Try for around ten words or less.
  • Absence of Profanity. While justifiably-appropriate swearing will be accepted in the running, it will be judged below entries that are witty without resorting to profanity. Entries consisting of profanity for its own sake will be disregarded.

One E-Mail per Person, One Prize per Person. Each e-mail can include up to three captions per entry; however, you will only win with the caption that the Judges consider the best. If you submit more than one e-mail, all e-mails after the first will be disregarded.

The Judges’ Decision is Subjective, Impartial and Final. Winners will be announced in an entry on this web log on Sunday, December 12th, 2004, and notified via e-mail. One you receive your notification, you will need to provide a valid postal delivery address. If we don’t receive your address within one week of notification, your entry will be disregarded and the prizes will be re-awarded.

The Judges ask that you respect the contest, the format, and your fellow entrants and not attempt to disguise your identity in order to submit multiple entries. If you do, and we discover it before prizes are sent, all your entries will be disregarded. If we discover it after prizes are sent, and you’ve won a prize (or even multiple prizes) – well, we can’t do much about it, but don’t be surprised if we don’t talk to you any more.

All prize prices are correct at time of writing.

* The Vickie Farquhar Society for the Protection from Cruelty of Grunts would like to inform readers that no Grunts were harmed in the making of this competition.

November 17, 2004

Eight Weeks' Notice

I forgot to mention: on Monday morning, I handed in notice of my resignation at work. I was going to wait until mid-next month, but our decision was already made and I was getting sick of sitting on it (and not doing a particularly good job of it either).

The reaction from my colleagues has been very positive. They've wished me the best of luck, reckoned I shouldn't have much trouble finding work in Cairns and have often asked whether we have a spare room!

Now all that's left is to tell Dad. That'll be this evening; I'm meeting him at the RSL after work.

Wish me luck, eh? I'm not exactly looking forward to it.

November 16, 2004


Damn you, Master Chief!

November 15, 2004

You Can't Take Our House From Me

Earlier today, Vickie called me at work and asked, "So what're we going to call our house?"

Now in all our preparations for moving, that's one of the things I'd simply not thought of. After all, 32 Fraser Road doesn't have a particular name.

Vickie says, "It's got to have 'Cottage' in it somewhere."

So I furrow my brow, then reply, "Well, the first thing that comes to mind is what our friends tell us, that they come here for some peace and quiet. That gives me 'Sanctuary Cottage' and 'Peace House', but the former sounds like a retirement village/resort, and the latter is a little too hippie and definitely too blunt."

And then Vickie surprises me by saying, "What about Serenity?"

Surround Sound Stumper

[UPDATE December 10th:] It looks as though I may have found a solution to this little problem!

We have a slight digital media puzzle that I'm hoping the IMAGinES community could help solve.

As part of our effort to reduce the overall volume/weight of furniture we're hauling to Cairns, Vickie and I recently bought a set of 5.1 speakers. Their overall weight is lighter than the combined weight of our twenty-year-old Marantz speakers and amplifier, and they'll take up much less room once re-packed.

Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to getting surround sound from my DVD player and Xbox for a while. Right after we purchased the set, though, I realised that it doesn’t have input ports for digital, just a pair of regular RCA stereo inputs and a set of RCA 5.1 inputs.

This presents some problems.

While my immediate reaction was, “buy a digital receiver”, most are amplifier/receiver combo units. As the new sub-woofer itself is amplified - it powers itself and the satellites - this causes concern that a receiver would blow our new speakers through double amplification. And while the obvious solution would be to just get a receiver and an un-powered sub-woofer, I’m still attached to the (rather large) subbie we just bought. With our upcoming move, dollar outlay is also a serious consideration.

The Cazman’s suggestion that we could try his Extigy external PC sound card has me suddenly thinking that I could try building a small multimedia PC that could accept digital input and put 5.1 surround out via the three regular headphone socket-style audio outputs. As a bonus, I could put a wireless card into it and hook it up to our wireless LAN, so we can send any (legally) downloaded music to it. The problems are how I’d control the PC without a monitor and keyboard, and the know-how required to build and set it up.

Ultimately, here’s what I want at the end:

  • Un-amplified conversion of two S/P-DIF optical outputs, or one optical/one coaxial (my Xbox's Advanced AV Pack can output optical only, while the DVD player can output coax or optical), to a single RCA 5.1 surround input.
  • As little dollar outlay as reasonable.
  • As little control-fiddliness (for want of a better phrase) as possible.

I consider the ability to play audio files across our home stereo, without need for a keyboard-and-screen setup, an optional bonus.

What do you reckon?

November 09, 2004

Firefly on Australian TV!

"Time for some thrilling heroics..."
- Jayne, "The Train Job"

Had a phone call from Dan earlier on; seems he was looking through the TV guide earlier today when he chanced to come upon Firefly screening past midnight on our very own Channel 7!

The NineMSN TV Guide and Channel 7's guide has it at 1 AM Wednesday. The episode is "The Train Job", the second pilot for the show, so if you've not seen Firefly and you feel like staying up, I heartily encourage you to experience it!

November 07, 2004

No Chrissie Pressies!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the announcement of our 2004 Christmas Party on the web. We've not yet sent out the invitations as we promised we would - they'll be going out via snail mail and e-mail this week - but there's one thing that Vickie and I would just like to make known, in the spirit of peace and good will.

Vickie and I have had a long-standing policy when it comes to Christmas presents, and that's that they're for family. We know that we have a top group of friends, and we love yas all; a seasonal card with your autograph (hey, it'll be worth a lot soon) will make us just as happy as an inexpensive or even expensive present! Save your money for your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, kids and January sales. We'll feel much better knowing that your money is going toward staving off the emotional blackmail your families reserve for when you don't get 'em something (or get 'em enough)!

Your love and good-will is present enough for us. If you must give us a gift, the only one we ask for is the gift of keeping in touch after we've moved to Cairns.

The Wireless Age

Well, with thanks to Jason for making the money available and to Boots for the expertise, Vickie and I have finally splashed out on a Wireless router. It's a Netgear WGR614, and aside from an IP address conflict during setup (which Boots was able to highlight), it's doing its job fantastically.

Of course, right now we don't have anything to connect to it via wireless. Which is a bit of a bugger. But it's sharing the Internet connection phenomenally well, and hopefully, Vickie's PC will run much smoother now that it's not handling ICS.

Fingers crossed, though, that with a few more things auctioned off, I might be able to swing a wireless bridge for das Xbox. Netgear has the WGE101, although I did spot a D-Link bridge at Hardly Normal Express today, I think it was the DWL-G810.

But then I have to get an Xbox Live Starter Kit, which is another hundred bucks, and -

Oh hey, wait, I can see that look in your eyes, and I've got something to say in that regard, but I'll save it for my next post...

November 06, 2004

Anyone got a Ute?

Over the next couple of weeks, Vickie and I are going to be getting some furniture that we've won from eBay. Our little car, of course, isn't going to be big enough to carry these pieces from where they are to our place. So we're wondering: Do any of you have (or know someone who has) a ute that we could get access to (driving it ourselves isn't mandatory) for a day or two?

What's The Sims (2) For You?

Now, I'd say most of you know that I'm not really a The Sims guy. I bought SimCity 3000 at one point in the vain hope of rekindling my old addiction to the original SimCity, and I enjoy the odd eighteen holes (both building and playing) of SimGolf. But the thought of The Sims never really did it for me. I think I found the general idea a little too daytime soap opera for my tastes.

It's also interesting to note that Boots tried to get Vickie into The Sims at one point, but she found its brand of up-close-and-personal control of a bunch of virtual people rather voyeuristic and control-freaky. Of course, she always used to get upset whenever I spanked my monkey.

In Black & White, you dirty-minded sods!

But I must confess, all of a sudden I've started getting a litle interested in buying a copy of The Sims 2. I chalk it up to The Strangerhood; the idea of making movies within The Sims 2 is a tempting one (I've also been keeping half an eye on Peter Molyneux's The Movies for the past while).

So I thought I'd just ask a general question of the IMAGinewS crew, at least those of you that own or have played The Sims in one or more of its various incarnations: I know it's the most popular computer game ever, but what about The Sims does it for you, personally?

November 05, 2004

Shatterzone Action Deck?

While going through my Shatterzone Boxed Set, I was able to confirm a suspicion of mine - that I'm missing the first half of the game's Action Deck of cards.

Does anyone have one (either a first half or a complete Action Deck), ideally in good condition, they'd be willing to sell?

November 03, 2004

Biggest Auction Ever: Necromunda!

Well, it's my biggest auction ever: My complete collection of Necromunda kit, including rules, terrain, miniatures, even my two 3' by 4' game boards, is going under the hammer!

Once again, please rock along and have a bid, or if you know someone who might be interested, why not spread the word?

[UPDATE November 6th:] Lauren and Jason were over this evening to watch some Firefly (Lauren's now talking about getting the DVD set herself). Lauren pointed out the boxes of Necromunda gear I had sitting in the living room - and Jason pulled out his wallet. I wound up selling all the Necromunda gear, my game boards and my paints for a bit over $400 in cash. Needless to say, I cancelled the auction on eBay (my apologies to the seven watchers).

Another ALIENS Auction: Leading Edge Board Game

After my ALIENS Colonial Marines miniatures were snapped up so quickly, I decided to put my long-unused ALIENS Board Game (also by Leading Edge Games) up for auction. It's not gone quite as quickly, but it quite quickly had a bid put on it.

As usual, if you like it, or you're an ALIENS nut, won't you put a bid in? And if you know someone who's an ALIENS nut, can you spread the word, please?