Cosmam Plays Video Games – Baldur’s Gate Edition

The first step to playing any game is to figure out how you’re going to play the game.  For some games, like Doom, that’s pretty easy – the biggest question there is what drink you want while playing it.  For others, this can be rather tricky.

I’m currently playing a Neverwinter Nights multiplayer campaign with some friends, and it’s fun to get back into the D&D-but-it’s-a-vidja-game (DBIAVG?) genre.  It’s made we want to play something like it single player, with the small problem that the NWN base campaign is kind of meh.

Enter Baldur’s Gate, specifically the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.

Now, I’ve played all of these except for the newly released DLC, but this was probably 15 or so years ago.  To say that I have forgotten a lot of it is an understatement, but I do remember some things, and will undoubtedly remember more as I start to play.  That made me somewhat hesitant to pick it up again, because nostalgia is only fun for so long, you know?

But I think I have a path forward that should make the game fun and new for me.  To wit:

  1. I’m going to play a different role than normal. I’ve played as a mage, a druid (shapeshifting!), and probably a sorcerer (sorcerer tends to be my default choice), but I’ve never played a melee character.  I’m probably going to go fighter -> mage dual class, because magic, but that tends to focus on buffing the melee abilities of your character more than tossing in fireballs while swinging an axe.  I’ve also never dual classed, or probably played a human.  This character build is pretty powerful, but don’t worry, I’m offsetting that
  2. I’m going to run with a few mods.  I don’t want to go mod-crazy, because I’ve not played that recently and anything very unstable annoys me, but one in particular that interests me is the Sword Coast Strategy mod.  It’s an AI overhaul that makes the enemies smarter and therefore deadlier.  A difficulty boost, but without just turning up the HP!
  3. I also may play with a slightly smaller party.  How true this is depends on how much of a boost the monsters get, but I am looking for something of a challenge, especially knowing this edition of D&D fairly well.  I wouldn’t go under 4, I don’t think, but I’ll probably try it with 4, at least 4 a while (maybe not 4ever).

That, I think, should give me a sufficiently new experience on an old classic to be worth the massive amount of time I’ll sink into it.  Also, the fact that I’ll get to use a fun kit (probably Berserker) should make it all the better!

I do have a more detailed character plan, and I miiiiiight decide to make another post on it, but we’ll see.  For now, on to modding and then character creation!

Edit:  The mod manager is no longer being maintained and modding is not as straightforward as I’d hoped it would be.  I think I’m just going to run on “Core” difficulty instead of “Normal” and call that good enough.  #lazy

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Box Done! (Better Late than Never)

So you remember that deadline that I gave myself, for getting the box that holds my mini-painting supplies done?  4/15/18?  Because I do, and the whooshing sound that it made as it flew by.

But all is not lost, because as of today, I have finished it!  Pictures first, and then thoughts!

A link to the google album with pictures!

And now, thoughts:

  1. Overall, I’m super happy with the fit of everything.  The whole thing is sized around those small bottles of paints, and their fit is snug but not tight.  I can remove them, but they don’t wiggle, which is exactly what I was going for
  2. On that note, the fit of the heights is good, too.  The tray sits on dividers that are partially inset into the bottom, and the top insets into the interior, and the fit is damn near perfect.  When closed, the tray doesn’t budge (what in it will, obviously).
  3. I need a better jig for my router table, or a bigger routing table, if I’m going to do an channel like the middle one again
  4. My dovetails are intentionally not all the same size, but the effect isn’t as exaggerated as I was going for, so next time I need to remember that.
  5. Table saws are amazing and I want one.
  6. I need more colors of stain.  I have…two, and one barely does anything.  Fortunately, this one turned out well, as I didn’t feel like running out for another when I started.

And that’s really enough 😛

My next project is basically upgrading my work space, so it’ll be boring and probably not shared, but I’ll probably be back next month with another Deadline of DOOOOOM!!

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Fo Shame

If there’s one thing I’m really, really good at, it’s not following through on updating this blog.  I am, in fact, a master at not posting, but I’ve decided that that’s something that I should maybe get a little worse at.

This year I’m trying to be a little more focused.  Now, granted, every year I try to be a little more focused, but this year it’s actually sort of working?  Not that I have anything great to show for it, yet (unless you count memorizing the countries in Africa), but I have been fairly diligent with it, at least.

But I can also feel myself slipping, some, especially as I try to expand my focus to do two, maybe even three things instead of just one, which is where public shaming accountability comes in.

By way of background, one of my friends is buying a house, and I offered to make her a table as a housewarming gift, similar to mine (the top lifts off and there is an excellent gaming surface underneath).  One of the problems with this is that I was nowhere near good enough to make my table, and the fact that it turned out as well as it did is something of a blue-eyed miracle.  Plus, I don’t mind the imperfections and problems, because I can fix them.

But to give to someone else? Bah!  (Rachyl, any protestations from you on quality will fall on deaf ears)

So I’ve built myself a little plan to learn what I need to know before doing the table better, correctly, as is more worthy of a gift.  And it starts humbly, with making myself a little box to hold my minifig painting stuff in an organized manner.  I have made detailed plans for this, and after one or two false starts, am ready to get it done.

Only there is no motivation quite like public shaming, hence my posting about it here.  My deadline/goal for having this done is:  4/15/18.

If it seems like a while, well, it is.  I’ve got learning to do in there, and have several weekends taken up by other things.  But that’s my deadline, that you guys can feel free to hold me accountable to!

There will likely be a few updates as progress continues, the first probably at the initial assembly of the frame, so if you’re curious about the details, well – wait 😛

EDIT: I’ve added the plans, for as much help as they’d be without seeing the 3D shape.  This entire thing is designed around one very specific size of paint bottle, which is all I have.  The dividers will divide them into 2×10 sections and hold them snug, while a tray sits on top to hold a bunch of other stuff.

Continue reading

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In the blog that is!

I mentioned this last post, but my blog will be becoming a bit more general purpose.  Instead of being focused on primarily on writing, it will be focused on all my creative/hobby endeavors, potentially with a few Deep Thoughts thrown in.

To that end, I’ve made a few style changes on the blog.  Nothing big, though I do like my new top photo.  I took that after a super fun day of hiking to celebrate a friend’s birthday (we kicked snow, saw ponies, and climbed on big rocks).  Using a photo that I took makes this place feel a bit more like my own.

This weekend, I’ll probably be posting about a woodworking project, for instance, and I’ll definitely be writing a few posts that are programming/software development oriented.  So, if that’s not your cup o’ tea, well… #sorrynotsorry

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On Why I’m Not Doing NaNo This Year

Long time no post!  Like, really long time.  Oops?  As it turns out, I find talking about my writing not very interesting, so this blog died a little bit.  But fear not (unless you’re afraid of zombies), for it is back, and definitely doesn’t just want brains.  Mostly.

But I’m back to talk about why I won’t be participating in NaNo this year, even though I will be cheering people on from the sidelines.

First, let me say that all my reasons and reasoning is personal; none of it is meant to apply to anyone else.  When I talk about what does or doesn’t work for me, I mean it just for me; other things could work well for you that just don’t fall flat for me, and that’s great!  Writing advice and opinions are laughably far from universal.

Now, down to business (of defeating the Huns (who never even invaded China, but I (parenthetically) digress)).

I have done NaNo for 10 years.  The last 8 of those were wins, seven of them as an ML, all of them with significantly over 50k words.  5 times (I think) I wrote 50k in a single day, the first time to win a bet (she didn’t know that’s what I was going to do – oops?).  I’ve come up with novel ideas that have stuck with me, that stick with me even now, and others that I mostly forget about, unless I need a good thing to laugh at.

I’ve also made many friends, several of which I’m even friends with not around the month of November!  The jump from NaNo friends to “real” friends ain’t small, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have it happen, several times over.

I have, in short, done pretty well with this “NaNo” thing.

But I’ve also felt my focus changing when I write not during NaNo, which I am trying to get better at.  Too often, I find myself looking down at that wordcount.  That’s how I measure my progress, how far I am to that goal of “finished novel”.  And then – especially during the month of November – my focus switches entirely to numbers.

Not that there aren’t words!  There are, but the only thing that matters about them is how many of them there are.

This isn’t a question of quality, really.  I had already mostly stopped sprinting these past few years, and that’s when the quality with which I write slips.  When I sit down and focus, if it’s 200 words in an hour or 2000 (or more), it’s about the same quality.  The difference is topic.

As in, what story I’m writing.

Some stories, I can breeze through.  They’re silly and fun and don’t mean anything.  And I enjoy writing those!  I can churn out 10,o00 words in a day on them and still come back the next day.  Which is really, really good when my focus becomes numbers.

But see, I don’t want to write that kind of story, at least right now.  Earlier this year, I slipped back into writing some.  It was a whirlwind two month affair of 30k words or so that told me that I was starting the story at the wrong time, and exactly when to start it.  I’ve been doing some prep (a lot of which is letting the story sit, turning it over in my mind, this way and that), getting ready to start Yet Another Draft of it soon (possibly this week).

This story, though, is not one I can rush (I’ve tried).  I can’t tell it at pace, or at least not at the kind of pace I would want to.  Some days, sure, I can knock out 2k on it (above NaNo par), but others the words don’t come so quickly.  And I have learned, though several fucked up first drafts, that pushing through is only going to ruin it, which I’m kind of tired of doing?  I’ve not started calling it Albatross for no reason.

Patience.  Plodding patience, my favorite.

There’s also the fact that my life is filling up with…life?  Writing is important (I don’t feel whole without stories), but I have other interests I’m trying to focus on, too.  Programming (I have a fun personal project I’ll share in a future entry), woodworking (ditto), hiking/camping and just so much else.  NaNo kind of takes over, and this year, I’m not so willing to share space.

I’ll have a few goals this next month I’ll be working towards.  Daily writing is one of them, and I hope to make decent progress on my book…and on other things.  Sort of a combo goal, if you will, but decidedly different than the all-consuming way I’ve done NaNo in the past (those of you who suggest a relaxed approach to NaNo, or rebelling, don’t know me – I don’t middle ground well, and know myself well enough to know how it would end up).

Hell, the closest to real participation likely from me is translating lines of code into a NaNo like challenge, as that I can move on, but even then, I don’t want it to be my whole focus, ya dig?

I will, however, still be cheering everyone else on!  And prodding those who wish back to writing, while trying not to distract those who want to get shit done.

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Novel Notes Organization

So, I’m currently doing some world-building and general planning for a draft of a novel that I’m going to be starting in March.  Unlike my normal “get a two sentence idea and then write 100k of bullshit on it” approach, I’m trying to approach this one a bit more intentionally (the fact that it’s not my first first draft of this story helps).

What that means is that I have approximately a metric shit ton (~1.1 imperial short shit tons) of information.  While that’s all useful, a folder (in cyberspace or meatspace) of notes with little organization to them is only marginally more useful than not knowing anything and definitely more annoying.

I am exploring using a custom MediaWiki install (like Wikipedia only, you know, mine) for this, and initial signs are positive.  What I really like is the ability to easily categorize things (using multiple user-defined categories) and the ease of cross-linking.  So, when writing up the page for my main character, I can link everything that I know I need to write about and it helps my flesh out content.

On the other hand, I’ve not yet thought of a good way to use it to organize plot notes, or to be able to have some sort of timeline of events.  I could possibly use a category for that (“Draft One Chapters” or some such), and will try, but I’m not yet sure.

Anyhow, my question for all you others out there in ReaderSpace:  how do you organize novel notes?  Not just what you use (Scrivener, google docs, a notebook), but how you go about organizing the information in them for easy retrieval, too.

Note that my current story is a nice starter-story for this idea, because it’s an Urban Fantasy story with only a bit of world building required (though still with full character and plot development requirements).  I am interested in a solution for organizing information for entire complex societies and world, too (because I have a distinct interest in writing Epic Fantasy and SciFi as well), so part of what I care about is how well a solution scales.

So yes!  What do you out there in ReaderSpace do?

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My History with 50kDayOne

A little less than five years ago, I found myself starting NaNoWriMo as an ML for a newly created region.  I was excited, and determined that this would be the year that I would finally win, but my first two years had been rough.

Before long, I found myself involved in a race to 50k with a rather fantastic writer/ML, Annalia.  That year, we basically tied – both hitting 50k within minutes of one another, with no way to tell who was first.  We decided to renew our friendly competition the next year, racing to 50k again.

And that’s when I first decided to write 50k on the first day.

You see, I was a faster typist than her, but she had a dogged persistence that I just couldn’t match (and still greatly admire).  The only way that I could ensure victory was to do it before she would be physically able to.  And so I spent the first 24 hours of NaNoWriMo 2010 slaving over my computer, growing tired and delirious, and finishing my 50k with mere minutes to spare.

The next two years went much the same, except that my hands were freezing and I was doing it in Dvorak.  Oh, and importantly, other people were doing it with me!  I told no one (except my girlfriend at the time) about my plans the first year, but my second year I wanted company and got it, and have been recruiting it since.

Then last year something clicked.  Not only did I hit 50k in the first day, I did it fast (in ~17 hours), and then wrote more (ending at 55,555 words, and it could have been more if I hadn’t decided that I needed a celebratory drink or three).

Which brings me to this year, which would be year five of my race to hit 50k on the first day.  Only this year, there is a bit of added fun to it.  I somehow have talked myself into a challenge with an amazing group of writers (Cai, Kateness, and Chom), and we’ll all be racing to 50k.

Fastest one there wins (to allow for time zone differences), and to the winner goes all the bragging rights and gloating.  (We’re seriously only doing this for fun, and to help motivate ourselves to write even more words than usual).

I know it hasn’t really started yet, but I think this promises to be a hell of an awesome year, and I personally can’t wait to get started on it.

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Plans

This year, I’m undertaking one of my most hallowed NaNo traditions early:  I’m changing the story that I’m working on.

Every year since 2010 (including 2010), I have come up with a story idea during November and then switched to it, because I didn’t like whatever it was that I was working on.  Sometimes I finished my old story (though the slog through to the end of the book always slowed me down) and sometimes I just say “fuck it” and move along.

I’ve barely started preparing for this year, but my strategy was to use NaNo to do a rewrite of the story that I wrote last year/finished earlier this year.  Ideally, I would have had a chance to step back and set the story up well, to do at least some planning and world building and all that jazz so that my first draft was less…shit.

I mean, it would still be shit, but more workable shit, or at least that is what I told myself.

The problem there is that I bought a house, and am still in the middle of moving, and I have (and have had) basically zero time to work on writing things (a problem for me all year, sadly).  Which means I haven’t had time to do any prep work and there is no reason to assume that my second first draft of my novel would be any less shit-tastic than the first first draft.

So I think I’m changing my NaNo purpose.  Instead of writing something that I care about, or that I feel at all serious about, I think I’m just going to write something fun and weird.  To play, not to strive for good (or even “potential to be good after a lot of work”).  Like that time that I wrote self-fanfic with all my characters trapped on a dying space station filled with killer sand.

No, really, I wrote that, and called it “The Ultimate Showdown of Mediocre Destiny”.

I have a couple of nebulous ideas of things that I could work on, though only one that is really concrete enough for me to start with (a story about a guy who accidentally becomes a superhero).  I’m not that worried about coming up with new ones, though; ideas are not the hard part about writing to me (I have more than I know what to do with).

So I think I’m going to take this NaNo just to play.  I’ve barely written this year, so I don’t trust myself as well to write seriously anyhow.  Plus, I just want to have fun with it, not to be Mr. Serious D. Writer.

So, in short, we’ll see what I actually decide to write on this year!

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NaNo Rewards – The New Idea

Every year for NaNo, as part of my strategy to keep myself motivated throughout the month, I figure up a couple of rewards for myself at a few milestones.  I’ve played with the idea some, going from months for percentage of monthly goal to doing it on a week-by-week basis, so that one bad week doesn’t put everything out reach.

And on a scale of 1-10, I would put its effectiveness at about ½τ.  All in all, it does a bit for me, but it’s really not that effective.  Part of the problem is that I rarely even buy the rewards for myself, and it’s generally a big chunk of words needed for me to earn one.  But too many rewards is far too expensive, and I just didn’t think there was anything cheap enough that I wanted enough of in order for it to work.

Also, it should be noted, that I can be an idiot, because the Answer (or at least the Next Idea That Might Work) was staring me in the face the entire time.  I spend NaNo writing a book…and never think to use books as rewards?!

So that’s what I’m going to try this year, at a smaller level, because I’m not sure that I can have too many books.  Also because I’ll be trying to get a lot of them used, and a book is one of the few $3 items that can be motivating and that I could buy dozens of.  I’m thinking ~10k words for a book, which means it’s something I can achieve a lot more rapidly than my usual “if you write 70k this week, you get a mug!”.

As part of this, I’m going to need to create a list of books and order them by how much I want them and such.  I’ve probably got a dozen-ish low-hanging fruit that I can grab without much effort, but I will probably need more, and book recommendations aren’t exactly an awful thing to have anyhow.

So this is where you come in!  I’m looking for recommendations in Fantasy, Horror, and SciFi, roughly in that order.  The books can be old or new (but if it’s by one of the Big Old Authors (Tolkien, Heinlein, Asimov, King, as for instances) I’ve probably read it), long or short, whatever!  I have no real preferences or subgenres, as long as the books don’t suck (I can find bad novels myself pretty easily).

So!  What do you recommend for me?

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NaNoWrimo the Next: 2014 Edition

This year will mark my eighth foray into the wild world of NaNoWriMo, and it will be my sixth year as an ML.  The latter is more incredible to me, as it really does not seem like it has been that long.

This year is also a particularly good year for it, as far as the calendar is concerned.  There are five full weekends in NaNo this year.  That means one third of NaNo is weekends, and to me, that is insanely awesome.

Which really wants me to go big or go home this year.  Well, considering where and how I do my writing, that really means going big at home.  As I’ve been a real slack-ass as far as writing is concerned this year, I also want to make up for it.  You know, not have my total word count for the year still hovering sadly around 20k words.  (I know, I know)

I’ve got two novel ideas that I could work on, which helps quite a bit.  I have done NaNo before where I made up my second (okay, let’s be honest: and first) novel idea during NaNo, and I just don’t think it works out as well.

There is also the fact, though, that giving NaNo my all like this, putting everything else aside (including, at least sometimes, sleep) is getting harder and harder.  I don’t want to pull the “getting old” card, because I’m not getting old, but I think that kind of manic focus and ultimate determination, including the sacrifice of sleep, is something I could do a lot better when I was in my early twenties.

Every year, sleep and other things becomes more important.

So there is a chance, and not a small one, that this NaNo will be my last big hurrah.  Not that I won’t keep doing it; plans right now are definitely to do so.  But this very well could be the last year that I shoot for six digits, or for so much on Day One.  Hopefully part of the reason is that I become a more dedicated writer year-round, so that I have a lot more going on in general and with writing in specific.

And this is my last big hurrah, I want it to be a damn good one.

So!  Who else is excited about NaNo and already starting preparations?  And what are you thinking for your NaNo this year?

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