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Category Archives: Personal

Buried Treasure – Dungeons & Dragons Endless Quest Books

We’re in the process of changing rooms around in our house.  One of the joys (and pains) of this process is going through every… single… nook… and… cranny.

Now, in doing that, one is bound to find some long-lost items.  These (practically) literally-buried treasures are unearthed after years of being forgotten.  Once you find them, though, the rush of memories is so awesome.

Take, for instance, these beauties, which I uncovered in the back of a bookcase.

D&D Endless Quest Books

D&D Endless Quest Books

These are my incomplete collection of the Endless Quest series, the Dungeons & Dragons version of Choose Your Own Adventure books.  I was a fan of the latter, and when I saw the first book in Toys ‘R’ Us, I snagged it immediately.  I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons for over a year at the time.

I loved Dungeon of Dread, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series.  I missed a few, but I’m happy with the ones I have.  I’m especially happy to have them still.

One thing that confuses me is that I have two copies of Dungeon of Dread.  I have no recollection of buying two, or of receiving a second as a gift.  The first memory I have of it is when my parents gave me a whole box of books from my old room in their house, after I had graduated college.  It was a mystery back then, too.

Have you read any of the Endless Quest books?  Do you still have them?  And, most importantly, would you be willing to, ahem, donate any to round out my collection? 😀

 
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Posted by on Monday, 22 July 2013 in Gaming, Personal

 

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Of My Memorable Foes – Sir Callas

I’ve been slacking on these questions from Reverb Gamers, but here is my answer when they ask:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #16: Who was the most memorable foe you’ve ever come up against in a game? How did you beat him/her/it? Or did you?

As in a previous answer, I have way too many to list, so I will share the story of one that comes to mind immediately.

Back in the closing days of AD&D 2nd Edition, my friend Andy ran a campaign for our friend Fred and me in the Dragonlance setting.  In DL, one of the best-known organizations is the Knights of Solamnia, a large organization of warriors dedicated to the noble ideals of honor, justice, protecting the innocent and weak, fighting evil.  You know, just like every other group of noble knights in just about every other setting.

A Knight Of Solamnia

Anyway, Fred’s character was an aspiring member of this group.  He was sort of in on-the-job training, if you will.  I can’t remember the whole story, but he was in charge of either delivering or retrieving some important relic or whatever – let’s call it a MacGuffin.  So, my character, an aspiring Wizard of High Sorcery, was sent with him, not only to represent the Tower’s interests, but also so that he may learn more of the world beyond the walls, and hone his skills in the Art.  (Hmm, that’s two aspiring characters.  Dragonlance seems to be set up to test the newbies, doesn’t it?)  We were joined by two others, a cleric of Mishakal, and another Knight, Sir Callas.

Sir Callas turned out to be interesting.  He was good with his sword, quick of wit, and took on a something of a mentor role to Fred’s knight PC.  We continued on our quest as we battled foes, sought the MacGuffin, and built a camaraderie.

Well, finally, we drew near to the object of our quest.  In one truly magnificent and mettle-testing battle, we defeated our foe.  The MacGuffin in hand, we basked in our triumph as we caught our breath.  Sir Callas retrieved the MacGuffin, smiled, and said, “Thank you for your dedication in this service.  My Queen Takhisis will be pleased.”

Betrayed!  A member of the Knights’ sworn enemies, the Knights of Takhisis, was among us from the start!  And we, the fools, helped him all along!  Sir Callas fled and escaped our pursuit.  Exhausted, we made camp for the night.

In the light of the campfire, the fledgling wizard said, “Don’t worry, friend Knight, I am sure we will meet Sir Callas again, bring him to justice, and regain your honor.”  The Knight spat on the ground at the mention of the name, then grumbled, “‘Sir!’  Callas does not deserve the honor of the title ‘Sir.‘”

“Well, then,” the wizard replied, “We shall no longer call him that!  From this moment forth, he shall be known as Penis-head Callas!

At that moment, all three of us broke out in belly-laughter that lasted for a good two minutes.  It’s the kind of laughter that friends share, especially gamer friends.  The spontaneity of my new title for Callas was all the more reason for his sticking out in my memory.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 3 February 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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Collaborative Or Competitive Games: My Preference

Another fine question from Reverb Gamers:

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that says about you?

Monopoly Board - From Hasbro

For me, I reckon it depends on the game itself.  Have you ever tried to play Monopoly collaboratively?  It turns out that it doesn’t really work too well.  The same goes with Risk.  Now, I’m not too keen on either of those games, although not because of their competitive nature.  But, that demonstrates my point: some games are inherently competitive, and cannot be played cooperatively without modifying them in some way.  In cases like that, I have no problem with them, and will play them and enjoy them if I enjoy the rules of the game.

Dungeons & Dragons - From TSR/WotC

But, this blog isn’t about board games, is it?  It’s about role-playing games.  When it comes to my RPGs, I heavily favor a collaborative playing style.  Dungeons and Dragons, in every edition, encourages teamwork.  Without a doubt, it can be played competitively, and I have done so in the past.  But, I’ve usually left the table feeling unfulfilled.  Sure, I’ve had fun playing that way, but I’ve enjoyed it more often and to a greater magnitude when playing with the other players, or, as a GM, when the players work together.

What does that say about me?  Perhaps that I like working with people more than against them?  Maybe that I’m just a friendly guy?  Or maybe, just maybe, I get tired of making my friends cry when I beat them.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 14 January 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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Why I Game

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else? (Courtesy of Atlas Games. Visit us at www.atlas-games.com)

This question, posed on Reverb Gamers’ Facebook page, has a complex answer, as far as my impetus for gaming – complex enough that to answer it fully would require more than a blog.  Nonetheless, here is the abridged answer.

Adrenaline rush?  Sure, I get them often when I game.  Social aspect?  Absolutely; it’s no coincidence that my players are also my closest friends.  But it’s very much the something else mentioned in the question.

I game to exercise my imagination, to delve into worlds unknown, to live as another person.  Imagination and creativity are a very important aspect in my love of gaming.  I am not a very artistic person, and gaming affords me that creative outlet.  I love creating new worlds, populating them with the people with whom the player characters will interact, learning about these people’s personalities, motives, dreams and desires, uncovering the schemes plotted by them, and so on.  Then, I love seeing my players’ reactions to this world, as well as the peoples’ reactions to the player characters.

I game to exercise my mind.  There is a lot of math involved in most role-playing games.  Picking apart the rules, seeing how they interact, and using them in ways to create the unexpected.  Also beautiful to me is hacking the rules – changing them where I see problems, sanding off the rough edges, or cutting off the warts.  That is fun!

I game to get together with my friends.  We catch up on the happenings in each other’s lives.  We discuss current events.  We share our personal triumphs and tragedies.  And, of course, we game, working together to write the story of our characters and the worlds they inhabit.

Why do I game?  Because of who I am: a gamer.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 4 January 2012 in Gaming, Personal

 

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Speak Out With Your Geek Out – My Other Geek Obsessions

Wow, I made it to Day 5 of Speak Out With Your Geek Out!  How’s that for seeing things through!

So, all this week I’ve concentrated on my RPG Geek.  That’s to be expected from a blog named Elf Steaks, I suppose.  But, as is typically the case with Geeks and non-Geeks alike, I have more than one passion.  “What else do you Geek out about, BeefGriller?”  Well, I’m glad you asked!  Here, in no particular order, are the subjects I most Geek over.

  • Role-playing games  Yes, I’ll list this first.  That’s out of the way, now.  So, I’ll continue…
  • Charcoal grilling There is a reason I took the name BeefGriller.  I bought my first charcoal grill seven years ago.  I obsessed over finding the perfect way to light the charcoal, grill my steaks/chicken/pork/etc., learn about indirect grilling, and just about anything else you can think of.  (I love making grilled tomato pasta sauce.  Yes – pasta sauce.)  I think this passion is a hallmark of Geek, and I have it with charcoal grilling.
  • Cooking  Separate from grilling, by cooking I mean indoor food preparation.  To this extent, the Geek cook demands I use fresh ingredients, make recipes from scratch, and tinker with ingredients until the end result is exactly what I want.  That is Geek to me.  Oh, and I exclude cakes, cookies and candies from this category.  I can’t seem to do them properly, and, truth be told, my wife is the Baking Geek of the household.  (Sorry for outing you, Love.)
  • Computers, open-source software, and making it all work perfectly This is another huge part of my Geek.  I was a founding member of my local Linux user group, way back before Linux was on the radar of any IT group.  I’m a huge supporter of OpenBSD, and use it wherever I can.  Just last year, I bought my first Mac and haven’t looked back.  I’m also lucky enough to have turned this Geek passion into my full-time job.  While it’s not always a bed of roses, I am living the Geek dream in that regard.
  • Sudoku, Kakuro, and other logic games I can sit for hours and solve puzzle after puzzle.  I love logic, and, by extension, logic games.  I love how, given a few clues, I get to the final solution using only my brain.  Not only that, it keeps my mind sharp and helps me relax.  Plus, there are few things more fulfilling than solving a puzzle correctly.

So, that wraps up my Geek list.  What about you?  What are your Geek passions?  If you share any of mine, let’s swap stories and/or tips.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 16 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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Speak Out With Your Geek Out – My Manifesto

For Day 4 of Speak Out With Your Geek Out, I will make a few promises to myself:

  1. I will not suffer Geek Shame.  For most of my life, when people asked me about my hobbies, I usually answered with reading, grilling, computer games, computer hacking, etc., but I always shied away from the role-playing games.  No more.  I will make that one of the first things I mention, if not the first.  I’m through with Geek Shame.
  2. I will engage others in conversation about my Geek passions.  This flows from the last promise.  When people ask, “What do you mean by ‘role-playing games,'” I will explain it, to the best of my ability.  However, I must make sure that I don’t drone on, bore the questioner, and possibly drive them off.  As a geek, I do tend to get overexcited about my passions.
  3. I will try to bring people into my Geek hobbies and/or passions.  This, too, flows from the last promise.  Excitement is contagious, and if the person with whom I am conversing seems interested, I will invite them to my next game, perhaps, or loan them a rulebook.  Gaming is a social activity, after all, which is improved with more participants (to a point, of course).
  4. I will cultivate the Geek traits and interests in my daughters.  Flows from the last, again.  (Hmm, a pattern emerges?)  Being a father is a pillar of my self-definition.  I see the nascent traits in all three of my girls.  I will do my best to encourage their Geek to grow.  At the same time, I will do my best to instill in them the self-confidence that I lacked.  I must, must, must be certain not to force them into anything.  I know well enough what that is like.
  5. I will work harder to make time for my Geek passions.  (And the pattern falls!)  Real life rears its ugly head oh-too-often.  I have obligations to family, friends, work, home-upkeep, etc..  I am not complaining, but this does take up nearly all of my time.  I will work harder to live up to these obligations in a more timely manner, so as to open up the time for my Geek.

Looking over my list, it seems I want to focus on being myself at all times, teach others about my Geek hobbies, as well as bring others into the hobbies.  Perhaps I’m not being too ambitious, but I’m happy with it.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 15 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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Speak Out With Your Geek Out – Hands Off My Dice!

BeefGriller's Dice Collection

For my third installment in Speak Out With Your Geek Out, I’ll focus on the pride of every pen-and-paper RPG gaming geek: dice!  In a previous post, I showed off my dice collection.   Now, I’d like to share some of my rules, habits and obsessions I have with my dice.

  1. Hands off my dice!  I don’t think I’m alone in this rule.  I simply don’t like other people touching my dice.  Now, if you ask, I’ll likely give you permission – that’s only good manners.  Also, if you do touch my dice without my permission, you’re certain to be blamed when the bad rolls start coming up – so don’t rub your bad luck on my dice!
  2. At the start of the gaming session, I dump all my dice out of the bag.  This is a necessity, of course.  As you can tell by the picture above, I have many, many dice – how else could I possibly…
  3. Select three complete sets to use during the game.  Mostly because I am likely to need to roll more than one of any given type of die (d6, d8, etc.), this is only practical.
  4. Before use, roll all dice until the highest number shows.  Like athletes, dice need to warm up before the game.
  5. Organize the dice by sides first, from d4 to d20, then colors, in neat rows and columns, with the highest number showing.  OK, so the d4s are put together in a semi-circle because they fit that way.  With the highest number showing, they’re more likely to roll that way, right?  My theory is that gravity causes the bottom to become more dense, effectively weighting the die in my favor.
  6. If a d20 has a run of low rolls, I have a pep talk with it.  If it continues, I give it a “time out.”  Let’s face it, all dice want to roll the best numbers.  If the d20 causes too many failures, you have to let it know that you expect better from it.  If it keeps under-performing, it obviously needs a rest.

I’ve come to realize, oddly enough, that I only do these things as a player.  As a GM, I don’t observe these rules, other than numbers 1 and 2.

How about you?  Do you have any superstitions habits for your dice?  I’d love to hear them.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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RPG Collection (Partial)

image

Submitted for your perusal, I give you my entry for Day 2 of Speak Out With Your Geek Out.

A big part of what defines my Geek is my love of RPGs.  You might expect this from a blog called Elf Steaks & Halfling Bacon.  But, to me at least, Geek is more than just collection – it is obsession.  It is not enough to have the most common books, you must have all.  It is not enough to have what you need, you must have what you might need.  No, scratch that – if you see an RPG book that you know you will never, ever play, but you like the artwork, or you heard a friend talk about it once, or maybe you like the designer or the dice mechanics, then you must have it.  And, come hell or high water, you must never, under any circumstances, rid yourself of any book, ever!!!

The picture you see is not my entire collection.  What you see is only the top half of those two bookcases.  And not all of my RPGs are in these two bookcases, either.  (N.B. I admit, there are some non-RPG books here.  Sue me.)  Now, I know that my collection is not the largest by any means.  But I do know that my non-geek friends don’t understand my need to buy, read and keep all of these books.  Other than obsession, I can’t really explain it.

So, to me, part of Geek is the need to collect, and never lose.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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I Am A Geek

Speak Out With Your Geek Out

I am a Geek.  I have been for as long as I was aware of what it means to be a Geek.

I do not advertise my Geek at work, or church, or in my neighborhood.  But, I do not deny it – not any more.  It took many, many years for me to feel confident enough to get to this point.

I imagine most of my old girlfriends would be surprised to learn that I played Dungeons & Dragons while we were dating.  I imagine that most of my high school and college friends would be just as surprised.  That was due to my Geek Shame.  I learned early on in life to hide the Geek within me.

But everything I am today I owe to my Geek.  My love of math, science and logic helped me earn my degree and get the jobs I have had since college.  My love of reading, science fiction, and fantasy has opened my mind to what could be, and provided countless hours of entertainment to myself and my family.  In my daughters, I see and encourage the growth of their imagination, and delight at their creations.  I also do my best as a father to instill in them the self-confidence I never had as a child.

My name is Mark Perotti.  I play Dungeons & Dragons, and other RPGs.  I love science fiction and fantasy.

And, I am a Geek.

This is my first post in participation of Speak Out With Your Geek Out.  Tune in tomorrow for more.

 
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Posted by on Monday, 12 September 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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The Color of Music

My apologies to those sight- or hearing-impaired readers – I mean no disrespect to you in this article.  My intention here is to describe, to the best of my ability, the way I see and hear the world around me.

Do you know what you’re missing?  I wager you have no idea, but guess what: you are missing a sense.  You are blind, and you are deaf, and you don’t even know it.

“What the heck are you talking about, BeefGriller?  I can see and hear just fine!”  That’s what you’re saying to yourself, isn’t it?  Well, that may be true, but you’re missing out on another dimension to the world around you.  I can’t describe it perfectly to you, no more than you could describe the view of a sunset to one who has been blind since birth.  But allow me to try.

I have synesthesia – a condition where the stimulation of one sense elicits a response in another.  Now, I’ve never been evaluated and diagnosed with it.  However, I spent 40 years of my life living with it, and only recently have found a name to give it.  I have been told by the few people to whom I’ve tried explaining it that I’m either lying or imagining it, but for me it’s just there.

Now, in particular, I have what is known as sound-to-color synesthesia.  In short, I see music.  I know, you’re probably furrowing your brow, trying to make sense of that phrase, seeing music, and at best you’re coming up with maybe a sine-wave on an oscilloscope.  But you truly are coming up short if that’s the case.

My synesthesia allows me to see music in the form of colors, lights, shapes, patterns, even objects and, in some cases, people.  A song’s picture is unique – one song always looks the same to me.  If covered by a different band, or even done slightly differently by the same band, it looks similar, but maybe the colors are a slightly different hue, or the lights a little brighter in the corners, or perhaps it’s purple where it once was green.  I haven’t noticed any connection between volume, pitch, tone, instrument, note or key and the color, light, pattern, shape or size of what I see.  I can say that when I listen to a song enough, it becomes familiar enough to me that I can see differences from, say, one recording to the next.  Also, the more I listen to a song, the more detail it reveals to me.  My favorite songs become like friends, recognizable at a glance, and as comforting.

It’s interesting to see how music has changed since I was a child – no, wait, that’s not quite right… how similar songs are to each other.  The phenomenon of sampling makes so many modern songs look oddly similar.  Maybe it’s the background, the canvas of several paintings are cut from the same cloth.  Perhaps the color of the shapes in front are dancing in the same pattern.  Or, maybe, the peaks and valleys of the hills can be superimposed over one another in a perfect fit, if only one of them is squeezed in or stretched higher.

Another thing I have noticed is that a composer or conductor of a song can be seen in his or her works.  The color of Beethoven’s symphonies, for example, tend to be primarily purple and brown, especially in the slower songs; Mozart’s, on the other hand, have more of an orange hue.  These are generalities, mind you, as some of Mozart’s symphonies have the most green and blue skylines at times.  But when one person writes several songs, it’s as if his or her signature is on it.

When I say that a song is particularly beautiful, I mean that literally – the shapes, colors, patterns and lights of the song fit together beautifully, creating an impressive view.  Likewise, a song that I hate will be an ugly miasma of ill-tempered stains, rough edges and shapes that just don’t fit.

Another thing that I have always liked are remixes of songs.  When a DJ, producer or songwriter records a new mix, it is a surprise to me as the shapes that were once there are now moving off to the left, a different color, or forming a new pattern.  If it is done well, I am pleasantly surprised.  On the other hand, if changes are made for the sake of changing them, but without a good, solid, musical reason, then they stick out like loud tie.

Finally, when two songs are mixed together, or mashed-up as it is called lately, they better fit together, otherwise I can see the square pegs not lining up in the round holes.  I usually can tell if two songs can be mashed-up successfully, because their patterns will fit, or the colors won’t clash, or, well, you probably get the idea.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “OK, BeefGriller, so you’re a synesthete.  Great.  Um, what does this have to do with gaming?”  Well, I’m glad you brought that up.  I can’t help but use it in my games, and it makes for some interesting themes.  But, that will be in a future post.

Does any of this make sense to you?  Do you have any questions about synesthesia?  Do you know anyone who has an extra sense like me?  Perhaps you, yourself, are a synesthete.  Please let me know in the comments below.

Author’s note: I do not own the rights to the images in this or any other article on this site (other than the picture in Show Me Your Dice.  I did, however, try to find pictures that were in the public domain for this article.  If there is any question, the rights to these images are owned by their respective owners.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 in Gaming, Personal

 

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