We Need More Spencer Mansions (The Jimquisition)

Resident Evil HD REMASTER is a remastered version of the remake of the original Resident Evil game released in 1996. I didn’t know exactly what it was about Resident Evil, but it stuck in my brain as one-of-those-games since the first time I played it. Years later, playing the REmake on the GameCube in 2002 I realized that it was the mansion atmosphere that made this game special for me.

The Spencer Mansion is almost a main character in its own right, adding an eerie unsettling stillness as you explore. Throughout the game you become intimately familiar with its hallways, puzzles, tenants (alive or dead), sounds/music (or lack thereof), and back story. But it doesn’t stay static, even after backtracking the mansion’s passageways, doors will break if you use them too much, zombies will come back to life, new enemies will burst out of doors you thought to be safe. The design of this game is so well done that it will forever be the definition of Survival Horror for me.

Custom Dungeon World Move: Identify

I’ve been playing a little bit of Dungeon World with friends lately. One thing the game doesn’t have is any kind of an Identify spell. I enjoy the mystery of magic items or spells that players can uncover themselves. I tweeted at the creators and they replied. That last option honestly sounds awesome and very “Dungeon Worldy” to me, but I thought I’d try introducing a custom move in a future game to see how it goes.

This is an advanced move, accessible starting at level 2, available under the Bard and Wizard classes. The downside to picking this advanced move upon leveling up is that the player could just try to figure out the magical item on their own and take a more unique or useful move instead.


When you have some quiet time you can study an item you know to be magical to reveal some of what it does; roll +Int and ask a number of questions to the GM who will answer truthfully.
On a 10+, choose two from the list
On 7-9, choose one from the list

  • You discover the item’s command word. Tell the GM how this happened and he will tell you what the command word is.  If there is no command word, the GM says so as their answer.
  • As you study the item it imparts to you a hint of its use. The GM will give you a one or two word hint/description relating to it’s use.
  • You remember some historical fact relating to the item you’re inspecting. The GM will ask you two questions about the item’s origin.
  • You think that you have figured out a way to reveal the item’s secrets, but it is going to cost you. The GM will tell you the cost and you can decide if you think it is worth it.

To pair with this new player move, in an effort to make things interesting, I will also offer this GM move for use on a 6-, Activate the magical item. Perhaps this isn’t always relevant, the magical properties could be passive, but if the weapon needs to be activated in some way, have some fun and activate it. Afterall, they wanted to find out what it does right?

In this example, the dagger’s magical power is it renders the wielder invisible only if they stab themselves with it.

Cory: Okay, since we’re making camp anyway I want to identify this dagger I found.

GM: Alright sure, roll+Int!

Cory: Okay.  Oh man a 4?  Argh, guess I’ll try some other time.

GM: Not so fast…You’re looking over this dagger, trying to extract some magical energy to clue you in on what it can do. After about 20 minutes you get careless, and it slips accidentally stabbing yourself for d4 damage! However, upon stabbing your leg you turn invisible.

Cory: Whoa, cool!  And I only take d4 – 2 damage because of my armor. This will come in handy…

Observations of a D&D noob

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is play through a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. There used to be this stigma with people that play D&D, how useless the hobby was, calling it playing make believe way past the acceptable age, passing comments in Sunday School or Christian media when I was young about the spiritual dangers of Dungeons and Dragons(ah yes, the famous black leaf), or see it get poked fun of on TV.

Brief spiel on what Dungeons and Dragons is if you don’t know: Dungeons and Dragons(D&D) is a role-playing system where players create and control a character to interact within the game world usually run by another player known as the Dungeon Master (DM). There are rules that you follow which governs how players can progress, attack, or generally interact with the world itself. There have been many different systems, editions, variations, and rule sets created since the original conception in 1974 by Gary Gygax, but at its heart the goal has stayed the same: keep the system free enough so the players can to do whatever the hell they want to but still have some limitations to keep it fun. You can play an evil wizard seeking revenge, but you can’t play as an invincible dragon archer that shoots swords out of its eyes (well at least not when you’re only level 1! I mean, unless that’s the kind of game you’re playing.).

Fast forward to when I started watching Rollplay. Rollplay was created by twitch/youtube content creator itmejp and the rest of the cast are mostly personalities from the professional USA Starcraft 2 scene. I don’t think any of them had played tabletop D&D proper before, except for their DM who has played for years, so it was really fun and interesting learning how the game works alongside the cast. I also got the opportunity to moderate itmejp’s twitch channel which is cool but also a big chore; sometimes I just want to watch the show and not ban a douchebag in chat every 7 minutes. So, what started in February 2013 has continued over a year to today with Rollplay consisting of four different campaigns/shows, hundreds of exciting plot twists, and thousands of people tuning in each week to see what happens with their favorite characters. If you think Game of Thrones is exciting and keeps you on your toes, try watching Rollplay D&D/Solum. When you have a good DM (a mix of fairness, creativity, and a bit of a desire to kill you) the world and story never seems dull. When you have interesting characters interacting with each other adds more to the story and plot. It can feel like a well written book at times if the harmony is there, except for one thing: the main characters aren’t safe. The Dungeon Master doesn’t want to kill you (at least not outright), but there needs to be drama, otherwise it’s no fun. If there isn’t any danger, well a world without danger is boring. If a player character dies, and the party is out of resurrection scrolls, that’s it. That character is done, and sometimes you don’t get to find out anything more about them. If all the player characters die, the game’s over. And it is this aspect that makes D&D exciting for me. The characters are supposed to save the town by killing the evil dragon on the mountain. If this was The Hobbit, we’re fairly safe in assuming that is what will eventually somehow happen, but in D&D all the dwarves could die, Bilbo gets turned into a toad, and no one ever hears from him again.  “But what happens to The Ring that Bilbo found!?” We don’t find out, not until The Slightly Different Fellowship Of The Ring D&D campaign begins and then the dangers start all over again.

So, after watching 150+ hours of the Rollplay gang do their thing, I decided it was time to take the plunge myself and tried finding a group to play with online. Would the other people in my party be super awkward and weird? Would they all get frustrated with me learning how to play? Would we get along? Would I even enjoy playing? This was all new territory for me, so I was unsure about a lot of things. Luckily everything went super smooth, I found someone asking around r/itmejp, a community mostly for Rollplay fans/content, if anyone was interested in jumping into a campaign for first time players. Cool! Everyone else in the group was brand new or relatively new to D&D and it was the DM’s first time running a campaign. It was very helpful, and a bit of a relief, to know I wasn’t going to be the only noob asking questions. We play online using the webapp roll20.net which allows us to roll virtual die (with a really good random number generator for dice rolls) and facilitates the DM to create maps, environments, and keep track of player data. A few play sessions into our campaign we started streaming our own sessions via twitch.tv and have even started gathering our own small audience! If you haven’t popped over to the An Adventure For Beginners Page, that is what it’s all about. It’s been a journey in itself playing with my group and we have just passed our 30th play session.

Some thoughts:

  • People who play D&D aren’t weird
    • Well not all of us, but you get that with any activity. They’re just people who enjoy playing the game. I’ve met sport jocks, English majors, theology students, and musicians that all love to play. People from all walks of life enjoy coming together and participating in a common activity, what a concept eh?
  • Playing the game isn’t always super exciting
    • I usually am always having fun but you aren’t always in a battle against hordes of orcs saving the local King every minute. Like in real life, you have to take time to run errands, restock supplies, plan what you’re going to do next, plan again after the road you wanted to take is closed, and even take a rest day or two if your character gets sick. A lot of it can be simplified thanks to the rules/system and a quality DM. A few times an entire session simply revolved around our party staying in a town talking to locals and shopping for items. Learn to embrace it as an opportunity to take the game world for what it is.
  • Our group is awesome
    • I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better group to find. Not only was mostly everyone else in the same newbie boat as I was, but we all get along really well. Most of us are fans of Rollplay and get to discuss the weekly happenings on the show. All of us have very similar humor and love to joke around in game and out. We even started to play other games together. The players, characters, and DM all bring something different to the table and it really makes the game stand out.  Dare I say…I’ve made new friends through a random online D&D party?
  • Streaming our game online adds an interesting dynamic
    • This isn’t something you’ll find in your typical D&D group, but we have had lots of fun doing it. It’s a little frustrating when twitch decides to delete a recording or when parts of the recorded video go corrupt, but we’re learning how to work around the issue and are also hosting our recordings on YouTube, possibly with additional content. Whether it is the audience interaction, hearing how watching us helps others understand D&D better, or just having the last session recorded for an easy recap makes the extra work worth it.
  • You can’t make up these situations
    • The first time we jumped into combat in game my character shot his bow, and I rolled three natural 20s in a row; critical threat, critical confirmation, and instakill! One of our party members got arrested and we had to go through finding witnesses and a trial to get him off of an unfounded murder charge! I can’t count the number of times we’ve gotten ourselves too far into combat with half the party unconscious and our cleric dishes out damage and heal spells to save us all. A bard in our group played Wrecking Ball on his flute and rolled a natural 1 for his skill check. These are moments I will remember for a long time. I look forward to Monday evenings when I can chill out with some friends online and roleplay Cabaan the Elf ranger who sucks at perception checks.

Moving forward, I’m not entirely sure what the future of our game stream looks like.  We finished “Season 1” of our campaign with 30 play sessions, around 26 of them are recorded and online our twitch and youtube channels, and have had over 10,000 viewers.  10k isn’t a whole lot in the world of internet videos but it is pretty damn impressive for what we’re doing.  We will be starting the next season this week and I’m definitely excited to see where our story goes.

If you have any interest in checking out what our D&D sessions look like, jump over to our campaign page or stop by my twitch channel on a Monday evening(8pm EST | 5pm PST) and say hello!

Pre-Order Bonuses – The Dark Side

What do you get when you buy Watch Dogs? Well that all depends on which edition, location, or pass you buy!

When special editions go to far
When special editions go to far

There are eight, EIGHT, different editions to choose from.  Keep in mind, these are just the bonuses for buying a special edition copy of the game. This image doesn’t show all the extra crap you get from preordering from Gamestop, Amazon, BestBuy, etc.

Airplane Movie Reviews

I took a vacation for two weeks in New Zealand which involved flying over the Pacific Ocean-there and back again.  I usually enjoy plane rides long or short since I can finish off a book, sleep most of the way, or pass the time with free movies.  Virgin Airlines usually has a great choice of movies to watch for free.  My flight over I didn’t watch that many since I wanted to get myself on the proper sleep schedule.  Coming back I had the unfortunate middle seat along with people seated directly behind and in front of me who made it their mission to keep me from sleeping at all, so all I did was watch film after film.  Anyway, here is what I watched and what I thought about them.

  • Frozen – 4/5
    • Yes, I know I’m late to this party. I thought Frozen was a great Disney movie. Fun plot, funny characters, good sing-a-long songs, and a happy ending. Tangled was better.
  • Monsters University – 3.5/5
    • I’ll be honest, I only watched this for Nathan Fillion, and he was awesome! A nifty prequel with your typical underdog plot.
  • Despicable Me – 5/5
    • Somehow, I missed this when it came out and never got around to watching it. Well, I’m really glad I caught it on the flight back because I was blown away. The animation was brilliant, the acting was top notch, and I was not expecting to have my emotions pulled out at 30,000 miles in the air!  After it was over, I just sat there feeling so happy for Gru.
  • Fifth Estate – 4/5
    • A cyber thriller telling the debated story of Wikileaks and its creator Julian Assange, comes with a healthy dose of Benedict Cumberbatch. If you like journalistic, uncover the truth, race against authority thrillers then you’ll probably enjoy this. The film is probably more of a 3/5, it lagged for me at times. But I’ve always found the whole Wikileaks story very interesting and could follow along with my own knowledge, so that might have made it more enjoyable for me.
  • Now You See Me – 3.5/5
    • A band of magicians start to rob banks during their live performances and the FBI is after them. Super fun to see the magic get executed, FBI outsmarted, and watch the plot twist and turn further.
  • Act of Valor – ?/5
    • I more or less collapsed in my seat from exhaustion halfway through this one, finally thwarting the sleep barons surrounding me. I am assuming this is probably a 2/5 at best if I had to predict what the score would be. It felt like they came up with the idea, “Hey let’s use real a real Navy SEAL team as the action stars” and didn’t take it much further.

Offering Too Much Advice

One of the things I tend to do is give advice when others share a problem or concern. Sometimes I give advice when people don’t even ask for it, I just start listing out possible solutions. Sometimes I’ll talk too much trying to explain my advice when they don’t particularly care or they already understand it and I end up annoying them. ‘Mainsplaining’ is the term used when men feel the freedom to do this to others without considering their expertise.

Even if you feel it may be a way of expressing you care, you still need to be mindful of how others take it.

Pre-Order Bonuses

I know that I’m not the only one getting sick and tired of ten different pre-order bonuses depending on what retailer you go to or version of the game you buy. It is getting out of hand. I don’t mind so much when its simple game swag or in-game cosmetics, but sometimes it is extra weapons, maps, even entire DLC chapters that are unique to one of those choices! This is anti-consumer, be design.

So, when Titanfall announced their preorder bonuses I was surprised when they actually did a great job. No exclusive guns, or titans, or maps. A few swag items and a possible guide that you can find on the internet. As an avid gamer, thank you for not contributing to the preorder bonus ecosystem mess we are currently stuck in.

What ‘A Child Called It’ Taught Me About Stories

I read a book called A Child Called It during Highschool.  It’s a first hand account written from someone who was beaten and starved as a child by his abusive mother and played torturous games with him, or at least that’s what the author says.  I didn’t really think twice about the story’s exact validity because the point of the story was about how terrifying and real child abuse is.  A few months ago I read an article about how the story is under suspicion of being exaggerated, profiting off of the abuse story, or completely false.  I don’t know if the guy made it all up, apparently one of his brothers says he did while another one says it was all real.  That is one of the scary realities of this situation, a lot of child abuse goes on and we don’t know about it.  His own brothers can’t even agree if it happened.

But the point is that whether this particular story is true or false, the message of the story is still valid…child abuse happens; it is real; it is terrifying.  So what does that have to do with Story?  Two things I’ve been pondering in my head for a bit were brought out while I was thinking about this.

  1. Just because a story isn’t real doesn’t mean the point of the story is worthless
  2. I think we need to look into a story before touting it as 100% factual reality

Many times I see stories get thrown around to simply illustrate an idea.  If the point of a story isn’t that it actually happened but that it makes you think, it being a reality or not shouldn’t phase you.  Maybe you have heard some of those famous cheesy chain mail letters about the student who countered his professor’s proof that God doesn’t exist or that God is evil(and sometimes the kid conveniently turns out to be Albert Einstein).  Or parts of the Old Testament seem to be more metaphor or Hebrew allegory than factual history(or so I’ve been told be people more versed in this area).  In either of these cases I have encountered a lot of hostile reactions in two opposite directions: 1) they assert that since the story is “just made up” then it is not worthwhile or, 2) they try to prove that isn’t made up, is factual history, and therefore worthwhile.  I think both of these approaches are incorrect in the sense that they both hinge its worth on whether the story is real or not.  The addition to the end of the student-challenging-his-professor story about the kid being Einstein is actually an addition to prove its worth.  Since the kid is Einstein, a very smart man that actually existed, the story must be real and therefore worthwhile.  But this addition hinges the story’s worth on the fact that it is a reality, problematic!

Worthwhile stories do not have to be true.  Take Lord of the Rings for example, Aragorn never actually existed but there is so much truth we can learn from them about our world, desires, doing what is right, and love.

Spring Form Tag Broken for Portlet Use

This issue came up as I was dealing with the Spring Portlet ResourceRequest change(before I found the problem/solution).  Still not getting the portlet to render views via ResourceRequests properly, I decided to test with Spring 3.2.x to see if the problem would follow.  I was also curious to see what changes would be made on the portlet side of things, any added improvements or shortcuts?  Based on the 3.2.x changelog, not much was changed regarding portlet support(ctrl+f “portlet”).  But its never that simple, right?

Enter SPR-8684.  This change actually makes things easy for most Spring webapps; automatically prepending the contextPath and servletPath in the Spring form tag is an easy shortcut.  But for portlets, this renders the form tag essentially useless.  Portlets don’t want their forms to be prepended with their own contextPath, they should resolve to the portal’s contextPath.  The good news is that my request for a fix was accepted almost instantly, SPR-10382.  So I’ll just have to wait to use Spring 3.2.3.

I know many of my most recent posts have been about problems using Spring, but I don’t want to sound like a complainer.  Without Spring I would be without a brilliant framework to code portlets with, and its a pretty niche area to be honest.  I love Spring because they are constantly moving forward by adding new ideas and technologies into their product.  Also, the community support is pretty fantastic!

Easter 2013

In the beginning of this year, I believe God taught me a very important lesson that I couldn’t have grasped by myself. About six months prior I remember swearing to myself that this particular experience could not make any sense, I would never understand, and it was stupid. Yet here I am now, thankful for my newly learned lesson. It’s hard not to see the mystical side of life when something used to hurt can now be used to heal. I’m not talking about a wound healing itself over time, but a wound provoking healing beyond what was initially damaged. Things that used to be signs of suffering, sadness, and loneliness can be used to help bring goodness, life, and hope.

Sometimes it is the little things that make it so evident to me that Heaven is actively crashing into, interacting with, and forever changing our world. But we aren’t just supposed to sit here and watch it happen either, we are called to grasp ahold of Heaven’s tendrils and help pull it in.

…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Easter blog posts