Wiz Dice

This is part review, part blog post. Bear with me.

I needed more dice for the Dungeons & Dragons campaign August and I were hosting. Since I was the only one with any experience with the game, as well as the only one with any dice, I knew the boys coming over would need a set each. Rather than telling them to go buy a set of dice, which could be a risky proposition since they probably didn’t know what to get, and since I wanted at least another set for myself, I figured I would just pick up a bunch of bulk dice.

Looking online I was presented with a few options, various bags of dice, or a pound of dice or whatever, but ultimately I chose to go with Wiz Dice’s 100+ Random Polyhedral Dice. Yes, I read some of the reviews but I figured for the price it would be cheaper to get a few sets this way rather than individually even if they didn’t match colors.

I came close to getting a couple separate sets of 15 dice or maybe a few sets of 15, but ultimately decided to get the “more dice per dollar” option.

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What did I get? 110 total dice, of which there were, including the “one guaranteed complete set” (along with a dice bag), 15 complete sets of dice and one partial set. This seemed like a big win.

There are, however, some problems with what was received. Was I ultimate happy or unsatisfied with the products? Let’s look over things.

11 “unusable” dice which dropped the total down to 99 dice. This also dropped the number of complete sets down significantly.

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That was still alright, since purchasing a set of dice can run around $5 each, give or take a couple of Dollars depending on how fancy they are. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just some basic dice for the group to use, and frankly, I was expecting to lose a few.

What of those dice that were deemed not worthy? Well, most were still usable, just a bit more difficult to read. Nothing too bad, but nothing I would want to take to a convention or use in a serious gaming group.

Actually, most of these sets were good enough my purposes, and if the kids I was running the campaign for wanted to continue borrowing these dice to play with, I was fine with that. I have a couple of sets of higher quality dice that I use for myself – of course they were more expensive.

wiz dice 08There is another die in the shipment that wound up being completely unusable. It is a shame because it was from one of the cooler looking sets. Billed as “factory firsts” there was obviously one that did not fit that bill. Aside from some that didn’t get their numbers imprinted fully there was one D8 that has a massive hole in it. I do not know how this made it past quality control, and that it would be included as a desirable product is puzzling.

wiz dice 07Then there is the bag. One of the selling points for this product is a guaranteed complete set of dice along with a dice bag. I wasn’t expecting a large bag, but I was expecting a bag that was big enough to house one of the complete sets that would last. I was partly right. The bag does house one of the complete sets of seven dice, but after less than one day one of the strings broke. The bag still works, but not at the level of proficiency as designed.

Despite these issues I still recommend picking up the product. There are enough usable dice to make the purchase worthwhile. These won’t necessarily be your “go to” dice for gaming, but there are plenty of usable dice in there to get started as well as having plenty of extras on hand for when you need them.

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Music Monday: Rumours

I had this scheduled to go up yesterday, but messed up the calendar and wound up scheduling it for *next* Monday. I just discovered that mistake. Oh well.

fleetwood mac rumoursThere has been enough written about Fleetwood Mac and the album Rumours that it almost feels cliche to write anything else about it.


Continue reading

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Starting The Campaign

starter setThis weekend I will begin a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with my 12 year old son and a few of his friends. This will be the first time running a campaign in a long time as well as their first time playing (mostly). Throw in the new 5th edition D&D ruleset, and you might be able to imagine how nervous I am. We will start out with the scenario in the D&D Starter Set, then I will probably move on to the Hoard Of The Dragon Queen and Rise Of Tiamat adventures as well as trying to insert a few side quests.

As the boys rolled their characters I helped craft their backstories, but the rest is up to them. How they play will be informed by their history, but like us all in real life, our future is what we make of it. I am playing the final character, sort of holding him for another player to drop in and take control of – especially since nobody chose to pick anything in the more “traditional” swordwielding type of classes.

The character images are shamelessly stolen from the character generator of the upcoming D&D game Sword Coast Legends. These are merely representational and not meant to be an indication of what the characters in our table-top game should look like.

Dwarven Cleric

dwarf clericDain Orefist was visited by Moradin, the god of creation one night who said “Find my hammer!” The next day Dain visited the priest who was surprised as Moradin had not been heard from in quite some time. Upon telling his father Dain was surprised that there was some disbelief as well as wanting Dain to ignore the summons. Dain comes from a long line of blacksmiths, not just an honorable trade but a source of pride for dwarves. For generations the Orehammer family has forged weapons, taking years to make, many having entered battle in great wars. And now Dain wants to break away from this tradition and follow some voice in his head. Turning his back on his family and tradition, the son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a son of a blacksmith. While he gets to keep his name, there is shame in his chosen path, but one Dain feels he must follow. Leaving his family and former life behind, Dain apprenticed in the temple for a couple of years before Moradin came back to him as he slept. “Find my hammer!” The calling was more urgent so Dain left immediately for the nearest town. Neverwinter.

Human Rogue

human rogueLiving in poverty Bëin grew up knowing how to steal, it is how the family ate. Bëin’s parents did what they had to do in order to survive. It is all they know. Bëin is good at what he does. Really good. So good in fact that he could find himself the head of a thief’s guild in a very short time if he wanted to go down that path. Instead Bëin wants to be a better person. He has a certain skillset that may be frowned upon in most circles, but it is what he knows how to do. The question is if Bëin can fight the natural (and learned) instincts of self-preservation and instead put his skills to a better use. Leaving home he struck out on his own only to find that it is more difficult to make an “honest” living than initially thought. Maybe a change in location would help. So Bëin moved to Neverwinter where he ran into somebody looking for some help.

Half-Elf  Wizard

This character was previously generated and used in a 4th edition D&D campaign, and only made it to 2nd level. I decided to allow this character to enter this campaign, but needed a reason for him to be here.

elf wizardNoran was adventuring with his party when the world changed. Around him. Literally. Or was he hit by lightning? Something happened and he isn’t sure what it was. Did he move in time or location? The land is familiar but very much not the same. Magic works differently now. Some of the spells Noran knew work very differently now. Not necessarily more or less powerful, just different. And the gold pieces Noran had didn’t make the trip to wherever (or whenever) went to. His owl familiar, which wasn’t summoned when the event occurred, did not cross over as well. At least all of Noran’s clothes did. Noran wound up having to sell some of his equipment in order to pay for a meal and a bed. Well, after a couple of days walk since he just appeared in the middle of a field. Now in Neverwinter, a city that is at once familiar yet very different from the last time Noran visited, an opportunity presented itself to gain back a few of those lost gold pieces.

Elf Ranger

elf ranger“It is time.” Kara knew it was, and he was anxious to get started. He had been training for this these last 20 years. The basics were there, and now it was time to put them into practice. A rite of passage, a coming of age ritual, Kara would need to survive on his own, alone in the woods, for a year then return to his clan. Upon returning Kara would receive his adult name. A couple of weeks into his year Kara smelled food cooking and wandered into town. The pub had a good stew, decent ale, and somebody looking to hire some help.

human fighterHuman Fighter

Some people are born into greatness. Some have greatness thrust upon them. Others stumble into it. Then there is Ramm who needs to earn money to survive. He is kind of handy with a sword.

At least not wholly incompetent.

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Music Monday: Green Day

A tough parenting decision once involved Green Day. I will get to that in a moment.

Like so many others, I was introduced to Green Day through their single “Longview” and I kind of liked it, especially the bass line. What I was more interested in was how the rest of the album sounded. It wasn’t until a few months later and the single “Basket Case” came out that I decided I wanted to really check the band out.

What I didn’t know at the time but found out shortly after “Basket Case” came out was my best friend at the time had Green Day’s previous two albums. I was surprised he had been holding out on me. The band’s breakthrough major label debut was decent, but their first two albums were, in my opinion, far superior. I became a fan of the band.

Over the course of the next two albums, which I picked up upon release, I enjoyed Green Day more and more. But I felt disappointed in that both Insomniac and Nimrod both sound like the same album. I can never tell which one I am listening to and there is nothing distinctive about either one. Both have some great songs, but taken as a whole the albums are unremarkable.

It wasn’t until Warning came out that I saw the potential of the band. This was (and to a certain extent still is) my favorite album by Green Day. While not “pure” punk rock, the band does have its roots in that genre, but wasn’t afraid to push outward from there. Here the songs are each distinct, the album feels cohesive, and there is still plenty of sardonic humor in there as well.

By this time Kyle had entered our lives and he became a fan as well. When Green Day’s next album came out it had been a few years since new material had surfaced (two collections, one a hits another of b-sides) and the fans were eager to hear what they had to offer. The single”American Idiot” was a massive hit, as was the album that came with it. An ambitious project for a punk-pop band, the rock opera told a complete tale, had individual songs that worked on their own, and the album sounded like the band had matured but kept close too their roots.

I had two tickets to see Green Day on this tour and was going to take Kyle. I don’t remember what it was he did, but Kyle got in trouble and it was the day of the concert. That afternoon I think. Going to the concert was more for him than for me as he really loved the (then) current album.

Well, he didn’t get to go. As a result I didn’t get to go. This was during a low point in our relationship with Kyle, a bit before he would eventually get sent to boarding school. Getting to go to the concert was a big deal, and then at the last minute having it taken away was an even bigger one. And no, I didn’t get to go by myself.

It wouldn’t be until the next album and tour that I would get to see Green Day.

American Idiot was a good album, but the follow-up 21st Century Breakdown, another rock opera but this one felt like it was bigger because it needed to be, not because the story necessitated it. It was a good album, but to my mind it is inferior to American Idiot, despite having greater chart success. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, just not as much as most people apparently do.

I took my youngest brother, Kagan, to the tour’s opening date here in Seattle. I knew the set list would draw heavily from the two previous (and immensely popular) albums, but was hoping for a couple of older songs, particularly one of my favorites – “Basket Case” and I wasn’t disappointed.

Because the previous two albums had been rock operas and were “big” albums, Green Day needed to do something to top those, and without another rock opera, the plan was to release three albums in just over three months.  Those albums weren’t as critically or commercially successful, but did feel like much more of a return to form for the band.

What is next? Apparently Green Day has begun work on a new album. Their 12th. And they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, which makes me feel old.



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Phamily Foto Phriday 9-25-15

This past weekend saw the first race of the season for our cross country runners.

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Here they each are as they approach the end. Xavier and Ciárán had a half mile, Déla’s grade does a mile, with middle school doing a mile and a half. August wasn’t quite prepared for that but he never gave up.

Yes, I cropped the pictures heavily, and didn’t bother to make them all proportionate.

Tevye was strapped to my back the whole time and did alright.

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One night during the week Xavier and I decided to have a little fun during bedtime.9-25-15 pham 07

Here are the kids on the way to school a couple of days ago.

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That’s it for this week.

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Geek Fuel September 2015

We are coming close to the end of August’s Geek Fuel subscription. Next month will be his last, but before we get to that, let’s look at the latest one that arrived the other day.

Sep 2015 Geek Fuel 01

August always enjoys the Geek Fuel box, especially the shirts. This month was no different.

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There was even something in there for Dela.

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A button featuring the (fictional) mission to Mars from The Martian was included as well.

Sep 2015 Geek Fuel 04

August really loves the Doctor Who ice cube tray.

Sep 2015 Geek Fuel 05

A Bob’s Burger comic with exclusive variant cover was in this month’s box.

Sep 2015 Geek Fuel 06

This  month’s game is Roche Fusion.

Sep 2015 Geek Fuel 07

Finally there is an exclusive poster featuring a key character from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Sep 2015 Geek Fuel 08


As we usually do, here is the video of August opening the box, with a little assistance.

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Star Trek Vs. Star Wars

star trek orig castI grew up on Star Trek. In the 70s “Star Trek” was popular in syndication. I remember watching “Star Trek: The Animated Series” on Saturday mornings. This was, at the time, epic storytelling with a science fiction setting, and often with some sort of message that was hidden in the action. One of the things I have always loved about Star Trek was its ability to raise issues indirectly.

Then Star Wars came out. Wow did the science fiction landscape change.

For a long time I was a dual fan, loving both franchises equally for different reasons, partly because they were relegated to separate mediums. Well, probably more of a fan of Star Wars – except for the whole Ewok business.

Then “Star Trek: The Next Generation” hit, and I became more of a fan of Star Trek. For a long time the pendulum swung heavily in favor of the more active franchise.

By then I had discovered “Doctor Who” and many other science fiction properties. My tastes were more sophisticated, and while not as discerning as one might hope, the titans of the genre still commanded my allegiance.

star wars special ed posterStar Wars got a facelift and rereleased in theaters. My love for that franchise was reignited, and then went back down to a simmer. The “special editions” of the classic trilogy altered too much. I know those are Lucas’ films and he can do with them what he wants, but many of the changes were done because he could, not because they were needed. Oh well.

At this point, the late 90s, Star Trek had become not only a television juggernaut but one on film as well. With the prequel Star Wars trilogy arriving my emotions were mixed, but the higher quality and quantity of offerings from Star Trek won me over.

Star Trek got rebooted and the television offering went away and so my affection for that franchise waned as I disliked how the property was being treated. With far too long between installments, no television series, and the films themselves being pale imitations of what the franchise could and should be, well, I have become disillusioned.

Enter again Star Wars. As a new film entered production I was skeptical but held out hope. As more and more news and footage came out, I allowed myself to look forward to a new Star Wars film.

Earlier this year all of the Star Wars book I had been collecting suddenly became irrelevant as it was announced a new series of books and comics would be produced that would become part of the Star Wars canon. Initially a little disappointed my investment of time and money wasn’t actually going to further the story a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea a new tangible and practical expansion of the Star Wars universe would be coming to print and there would be a clear lineage of stories.

free comic day 2015 02Back in May, Free Comic Book Day saw me entering a comic book store for the first time in over two decades, and I now have a regular pull for all the Star Wars titles. I recently purchased by first new Star Wars novel in half as many years. Knowing these are canon, part of the official story, well, I’m excited for the property even more.

Look, I want to like Star Trek, I really do. As it is I have no interest in watching anything new the franchise has to offer.

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Music Monday: Public Enemy

I met Chuck D once. I think it was 2002 at the Consumer Electronics Show. I was attending as press, covering whatever there was for video games at the time. He was there to talk about online music distribution. He knew that was where the future would be.

We ran into each other, just about literally, each on our way to our own meetings. I didn’t have the time to get a picture with him, or even his autograph, but we walked together and talked about 5 minutes about music, licensing, money, artists rights, influences, and more. It was a great moment that I wish I could take advantage of again, and do it a heck of a lot better.

Public Enemy was slated to go on tour with Public Image Limited and Sisters Of Mercy in 1991 and I was eager to see both bands. The tour was cancelled before it could hit Seattle.

2004 saw the group perform in Seattle at the Bumbershoot festival. I got to take Kyle to see them, and he loved their energy and the fact they had a message. I was just glad to finally see them, and to be able to share it with my son.

What is it about Public Enemy that I like?

There aren’t a lot of rap acts I like. With Public Enemy it is the fact they have a message, it isn’t all bravado, but sometimes political, sometimes social commentary. There was an interview on MTV at some point, probably around 1989 or 1990 and the subject of topicality was raised. The response by Public Enemy (I don’t remember exactly who it was who said this) was rap music was the CNN of the black community. Because the news wasn’t reporting on the realities of what was happening in black neighborhoods, it was up to them (meaning the people) to get the word out about what was going on.

This struck me, and while I enjoyed Public Enemy previously, I began paying even more attention to what was being said.

Yes, there is controversy surrounding Public Enemy both on and off the record. Not everybody is perfect. If you dismiss anybody outright for their mistakes, you can miss out on what truths they do have to share. Don’t make that mistake with Public Enemy.

Still making music. Still have something to say. Still vital.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 9-18-15

Let’s kick things off with a cute picture of Tevye sleeping.

2015 sep 18 01

These next four pictures are from earlier this week. I think. The kids are waiting for school to start. Or something.

Wednesday was the first Cub Scout pack meeting, and August didn’t get to go for the first time since he is now a Boy Scout. Ciaran did go, and was awarded his Tiger Cub badge from last year. It was also my debut as the Den Leader for his group.

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Here is Xavier trying to help with stuff coming off the printer.

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And during lunch today.

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Finally, I caught Xavier playing on the stairs to the basement this morning.

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And So It Begins – Crock Pot Season

There it sat, unused for these past few months.

With warm weather and vacations there was no need for it.

As the school year begins the weather turns and activities ramp up. This means less time to prepare warm dinners that are ready to eat when the family needs to be.

And so the Crock Pot is brought out and put to use.

crock potTonight we will have stew, one of the “go to” recipes for Wednesdays. It is an easy recipe, but as with many Crock Pot dishes, it takes a bit of work early in the morning. Knowing this, I planned my grocery shopping, which I did on Monday, to have everything I need for this morning so I would not have to go back to the store if not today, at all this week.

I am on auto-pilot this morning, cutting up onion, carrot, potatoes, etc. It isn’t until I start putting the various ingredients into the Crock Pot that I begin to think about what I am supposed to be doing and how to do it.

Something I should have done before I went grocery shopping.

Normally I can simply throw together my stew without much thought or planning. Heck, I have gotten to the point where I normally will just put “stew” on my shopping list and I know which ingredients to get. Since it has been a few months I did not do that for Monday, instead I put down individual ingredients to make sure I didn’t forget something.

But as I am out of practice I forgot a couple of ingredients.

So I had to go back to the store this morning, negating the effectiveness of my mega-grocery shopping trip on Monday.

And then…


As I was putting in the last bits into the Crock Pot this afternoon I realized there was one other thing I had forgotten to pick up at the grocery store.

alice facepalm

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