Category Archives: Superheroes

Independence Day

I’m not sure how to start this post. It’s basically going to be a eulogy, along with some of my own stuff.

Mom’s Obituary


Nada Evelyn Brown, “Mom”, passed away on July 4th, 2017, age 77, due to complications of diabetes. Her final days came quickly. On June 29th, the hospital was going to send her home. On July 2nd, she was on a bi-PAP for breathing problems. July 4th, she was put into hospice care at noon, and she passed away at 4:17PM.

Everyone liked Mom. Before she lost her hearing and she could still interact with folks, she came across as Mrs. Claus. A sweet little butterball of a woman, Mom made friends easily. But she was also somewhat stoic. We rarely saw her cry for any reason. She’d complain only a little about her aches and pains, but not when she felt really bad. “Oh, never mind,” was something we heard a lot, instead of “I really don’t feel good.”

That was what made her request to go to the hospital that last time so surprising. Usually she would have just suffered through and my sister and I would have to make the call. Not this time. Mom was desperate, not something I’d seen before.

She seemed to get better the first few days. But on July 1st, they couldn’t give Mom a full dialysis without her blood pressure crashing. July 2nd, the hospital called to tell us that her death was eminent. My brother made it down from Sacramento in record time. The doctors had a little hope one more attempt to give Mom dialysis might help, but that failed, too. So after meeting again with the palliative team, we made the decision to start hospice.

The weeks following Mom’s death were a mess. She was to be cremated, but the crematorium had just gotten a new oven and it broke down, so I had to leave work early to sign off on moving her body to a different crematorium (a majority of the survivors have to sign-off on such things). The cemetery has a limited number of places for cremated remains (I hate the portmanteau the industry uses, and I’ll not repeat it here), and between hunger and an assault of numerical information, we had some difficulty dealing with getting a plot for her. We had to make a couple of trips to the marker makers to get her a marker (because the first lady helping us didn’t know the program well). There were some issues with the photos we were using for the service. But, when the day finally came, everything went well. Having three weeks between her death and her memorial service, as well as six months of her out of the house, helped us in expressing our emotions, so the service was relatively tear-free. We had a picnic after as a reception, with fried chicken, as Mom would have enjoyed.

Three weeks have passed since the service, which is a total of six weeks (seven tomorrow) since Mom’s death. We think about her a lot, and there are plenty of old habits that die hard. Just last night, I wondered to myself if my sister had made a plate for Mom, and then remembered that Mom doesn’t need a plate any more.

On the other hand, “Independence Day” has a second meaning for us. It will no doubt sound heartless to say that not only was my mother freed from her failing body, we were also freed from all of the chores and burdens associated with caring for her. My sister the most, as she had manipulated her work schedule most and had the doctor appointment duty. Our time is now our own. My sister has taken more advantage of it than I have, having a couple of trips under her belt. No trips for me, but I’m working more hours, now that I’m free to work every day, rather than the Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule I had been working for the past year and a half.

Both of us are now looking for new jobs. Mom’s income was a fair chunk of the household income. My sister is having more success than I am, but that’s not stopping me. We need more income, and we now have freer schedules, we’re now open to new things, and available for more hours a day.

Some quick gaming updates–

I’ve continued running Numenera on Thursdays. I like that I can edit the piss-poor scenario I’m running on the fly. I can look at an opponent, assess their imbalance, and do the correcting math in about two minutes (assuming a lot of abilities that need to be adjusted). I don’t know that I’ll continue running it past the couple of published adventures I have available to me, but it’s good to know the system is so flexible.

The D&D 4e Kids game is almost done. They have one more battle (because I decided that there was one more battle I didn’t want to slog through, especially now that they have the macguffin weapon that is deadly to most of the creatures in the adventure). I put the bug in the kids’ ears that we can continue with a different game and a different world. We’ll see where they want to go in a couple of months.

My brain has been focused on the Superhero project. I’ve found the index card method really helps keep me from rewriting things, but not revising. But I haven’t gone revision crazy, so I’m staying focused. I’ve also decided that I may go ahead with gaming stats for the characters, but I’ll be using Fate Core and Venture City for my rules set. Why? Because numbers aren’t a big part of the system, but descriptives are, which are good for writing. John Rogers of The Librarians and Leverage fame uses the game for his own character development. So I think it can work for me. I can develop my characters without getting bogged down in mechanics.

That pretty much covers life for the past few weeks. But I’ve come to a conclusion. I’ve been quite happy not blogging for the past few weeks. The blog has really started to feel like a chore, even as I’ve kept altering my schedule to less and less regularity. For now, this blog is a burden I don’t need, so I’m going on indefinite hiatus where this blog is concerned. I’ll just be sticking, for now, to Facebook and Twitter and Google+ (and LiveJournal, but nobody uses LJ anymore).

Thanks for reading.


Pete and Repeat Went Up the Wall…

(Note: the first half of this post was started on June 9th, a few days after the last post. I thought I’d posted the draft and had simply not promoted it. Obviously I was wrong and I’m adding to the post now.)

After my last post, I sat down and re-examined the Google Docs file I’ve been using to write my thoughts about my superhero project. In so doing, I realized a problem with my creative flow: I cover the same ground multiple times. I noticed this with the StarSea as well. I continuously go over the same ideas.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to change the way I work. I was looking to do that when I got my first iPad. That was why I was typing the five notepads I had filled when I started on the StarSea project. The idea was that eventually I would move the text files into some sort of database or wiki that would allow me to connect segments together. My distraction from that caused me to not learn this lesson.

Now I’m going to try something new. I was largely able to stay on track with the Adventurers! Rewrite by using index cards, numbered as chapters so I could follow them like an outline. So I’m going to try the card system with my superhero project and see how it works.

I’ve also got a Trello app for my mobile devices that I might try working with soon. I’m thinking about picking up OmniOutliner, too. It was included on one of my laptops as free software a few years ago, and I like using it, but that version doesn’t work like this new version, which works across devices through iCloud. While the app is relatively inexpensive for the Mac, it’s a bit more than I want to pay for the mobile version, even though I’ll be able to use it on both devices. I’ll be giving it more thought in the near future.

I really haven’t done much with this index card idea since I wrote the above. I mentioned the UTI issue last time. About the time I started this post, she was given Ativan to help her sleep. Unfortunately, sedatives like that linger in the diabetic’s body, especially in my mother’s case, as her liver also doesn’t function correctly. The liver and kidneys filter drugs out of the system, and when they don’t work, the filtering they should do obviously doesn’t happen. That’s part of the reason for dialysis. So from that point to now, Mom’s mind has been altered. It wasn’t frightening (at least what I experienced), and in fact, it was kind of amusing. But now it’s persisted.

We brought her home Thursday night, and put her directly to bed. Friday morning she was complaining of pain and acting very strange. She wasn’t very coherent, but she could answer questions, but mostly the answers were her repeating her complaints and then crying in pain. So we sent her back to the hospital, where they dialyzed her, as well as drawing a liter of fluid from her abdomen. It tested clean, so it seems it was just her body allowing fluid to pool. She came home last night, and complained enough that I was up attending to her three times this morning, shifting her position in the bed as best I could. All day today, she has been listless and lethargic. And since she’s been in bed again for a week, she again has no muscle tone or strength. Things are not going well. And tomorrow is her first dialysis after leaving the hospital, so we’re wondering if she’ll be able to transfer to a wheelchair for transport.

That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll remember to discuss FreeRPGDay at length. The short version is that I spent a lot of time prepping an adventure I ended up having to cancel. There is plenty more there, but I’m out of time for tonight.


Usual, Tired Sunday

Not sure what to discuss tonight, but it has been two weeks so it’s time again.

Update: After outlining and doing a bit of typing, the week went to hell and I’ve had trouble getting back to this post. I’ll insert updates like this as appropriate.

For a gaming blog, I write a lot about my personal life, such as it is. Lately, it’s been a consuming part of my reality, so I’m writing about it. I practically have no choice.

Mom is at the center of that. She came home the Thursday after the last post. We got the equipment the day before that. We got a crash course on using it all and have been moving her from bed to recliner and back since. I could link to a video to show you, the gentle reader, how the lift works, but suffice it to say it’s a complicated mess, and while it can be done by a single person, it’s not really a one-person job moving Mom.

We currently clean her on her bed, as well as dealing with her waste. She’s already had another UTI, along with its attendant shakiness. On the upside, she has started helping herself more with standing in the lift, rather than just hanging limp. But she still can’t transfer from recliner to wheelchair without the lift. Because she can’t transfer, we’re not going to try to go to Yosemite, but we are going to throw a party here at the house for her birthday.

It’s been stressful, but life continues.

Update: This is really where things went to hell. Monday night we had to send Mom back to the hospital as the UTI got out of control, again. She didn’t black out like she usually does, we just came to the conclusion that things could get a lot worse if we didn’t nip the issue in the bud. So, we’re making trips to the hospital again, which takes time from everything else.

I’m going to quickly cover some of the media I’ve been partaking of lately. Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have both been viewed In the theatre and enjoyed. Both are visually stunning, and both have solid stories, although I found the final battle in Wonder Woman somewhat… forced? Contrived? I’m not sure. Just… unsatisfying.

John Wick was also viewed. The gun-fu is pretty wild, and you really don’t watch that movie for any other reason. I was quite amused to notice that John doesn’t leave any target alive. There’s always a follow up head shot on every one he kills with a gun. Knives are handled a little differently, but that’s to be expected. An enjoyable film. I suppose I need to see the second movie now.

I’ve been watching the current season of Doctor Who and it’s “spin off ” Class. Both shows are obviously Steven Moffitt joints, as the writing is very similar. I’ve enjoyed Capaldi’s run as the Doctor. His eyes have so much depth as he performs. I’m not sure where I stand on Class. High schoolers taking on interdimensional threats while being angsty would seem to be up a Buffy fans alley, but I’m just not sure.

Update: I’ve also been watching Justice League Action on Cartoon Network, as well as Origins and Year Million on Nat Geo. It’s been good to see the JL back on TV. They’re short episodes with a real sense of humor to go with the little helpings of action. The Nat Geo shows are really interesting examinations of humans and their technology and how each has shaped our past and present and is shaping our future.

On to gaming finally. Kids’ D&D is coming to a close soon, and if we continue, I’ve decided we’re moving to Fantasy Age. After running Titansgrave and now playing Dragon Age, I just feel it’s an easier game to prep and GM. In fact…

I’m going to put the Adventurers! rewrite on hold for Fantasy Age. I really have begun to think that a lot of the tinkering I’m doing is lead in the direction of FA anyway. Plus, with Green Ronin announcing the release of Modern Age for GenCon this year, the game will expand and I can probably mix and match parts of the two games together to get what I want.

I do know there are things I want to tinker with in Fantasy Age. I want a “minions” system (one-hit mooks), which FA doesn’t really support, as even the weakest foes require at least two hits. I’m also thinking about using the DA Background system for races or subclasses, but I admit it’s been a while since I looked at FA character creation, so I may need to refocus my ideas.

I also am thinking about changing FA Magic for other systems, to create a more Mage the Ascension feel to magic. The kids will use the basic system for that game.

I’m also wanting to streamline the character stats back to the DA defaults. FA adds a couple of stats, like Fighting as separate from Strength, etc., that I think are honestly unnecessary.

I’m still cogitating on the Superhero updates. One of my stumbling blocks is the character’s age: how old is Richard Knyte? How long has he been in another dimension? The character was originally created in the 80s as the son of a Vietnam War era super. I imagined him about my age, maybe a little older. I’m not interested in creating (or recreating) an aging hero. I’d already determined that the character will not have aged significantly while in the other dimension…

I might need to supply a little back story. Back when I was playing Champions back in the 80s, the GM encouraged players to create a stable of characters covering different hero types. Richard Knyte was known as Agent Omega, a former member of a Hydra-style group who had fled and become their self-appointed destroyer. My enthusiasm for the character waned some, and he really was a one-note kind of character. Once the Hydra Analog was destroyed, he became a bit directionless, as one might assume. I changed the character’s codename to Vindicator, moved some points around on the character sheet, but I just couldn’t find the character’s place in the post-Hydra world. So, the GM and I agreed to retire the character for a while, punting him into another dimension for a while, until we could work something else out. In time, before I could bring him back, the GM and I had a falling out, and Richard Knyte remained in that dimensional hole.

About 20 years ago, I found an action figure that inspired me to redesign the character, as I’ve mentioned previously. That really didn’t work, and I realize now that the redesign in question didn’t deal with the character’s story. I just have him another new name and costume, but I didn’t deal with the underlying problem: what gives the character a reason to live? Something about that new action figure, tiny as it is, screamed at me, “I’m Richard Knyte and I have a story to tell!” (Adam Savage mentioned that puppets he has collected have done the same thing to him: suggested their character by simply being.)

So that’s why I’m working this project: Richard wants me to. I feel I need to do right by him. Because I’ve misplaced his origin, and (as I’ve mentioned) someone else created some elements of it, I need to rebuild his past and align that to his present.

Originally, Richard’s father was a hero code named Commando. I’ve since looked up the word to find out it means “a soldier trained to raid the enemy.” That doesn’t sound very heroic. So, I’m beginning to think maybe he wasn’t. Maybe Commando was the son of another, older hero from an earlier era, and Commando was his black sheep son. That older hero needs an original name, if I chose to continue with this history.

I’m going to leave it there. I’ve had some other thoughts on the superhero project, but I’m going to leave those for now or I’ll never get this posted. But that’s it for this post.


Going to Try to be Quick, But We All Know How That Goes…

Not much going on. Mom is still out of the house, which means I’m still working a lot and not doing much at home. In addition, Mom had a bit of a scare last weekend, her heart rate suddenly elevating for no real reason. They never did say what the cause was, but as soon as my sister arrived at the hospital, Mom’s heart rate dropped back to a proper level. She was prescribed a new drug to keep her heart rate lower (in addition to her pacemaker to keep her heart from going too slow), and another drug to keep her heart rate up, and I think a drug to improve her appetite (she currently eats like a metaphorical bird).

I’ve read more in the Economix book, and I’m looking forward to getting through it all the way. It’s a pretty interesting description of the way economics have and haven’t worked in the US. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

I’ve tinkered a bit with the Superhero Reboot, and I may be getting a bit rabbit hole-ish, in that I’m thinking of doing some world-building for the superhero world in which these characters exist. Part of me doesn’t want to bother, but without some ground rules, I have no basis for the characters, especially the legacy of my super-agent, as he’s the descendent of another superhero. I need to be careful, or I’ll end up going down a rabbit hole and starting work on a full universe. I don’t need that deep a project in addition to all the others.

Last Saturday, I went to the game store to while away the day while my usual group of friends were out of town, and it just happened to be an RPG Meetup day. I managed to jump into a game of Dresden Accelerated (Fate-based), which I think is still in playtesting. I enjoyed it, and the peak into some of the new systems. I look forward to picking it up in June.

While listening to a live-play podcast, I got to thinking about how undead might work in a setting. That is, how does the magic that animates the dead actually make a body something other than a bunch of meat lying on the floor.

The undead in most RPGs are taken from mythology, and therefore they have a host of origins: spells enacted on whatever bodies are lying around, rituals that transform the subject, but cast by others and the ritualist, infection vectors, and seeming spontaneous generation. I was thinking that for StarSea, I’d have one origin for most (or all) undead. That requires me to think about how the undead work.

In the podcast I was listening to, the zombies the party encountered were being animated by ghosts who were bound to the bodies by a sigil only one character could see. That set me to thinking about this subject. In Game of Thrones, the first of the White Walkers is created by the forest spirits in an attempt to thin the human herd which backfires on them, hideously. This creature was programmed to create others of its kind, and some of those seem to be sapient while the bulk are mindless hordes. Those two examples popped into my head of undead that aren’t so needlessly diverse.

On the other hand, I get the idea of different undead being linked to vices, a curse of the gods meant as an example of how immoral behavior will not be tolerated. I’ve never liked that idea, as it seems pretty backwards to give a sinner such vast power as a “punishment.”

I really don’t have a solution at this point, but I know in the StarSea that the undead are linked to the Corruption. Whole worlds and populations have been turned to undeath. This sort of undead should be like the undead of the GoT, not the random odds and ends of walking dead that populate most fantasy worlds. But this is just the kernel of an idea.

It’s late and I’m tired. So there you go. That’s it for this time.


Trying Creativity Again

I mentioned reading in my last post. It’s something I’m trying to do more of, just reading paper items again. I’m trying to spend less time reading political and science articles from Facebook, and read more books and magazine articles. Mostly this is game related reading, whether the Numenera starter, the rest of Titansgrave, or other short items. Just something different to be doing than focusing on the computer or mobile device.

I’ve been pretty artistically stagnant for a few years now. Since sometime after I started at the photo studio. My dry spell might have started just after joining Facebook, but I think it was earlier than that. I just don’t remember. But I feel like I’m maybe starting to shake that stagnation.

Part of that has been in relation to Mom’s ramp. I failed to realize the creativity that went into that. It seems I didn’t put up an image of that when we built in (and I realize I might not have been doing this blog them), so here is one now:


This is the completed ramp we made in April of 2013. The problem is the step, here closest to the camera. The step has started to break down as it was designed poorly. The riser is in front of the step, rather than under it as it should be. So, on the outside, it needs to be rebuilt. The step is also too shallow, and so feels very steep.

So, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been designing a new step. I want something that will support more weight and be less deep, so we can step on it more comfortably. With the weather getting better, as soon as my tax refund comes in, I’ll start picking up the lumber to make the new step.

I’ve also been trying to work out how to deal with the space issues in my bedroom. I’ve got two ideas immediately: a new base and headboard for my bed with a set of shelves built in; or a loft bed, moving my computer under my bed and getting rid of my current desk for another book shelf.

The loft bed would create a lot more space in my room. My current desk is about 7′ by 3′, being a nice drafting table I got from a former co-worker at Firstworld when he moved back to Texas. It’s a great desk, but it takes up too much room and has become too much of a garbage collector. Reducing the clutter would be a welcome thing. And I could replace the old desk with more bookshelves.

However, at my height, the bed would have to be pretty tall. I need to measure myself in my office chair to see just how tall, but I’m guessing about 60″. That would put the top of the bed over 6′ high (unless I got without a box spring), leaving me with little room to sleep in and turn over in, considering I have an 8′ ceiling.

So, it seems to me that my original plan, an expanded headboard, is the better plan. It’s also something I’m more comfortable I could build myself and not have collapse on me the first time I turn over. It’s the assembly I have yet to work out. I have a basic design, with a box base for the bed, with maybe drawers in the base, or maybe a lift top and general storage under the mattress. I haven’t priced out the cost of the drawer mechanics, but I have an idea of the cost of the pneumatic lifts for the general storage, so I kind of know the price to beat.

These design challenges are entertaining and challenging to me. I may continue to work on the loft bed design I have in mind, as one of my Thursday night players is interested in doing the same thing (although she may just go out and buy what she wants). But all three giving me something to work my imagination on that’s new and different.

I’m also in the process of redesigning an old Superhero RPG character. The Mighty Mini figure I mentioned last time. I picked up a couple of others on eBay, and something about them sparked me to re-examine this old character. His name was Agent Omega originally, and his real name was Richard Knyte. He was built for Champions, but I’m not going to recreate him in game terms, as I don’t have a Superhero RPG I’m really interested in right now. Agent Omega was a superagent who eventually helped take out the Hydra like organization he’d been part of as part of his origin. He then took up the name Vindicator, but ultimately I couldn’t find much of a direction for the character, and I ended up retiring him by having him fall into a dimensional rift.

I thought about a new identity for him as Shadowwalker, a dimensional traveller, but even that is kind of weak in my mind, especially as Shadowwalker was a streetname I used for my Virtual Adept in a Mage the Ascension game. So, I’m trying to figure out what direction I take with the character in resurrecting him. One of the ideas I had for him was him carrying a spear made of shadow, but I’m really reconsidering that. I had redesigned him based off another toy I’d encounter. That was a version of Nightwing (Dick Grayson as an adult) that had a golden torso. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not happy with any of that, and I want to redesign him, as a challenge to myself.

It’s late and, as often ends my musings, I have to get to work tomorrow. I want to state that I feel like I’ve stalled out on the rule writing for the Adventurers! rewrite. I keep looking at my notes and thinking I don’t know what to do next. I have spotty ideas for the StarSea and Reincarnated games, but nothing worth commenting on. That’s why I want to tinker with the woodworking designs. Try to get into something completely different and maybe that will shake loose my mind and get me to creating other things.

But it’s time to go. Later.