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"Interesting" Week

I actually have a few things to blog about... (My life just isn't usually interesting enough to post about very often. 8^)

Job is going well, even if things are pretty slow there. Well, they brought me on board just as work on the first "phase" of the project was winding down, and the second "phase" is only just getting started. So, I've been in a number of meetings, but since we're still just in the "define" stage -- gathering requirements, etc. -- of the project, there isn't any actual programming work to be done just yet. I have been managing to keep myself busy, though -- my coworker Chad had the idea to develop a "Coding Standards" document, so I've spent a fair amount of time researching HTML and CSS coding practices online. (I'd still prefer to be doing actual coding, though. Even if it's just HTML layout...)

Had a mild health scare this past week. Sometime during the day on Wednesday (18 Jun 2008), I developed what felt like either a mild cramp or a gas bubble in my lower left abdomen. It didn't go away, or even move at all for a couple of days. By Thursday evening, it was still there, and after juujika commented "It's probably the wrong side to be your appendix...", I decided I should probably go get it checked out. Now, it wasn't enough discomfort that I would normally worry about it that much, but I did some research online, and appendicitis can feel pretty mild, and you can feel it just about anywhere. Before KatieBeth was born, I probably wouldn't have worried about it, but now that I'm a daddy I don't want to take any chances. So, we spent a couple of hours at the Urgent Care facility. (It was way too late to go to the regular doctor by that point.)

Fortunately, it wasn't my appendix. One of the doctors who checked me out found that, and it felt just fine. It wasn't my spleen or gall bladder, either. As far as he could tell, it felt like part of my colon. When he asked if I had any history of diverticulosis, we pretty much concluded then and there that it was probably that, since my mom has that.

So, the doctor prescribed me an antibiotic, and as of yesterday, I was only feeling anything in that area when I walked relatively quickly. I am so glad it wasn't appendicitis, or even the gall bladder. I wasn't looking forward to having to go in for emergency surgery that evening...

As my wife has probably mentioned, KatieBeth has been having some trouble sleeping through the night recently. We really don't know why. (But I suspect what we really need to do is get her on a more regular sleep schedule; or, at least, a regular nap/bedtime routine. That's easier said than done, however, as KatieBeth has seemed to staunchly resist any attempt we've made so far.)

I've been thinking about Transformers a lot lately. As those who know me already know, I'm an "Action Figure Collector". That is, I still collect toys. 8^) Lately, it's pretty much just been those that particularly catch my interest. I just think they're neat. 8^)

Anyway, one of the things I do at work when I just really don't have anything else to do is bring up Teletraan I: The Transformers Wiki and browse around. I've been a fan of the Transformers since they first came out in 1984, and have tried to keep up with the line ever since.

Back when my brother and I (and my friend Avery, but he dropped out during our teenage years) were collecting these things originally, as kids, we had this communal "campaign world" that we had all our toys living on. I created my own "Other World" at one point, as my own personal universe, where I could do things without worrying about anybody else's toys/stories/etc. When I was in college, I started up this "storyline" about that world, which at the time was pretty much just a demiplane (to use D&D terms), where that world got engulfed in a massive war related to the plane "growing" into a full-fledged Prime Material Plane. I actually started writing that up as a 'story' once, but never got around to finishing it. So, recently, I've started revisiting that story, and started re-writing it. (The original version was lost in the Great Hard-Drive Crash of '07.) I still haven't finished writing it up, but I have gone pretty much gone through the entire course of events for it in my head, and have started re-writing the world's history -- as the plane becomes a full-fledged universe, it also re-organizes its own timeline to have a full history.

Anyway, I won't go into any more detail about that right now, but it's giving me an opportunity to work together many of the various toylines / continuities into a cohesive whole -- or, at least, as much as is possible. 8^) I can go into more detail about my ideas for this sometime, especially if there's any interest from readers.

So, in other news, Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition has been released. A couple of weeks ago, actually. I have to say, I'm not particularly impressed. Now, I don't dislike it nearly as much as some people. My wife doesn't seem to like the sound of it at all, and there seem to be a lot of people online who think Wizards of the Coast has ruined D&D forever.

I decided to actually get a copy of the new Player's Handbook, and check it out. Give the game a fair shake. And I have found some aspects of the new system to be interesting, not the whole thing, by a long shot. I have to agree with juujika's assessment that they seem to have chosen a particular playing style, and designed the new system around that particular playing style. A lot of the changes they made seemed to be intended to simplfy play, but it also sacrifices a lot of flexibility. Other things they changed, in my opinion, did not need to be changed, and a lot of those aspects were things that were fairly "traditional" for D&D. Now, admittedly, a lot of those things probably would have been done differently if they had been created today. But they worked well enough, and I didn't think that they needed to be changed just to meet a modern aesthetic.

In particular, some of the things I don't like the new setup for:

The skill point system in 3rd Edition was what really sold the game to juujika, and I have to admit was one of my favorite parts of it as well. The new skills system is only a little better than the "nonweapon proficiencies" of 2nd Edition and before. The 3E system gave you a number of skill points each level, that you could allocate as you wanted. If you only wanted to put a couple of points into a skill, and never touch it again, you could. It was nice for adding some roleplaying flavor to a character -- maybe the person learned something in their youth that they don't use much anymore, but could come in handy in a particular circumstance.
The 4E skill system lets you choose a number of skills at 1st level. Those are your "trained" skills, and very few circumstances let you add new ones. Your skill bonuses do improve, but it's based directly on your level (level / 2). So, all characters who are trained in a skill, of the same character level, and with the same base ability score, will have the same chance of success. There is no way to "dabble" in a skill, and (as far as I have seen so far> there are very few ways to gain new skills.
3rd Edition's modular level system and easy multiclassing rules were one of the other main things that sold me on it. In 4th, there is no real multiclassing, not even as much as there was in 2nd Edition and before. In 4E, the closest you can get to having more than one class is to take a "multiclass feat", which lets you acquire some of the abilities of a different class. This, in my opinion, takes the game almost back to the "Basic Set" era.
Monster / PC Compatibility
Prior to 3rd Edition, it was difficult to use "monsters" as player characters. In general, special rules had to be developed, and you had to fill in a lot of gaps to play a creature other than the normal PC races. In 3rd Edition, monsters were built in pretty much the same way as PCs, and were much easier to convert. In 4th Edition, monsters have gone back to being built differently than PCs, sometimes MUCH differently (from what I've seen and heard). I did hear somewhere that they would have "PC race stat blocks" for some monster species, but that they would not be the same as the monster descriptions. This may make sense from a strictly game-play point of view, but it makes absolutely no sense to me from an in-game point of view. Why would a goblin have significantly different stats just because it's being encountered as a "monster" than if it's being used as a PC?

Anyway, those are my pet peeves about the new game. Despite those problems, I don't think the new version is a complete waste of time. I do like the new "powers" system, and working Epic levels in as an integral part of the game progression sounds like a good idea to me. (Although it does harken back to the Basic/Expert/Companion/Master setup of "0th Edition".)

Overall, I would be interested in trying the new system out sometime as a player, but I can't justify buying anything more than the PH. I still have some 3rd Edition books I still need to pick up... 8^)

(Dang, that D&D review could have been a blog post on its own... 8^)

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