DnD: There’s no TIME!

I’ve kicked off this DM caper and it was pretty much going ok. I didn’t feel like the guys were bored and the other new folk were keeping up. There were some technical difficulties experienced in the Roll20 space – mostly our voice comms were a bit iffy. One of the guys had a discord server, so we jumped onto that and away we went.

We managed have managed two sessions since then. Initially weekly, it dropped to fortnightly and I had different people each one. Then all except one admitted they really couldn’t make the timings so we were about to close it all up.

This is disappointing to me as I really want to play and I’ve decided to DM as it seems like its a good way to actually get a game going (people are more likely to say they’ll play if they don’t have to DM). I know part of the reason is the really awkward time – Sunday morning. This is a really odd time to play, but I really don’t have any choice – the rest of my (life) weekend is all pretty full. I even went as far as making a diagram to see if there was another time I could play.

And there is – 11pm to 1am or so… that time’s free every night….

So as we were about to close up the game, I put a last invitation up on the work boards.

I was amazed when we got about 4 new players. These are experienced guys so it will be interesting to DM them. At least two of them regularly DM, so are looking for a break and just be a player. Next game is next week and so I will see how it goes.

At this stage I’m just going to drop them into where the story was up to. I’ll have a chat with them and see if they are interested in resetting it.

I’m also hoping they might offer suggestion on any of the published modules that they might be interested in. I’m really keen to buy one and can’t decide which. I’m hoping this group stays together and I can run them through something. As I keep reading reviews and such my choice keep changing, but at the moment I am thinking one of these:

  • Out of the Abyss
  • Curse of Strahd
  • Princes of the Apocalypse
  • Tales of the Yawning Portal
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Me, Dungeon Master???

About two months ago, I briefly joined in a couple of rounds with a nearby D&D group before it was clear that the timings weren’t going to work for me. This was 5e, and I hadn’t played since 1e when I was in high school (I’ll let you work out how many decades ago that was), so long ago that when I brushed aside the cobwebs the notes had wasted away to nothing anyway. I still have a 1988 printed PHB on the shelf (rats just gave away the answer).

Enthused, but not sure what to do, I asked around across the work network and found a half dozen of us who were all keen to play, mostly all new. So in a fit of altruism, and in order to get the idea moving I volunteered to DM.

Which I haven’t done for that same number of decades… and maybe only once then too.

Being geographically disparate we decided to use Roll20 website to run the game. This gives us an online game board to draw and create on, while providing automated character sheets and a host of other tools to use. It also has audio and video.

We’ve had two sessions so far. I hope its been enjoyable. Its a steep learning curve for me as I try to learn all of the players abilities and manage the game, while we all learn Roll20 and its capabilities. Each session has left me with some homework on things to study and read up on. I also try to make sure that I am reading ahead and preparing so that the short 2 hours that we have is of maximum benefit.

But both sessions have included new people joining, so there’s the inevitable period of setting up characters, things not working and the learning we are all doing about both D&D and Roll20. A couple more sessions and I’m sure we’ll be in the swing of it.

I’m running the group through a module called “Lost Mines of Phandelver”, which was included in the D&D Starter Set. It’s designed for new players (and DMs) so a good start for us.

There is also a host of resources online (which didn’t exist when I started, heck online barely existed when I started). Youtube videos that explain rules more clearly, tips and tricks – both generic and specific to the Lost Mines. The official D&D website and the Roll20 wiki have a heap of stuff as well. I had already picked up the Starter Set a year or more back when the Mini Mabs showed some interest and just before the foray into the other group I picked up the D&D box set with PHB, DM guide & screen and MM. So plenty of references.

I am enjoying it, the group is settling in together. I’d like to see it continue, I’d also like to rotate through as a player, but I’d rather keep the group than force the issue. Because I do enjoy the DMing as well. If it does continue, I’d like to get the Storm King’s Thunder as that looks pretty interesting. Maybe keep the same characters or let them restart…. I think that is some time away as there are at least 3 out of 4 chapters to complete in this one first.

Short trip – Canberra

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I think this is near Silverdale, south of Penrith. You wouldn’t think you were just a few minutes out of the suburbs (and this is looking east, towards the city).

Work needed me to head to Canberra for a couple of days. Even though they were happy to let me use a work car – why on earth would I want to do that? Two nights, leaving mid afternoon the first day, a full day in Canberra and then finish after lunch and head home. Sounds like bike time to me. Sure, it’s winter, it’ll be cold in Canberra, but I get to cruise down in work time whichever way I choose. And I shouldn’t need to travel at night.

I did plan to leave around midday or a little after, but an unexpected turn in the weather predicted snow* and such later, so I headed off around 10am. I headed south from my work near Penrith directly towards the Hume. This took me down some more winding roads, eventually to pass through Thirlmere and onto the Hume.

*The snow was predicted for the Blue Mountains, which I wasn’t travelling over, but I knew that meant there was likely a band of bad weather stretching across my route. I wanted to get ahead of it. In the end, it moved more slowly than predicted and the snow fell during the night, when I was already in Canberra.

I did plan to then cut off and head through Sutton Forrest and the Highland Way, but it was starting to darken and cool down. I thought better to make up time.

Along the road from Marulan to Queenbeyan

I did still leave the Hume at Marulan like I normally do. By part way along this road, I was really enjoying the bike. Plenty of go, and not as harsh a ride as the Daytona was. As I passed through Tarago I stopped and swapped my summer gloves for my warmer winter gloves. Immediately I felt more comfortable – I hadn’t realised that I had been feeling the cold that much.

Just as I arrived into Canberra it was getting dark due to the clouds (it was only about 4pm), and a little damp. That was okay, as it was into the hotel, take a rest then over to a friends for dinner. They filled my belly and gave me leftovers for breakfast!

The next day, though cold, was pretty routine. The following day after the meeting there was a group lunch and then it was time for me to head home.

As per my old routine I headed back through Queanbeyan, Tarago and on to Marulan. I now felt quite competent on this bike (I haven’t had a lot of spirited rides in the months that I’ve owned it) and there was several moments that I slowed significantly for a corner, only to glance down and realise that, after slowing, I was only now doing the posted limit…..

The trip home was uneventful. Enjoyable, but uneventful.

Stopped at Pheasants Nest for a break on the return.

There was a plan…

So the day started out with a plan. Vote early and then go to Avengers (as it was starting to get hard to avoid spoilers – even Miss 9 tried to spoil it and she doesn’t even know the story!)

But of course that isn’t entirely how it went. Voting was over with almost no wait and I decided to catch the midday movie as that showing had the giant screen. So I had about 3 hours to kill.

Aimlessly riding about, changing my mind every other minute, I ended up sitting at the desk of the Kawasaki salesman asking him how much trade in on the Ninja to get a new Ninja. So they took a look at it.

And overall they thought it was in good shape with one concern. A sort of rattle at high rpm that I hadn’t really identified as a concern. They listed a couple of things it might be (from tensioners to something deep in the engine) but we’re happy to spend a half hour to check it out in case it was something simple. Though they couldn’t do it straight away they could certainly do it today.

So two problems. I couldn’t hang around all day, I did have a movie to get to. And they had already handed out the loaner bikes.

I must have made a good impression on the salesman. He poked about in the second hand bikes and selected one to loan me.

A VFR800. A 2008ish VFR mostly stock with Staintune pipes.

I was worried that I would get quite attached to this. I felt I had somehow won the loan bike lottery. I had so many good memories from my one and this would be the first sixth generation I had ridden since hitting the roo.

So I started up and headed out.

The first thing I noticed was the aggressive seating position. I’ve just spent six months on the Ninja which is quite upright.

The next thing I noticed was the loud noise from the pipes. I had kept mine stock the entire time so it was different to hear this bike.

The most interesting thing I noticed was that it seemed really sluggish. I would open the throttle and not much would happen and it would rev up to the VTEC and get louder but didn’t really seem to get going.

This was the single factor that had me sitting there thinking “Wow, I’ve moved past this bike.” The Daytona and the Ninja have similar power (about 100kW) to the VFR’s 80. The Daytona was significantly lighter but the Ninja is a similar weight and from memory the torque is similar for all. The Daytona feels like it gets away a lot quicker than the Ninja, but both feel like they leave the VFR far behind.

I felt kinda disappointed. I sort of wanted to feel that passion I had for the VFR again. I was also thinking now I’m stuck with 1000cc up from now on. Would I want to go backwards?

On the positive it was a case of thinking that I really did make a good choice with the Ninja. And I was already thinking that any way. The most recent jaunt to Newcastle was good fun on the way home and the ride up Wisemans since was great.

Eventually it was time to return the VFR. And it was without any lingering doubt that I returned the keys and asked after the Ninja.

I will have to call back as I am unclear what they did, but the rattle is gone and they have no qualms about taking the bike as trade. I think a sticky tensioner, probably a symptom of having sat for so long before I got it. I will wait until they call back with an offer though I really am not sure I am able to any offer up.

I rode home – instantly happy on the Ninja. I realise part of that is familiarity but I twisted the throttle and left the afternoon traffic behind thinking how much fun this was.

Oh and Avengers was good. Worth seeing, funny in parts. Not the greatest movie ever, but a finish to the whole saga.

Double Demerits…. so what!

It is so rare that I can get a chance to get out for a ride that even when it’s NSW double demerits I’ll take the opportunity. With the weather a fine 25C it was apparently too cold for the planned trip (with our overseas family visiting) to Wet’n’Wild, so I disappeared out the door.

I was in several minds where to head. It was Good Friday, almost nothing is open, but when you’re only stopping for fuel and maybe a pie or something you don’t need much. I decided Putty was probably busy with holiday traffic and same for OldPac and all the roads south. The only one I thought might be light would be Wiseman’s and even then it would drop off once I crossed the river.

As I sat in standstill traffic on Richmond Rd headed north that stretched as far as I could see around the corner I was pretty sure I would be turning around and heading home shortly. And this was 10am, so most of the early traffic would have been long gone.

Around the bend, a RBT (Random Breath Testing) was set up and this was causing the traffic problems. That would end up being by far the worst traffic for the whole day.

I cruised up the road to Wiseman’s, keeping closely to the speed limit and enjoying getting to know this Ninja better. I am quite certain that practicing techniques while I had the Daytona, while not making me a super fast rider, has speed up and smoothed up my riding. I felt confident and calm throughout the ride today and am quite happy with the Ninja and its performance. Lots of go, that’s for sure (but only the same power as the Daytona, more torque and lots more kilos!) and while not as light and flickable, it’s solid and competent.

I got onto the ferry at the head of the queue and raced off as soon as it docked. And basically didn’t see a car again until I was in Mangrove. I suspect the traffic behind probably got caught upon holiday traffic, but I am sure that my improved confidence riding helped me stay ahead.

A quick ice cream at Mangrove Mountain, and it was time to decide where to head. I had loosely planned to head to Wollombi and see if there was a crowd there, but with it 45mins away and probably another 2-3 to get home from there around the Putty or back down Wiseman’s that would get me home about 4-5pm, probably a bit late. Alternatively, Pie in the Sky was about 35mins away, and home is an hour from there. That would see me home around 2-3pm.

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At Mangrove Mountain. Very quiet.

I also figured that the traffic would be north bound up the Old Pac and the Freeway. While there would be some headed south, not on the same scale.

I was swiftly at Pie in the Sky. There were a few others about but by comparison the traffic north was almost unimaginable. On the Freeway, it was three lanes and whilst moving at speed it was almost bumper to bumper. And the Old Pac wasn’t much better, all headed north. Headed south was about 3 bikes and me.

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There were a few others about, braving the double demerits.

And it was the same all the way home. Anything headed north was choked and south was empty. I am not sure I even saw any cops that weren’t involved in RBT the whole day.

A good ride out and I am really much happier on this bike. Including a trip to Canberra and to Newcastle, this is only the fourth time since getting this bike that it wasn’t just a commute. So I was still feeling very newbish on it. Most of that is gone now.

Review – Fitbit Charge 3

Dear Fitbit,

Look I know it’s an activity tracker, not a full on sport watch/GPS thingy, but I have a few concerns.

First up – I need a way to pause or turn off the tracking. I ride a motorcycle and this gets detected as a 35km “outside bike” in 30 mins (with no change to heart rate mind you!). This even happens when I’m not wearing it and have it in my pocket or in my backpack. Heck this would be a pretty awesome “exercise” to have stored, but it also adds floor counts and there is no way to “fix” all this data, skewing my stats for 5 days a week. Never mind the time I rode nearly 200km and this was counted too…. the Fitbit was in my bag the whole time!

Second concern – So I went for a run. It was about 10mins into the run and nothing visible on the device that it had started tracking (I later discovered it had tracked an exercise, but not the GPS). So I manually started it (and it tracked the GPS this time). And at some point it turned this off automatically. And then started to automatically attempt to track on and off a few times, I gave up. Very inconsistent.

On the plus size – it’s small, light and not too hard to read (when I have my glasses on, which isn’t when I’m running) and I like the sleep tracking (though with the earlier problems, I’m not sure it’s accurate anymore).

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone even half serious about exercise (I’m not sure that counts me in) and more for someone who needs to get up and do something and this would be a good device to track that.

It has been an interesting foray into smart devices and made me more keen on the Apple Watch I will likely replace this with soon.

Thanks

Christchurch

Every time I see news on this or read comments I get a bit choked up about it. I am not really sure why this one has affected me more than any other tragedy.

I have to say I think it’s because it’s New Zealand. While NZ is my homeland, I’ve lived away from it longer than I ever lived there. I’ve got no connections to Christchurch either. No family or friends, I’ve only been there twice for a couple of brief overnights.

I think it’s just because it’s NZ and that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen at home. I can’t make sense of it. I think it helps somewhat that the shooter was a foreigner and not a Kiwi. That would be even more dissociative for me.

I’ve been really proud of the PM and the example she’s set the world. But also the others I’ve seen in the news, even people like the Mongrel Mob and others who would normally be thought to be “outside” the community.

Anyway. I’m not really sure what’s going on but thanks for reading.

2018 in Review

I haven’t written last years review yet, so here goes.

About Bikes

Well a good year for the bikes, finishing on a dramatic change. Most of the year was commuting to work, with the odd day ride squeezed in occasionally. I managed to get my little ones out for a ride and they both enjoyed it.

Of course, there was the big adventure to the MotoGP, only 11 years since the last time. I found some fun roads, I had some great weather, I enjoyed the challenge and the solitude. The Daytona performed excellently for a bike being asked to do something the designers NEVER intended. However well it went though, it wasn’t as easy as it would have been on the VFR so I finally made the decision that was 4 years in the making.

And seemingly fate gave me the chance to swap the bike for the Ninja which I did. Though by the by the end of 2018, I was very uncertain if I had done the right thing. The Daytona was gone and the Ninja sat unridden in the garage, looking dirty and tired.

About babes

The kids… well one finished primary and is off to high school this year! They had a great year, probably they would both count the Japan trip as the highlight, I would put it a tight second after the MotoGP trip. They both enjoyed their ride around the block on the bike too.

About bytes

Well the computers this year have been almost exclusively workhorses, with my study and my girls work as well. I did tuck in to BattleTech and love that. Oh, now that study is on hold….

Oh, I did get the new iMac didn’t I – it seems like so long ago. That was like changing to a new car without even realising. It just doesn’t break down all the time like the old one, but otherwise everything looks the same. And to be honest, I don’t really notice the faster start up etc, because everything is usually open.

The Playstation got retired (faulty wireless board, still works with USB), the Wii got passed to a relative and the kids picked up a Switch. Cool little device that.

About Study

I would love to be saying I’m done, but I have one prac unit left before I graduate. And no certainty of when I will get to do it. Hopefully when I write the 2019 review I will be able say done.

BUT the main thing is that I LOVE IT. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it had it been my thing straight out of Uni, but I think that time in between and the life and experience in that time will set me on a good path to this new career, whenever it is that I actually get started.

Ninja – Two months in

So I’ve now had the Ninja for about 2 months. The short answer is I’m happy that this bike will suit me better than the Daytona, and I miss the Daytona… and the VFR, lol. I form close attachments to these things, so it’s hard to see them go.

Cloudy start to the day

Apart from the trip to Canberra, the Ninja has been on a solid program of commuting. Being summer it’s been mostly hot. There has been a bit of rain (not very heavy yet) as well, but the commute which is almost completely open freeway (without much traffic) has been very benign.

Having a topbox again has been fantastic. I can carry so much more than I ever could on the Daytona, so even simple things like bringing in my share of a morning tea has been easy. Throwing in the weeks worth of uniform or bringing my gym gear home for a wash is a breeze.

The following week saw a lot of drizzle but enough to get wet. The original 2011 BT016 actually went fine, but I’m still keen to wear them out and put something fresher on

I have tested the limits, almost, of the range and am now happy that in most cases with my riding 300km is achievable, as long as I know I can get petrol. 300km will have the reserve light on, but only just. 250km without any worry. That’s not as far as I was hoping, as I was looking for more like 300km without any worry and 350km before reserve but its better than the 200-220km (in a push) I could reach with the Daytona. It is a bigger capacity than the VFR with a smaller tank, so I shouldn’t directly compare them. Perhaps as the kms on the bike build up it may extend. I recall the VFR added another 30-50km when it ticked over 12,000km.

I picked up the bike with almost 2600km on it. I’ve put about 1400km on it so far. I do about 350km per week just commuting (so have to fill once a week).

So after a week of rain, I managed to catch a weather break to give it a clean for next week’s commute.

So in the dry and wet, the bike has been fine. I don’t think its even quite as sporty as the VFR was, and certainly nothing like the Daytona. But I don’t ask much of my bikes so I’ve not reached the Ninja’s limits either.

The next longer ride will likely be the start of April when I head to Newcastle on a work trip. That will be a slog up the freeway for the very early Monday departure (I’ll be interested to see how the headlights perform then) and hopefully something a little more interesting on the mid afternoon Friday return. We’ll see.

Study – And the last one…. ?

Another study period is complete. This last period I’ve only been able to complete 1 unit as my other scheduled unit was a practical one. After being reassigned at work, my new boss wasn’t sure that he would be able to release me so I had to drop it.

So with ONE unit left in my whole study program, barring resubmissions from this past unit, I have nothing to do, but I’m also not complete.

Its very frustrating, being so close to the finish, but not having any idea when I’m going to get to finish it. It’s like crashing out within sight of the checkered flag!

I have tentatively proposed that I complete it in October/November, but we will have to see.

In the meantime, I will work on my accreditation. I’m also going to look at some Microsoft training that’s apparently available. I might also see if there are some Google courses as well. (oh, this is in regards to Google Classroom and Microsoft OneNote Classroom). These are both used by different schools, though I’ve only used Google.

Anyway, that and I’ll see if there is reading or similar things I might be able to do to add to my skills.

And fingers crossed for Study Period 3!