Nov 22

Nice logo, though

This D&D website turns out to have nothing to do with Dungeons & Dragons; it’s for D&D Chevrolet in DeWitt, Iowa. My initial reaction was “How have these folks avoided being sued by the game’s publisher for trademark infringement?” But the dealership has been called “D&D” since 1971, three years before the game first appeared. Now, if they had called it Chainmail Chevrolet . . .

Oct 25

Natural 20!

Is the world ready for a reality TV show about Dungeons & Dragons players? Maybe, if all of the players (apart from the Dungeon Master) are attractive young women. The Daily Illuminator reports that such a show already exists on cable-access TV in Southern California. It’s called Dungeon Majesty, and you can see a video clip of it here.

Oct 04

Three years and counting

I just realized that I forgot an anniversary. My first blog post was written on October 2, 2001, so this blog turned three years old on Saturday.
That strikes me as significant, for reasons that require a bit of explanation. Over the years, I have learned that I have a tendency to get interested in a new activity, pursue it enthusiastically for a while, and then lose interest and abandon it. Sometimes I actually experience a loss of motivation; sometimes I take a break from the activity and just never get around to resuming it. In a couple of cases I’ve decided that the activity is just too expensive and I can’t afford it.
The reasons vary, but I’ve noticed a fairly consistent pattern: if a new interest of mine is going to run out of steam in this way, it’s most likely to do so after about two years. That appears to be the point at which my initial enthusiasm flags and, if I haven’t made a genuine long-term commitment, I just don’t feel like pursuing the activity any more. So if a new activity of mine survives past the critical two-year mark, that suggests that I’m not going to lose interest in it. There have been exceptions, but this seems to be the general rule.
Well, I’ve now been blogging for three years. Does that mean I’m likely to keep it up for a lot longer? I hope so.
UPDATE: If anyone is wondering, my involvement as a volunteer at Raleigh Little Theatre passed the two-year mark three months ago. My family and I first signed up as volunteers at the Backstage Night open house on July 8, 2002.
And as long as I’m observing anniversaries, I should point out Sputnik 1 was launched 47 years ago today — a fact commemorated by today’s X-Prize-winning flight of SpaceShipOne.

Sep 28

Robo Rally returns!

If you’ve ever played the boardgame Robo Rally, you know that there’s nothing else even remotely like it. If you haven’t played it and you are at all interested in games, you owe it to yourself to try it out. Unfortunately, this is increasingly hard to do. The publisher, Wizards of the Coast, stopped producing the game several years ago, and the basic game and expansion sets routinely sell on eBay for upwards of a hundred dollars. But now the game is poised to make a comeback next spring, according to

Feb 05

Plates and states

I’m playing the License Plate Game again this year, and it’s going much better than in 2003. I only have 35 of the 50 states so far, but among those 35 are some that are quite rare in North Carolina. I spotted a Minnesota plate on Tuesday, and yesterday I saw one from Idaho. Idaho was one of the two states I never managed to get last year, so checking it off was especially satisfying.
This morning, as I was driving to work, I glanced at a passing minivan and was astonished to see that it had front and rear plates from Hawaii. On the other hand, I still haven’t sighted a license plate from Kentucky, which is practically next door. But with eleven months to go, I’m not very concerned about that one.

Dec 31

License plates

Since the middle of summer, I’ve been playing the License Plate Game: try to spot a license plate from every state in the U.S. by the end of the year. Greg and Virgil have been doing this for several years, using their Palms to keep track of their progress, and I decided to give it a try. I think I’ve done pretty well, considering that I started playing after half the year was already gone. But on the last day of the year, I’m still two states short — I haven’t seen Idaho or South Dakota. Unless a double miracle occurs in the next six hours or so, I’m not going to complete my 2003 checklist.
So I’ll start over with a new checklist tomorrow morning. I just wish I hadn’t seen an Alaska plate yesterday on my way to work. Argh! I’ll need that one tomorrow, but right now it’s useless. (I actually saw plates for Idaho and South Dakota a few days ago, but they were expired plates for sale in a truck stop. The rules of the game state that the plate has to be attached to a vehicle. So those were equally useless.)

May 01

Earthquakes and hit points

Listening to BBC Newshour on the radio this morning, I heard a report about the earthquake in Turkey. At one point, the reporter spoke with a British earthquake expert, and I realized that I know the guy. Well, sort of. I’ve never met him, and I was hearing his voice for the first time. But we actually exchanged e-mail messages a few years ago.
The reasons for this go back to 1979, when I was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by friends at the University of South Carolina. If you spent any time in game or hobby stores, you were familiar with a monthly magazine called The Dragon, published by TSR Hobbies (the same company as the D&D game itself). But there was another magazine, White Dwarf, that you could only find in a few stores because it was a British import (published by Games Workshop). Issue 15 (October/November 1979) contained an article called “How to Lose Hit Points . . . and Survive” by a British gamer named Roger Musson. I didn’t see that issue of White Dwarf, because the Columbia hobby shop where I was hanging out didn’t carry the magazine. But a few years later, while browsing in Silver City Comics (a much cooler store in Cayce), I stumbled across a copy of The Best of White Dwarf Articles II, a 1983 compilation of material from issues 15 through 30. I found several of the articles interesting and bought it. The Musson article was included, and I was particularly impressed by it.
Fast-forward to early 1997. A discussion of the hit point rules (and ideas for improving them) was in progress in the D&D newsgroup. I thought Musson’s article was relevant, so I posted a summary. To my astonishment, Musson himself responded, expressing delight that the article was still remembered two decades after he wrote it. I sent him a note praising the article and asking some nitpicky questions about it, which he was happy to answer. In the course of all this, I learned that he was now a seismologist working for the British Geological Survey. In fact, he seemed to be a rather prominent seismologist — at one point, I ran a Web search to see if he had a gaming-related site (he didn’t), and found numerous references to, and quotations from, his research.
So this morning, when a BBC reporter introduced an earthquake scientist named Roger Musson, I knew immediately who she was talking to. BBC World Service doesn’t seem to have an online archive of their radio reports, but this transcript of their report about Turkey’s last major earthquake (in 1999) includes some quotes from him. His remarks this morning were quite similar: he discussed the tectonic forces at work in that part of the world, and the Turkish construction practices that tend to exacerbate the death toll when a quake occurs.
Thanks to the BBC, a great many people heard Musson on the radio today. But how many of them know that he used to play D&D, have a copy of his article about hit points, and have conversed with him by e-mail? I’m such a geek.
(Note: The Dragon exists today as Dragon Magazine, now published by Paizo Publishing. White Dwarf is also still around, and is even still published by Games Workshop. But it’s now devoted entirely to miniatures-based wargames like Warhammer.)
UPDATE: You can listen to the BBC radio segment here. Dragon Magazine‘s print edition ceased publication in September 2007, but the magazine lives on as a part of the D&D Insider website.