Recipe – Beef and Rice Skillet Fiesta

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups beef bullion
  • 1/4 cup dice onions
  • 1 1/2 cups Minute rice
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can of whole kernel corn
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. salt

In a large skillet, brown the beef and drain off the fat. Mix in the onions and let them brown briefly. Mix in the beef bullion, salt, chili powder and bring to boil. While that heats up and boils, mix in the corn and tomatoes and bring back to boiling. You don’t have to use the entire can of corn or tomatoes, depending on your tastes. Mix in the rice and cover for 5 minutes. Uncover and serve.

Variations: Add Diced Green Pepper (1/4 cup or to taste); use Garlic and Onion Diced Tomatoes or other flavor instead of regular Diced Tomatoes; use Chicken instead of Beef (cook completely before adding other ingredients!).

RPG Superstar!

Paizo Publishing (former publisher of Dragon and Dungeon magazines) has announced an interesting new contest called RPG Superstar. They are looking for new talent in the RPG writing field. This contest will go on, in stages, between now and February and is voted on by the fans. See the web site for details.

I find this contest pretty interesting because it has so many different things to design throughout. This gives a lot of opportunity to hit areas you are really good at. If you have ever wondered if you might have what it takes to be a writer in the RPG industry, here is your chance. Let the fans themselves tell you!

Recipe – Baked Spaghetti

  • 8 oz. package of spaghetti noodles
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 16 oz. spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 4 oz. package mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz. package cheddar cheese
  • package of sliced pepperoni
  • dash of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pan of water to boil and add package of spaghetti noodles. Brown ground beef with onions. When beef is browned, add a dash of salt and pepper and spaghetti sauce. Simmer beef in sauce for 10 minutes. Once noodles are soft and sauce has simmered, mix the noodles and sauce into a baking dish. Top with pepperoni and cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Shadowrun Adventure – Food Fight 4.0

Our first game using Shadowrun 4th Edition rules was this Saturday at Halloween Hootenanny II. The game was played using three pregenerated characters, a human street samurai, an ork hacker, and a troll bounty hunter. The group named themselves JNC (pronounced “jinx”) for their names Jazz, Ned and Chuck. JNC found themselves, at 4:00 a.m., in the local Stuffer Shack looking for snacks. As they shopped, an elf woman and her baby came into the store, and a moment later the whole front of the building exploded. The blast knocked everyone prone and buried the woman and child in the rubble. A trio of Helloweener gang members came running in waving guns and shouting for everyone to stay on the ground.

Never ones to follow orders, JNC had other plans. Chuck the troll walked over and put some of his Aztec-Mex “meltdown” stuffers in the microwave, which caused one of the gang members to brandish an Ares Predator IV in his face and yell at him to get down. Ned the Nerd decided to hack the Stuffer Shack node and drop the lights around him and his companions but leave them on around the gangers. Afterward, Ned slipped through the AlmostMilk(TM) rack and out into the storage room. Meanwhile, Jazz drew her katana and slipped over near the ganger shaman who was standing in the darkness sifting through the rubble. Chuck, as stealthy as a troll can be (which is to say, “not at all”), drew his smartlinked shotgun and aimed it at the ganger.

Naturally, a firefight erupted. Chuck was shot twice, once by the pistol-wielding ganger and again by the other one holding the AK-97. Due to his armor skin and natural toughness, Chuck was not greatly injured. The gang shaman sparked some mojo to make a sheet of ice appear beneath Chuck’s feet, but he was able to balance. The other two gangers took cover and began a shootout with Chuck. Jazz slipped up on the shaman and decapitated him with ease. She then threw his severed head out into the light to demoralize the other two. Meanwhile, Ned hacked the cameras and found they had been turned off, so he started watching outside. He found that another ganger was lying dazed on the parking lot. Chuck dove for cover behind some of the potatoish chips, and Jazz charged out and impaled the pistol-wielding ganger and killed him. With his morale broken, the remaining Helloweener ran off and abandoned his companion in the parking lot.

JNC pulled the woman from the rubble and found out she was trying to blackmail a corp VP named Mel Cozi because the baby was their love child. Smelling profits, they kidnapped her and the dazed ganger in the parking lot. They interrogated the ganger with some “not torture” methods that he did not survive. They then went about trying to gather some DNA from Mel to prove the child was his.

After some doing, JNC used the cover of a Strip-O-Gram truck to slip into Mel’s neighborhood and break into his house. Chuck’s stealth alerted the maid, so he had to punch her in the face and knock her out. Unfortunately, her flying body knocked some drywall loose too. Oh well, Chuck accomplished his goal of shutting her up. He then ran upstairs to steal some hair from Mel’s hair brush. In the meantime, Jazz went to find Mel’s office while Ned hacked the safe remotely and turned it off. Jazz found Mel’s guard dog and had to shoot it. After the heist, they left the neighborhood after a brief run in with the security guard. Fortunately, Ned’s hacking got them through the gates.

After proving Mel’s parenthood, JNC called him up to setup a drop for the blackmail money. They demanded 100,000 nuyen, because they now had genetic proof. They setup a drop and demanded Mel bring the money in a black duffel. Mel showed up and put the bag in the backseat of a vehicle Ned controlled remotely. JNC had no plans of turning over the elf woman, even though they had agreed to do so. Instead, they took off with the money.

In another warehouse, later that night, JNC pulled the duffel from the car. At that point, they realized they had never seen the money, only the bag. The group backed way off while Jazz opened the bag. Unfortunately, Mel was as wicked as the shadowrunners, and Jazz blew into a bloody mess as the bomb within exploded. Ned saw red (and he was angry) and decided they would make Mel pay, but that is a story for another day.

Army, Iraq

Received the following letter:

Hi Mr. Charles,

Hope things are good with you and your family.

Things here are good. Thank you for your letter, info & recipe.

It is always good to hear from people at home & the funny things they do.

Thank you for your support. It is really good to hear that not everyone is against us or opt to support us even though you may not like the war they still support us. Well let me run. Time for bed & another long day.

Thanks again.


Motorola DCT 6412 III DVR

I had a strange problem with my Motorola DCT 6412 III DVR last night. Everything live on cable played through the tuner just fine, but nothing recorded would play. Instead it showed a black screen with no progress on the play bar. You could fast forward or rewind, and it remained at 0:00 played and a black screen.

I tried recording something new and then playing it, thinking maybe the old files corrupted. This resulted in the exact same behavior. Finally, I did some looking out on the Internet and noticed some things. First of all, Insight Communications has lousy self-help on their website. Really, it sucks. Second, there wasn’t a lot of help for troubleshooting to be found; most people seem to post questions trying to figure out how to steal TV shows off of the DVR.

After a bit of looking, I stumbled upon a single suggestion. Unplug the DVR for a while and it should work again. Eureka! That did, indeed, make the DVR start working again. I don’t know what caused the problem or if it will recur. I wanted to post about it here to get this information in one more place out on the web.

Age of Worms Adventure Path – Game Session 56

Game summary for October 25, 2007; present characters included Ashkor (lizardfolk barbarian/battle sorcerer/dragon disciple/fighter), Eolas Windmaster (moon elf duskblade), Lyrin Sinbal (simian incantatrix/ring sage/warmage), Morak Beardfist (shield dwarf fighter/rage cleric), Syvarius Strongbow (moon elf archer-ranger), and Taravin Truesilver (human gray guard/paladin of honor).

The evening festivities begin with “The Harlequinade Mortificatio”, wherein animated skeletons act out scenes of death by poisoning and foul play. After the play, the Ominous Fabler leads the guests to the Balcony of Expectorance for the Handsome Slaughter of Curious Avians. Many of the guests compete at the game; they fire repeating crossbows at groups of ten corollaxes. The Tyrant slays six on his attempt, but Eolas succeeds in slaying seven. He wins the 1,000 gp purse and the disfavor of the Tyrant.

The Fabler then takes the group down into the basement and a fighting arena for Lively Sports and Baiting. The Tyrant unveils some master/slave rings and challenges anyone to fight him via proxy. Lyrin accepts the invitation, and the two gain control over a pair of cockatrices. The monsters are released into the arena along with a dozen cats. Tarnheel and Lyrin run about turning cat after cat into stone statues. In the end, Lyrin wins a majority of the statues, 7 to 5. For his efforts, he is awarded a golden egg.

Back out in the garden, the Fabler introduces another morbid game, the Bowling of the Devious Heads. The Tyrant hurls the blackened skull of Jack, an executed criminal. The remaining guests toss the skulls of other slain criminals in an effort to get their skull as close to Jack as possible. In the end, Syvarious succeeds in landing closest. He is rewarded with a necklace with a small silver skull with ruby eyes.

Finally, the dinner begins and Lashonna arrives. The first course consists of a silver goblet with a live green scrubgrub. Despite its appearance, it is surprisingly tasty. The second course is a strange blackbird pie. It isn’t bad, except for the blackbirds. For the third course, Tarnheel’s recipe for tojbasarrirge is served. This disgusting meal is made of a tojanida stuffed with gritty basilisk steaks, which are stuffed with tangy arrowhawk breasts, which are in turn stuffed with a fully boned stirge with three olives on its proboscis. Some of the characters choke a bite or two down, others simply choke. The Tyrant eventually realizes how truly dreadful the dish is and orders it taken away. The fourth course is better, if not more frightening. Jelly-like purple worm aspic is served. It is found quite tasty despite the danger of deadly poison. The meals ends with an 8-foot-tall cake topped with a marzipan likeness of Tarnheel. As the cake is set down, it splits and the tiny statue falls, shatters, and the head lands in Eolas’ lap. Tarnheel swells with fury, but the Ominous Fabler succeeds in somewhat smoothing over the situation.

Afterward, a great dance commences. Tarnheel sits on his throne and broods while the other guests try to make the best of the event. Taravin and the elves try to talk to Lashonna, but she indicates there are too many ears about and invites them to her home in two days. Meanwhile, Tarnheel gets bored with the event, and is still angry, so he dismisses his guests and leaves for his chambers.

In a few days, a carriage comes for the Mercenaries and takes them to Lashonna at Mistwall Manor. The place is opulent and extravagant. The beautiful elf reveals the journal of Balakarde as well as her interest in the Age of Worms, Kyuss and Balakarde. She tells them what she knows of Kyuss’ general, Dragotha. The once great dragon is now a dracolich who has lost his phylactery. This has kept him cowardly and hidden for hundreds of years; however, something has him stirring and eager to rescue Kyuss from his prison. Lashonna suggests the party seek out the one place that may hold the secret to locating Dragotha’s phylactery, Tilagos Island. With a new mission before them, the party begins discussing the situation with Lashonna. What more will the elven noble reveal, and who is this mysterious rival she mentioned, Darl Quethos?

Age of Worms Adventure Path – Game Session 55

Game summary for October 11, 2007; present characters included Ashkor (lizardfolk barbarian/battle sorcerer/dragon disciple/fighter), Iapetus Hasur (hu-charad giant rogue/scout/vigilante), Lady Aridarye Phylund Brokengulf (human aristocrat/harbinger/ranger cohort), Lyrin Sinbal (simian incantatrix/ring sage/warmage), Morak Beardfist (shield dwarf fighter/rage cleric), and Taravin Truesilver (human gray guard/paladin of honor).

The Mercenaries hit the streets of Mintarn seeking information and regal clothing for the upcoming gala. Their inquiries again led them to the burned out Church of Blessed Deliverance. Outside the ruin a posted sign indicated the area off limits by order of the Tyrant. Using tremendous stealth, Aridarye slipped into the shadows and over to the ruins. Using magic, Aridarye was able to describe the interior to Iapetus. The group—except for the paladin, Taravin—attempted to follow Aridarye into the ruins, but Morak proved less than stealthy. Within moments, a single Blessed Angel appeared and ordered the dwarf off the premise. He apologized for the trespass and left with Taravin. The Blessed Angel then entered the ruins and appeared to look right over the party. She turned and disappeared. Spooked by her hellborn appearance, and unsure if she had actually seen them, the remaining Mercenaries quickly fled the building.

Later, the party was confronted in the middle of town by a pair of hobgoblin mercenaries, B’Kruss and V’Juss. The boisterous B’Kruss wasted no time in insulting and taunting the party into a series of competitions between himself and the group. The first consisted of a race from the market square up to the Toilway and back. Brave Morak volunteered for the race and mounted a borrowed horse. B’Kruss rode his own mount, a nasty dire boar named Gristlegape. The race was neck-and-neck throughout, with the hobgoblin warrior winning by a snout at the very end.

After the race, B’Kruss regaled the party with a tale of a time he lept a chasm to behead a deadly dragon. He then challenged the party to leap from roof to roof of a pair of three-story buildings. To make things interesting, they filled the alley below with debris and weapons. Again, Morak volunteered for the challenge. It was quite a sight when the stubby-legged dwarf and the hulking hobgoblin raced across the roof and jumped into the air. Unfortunately, they collided in mid-air and plunged into the junk below. Immediately, they tried—and failed—again. On the third try, Morak succeeded in the jump, and B’Kruss fell.

Not to be outdone, B’Kruss challenged the party to the Mindless Courage of the Dreadful Mauling. An area was cleared, and B’Kruss declared the challenge could be won by pinning Gristlegape for 18 seconds before B’Kruss could do so. Taravin was able to pin the beast in 36 seconds, while it took B’Kruss 42!

The hobgoblin and the party decided to try the jumping challenge again, which Morak again won. Then, they attempted to wrestle Gristlegape again. The result was B’Kruss gored into unconsciousness. With their victory secured, the party enjoyed the accolaides of the crowd and the amusement of the whole event.

In the days following the challenge, the team investigate the new temple of Bane under construction. They also visited the temple of Tempus where some of the party paid their respects to the god of war.

Eventually, the day of the gala arrived. A troll-pulled carriage picked up the party and took them to the event. The met a number of guests but found Lashonna was running late. In the meantime, the Omnious Fabler invited the guests to present their gifts to the Tyrant. This custom was completely unknown to the party, so they quickly threw together some of their trophies and delivered them with a convincing story that somehow amused the Tyrant.

After the presentation of gifts, the group was led to an outdoor stage. Now the Mercenaries have opportunity to mingle with the guests and enjoy the first of the gala’s festivities. What awaits?

Age of Worms Adventure Path – Game Session 54

Game summary for October 4, 2007; present characters included Ashkor (lizardfolk barbarian/battle sorcerer/dragon disciple/fighter), Iapetus Hasur (hu-charad giant rogue/scout/vigilante), Lady Aridarye Phylund Brokengulf (human aristocrat/harbinger/ranger cohort), Lyrin Sinbal (simian incantatrix/ring sage/warmage), Morak Beardfist (shield dwarf fighter/rage cleric), Stormwind Abthek (illumian soulknife), and Taravin Truesilver (human gray guard/paladin of honor).

A few hours after defeating the spellweaver lich, the party heard a tremendous crash that shook the entire temple. As they went to investigate, they discovered all the Kyuss worms were gone. In addition, the preserved bodies had all begun to rot. They found the doorway they had yet to open was standing agape and any occupants gone.

Outside, the Mercenaries discovered the Spire of Long Shadows had toppled and shattered the obsidian ring. No longer did teeming worms surround the Spire. Anything that had survived the party’s temple raid had apparently fled through the opening before the party could get back to the surface. With nothing remaining for them here, the Mercenaries returned to Longsaddle via the magic of their dwarven priest, Beardfist.

Once in Longsaddle, the team took little time contacting Cymria and Malchor Harpell. They found the Harpells had discovered some new leads indicating Balakarde had gone to Mintarn to investigate the origin of the cult of the Ebon Triad. Utilizing Malchor’s mystic paintings once again, the Mercenaries transported to the church of Kelemvor in the center of Mintarn. Within minutes they were discussing the clues they had gathered with the high priest, Long Sleep Bradic Scytheswing. He told them what he could about the city, its ruler—Tyrant Tarnheel Embuirhan, and Lashonna, an elven noblewoman Balakarde had sought out.

The streets of Mintarn proved a bustling, exciting place filled with men, halfbreeds, goblinoids and more. All around the city seemed in preparation for some sort of festival. A nearby man was able to tell them about a gala and celebration coming in a week for Tyrant Tarnheel Embuirhan’s 20th year of rule. Banners, emblazoned with the symbol of Bane, and other decorations flapped in the wind everywhere one cared to look. This gala appeared to be a big event in Mintarn. After taking all this in, the group continued on toward Mistwall Manor, home of Lashonna. As they moved through the market, they witnessed a priest of Bane publicly hanging three accused members of the Ebon Triad. The crowd cheered and shouted “death to the Ebon Triad” as the bodies spasmed and jerked on the ends of their ropes. It seems justice is swift and harsh under the thumb of Tyrant Embuirhan!

An obstacle was found at Mistwall Manor. No one could see Lashonna for at least two months; however, Taravin was able to discover the noblewoman would be in attendance at the Tyrant’s personal gala. Someone with an invitation would certainly have opportunity to speak with her there. Armed with this knowledge, the team decided it was time to delve into Mintarn’s black market.

The search began at the seediest of Mintarn’s wealth of seedy establishments, an inn dubiously titled Medusa’s Bastard. Inside was a riot of drinking, gambling, womanizing and wanton disregard for propriety. All around stood men and women of questionable repute, from pirates, bandits, mercenaries, drunkards, whores, cutthroats, and even worse. The group sidled up to the bar and encountered a peg-legged half-orc wearing an eye patch and missing two fingers on his left hand. He introduced himself as the bartender, Lucky. Taravin paid for several rounds of drink with gold coin, which drew immediate attention from everyone in the establishment. After talking to Lucky for a minute, he agreed to get them in touch with a black market dealer in exchange for 50 gp. Aridarye slipped a pouch of coin to the brute, and he gave them instructions to go to room 7 upstairs in 10 minutes.

Upstairs, the Mercenaries met Szentarr Ravin and his two half-orc goons. The half-orcs were ugly masses of muscle, scar, tattoo, and tusk wearing breastplate armor and carrying gigantic greataxes. Stormwind winked at one of the half-orcs, and much to his horror, it smiled at him and showed a bit of lace under its armor. The future of this romance is yet to be seen. The goons allowed one person to come into the room with Szentarr. The choice was between Aridarye and Taravin, and the group opted to send in the smooth-tongued, not-so-by-the-book paladin.

Szentarr turned out to be a middle-aged dwarf with a bald head and a gray-speckled black beard braided down to his stomach and ending with a small skull. The skull could be from a halfling or a goblin. Szentarr did, indeed, have invitations, but he was not willing to simply sell them for just gold. He tasked Taravin with telling tales of the Mercenaries’ misadventures to make sure they were the kinds of people the Tyrant would enjoy having at his gala. Szentarr was particularly amused by the party’s involvement in the calamity in Waterdeep (a rival city). That alone likely would have gained them entrance. For a mere 500 gp per person, Szentarr handed over invitations for the group. Then, Taravin decided that selling some unholy weapons recovered from Kuluth-Mar would go a long way for funding their efforts to fight the great evil, Kyuss. For most paladins this would be unthinkable, but Taravin’s gray guard training allowed him to dabble in a bit of darkness for a greater good.

After the transaction with the dwarven merchant, Szentarr mentioned that he runs a large entertainment and goods procurement operation called the Deluxury. He invited the party to come by and let him earn back some of the gold he had traded for the unholy weapons.

Now the Mercenaries are armed with invitations to a high-class noble gala in a week. How will these adventurers fit in with the upper crust of Mintarn? What will they do in the seven days’ time between now and then?

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Tower Defense