The Wednesday Writeup - Issue #15

Welcome back to The Wednesday Writeup!

We are officially half way done with 2020. This has been... a strange and crazy year so far. Probably one of the most notable that I have lived through, and it's only half way over. I don't dare try to even predict what the rest of the year has in store for us, but I can only hope that things improve to some degree.

For me personally though, there has been quite a bit of good this year. I am in better shape than I have been in a while, part of several great communities, and I have released a good deal of stuff that I am proud of.

Going into this next half I want to keep up the momentum on creating and networking. And I have given up any hope of pivoting back to my original travel plans any time soon, so now I need to figure out where and how I want to spend a more local life, which will probably be a pretty big element of these next few months.

What I'm Doing

I have started learning piano again this past week. I played for a few years as a kid, but always ended up getting bored with it, and rarely took the time to properly dedicated time to practice. I was ok at it, and did a few small performances, but I never really excelled at it. But in the last few years I have regrown an interest in playing piano. It is such a direct manifestation of musical concepts, and therefore seems like probably one of the best ways to really learn music theory. I can tell I have lost almost all of what I knew, and I'm pretty much back to square one, but at the very least a little bit of the muscle memory is still there, so I'm moving forward at a pace I'm happy with.

My android app is shipped! I felt yesterday that it was at a point where it was ready to be published. I submitted it for review and it has now launched into the world. I have already gotten a couple of bug reports, and I will be monitoring it over the coming weeks and pushing out fixes as necessary, but it is nice having it out in the wild so that I don't have the idea of shipping it looming over my head. It also means I can actually start pivoting to other software projects that have been nagging at me for ages now. If you are curious, you can find it here.

I have been settling in in a new town, and dealing with the impact of that on my systems, momentum, and productivity. I moved in with my brother last week for a change of scenery and to spend more time with him. Because of this move though, immediately my sleep patterns have started changing, I don't have the same designated space to do my workouts, and any meal planning approach I had has gone out the window. This is the first big change of this sort I have had since the start of the year (other than the short term Patagonia trip) and it will be an interesting test to see how quickly I can get back to some semblance of "normal".

Recommendations

I have been getting back into table top role playing games (TTRPGs) recently with my brother. This is a great hobby, super creative, and fun to play if you can find a good group. I decided this week I would include links to a few fun options for someone hoping to get into TTRPGs and a short review of what to expect with each.

Dungeons and Dragons

This is, of course, the classic. It is hard to go wrong starting with Dungeons and Dragons, especially given the quality and accessibility of 5th edition. Although there are modules people have written that take D&D in a variety of different directions, thematically the core of it is all about elves, magic, and other high-fantasy elements. If you want to pretend you are in Lord of the Rings, fighting monsters and going on great quests, D&D is definitely the way to go.

As far as gameplay goes it does a great job of making the players feel like heroes. The stakes aren't that high, and you can expect that unless the players do something incredibly stupid, odds are they will survive for quite a long time.

This is definitely what I would recommend for complete beginners. There are so many resources and tools surrounding D&D to take advantage of to make it incredibly easy to get started.

Call of Cthulhu

If your idea of a fun time involves investigative work and going insane at the sight of eldritch horrors, Call of Cthulhu might be the one for you! This game is in many ways the exact opposite of D&D. Based on the H.P. Lovecraft stories, these games are set in the 1920s in a variation of the real world that has ancient evil gods causing trouble, cults worshipping those gods, and regular efforts by said cultists to summon those gods to destroy the earth. There are basically none of the same fantasy elements, and it is much more about trying to stay alive as you dig through old tomes and infiltrate evil organizations attempting to stop catastrophic events.

Gameplay wise the stakes are very high, and the game is not terribly forgiving. The characters can be killed quite easily, and if you aren't killed, after a sufficiently long game the insanity will likely drive you mad. In all of the Cthulhu campaigns I have played, in every single one I have lost at least one character death or insanity, and in a year long campaign it happened more than once. But the game is still incredibly fun, and provides a very different experience.

Fate

Unlike the other two which provide a setting along with rules, Fate is purely a ruleset. It is designed to be an incredibly free-form and non restrictive system, allowing for role playing to be at the forefront with mechanics only there to aid in the storytelling. This means that from a thematic perspective it can be pretty much whatever you want. People have built Fate modules based on the Dresden Files, space exploration, kung fu, and a bunch of other things. And it is generally pretty easy to build up your own game around Fate if you don't want to use what somebody else has created.

The Fate gameplay is way more loose than the others. As mentioned before the mechanics are much more designed around supporting the role-play rather than the other way around. This means that, depending on the style of game, you can have the option of accomplishing fantastical acts, or you might have to fight just to survive, all depending on how your table chooses to play it.

Location of the Week: Victoria, Canada

Back at the end of 2014 I decided to go to a Mother Mother concert up in Victoria, Canada. I was living in Seattle at the time, so I figured I might as well take the ferry. It was only a couple of hours, and was a really pleasant ride. Arriving at the city was absolutely gorgeous. I wish I had taken better pictures from the approach, it was so nice seeing the little harbor, pretty buildings, and greenery all around.

I was only there for two days, and mostly spent my time just wandering around, poking around various shops and museums (my favorite was the miniatures museum), and enjoying the fresh air and evening Christmas lights. I did also go out to the Butchart Gardens, although it definitely wasn't the right time of year for it.

The concert itself was the best I have been to in my life. I was front row, center seat, and spent the entire time singing along and having a blast. The energy from everyone around was really high, and at the end of the night my voice was almost entirely gone from participating in the audience noise making. Truly an incredibly evening.

Signing off until next week
- Aengus McMillin