Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Saturday, 30. October 2010

I haven’t always enjoyed either mushrooms or spinach, however then they’re properly prepared they’re quite tasty in concert. In this case, all of the components listed below are nice and fresh. Button mushrooms will work as well although I prefer portabellas because they have a meatier taste to them. A standard small package or baby portabellas will contain maybe 6-7 that are usable, you’ll have to use the remainder for soup or another dish.

There are also certainly lighter calorie ways to do this – however I’ll let someone else do that!

6 Small Portabella Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic
2-1/2 Cups Shredded Spinach
2-3 Tablespoons Colby Jack Cheese

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2) Mince garlic, shred or slice spinach into small strips. You should have around a cup and a half shredded, which will in turn cook down to about 6 tablespoons.
3) Saute garlic and spinach briefly in butter, just enough to get the garlic to wilt. No more, or you’ll cook the spinach into oblivion and end up with texture less goo. This step takes less than a minute. Stir mixture, set aside off heat.
4) Break off stems of mushrooms, and stuff with spinach garlic mixture from above. In my case, it was around 1 tablespoon or less of mixture per mushroom. The stems aren’t used in this recipe, but they make for a nice mushroom stock for soup or stews.
5) I used shredded colby over my stuffed mushrooms and it worked well because of its relatively mild taste. Approximately 2-3 tablespoons in total for all of the mushrooms.
6) Grease baking sheet (Butter in my case.) Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, remover when cheese is melted and mushrooms appear to start drying.
7) Enjoy!

In the case that you prefer a dryer mushroom, cooking them for 20 will have a good result. In that case, you will want to add the cheese perhaps 10-15 minutes into the baking.

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Offensive armor use

Friday, 29. October 2010

Armor is commonly thought of as a defensive tool. That is somewhat correct in the practical sense, it is defensive in that it protects the wearer from being killed as quickly. Given enough time, something will penetrate the armor or find a gap in it and wound or kill the wearer. The only way this can be prevented is by removing the threat, usually in an offensive fashion.

The old picture that comes to mind of knights pounding on each other until the one of them went down only happens in the case of poor combatants. For starters, they’re unlikely to be using swords unless they’re the heavily reinforced types that are based on thrusting. Even then, they need to be exploiting the armors weaknesses to penetrate it while attempting to angle their armor to defend them. Most likely they will be using something with considerably more armor penetration such as a pick, mace or hammer. Even in such a case though, the armor has succeeded in the trade off of forcing the opponent to use a slower weapon, typically with less reach.

The higher medieval armor such as Gothic plate and O-Yoroi maintaned a relatively high level of mobility for the weight of the armor in question. The net effect was to raise the required skill level of the attacker required to score a connecting, killing or wounding hit to such a high level that it was unlikely. In this, the wearer of the armor was able to exploit the armor surfaces particularly in closer combat where it was very difficult to score a killing blow against the wearer. The power to break the armor at that distance isn’t there and the chance of getting in through the armors gaps is low.

Essentially the armor acted as a brief shield a deflecting surface at the moment of contact. The wearer was able to exploit this contact by countering at a weak point at the moment it happens. In this, the actual use of the armor is offensive. It only has to buy that split second to close the deal… armor doesn’t exist to extend combats, but to simply guard while the wearer angles in for the kill.

Thematic Music – Blade Runner, Vangelis

Wednesday, 27. October 2010

Blade Runner
Main Theme

Going old school for this week!

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Why Pen and the Sword?

Tuesday, 26. October 2010

We all have heard the old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This of course deserves some light examination if nothing else.

In a purely physical context this saying is of course nonsense. Bladed weapons have been the kings of the battlefield from thousands of years. The sword has longer reach, and is varies from lethal to extremely lethal in trained hands. It wouldn’t be a difficult task to simply kill the person using the pen and take it as plunder.

In a political sense the pen in skilled hands is capable of changing minds and hearts. In the longer game, it is capable of marshaling far more swords than the sword alone could by pure force. While tools act as a force multiplier, those who are able to consistently rebuild their armies to a stronger state win.  In a sense of knowledge, the pen is a large advancement in passing know how from generation to generation. It has brought the ease and availability of such information to many as a method of simplicity.  Likewise as is in art it is an easy expression of spirituality among many other things.   We could almost say the pen represents much of what came with a more modern society.

Somewhere along the line however it was decided that because of the Pens virtues the sword was no longer required by everyday people.  Violence became in instrument of evil, even if used as a shield.  Vigiliance was no longer required, it was something that could be provided by others.  Likewise was the sense of awareness and self protection; the odds of being victimized were low enough that those skills simply were no longer required.  Or was that simply an illusion?

The pen for all of its virtues is a poor instrument when one is besieged.  To those who speak the language of violence it is a relatively nonthreatening, sharp stick.  That language, the language of violence needs to be answered in kind in order to be understood.  The act itself need not be committed, but the vocabulary needs to be there.  The awareness and perception that goes with it needs to be there, along with the sense of preservation of self and those of others.

Those who though the sword was only capable of violence were sorely in error.  The sword represented far more than pure physical, temporal power. It is a sense of perception and alertness, the willingness to look and see trouble coming.  It is the awareness that evil comes to good people and the vigilance required to guard against it.  It is the urgency of action to defeat such evil when it is spotted.  The knowledge that without protection, all that the pen is capable of is for naught.

We need to retake the history of warrior poets, of warrior philosophers and of warrior artisans.  That little ember burns within all of us; some much brighter than others… but still it is there.  It needs to be fueled, kept hot, kept ready.  For if not, woe be to those that decides they need that fire but finds but cold ashes; useless in their time of need.

Thus we need both; Pen in one hand and the Sword in the other - As it should be, as it has been in the past.

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Damage Scaling

Monday, 25. October 2010

BX has an interesting post on the use of a simple d6 damage mechanic for D&D gaming.  The argument is essentially that all weapons are lethal and equally capable of gutting someone should they connect.  I agree to a point, but there is definitely an advantage to be had for reach and then armor adds just another entire level of complexity.  Lets face it, most of the time damage in games is pretty abstract because it would be very disappointing for someone to get gutted in the first hit particularly after spending all that time making a character.

So lets look at using something similar or perhaps a “slight” change in the damage die for weapons if you prefer just based on the mass of damage done.  In this case, we’ll just keep with a simple d6 however for sake of simplicity.  From there, we’ve got another couple layers that heap on complexity and perhaps affect the damage we can do with a given weapon.  Technique (combat experience, skill etc) has a lot to do with it, so that should be a major factor.  Strength plays a smaller part and speed is equally important.  (I know there are a lot of other factors we can incorporate, but this has to be playable!)

For D&D it might be something like this

Skill – Every 4 levels results in a +1. Classes that are specialized in fighting gain an additional +1 to this scale.
Strength - Each point of bonus represents +1 on the scale.  Likewise with penalties.
Speed – Dexterity is factored in a similar fashion.

All of those attributes end up getting summed on each side of the equation and a comparison is made between the 2.  If there is no or simply a small difference, the damage for each weapon remains the same.  As the difference increases, whomever has the advantage increases their damage in increments.  For D&D, a d2 would be appropriate.  For games similar to heavy gear, a damage increase of 1 per step would be appropriate.

Difference Added damage
0-3              None
3-6              d2 (d6 would be d8 now, etc)
6-12            d4
12+             d6

What does all this do put together?  It provides a relative effectiveness of each combatant with a weapon.  The more able combatant is going to be able to better leverage his  weapons strengths and the damage increase shows this.  In the case of the less skilled person; a lethal weapon is still lethal.  Damage in their case remains the same to reflect this. It also represents the multiple hits or other techniques that might be applied with a weapon that’s seemingly “less” lethal to greatly increase its effectiveness.

If you wanted to get away from hit points, you could use a scale of combat advantage the combatants progress along until one wins, with the win resulting in a wound for the other.  Combat progresses until a clear winner is there.


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Castlevania – Lords of Shadow (2)

Saturday, 23. October 2010

Castlevania Lords of Shadow

Just in case you’re wondering where I’ve been instead of posting. The current incarnation of Castlevania – Lords of Shadow is an excellent addition to the franchise. I’m probably a little over 1/3 of the way into the game right now, playing the 360 version. It’s good that there was some pressure to get this game right, because previous incarnations of Castlevania in 3d have been lacking both in both game play and graphically.

Fortunately this is not the case with LoS; the game uses a well polished but similar style of play to what you might expect out of Darksiders or God of War. Camera angles are for the most part pretty good although there is the occasional spot where you wish it would move more. Thus far however, they haven’t gotten in the way of any major fights. Game play depth is added through the use of both light and shadow magic. The one heals you and the other increases damage. Both have substantial effects on your sub-weapons; Shadow magic for instance turns your daggers into small explosives.

Gone is the familiar system of using hearts for sub-weapons. You actually carry a set number of items to use, and when they are gone, they’re gone. Fortunately the items for the most part drop quite frequently, Your carrying capacity for each is also upgradeable.. particularly if you are efficient at finding all the upgrades. They have varying effectiveness against different monsters which are shown on each monsters description page after you defeat them.

Graphically the game is simply amazing. The textures are very well done with little awkwardness to at all (Incidentally, character texture was always well done in their earlier 3d games.) The backgrounds however is where this game really, really shines. Gone are the boring obviously templated rooms with a full rich 3d background and simply amazing environmental and lighting effects. It really adds a lot of feeling to the game to see everything hidden by fog or shadows. There isn’t just that in the game however; there is a tremendous amounts of area that Gabriel covers, lush woodlands, dank swamps, arctic cold. All are done amazingly well.

Without giving anything away; the plot so far seems to be keyed in heavily in the duality of human nature – Good & evil as you would expect in a Castlevania game. This game is pretty dark, I’d say a lot more so than the feeling of the other games with your hero Garbriel being quite tormented by his actions and mistakes. The voice acting in addition is excellent and adds a real quality unlike a lot of previous games where its some cheesy translation. (Which is good, I’d have expected Patrick Stewart to tell them to go to hell if it wasn’t, hah!)

All in all, this one seems to be a good one for the collection and not just for hardcore enthusiasts. There is a mention of previous characters from the other games, but you would not lose anything if you hadn’t played any of the franchise before. The game is a bit twitchy however and while I wouldn’t say exceedingly difficult there is a distinct learning curve with most bosses. If you’re on a proper difficulty expected to be playing each a couple of times before you finally beat them.

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Player Ownership

Thursday, 21. October 2010

One of the common topics nowadays is ownership; it comes up in corporate meetings, schools, sports teams, communities, clubs and so on. I am a big believer in the concept of that people who are a part of something will naturally gravitate to be more active with it. They care simply because it becomes their property and likewise a part of them.  This process naturally happens with the players characters. As blood and sweat equity is invested into them, the emotional attachment is virtually impossible to avoid. At this point you’ll virtually always get some role playing out of them as they’re developed. The question is, how do you foster this attachment?  Is there a method of speeding this along?

My suggestion from the beginning is to start building that attachment right away… and the 2 easiest things to work with are Descriptions an idea of their personality. A more difficult one to work on is the  characters background.  This goes back to that sweat equity statement. At that point they might not especially care about them, but they’re invested with some time and effort.  A little there goes a long way.

 In my mind a good character description, is somewhere around 2-3 paragraphs. At this point the avatar in question begins to become a good vivid image, and a consistent image across all of the players minds.  It is concise and something that can be read to newcomers as a description without being long and boorish.  I know some people want to get into it and describe their character on the inside and all that, but really that should be elsewhere if you’re going crazy with it.

Likewise, building the characters personality with at least a hook or 2 is also a good idea. Once you have something defineable acting becomes that much easier and the character really begins to come to life. Like the above description, I recommend just putting together a rough template of how your character behaves and then letting it evolve from there unless you are rather experienced.  Of course, depending on what order things are done… you may establish a background first and then a personality or do it the other way around.. since the background should be tied in somehow with your characters personality.

Character background as mentioned are also a good way of putting some equity into the character.  I mention it as being more difficult because unless your storyteller is doing it randomly for you there is a lot to come up with.  Most likely unless you are very familiar with the setting in question you are going to need some help with this.  As with the above; concise is more useful than crazy.  Family, family history, where the person has come from, significant childhood events and friends, schools perhaps and done.

All of these have at least a little spark of proper ownership to them and will foster at least a hint of attachment.  From there everything just naturally snowballs with a well put together plot, setting and some good support.

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Thematic Music – Elora Danan

Wednesday, 20. October 2010

Elora Danan
James Horner

I always thought this was one of Lucas best works, and even today the movie still looks very good. The soundtrack to accompany it is likewise spectacular.

If you have any pieces you feel I should include, by all means let me know! This is meant to be a working library of mood setting music for gaming.

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Grappling & Combat Grappling

Tuesday, 19. October 2010

Of the 3 pure combat skill sets that a fighter possesses (Grappling, Percussion and Weaponry) grappling seems to be getting a lot of attention nowadays.  A basic level of attention needs to be given to everything to make a well rounded fighter at least from the standpoint of having a defense against it.  Nobody wants to be picked apart by jabs, cut up by weaponry or pinned by something simple just because they’re entirely unfamiliar with it.  In a self defense situation it can easily mean your life hangs in the balance.

In this case I list grappling separate from combat grappling because even though they share the same skill set,   their application is quite a bit different.  Grappling as a study itself is very interesting;  it’s essentially the study of kinesiology.  How a body moves and equally important, how a body does not move.  What are the limitations of the joints, what are the limitations of the musculature, circulatory and nervous systems.
Read more

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Goal: Gaming as Entertaining

Monday, 18. October 2010

One of my goals in starting this site was not to have something that talked purely about gaming.  There are a number of other websites out there that do a very good job at that (I’m finding more and more still as I shuffle though the community.)   I wanted something that worked on improving games at a conceptual level, something that also treated gaming as entertaining and how to improve from that level.  In addition I wanted a site that covered a wide variety of additional interests to which I could have the gaming articles as a bit of a “teaser” to get more interest into playing. 

While I’m at this (and before I started even) I read quite  a bit on post length.   Short posts index more frequently unless you’re just a virtuso of material, but on the other hand they punish you in the amount of time each person spends reading a page.  I’ve decided to work toward the former when possibly simple for the sake of brevity.  A quick, concise read to get the information is more useful than sinking time into it with the way people treat their time and attention span nowadays. 

I think in regards for my first goal that this has been a pretty good success; I feel I’ve been fairly effective in remaining in that niche although slightly less so recently.  Its going to be a constant battle not to fall into the typical web of “do x, y and z” posting.   I still need to get into doing more food posts along the entertaining line, but as I am not a natural cook (even though I do enjoy it.) this takes a good amount of work and research to produce something worthwhile.  Difficult to pull off while travelling although it can certainly produce some good ideas.

With regards to the second goal of pulling in a wide variety of interests, this is still a huge work in progress.  I have a number of odd ones that I write about and several others to work into as well.  Hopefully this can turn into somewhat of a time killer for entertainment purposes with somewhat of an offbeat feeling to it.  I’ve got a number of interviews I’ve been working on getting lined up, although I feel it’s something I need to wait on for the site to pull more traffic in order to make it better worth their time.  The delimas of catch 22′s of course.

Current other immediate projects in the bag are a newsletter and RSS updates via email, the latter I am hoping to have implemented by the end of the week.  I think given my resources to put into the project that it’s been a good start so far and I like to thank all my readers to making it what way.

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