Monday, June 20, 2016

El Paso Chihuahuas vs Albuquerque Isotopes 6-15-16



This time at least I have some pictures.  Last year, I went to a Chihuahuas game with my co-workers, Jacob and Chuck.  We were looking forward to the opportunity to go again this year.  Chuck suggested tonight because of the Cody Decker bobblehead giveaway.  Decker, while no longer playing for El Paso, was a beloved character for the first two years of the team’s existence.  I’d even say he was one of the reasons for the current popularity of the team, thanks to his various Youtube videos.  The current team is playing and drawing really well, but there’s no replacing Cody’s charisma.   

We took off directly from work at 4:00, figuring we needed to get there good and early for the 7:00 game with the best promotional giveaway of the year.  Jacob and Chuck were getting off early.  I was essentially just putting in an appearance at work for a couple of hours, as my backup, Mike would be taking over for the night shift.  Ron, my Aggies co-fan and the reason I got to see the Rockies and the Giants in person, was meeting a friend from out of town and declined on this trip.  Through reasonably light traffic on the way, we took the Porfirio Diaz exit downtown and took a right at the stop sign.  The stadium and a parking garage were on the left.  The parking garage fee was $7, which is less than the $10 we paid last year.  It might be because we arrived before 5:00.  Chuck wanted to try the parking meters on the street since it seemed to be cheaper, but Jacob wasn’t eager to risk his truck finding out. 

There were only a few hardcore fans and a few kids in baseball uniforms outside at 5:00.  Of note, it was also 100+ degrees outside the stadium with no breeze and no shade and no water.  Jacob had suggested taking an umbrella, which we didn’t take, but I did lather up with sunblock before we left just in case.  I only almost passed out once.  (I was told I looked a bit pink later, but I didn’t get burned somehow.)  As we stood baking in hell’s waiting room, we chatted with the friendly regulars in line for about an hour.  At about 5:30, I could just see through the gate tonight’s opponent, the Albuquerque Isotopes, taking batting practice.  By about 6:00, before the gates finally opened and we paid Charon to ferry us across the River Styx to our final destination, I noticed a tremendous crowd had formed up behind us.  We may have been a bit too early, but coming early was a real good idea. 

Inside, and God bless, in the shade, we each received a foot-high box.  This seemed like way too much packaging for a little plastic novelty.  I was glad I brought a bag to put our boxes in to carry, otherwise it would have been awkward portage.  I left it in the box, but saw some other fans unpacking theirs.  Oh my goodness, it was love at first sight.  Expecting a cheap, little plastic toy, I was completely unprepared for how big and detailed this heavy ceramic statue was.  This was a hell of a giveaway.  Cody tweeted that it was the “handsomest” bobblehead ever.  It’s hard to disagree with that.  I found myself carrying it around work with me for two days, showing it to everybody.  Jacob and Chuck would, more wisely, put theirs on display in their offices.  We all made sure Ron got a good jealous look at them.  


An usher was asked if Cody would be there.  He said “No,” but he’d wanted to come.  From listening to Tim Hagerty on the radio call, Decker is currently with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox Double AA team.  He even hit a homer in his first game with them.  In the 2nd, Cody’s mom joined Tim in the booth.  She told him how, after getting a major league call up last year, this was her son’s proudest moment playing professional baseball, getting a booblehead.  She was impressed with the likeness.  In the 3rd, they showed a video of Cody’s highlights on the stadium big screen, including pranking teammate Jeff Francoeur.  The crowd gave him a big hand for his time here, even in his absence, or maybe they were just happy with their awesome bobbleheads.       

After scouting out the menus on the website, I visited the Hua Hua concession.  The staff there was very friendly.  I got a large wedge of pepperoni pizza, an order of garlic fries, and a medium drink for $15.  The pizza was pretty good, so were the fries, although I was still feeling the effects of them into the next evening.  They didn’t seem that garlic-y at the time.  The stadium is unfortunately a Pepsi only facility, so I didn’t get my usual Coke Zero.  They didn’t even have Cherry Pepsi.  I ended up with a Sobe something sweet something.  Here was my main mistake, not getting a large, or at least the larger souvenir cup.  I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom during the game, but didn’t realize how dehydrated I was at the time.  After finishing the pizza (I nibbled at the garlic fries for several innings) and still having a half hour till the game, I got up again, looking for something else to wet my whistle.  

I ended up at the slushie stand and ordered a large cherry.  It was a bit pricey, but was completely delicious and necessary.  Vendors would come around the seats during the game selling slushies, lemonades, and some drink in a pineapple, which they didn’t identify.  As much as I wanted something else to drink, I decided the water fountains I found on the way back were much more economical.  I swung by the teamshop and was disappointed looking for a 2016 Chihuahuas team set of baseball cards.  They only had cards from previous years.  Maybe they come out later in the season.  I wonder if the PCL Stars pack from last year has a Trevor Story card in it?  I’m good with my shirt and hat for now, and didn’t have anyone to buy any other souvenirs for, so no purchases there this time.    
  
Jacob returned from his trip to the concession holding a hamburger and fries and angry.  He’d come to try the stadium’s famous nachos in a souvenir dog bowl.  After waiting in line for 10 minutes at Monchi’s, they told him they were out of cheese sauce.  (Before the game even started!)  Jacob kicked up a fuss and got a deal on a hamburger instead.  While he was grumbling, I looked at his burger and commented that it looked big and good.  After Jacob finished complaining, he took a bite, and then another, and was quiet until he quickly finished it.  “How was that?” I asked.  “That was great,” Jacob replied with a smile.  That was a pretty good service save for the vendor.  Meanwhile, Chuck, from chatting with a fan outside, decided to try his luck at taking advantage of the Wednesday “Seniors Eat Free” special.  He came back with a free hot dog and soda and was very happy.  

Later in the game, I finally couldn’t hold out any longer.  When Chuck got up to get kettle corn, I handed him a $10 bill and asked if he could find me some ice cream.  Chuck returned with a plastic dish with two scoops of vanilla and gave me back a dollar.  This $9 ice cream was not Haagen-Dazs, nor Frusen Gladje, nor Ben & Jerry’s.  It wasn’t even Blue Bunny.  It was store brand, carton vanilla.  Actually, the Wal-Mart brand chocolate fudge brownie is excellent.  This was well below that.  I was okay with the $22 ticket, the $15 meal, and even the $8 slushie (mostly because I was hot and dehydrated), but this was a rip-off.  (That didn’t stop me from quickly consuming it anyway.)  





As you can see, our seats were nice and close.  We were sitting behind the really good club seats right next to field.  Those were close enough that you could reach out through the netting and touch the players in the on deck circle (and get ejected).  The attendants there were waiting on people there hand and foot.  One of the girls there had a short, messy haircut, big glasses, and was wearing little rabbit ears, like a Playboy bunny with a geek-fetish.  There was a young couple all but making out in front of us early on in the game.  They were there with what I’m guessing was her father and her uncle.  The girl looked just like a girl that I used to work with that I had a crush on.  I was jealous.  The guy was explaining the game to her as she hung on every word.  It was cute.  They left after a couple of innings, and I could then concentrate on the game.  Later, I mentioned to Mike that the girl was a dead-ringer from his cousin and our former co-worker.  He told me that she had a bunch of younger sisters at home.  It could be one of them.  (“You mean there’s more like her at home!”)

Before the game, a parade of little leaguers marched around the outfield and ended up by the Chihuahuas’ dugout.  They got autographs from a couple of players and got to hang out with the Chihuahuas’ mascot extraordinaire, Chico.  (This is sort of unrelated, but I was watching this Mexican high school comedy called La CQ, sort of like Saved by the Bell.  Their team sports mascot is a Chihuahua who looks a lot like Chico, but wearing a letterman’s jacket.  Which mascot came first?)  There were small knots of fans hanging out by both dugouts, hoping for autographs.  I did see Hunter Renfroe signing, not sure about anyone else or the other team.



What else?  The anthem was performed by an unassuming-looking girl in t-shirt and shorts.  She belted out one of the best versions I’ve ever heard.  Sorry I didn’t get her name.  The video board was advertising for a soccer match to be held at the park.  I didn’t get any of the details, since it involved soccer and I don’t care.  A couple of jets flew over the park and in the background.  Again, the stadium is nowhere near the airport.  I don’t know why they’re coming over.   The Wells Fargo building across the street was lit up like an American flag with the lights on it (too bad Ron wasn’t with us to complain about our rival bank again).  The flags at the stadium were also at half-mast.  Finally, fair warning, dangerous foul balls flew into the stands all night, sometimes hitting the roof and dropping into the crowd.  The PA repeatedly told the crowd to pay attention.






The scoring started in the top of the first with a home run by #7 Stephen Cardullo for the Isotopes.  In the bottom of the 3rd, the Chihuahuas answered with two runs via a fielder’s choice and two singles.  I’m still trying to figure out how a single can bring in a runner from first without an error being committed.  The Isotopes threatened in the 4th, but a double play more or less killed the rally.  The Chihuahuas were able to manufacture a run in the 5th.  In the 6th, Cardullo took a walk, stole a base, advanced to third on an error, and was driven in on a single.  In the bottom of the frame, #23 Jason Hagerty was doubled in by #5 Casey McElroy.  So after six innings, our score is 4 to 2 Chihuahuas.  Are you all with me so far?  It’s about to get eventful.  

In the 7th, Chico walked by, going through the box seats.  I yelled, “Chico!”  He waved.  More accurately, he put his paw up without looking, but I’m going say he was waving at me.  I’m determined to get a picture with the pooch at some point.  The grounds crew came out to drag the infield with an elaborate dance number.  The young couple also returned this inning after being gone for five innings.  I won’t speculate on where they went.  #55 Leonel Campos came into the game to pitch for the dogs.  He appears to be a fan favorite.  After a strikeout and a hit, #9 Austin Hedges threw out the runner attempting to steal.  An error brought on another runner, who would later score.  4-3 Chihuahuas at this point.  The crowd itself still seemed pretty jazzed.  They were in great voice for Take Me Out to the Ballgame
   
The bottom of the 7th proved decisive for the Chihuahuas and destroyed my scorecard in the process, but that’s a worthy sacrifice.  The Isotopes brought in a new pitcher, #33 Brian Schlitter, who promptly surrendered three straight hits.  But on that third hit, things got weird.  Since it went to shallow center, coach Rod Barajas held #4 Manuel Margot at third.  Unfortunately, #2 Carlos Asuage overran second and got into a rundown.  Margot broke for home and then he was in a rundown.  This ended with two Chihuahuas at third.  Margot ended up taking the out.  Runners on second and third.  Tim on the radio didn’t even try to give the full scoring at the time.

Then it got weirder.  #30 Alex Dickerson was given an intentional walk to load the bases with one out, perhaps hoping for a double play or a force at home.  Hedges came up and hit what should have been an inning ending double play.  Dickerson was forced at second, but the throw to first went wide.  From there, I’m at a loss to explain what happened, and I was there watching.  After the play, even Tim seemed to be scratching his head.  The ball went all over the infield, runners were going everywhere, and when the dust settled, two runs had scored.  The official scorer even seemed confused.  Two errors were charged to Isotopes first baseman, #17 Ben Paulsen, although that decision was made in between innings.  I'd noticed Paulsen was featured in the Rockies programs I bought on my trip to Colorado.  I hadn't realized he'd been sent down or why.  After all that, we are sure of the score, 6-3 Chihuahuas. 

In the top of the 8th, Campos left the game after retiring the first batter.  He came off to loud applause and ritually touched the dirt by the foul line as he left.  #45 Keith Hessler finished the frame.  Isotopes #10 Jordan Patterson accidentally tossed his bat into the netting, swinging at strike three to dramatically end the inning.  Schlitter came back out for the bottom of the inning and showed no ill effects from what happened last inning, striking out the side.  #32 Jabari Blash came in as a pinch hitter in the 8th for the Chihuahuas.  He’d taken a head injury in the last game and didn’t start.  I’d heard his name a lot this season over the radio.  He’s good and also has what is probably the coolest name in baseball.  In person, wow, is he a large, well-built physical specimen.  I’m sure the Padres really hope his playing skills can match his proportions.     

In the 9th, I was surprised that much of the crowd was still there watching.  From previous experiences, I’ve seen the dog pound crowd show up by the 3rd and leave by the 8th.  Between the bobblehead promotion and how quick the game was going, they were there from start to finish.  The Chihuahuas would end up winning 6 to 3.  Chico ran on to the field, waving the victory flag.  I stuck around for a few minutes hoping to see the final stats on the scoreboard, but they were only doing promotions for upcoming games.  Chatting with Jacob and Chuck, I didn’t even try to listen to the radio and ended up getting the final stats over the Internet later.  Time of game was a very tidy 2 hours 35 minutes.  As I’ve said before, the fan “happy zone” for a baseball game is between 2 ½ to 3 hours.  Our attendance was 8,200, 6,200 of which were highly disappointed they didn’t get a Cody Decker bobblehead after they saw them.  I think the baseball capacity is 9,000 something, but since the crowd was there for the whole game, it felt full.  I even remarked to Chuck, after going up to get a drink of water during the game, “There’s a lot of people here.”  Sitting up front, you don’t get a good sense of the crowd.        

Our obvious player of the game is #2 Carlos Asuaje, going 4 for 4, scoring twice, with two runs batted in.  #10 Hunter Renfroe also had a great game, going 3 for 4 with an RBI.  Chihuahuas’ pitching did a good job, lead by #27 Carlos Pimentel, only giving up two runs over six innings.  For the Isotopes’ part, they got hits, and their pitching at least kept the score close.  Either team could have been undone by their fielding today.  Manuel Margot had the best catch of the day with a great diving catch in the 4th.  Our stat of game came via Chuck, noticing on the scoreboard that the Chihuahuas’ lineup is mostly hitting .300+, even .400.  With any sort of decent pitching, this team should expect to win most of the time.

We arrived back work quite a bit later thanks to several road crew blockages.  Mike was still there working.  I thanked him for filling in and told him about the game.  Upon request, he took the picture of me with the bobblehead.  Well, this is the second year in the row that I’ve gone with Chuck and Jacob to a game.  We do this again, it’ll be a tradition, and I think we’re all for that.  Minor irritations and inconveniences aside, we had a great time.  It was a great game and a win, which will make up for just about any problems at the ballpark.  I’m hoping to go a couple more times this year and looking forward to it.  


Friday, June 10, 2016

Now what?

Perhaps I should have mentioned that Dark Continent Redux was going to be my last RPG project.  I was working RPG stuff daily for months.  The only thing that got me to the end was knowing that there was one.  I'd love to say that I have infinite wells of creativity to draw on and that RPG's are my life, but I'm done with this stuff for now for lack ideas and motivation.  Not to mention, I don't know how I could top Dark Continent.

Do I have any regrets?  Yes.  Endless Night was supposed to be a much bigger haunted house with a murder mystery and magical portholes to other lands.  However, the Azimuth House was easily the best map (first floor, second floor) I did, and I generally like the adventure as is.  I like the concept of trying to colonize a monster-filled Fantasy Australia, but my Southland setting, I'm a little skeptical of, but I can't put my finger on why.  Stone Grave, on the other hand, which the entire setting was based on, I outright apologize for.  Not only was it not the 10 level mega-dungeon I had envisioned, what I finally ended up with wasn't very good.  Pulp Fantasy Core, for all my enthusiasm, never really got off the ground, which is too bad, since I really wanted to roll up that Buckaroo Banzai character.  

I love the Fantasy Ireland setting.  I'm still not entirely sure if it's a good RPG setting.  I'd at least like to think that the Keeper Hill adventure somewhat redeemed Stone Grave.  Played correctly, it's something like a heist gone wrong with NPC's and Characters at each others' throats.  D&D is such a mish-mash of mythology, it's always tempting to make a setting with a single, coherent one.  Unfortunately, D&D is its own mythology at this point.  You have to take out and ignore so much game material, it's almost not worth it.

There was one thing I sort of left on the table.  I never wanted to make a Monster Manual, but I did want to do a listing of humanoids and demi-humans with a coherent mythology to go with them.  Unfortunately, this goes back to what I just mentioned about mythology.  It might have been nice to go with Fantasy Ireland, but even then, it didn't entirely fit into it.  Further, these creatures are so similar stat-wise, that all you're doing is putting pointless backstory to them.  Then I started thinking about doing full table levels for these creatures, and it suddenly wasn't worth the effort.  All that came out of that was the Otherworld Elf (again, don't use that as a playable Character class) and the Gnome, which were the only classes that are different enough to make them interesting. 

I am proud of some of my game material.  Fantasy Core itself, while highly not perfect, I think goes in the right direction for a fantasy RPG.  It's not far off from 5e, so I feel somewhat vindicated in producing it.  I truly doubt there will be any future revolutionary developments in tabletop RPG's for gamers.  There is, however, a wide-open opportunity for creating an RPG-like party and family game for non-gamers, and that will require revolutionary thinking.

I don't know what brought on Expedition to the Doomed Peaks, but it has my favorite encounter, the completely self-referential One of Each room.  The Jianghu setting, played correctly, would be an awesome challenge for the Players as they would be essentially trying to keep their honor and integrity in a highly partisan environment.  Cyber-Pulp was just a random idea I had that went completely out control in a good way.  The main good thing that came out of Pulp Fantasy Core was that it laid the groundwork for it.  What started as just a simple notion of adapting Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now also went completely off the rails.  Dark Continent turned out way better than I expected.  Lastly, the thing I did with most of the adventures and settings was that I explicitly stated the theme of them, like Mystery in the Southland, Personal Honor in the Jianghu, or Psychological Discomfort in Dark Continent.  If a specific setting or adventure will tell you that up front, and you stick with it while running it, it should be a more rewarding experience for everyone involved.            

I don't plan on doing any more RPG stuff, unless I'm actively playing, which I'm not right now.  I'll likely go with 5e or some other published RPG then.  I'll still be making various sports posts and maybe other stuff.  So this isn't a sign-off for now.

J.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Baseball Notebook for March, April, and May 2016

While I was attending Aggie baseball and softball games, I was still listening and watching other baseball.  I scribbled down whenever something interesting happened.  These aren’t game recaps.  They’re mostly just little moments during the game or comments.

3-31-16
It’s an exhibition game between the Chihuahuas and the Padres in El Paso.  The game sells out long beforehand and was actually broadcast on local TV.  It was a 13-9 loss for the dogs, but they were competitive.  Several of the Padres had been on the Chihuahuas last season.  And several of them ended up back on the team after this game.

4-24-16
Chihuahuas vs Salt Lake.  Fans there were cheering Chihuahuas home runs.  Announcer Tim Hagerty had to explain, they were cheering the great fan catches behind the fence.   Tim had an interesting fact about three home runs being hit in one inning by a Double-A player.  I can’t remember the game where he talked about this, nor can I find anything online corroborating it, but I'm sticking in with this entry anyway.
  
4-3-16
Rangers lose to the hated Angels 4-3.  Rangers’ announcer Eric Nadel was uncharacteristically angry with the team after the loss.  This must have gotten back to the team.  They won the next two games.

4-7-16
“It’s a home run by Buster Posey . . . ‘s good friend, Hunter Pence!”  For all of John Miller’s great work over the years calling games.  We can spot him this one.

4-4-16
Rockies vs. Diamondbacks.  I told this story before.  I missed Trevor Story's first home run off Zack Greinke.  Ron was watching the NCAA basketball tournament and I flipped it over to a Diamondbacks game during halftime.  Just as Story came up for his first major league at bat, I flipped it back to the basketball for Ron.  A couple of minutes later I saw that he’d hit a home run.  I flipped it back, but even missed the replay.  And then I missed his second home run later in the game.  Rockies win 10-5.

 4-10-16
It’s a 3-1 loss for the Rangers to the hated Angels.  However, it’s significant because it’s the big league debut of a top Ranger prospect, Nomar Mazara, filling in for injured Shin-Soo Choo.  He homers. 

4-20-16
Chico goes down!  A bad throw by Tacoma shortstop Chris Taylor flies into the Chihuahuas’ dugout and nails the mascot.  The next day, ever the gamer, Chico shows up wearing bandage.  He confronts Taylor with a sign reading, “What did I do to you?”  Taylor tears up the sign and walks away.  Tacoma comes back to El Paso in August.  I have feeling this isn’t over.   

4-14-16
Rangers vs. Blue Jays.  With the Rangers up by three runs in the top of the 9th, Justin Smoak gets to Sean Tolleson again, this time for a two-run homer.  Smoak already walked off Tolleson in Toronto, last week.  Then Tulo dings Sean for another homer, tying the score.  Drew Stubbs would give the Rangers a walk-off win in the 10th.  6-5 Rangers final.  During the game, catcher Bobby Wilson would hit his second grand slam of the week.  Strangely, neither of these guys were with the team last week. 

Chihuahuas vs. New Orleans Zephyrs.  I hadn’t been paying much attention to this game, which was going on at the same time, since the dogs were comfortably ahead.  I gave it my full attention in the top of the 9th with the Chihuahuas up by 8 runs.  The final out of the inning was the go-ahead run getting thrown out at home.  The Zephyrs had scored 8 runs and tied the score!  The dogs would win in the 11th on a two-run homer, 10-8, but myself, Chihuahuas fans who’d been in attendance, and announcer Tim Hagerty are still shell-shocked.  No lead is safe!  And the Chihuahuas should never do that “Pitch an inning for Chihuahuas” promotion with the fans again.  (Grandma Ellie Spudmaker’s curveball just wasn’t biting like it did during the war years.)      

4-23-16
Rangers lose to the White Sox 4-3, but Mazara had a great robbery of a home run that sent the game into extra innings.

4-29-16
The Chihuahuas beat Fresno 6-5.  What was remarkable was the bottom of the 9th.  Fresno had the bases loaded with two outs.  They had apparently gotten a walk to force in the tying run when the ump called a penalty strike.  The PA had played a sound effect during the pitch.  With the count altered, the batter was struck out on the next pitch.  After the game, Chihuahuas fans were calling for the PA to be given the game ball.

 5-18-16
After a half hour of bad radio reception of a back and forth game between the Rangers and A’s, I get to hear the bottom of the 9th.  The Rangers had a one run lead.  Sean Tolleson comes in to close and leaves after giving up a walk-off grand slam home run.  A’s win 8-5.  While Sean was actually tied for the American League lead in Saves, it’s the blown ones that cost him his job. 
   
5-4-16
Day game.  Chihuahuas vs Las Vegas.  Tyler Renfroe throws out a runner at third from right field.  Best put out of the year.

5-10-16
Rangers vs. White Sox.  I started watching this game at work at night, but there was an hour rain delay.  Actually, it was a little more dramatic than that.  The cameras were showing large, dark clouds rotating over the stadium. People in the upper deck were told to evacuate.  The Rangers were losing 10-6 when I left for home.  Once there, I flip on the radio just in time to hear Ryan Rua hitting a three-run homer, which would turn out to be the game winner.  The final was 13-11 Rangers, who scored seven runs in the 8th.

5-11-16
The Rangers beat the White Sox 6-5.  The game was memorable for the wrong reason.  Todd Frazier of the Sox dove into the stands after a foul ball.  He immediately came up, put his glove over his face, and ran into the dugout.  The crowd, the announcers, and myself (and certainly the players) were all a bit stunned for several minutes afterward.  The replays showed Frazier hitting his face on a metal arm rest.  White Sox TV announcer, the immortal homer, Hawk Harrelson, left the booth to check up on him.  He came back and reported, “He’s okay for a guy who put his teeth through his lip.”

5-15-16
And here it was, the play of the year.  Forget the teams involved, this was all about Rougned Odor vs. Joey Bautista.  I listened to this bout over the radio and didn’t get to see the punch until later.  The radio guys didn’t approve of the fight and had no appreciation of the technical beauty of Odor’s right cross to Bautista’s jaw.  Oh, if only they’d gone ahead and let them fight it out.  “Let them fight!  Let them fight!” 

Okay, let’s see.  Bautista flipped his bat after hitting a home run in the playoffs against the Rangers last year.  Flipped?  It was more like he was about to a start a Marine drill team rifle flipping maneuver.  (And if this fight hadn’t happened, you might have actually seen such a thing during a game.)  This was the last regular season meeting between these two teams this year, and it’s been a hard-fought series between these two teams.  The Rangers have a one run lead in the 8th.  Matt Bush hits Bautista.  Part me of says, this was probably the Rangers’ last opportunity to get payback this year.  The other part me of says, this would have been the worst time to do something like this.  Certainly this wasn’t worth possibly losing a game over.  Who knows now? 

On a ground ball, Bautista charges into Ruggie to break up a double play.  He obviously skipped over the part of the scouting report that mentioned Odor’s hair-trigger temper.  Fight.  Benches clearing brawl.  Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch the next inning.  Benches clear again.  “Now we got bad blood,” sings Taylor Swift over the PA.  More importantly to me at least, the Rangers win 7-6.  How about a peace treaty between the teams if they meet in the playoffs, and Ruggie and Joey Bats have a pay-per-view match in the offseason?  Seriously, who wouldn’t want to see this?  [Both teams promptly went on the three game losing streaks after this incident.  It didn’t help either of them.  Ruggie had to sit out seven games, bringing top prospect Jurickson Profoar dangerously close to his job.  Joey Bautista is now Internet famous for being on the receiving end of a punch, instead of his bat flipping.  There may have been some lesson-learning here.]          

5-19-16
Chihuahuas vs Round Rock Express.  Dogs win on a walk-off, coming from behind for the win 4-3.  It's the only game of the series where they hold the Express under 10 runs.   
   
5-20-16
After two innings, the Round Rock Express had put up 12 unanswered runs, but the Chihuahuas made a game of it.  The final was 14-10.  I found out a co-worker had tickets to all four of these Express/Chihuahuas games and was extremely jealous.  He’s a fan of both clubs, which prompted another fan, seated next to him, to ask him during the game, “Who are you rooting for?”   [I know the feeling.  I found myself rooting for the Rockies and the Giants over Memorial Day.]  There were apparently many Ranger fans in attendance. 
5-21-16
The score in the 7th was 10-5 Chihuahuas.  The final score was 13-11 Round Rock Express.  The Express is the only other Triple-A team whose roster I mostly recognize, as many of them have been up with the Rangers. 

5-22-16
Rangers vs. Astros.  Cole Hamels goes 8 innings in a 9-2 Ranger victory and sweep the Astros.  Eric Nadel was surprised during the game when the Astros fans started booing Dallas Keukel during a bad inning.  He shouldn’t have been.  They’re a talented, underperforming team with high expectations, who were losing big to their in-state division rival, after dropping the first two games of the series.  It probably didn’t help that half of Minute Maid Stadium was rooting for the Rangers either.  

Meanwhile in El Paso, the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate was pounding the Chihuahuas 16-7.  They had an 11 run third and almost batted around twice.  James Loney talked his way into a pitching an inning for the dogs.  His last pitching outing had been in high school.  Loney walked Joey Gallo, but got out of the inning without giving up a run.

5-23-16
Chihuahuas vs. Iowa Cubs.  Pitcher and Pinch Hitter, Daniel McCuthen, struck out, but after the pitch went to the backstop, he ended up on second.  Dogs win 6-1.  After giving up 40+ runs over four games to Round Rock, it was a victory for the pitchers.

Rangers lose 2-0 to the hated Angels off of a Pujols’ home run.  Josh Hamilton is also reported to be done for the season.  Sigh.

5-24-16
Rangers over the hated Angels 4-1.  Nomar Mazara “The Big Chill” goes 3-3 with a two-run homer,  but his best play was an out.  In the 8th, Mazara allowed himself to get caught in a run down on a delayed steal to allow Ian Desmond to score from third.  Angel catcher, Carlos Perez, slapped himself on the helmet afterward.

5-25-16
Rangers vs the hated Angels.  15-9 Ranger victory.  Eric Nadel, “Just when you think the Rangers are never going to score another run, things like this happen.”  Stat of the game: the Rangers were 9 for 21 with runners in scoring position. 

5-31-16

Alex Dickerson extended his hitting streak to 29 games in an 8th inning at bat.  Hunter Renfroe follows that with a monster home run that goes between the outfield pavilions out on to Santa Fe street.

Dark Continent Redux: Conclusion

Dark Continent Redux
A Fantasy Core Adventure
© Jerry Harris 2016
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Playtest Rules.)


Conclusion
Assuming the characters are victorious, they will be heading back to civilization, likely Inner Station.  They will not be molested by any natives on the way back, other than a message from Satha, if he survived.  Perhaps congratulations and an offer of permanent alliance, or perhaps a taunt and a challenge.  The rebellion is over for the moment in any case. 

The group will be credited with helping to end the war and hailed as heroes by the colonists.  They will have a full honors military escort back to Home Station.  Kurtz will also be honored.  The official story will be that he gave his life to end the threat.  The Governor will invite the group to a state dinner with the Baron.  They are promoted to the honorary rank of Captain (inactive, of course, but who knows if they’ll be called upon again to active service) and given medals of valor.  After dinner, with the Baron advising him, the Governor will then offer the Characters apportioned fiefs on a map or gold bars in payment for their service to the Commonwealth. 

The final sad duty for the group (1 XP), as suggested by the Baron, will be meeting with the Intended (assuming she wasn’t at the temple).  With Kurtz’s death, she’ll be leaving this Dark Continent behind.  She will ask about Kurtz’s final fate and his last words.  As from Heart of Darkness:               

“His last word--to live with,” she murmured.  “Don't you understand I loved him--I loved him--I loved him!”
                            
I pulled myself together and spoke slowly.  “The last word he pronounced was--your name.”
        
The End

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dark Continent Redux: The Pit Monster

Dark Continent Redux
A Fantasy Core Adventure
© Jerry Harris 2016
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Playtest Rules.)


The Pit Monster
If the Characters stay to fight the creature, award 1 XP.

Cue Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla.  The entire island shakes violently.  With a terrible scream, a monstrous claw will appear at the lip of the pit, then another, then a giant bestial head appears.  Roll for Terror for the Characters (see stats below).  The monster will fully emerge the next rd, the inside of the temple just containing him.         

The remaining Characters may wish to stay and fight or run like hell.  (If the Intended is there, I hope somebody thinks to save her.  1 XP for doing so.)  They will be virtually gnats compared to the monster, so it’s not going to attack them.  At the next rd, a couple more players enter the game.

Arc Light!  Call in the airstrike!  Hellion rips the top off the temple and lets loose with a blast of dragonfire.  With a bright flash of light, Satha teleports in and lets loose with a chomp.  [You just knew that I didn’t stat out these creatures for nothing.]  These two have been waiting for the Characters to draw out this creature.  They could sense it, and Africannes isn’t big enough for three giant monsters to coexist.  If there are Players without a Character (or if the Characters flat out run away), give them Hellion’s and Satha’s stats to play with and let the giant monster rumble begin.

Meanwhile, the Inner Temple will be shattered in the conflict and crash down in pieces.    If any of the giant monsters are beaten, their death throes will cause them to fall into the pit.  If possible, they’ll try to drag one of the others into the pit with them.  (If the Pit Monsters somehow wins the fight, he’ll go down with the island.)  The island will violently shudder again and then the entire sanctuary begins to sink and water begins to flood in.  (The Zombies the Pteradons, and the Raptor in the forest can either be active or not, depending on if you wish to make an escape difficult.) 

Within 2 turns, the entire Temple grounds become a lake.  The causeway will be broken, but will still be passable until then.  The entire island will be shaking violently as it all starts to sink into the river.  The bridge link will be snapped, but will still be standing and can be reached by grapple lines for another 2 turns before it is destroyed.  2 turns later, the entire island disappears in a whirlpool beneath the waters.  Hopefully, the Characters will be watching the destruction from a safe distance or can hitch a ride out with Hellion or Satha. 

Pit Monster
HD 12 (d12), Hp 120, AC 19 (Natural)
Fort +13, Ref +8, Will +9
Melee: Bite +18 to hit 4d6+8 and 2 Claws +13 to hit 2d8+4
Ranged: Breath Weapon-Radiation 4d10 + DC 18 Fort Sv or lose –1 AC and -1 to Con Bonus (and also Fort Sv).  20’ area of effect, DC 16 Save for ½ damage and no after effect, M range.  It may be used once per encounter automatically, DC 12 for a second time.  DC 18 for a third time.  Requires 1 turn of rest to use again.  Breath weapon is a full attack, cannot make melee attacks that rd. 
Terror: For the Characters, DC 18 Will Sv or flee for 2d4 rds.  Paladins are immune and the creature is demonic for Smite purposes.
Regeneration: 5 hp/rd, but will die if brought below 0.
Description: A giant tyrannosaurs-like creature, but with fully formed arms and hands and lacking a tail.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Colorado Rockies vs San Francisco Giants 5-29-16 Part 2





Continued from Part One

One thing that immensely helped my scorekeeping was the main video board displaying the lineups.  I was able to quickly write down all the players, something which usually keeps me occupied for three innings at an Aggie game.  A Wells Fargo sponsor ad also came up on the video board during the game.  They’re just following Ron around now, taunting him.  Hey, they’re doing two for one tickets.  What a great deal!  “Together we’ll go far.”

The game started off well for the Rockies as the lone Giant baserunner was caught stealing.  At the start of the bottom of the 1st, former Rockies great and current first base coach, Eric Young, charged out of the dugout and slapped hands with the people in the front row before going to the box.  Good to see EY happy and doing well.  I wanted a high-five too, unfortunately I kept forgetting I was wearing a Giant hat and shirt during the game.  This mixed cheering issue came up a few times during the game.  I like both teams.

Charlie Blackmon started off for the Rockies.  His walk up music is the ballpark classic, Use Your Love, by the Outfield.  I don’t know if this song is a baseball classic because it’s a summer song or because of the band name.  I can’t believe I went through a full season of Aggie baseball without hearing it.  Did somebody in the school administration actually hear the lyrics and ban it?  In any case, his music cuts off just before the end of the first verse, which prompts the crowd to finish it with a loud, “Tonight!”  I had heard this audience participation before on the radio this season.  It was a treat to be a part of it.  In any case, the Rockies didn’t score in the 1st either.  

Buster Posey started off the 2nd with a roar of cheers from the visitor’s section.  The scoring started with him and #8 Hunter Pence hitting back-to-back doubles and Pence later scoring on an error.  In the Rockies half of the inning, the game came to a halt for a replay challenge on a possible double play.  The PA started playing the Beatles’ Let it Be during the delay, but the field call was overturned as Giants #2 Denard Span made a catch in center, and it was ruled he threw out #8 Gerrado Parra trying to tag up and move to third.  In the 5th, there was another challenge.  This one was from the Rockies as Giants #7 Gregor Blanco was ruled to be picked off of second.  I noticed the Rockies players on the field were all watching the video board replays, just like the fans were.  Trevor Story would go ahead and hit a home run right after all of this anyway.  Giants up 2-1 after two innings.        
In the 3rd, Buster took a walk to first.  There he was, my man-crush not more than 40’ away from me.  “Buster!” I screamed.  Ron quickly restrained me from charging the field.  All I wanted was a hug and maybe a quick autograph.  Meanwhile, Hunter and #9 Brandon Belt would double in three runs, making the score 5-1 Giants.    

The key moment of the game came in the bottom of the 3rd.  The Rockies had the bases loaded with one out and Nolan Arrenado coming to bat.  Cueto would walk him, forcing in a run.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t semi-intentional.  Gerrado Parra came to the plate in this tense situation.  What happened next was unexpected.  Cueto and Parra started a stare down contest.  Parra steps out.  Cueto flaps his arms.  The two start jawing at each other.  While it was serious between these two, everyone watching found it at least somewhat funny (probably the other players too).  Eventually the ump had to go out and talk to Cueto before order was restored.  I could see Parra trying to get into Cueto’s head on purpose, since it can be done.  Unfortunately for the Rockies, Cueto kept his cool and induced an inning-ending double play.  5-2 Giants.    

Denard Span would start off the 4th with a homer run, making the score 6-2 Giants, which would be the only scoring for the middle three innings.  In the 6th, Giant second baseman #37 Kelby Tomlinson (I was disappointed not to see #12 Joe Panik in the game) made the dumbest play of the game, and he’d probably agree.  After striking out, he slapped his bat into his hand, missed, and hit the ump with it.  Kelby immediately apologized as the ump was a little shaken up.  And the Giants didn’t get a borderline call for the rest of the game (just kidding).  There are dumber things to do with a bat.  Earlier, the video board was showing some MLB bloopers, including Puig of the Dodgers flipping his bat on a wild swing, helicopter-ing it over the catcher’s head and causing everyone to scatter.  Hunter Pence was on the field watching.  He shook his head at the sight.    

From here, the rest of the game went fairly quietly.  A parade of pitchers would finish the game for both teams.  In the 7th, #35 Brandon Crawford doubled in Belt after he had hit a double.  Pence doubled in another run in the 8thCargo for the Rockies hit a home run in the bottom of the 8th, bringing the score to 8-3 Giants.  With the opposing team winning big late and under threatening skies, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the crowd was still there.  It may have been that they all had kids and were hanging around so they could run the bases after the game. 

In the top of the 9th, the visitor’s side of the stadium started chanting, “Let’s go Giants!”  There was some scoring weirdness with a catcher’s interference error on the Rockies, which I eventually corrected on my scorecard.  #9 DJ LeMahieu (one of my favs on the Rockies) made the best defensive play of the game right afterward, catching a hot shot at second to start a double play.  In the bottom of the 9th, Story got a loud ovation by the crowd.  They’ve definitely latched onto the rookie.  Later, Brandon Belt, as the Giants’ first baseman, came up with a foul ball.  He held it for a moment to consider what to do with it, before tossing it to a Rockies coach in their dugout.  The coach in turn, tossed it to a little girl in the crowd with a mitt.  Our final score was 8-3 Giants over the Rockies.

Hunter Pence is the obvious player of the game with three doubles and three RBI’s.  Much of the rest of the Giants had a good offensive day.  They actually tied a team record with 8 doubles.  Cueto going 6 innings and only giving up 2 runs at Coors Field is probably also noteworthy.  For the Rockies, I’m not seeing a whole lot of standouts today.  I was exceptionally happy to get to see Trevor Story hit a home run in the game.  I had missed his first home run off Zack Greinke.  Ron was watching the NCAA basketball tournament and I flipped it over to a Diamondbacks game during halftime.  Just as Story came up for his first major league at bat, I flipped it back to the basketball for Ron.  A couple of minutes later I saw that he’d hit a home run.  I flipped it back, but even missed the replay.  And then I missed his second home run later in the game.  How could I have guessed at the time I’d end up seeing one in person.
  
I can’t tell you what the time of the game was, since I wasn’t paying attention to the time.  I could look it up, but really this game moved along pretty quickly and there were plenty of distractions between innings.  I was never bored, so it was entertainment time well spent.  I asked the fellow in front of me about getting autographs after the game.  He said the Rockies might come out after a win, but not after a loss.  The visiting team probably isn’t coming out, especially on a get-away day like today.  Being a Sunday game, kids were allowed to run the bases.  Most of them were members of the Rockies kid’s club, but I saw some little Giant fans.  The kids were told to congregate behind left field after the 8th inning.  After the game ended, the floodgates opened.  The line went from the left field gate, around the outfield, and ended up a first base. 

For 20 minutes, there was an endless stream of kids coming out of that gate.  I don’t know where all these kids came from.  It didn’t seem like the whole stadium could have contained them.  A few of the Rockies players came out with their kids, but that was a pretty quick affair.  Kids would start off from first (sometimes having to be corralled by stadium personnel), run to second, get a high-five from Dinger (who really earned his pay today), and then around to home.  The most shocking thing about this event wasn’t the number of kids though.  I actually saw one of the parents wearing an El Paso Chihuahuas t-shirt.  I had to nudge Ron to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

It was a great trip for the game and the hospitality of Ron’s relatives.  (I finally got to see Deadpool right after we arrived at their lovely home.  It was awesome.)  I was also extremely grateful that all of the severe weather in the area somehow missed us the whole time we were there and in transit.  We even got back to Las Cruces after there had been a storm.  What wasn’t so great was the bellyaches I got from the hospitality (I need to pace my eating better).  22 hours of car travel also wasn’t so great.  As much as I’d like to see another game at beautiful Coors Field, I don’t know if I could talk myself into it.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I’ll just cherish the memories.       

Dark Continent Redux: Kurtz

Dark Continent Redux
A Fantasy Core Adventure
© Jerry Harris 2016
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Playtest Rules.)


Kurtz
+4 Int, +4 Wis, +4 Dex
HD 10+ (d6 Wizard), Hp 52, AC 20 (Shield spell, blocks all Magic Missiles, +2 Serpent Man skin cape), Enhanced Init +4
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +11
Melee: +4 magic Two-Handed Sword +9 to hit 2d6+4 + DC 12 Fort Sv or Stunned 2 rds.  (This sword has no ability requirements.)
Ranged: None

Spellcheck +10, Save Against DC 17, 3 Failures/encounter
(Kurtz has +2 to his Spellcheck from his magic research and experience.  He has a wider spell selection, but these are his favorites.)

1ST-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 13 to cast)
Magic Missile: 14 impact damage + Knocked down. (Ref Sv all damage) Short range.

2ND-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 14 to cast)
Acid Arrow: 14 acid damage + -1 to non-Dex bonus AC. (Ref Sv all damage) Short range.
Scare: Panics targeted creatures of less than 6 HD.  All in immediate area.  10 turns. (Will Sv)

3RD-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 15 to cast)
Fireball: 16 fire damage + 1d6 continuing damage until extinguished, 20-ft. radius. (Ref Sv ½ damage) M range. Note that this spell does have the capacity to set off flammable objects in the area, especially on successful saves, and go out of control quickly.
Fly: Subject flies at speed of 60 ft./rd, 10 turns. Disrupted by any hit

4TH-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 16 to cast)
Charm Monster: Makes monster believe it is your ally.  Encounter/turn. (Will Sv)
Invisibility, Greater: 10 rds. Subject can attack and stay invisible. 0 Bonuses to hit by melee or ranged, +4 Saving Throws vs spells, disrupted by any hit.  Encounter.

5TH-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 17 to cast)
Dominate Person: Controls humanoid telepathically. 10 turns. (Will Sv)

6TH-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 19 to cast)
Chain Lightning: 20 electrical damage + Stun 1 rd + Knocked Down + Two secondary bolts 14 electrical damage + Stun 1 rd. All three bolts may be aimed at different targets. (Ref Sv ½ damage) Medium range main bolt, Short range, secondary.

7TH-LEVEL WIZARD SPELLS (DC 20 to cast)
Finger of Death: Magically kills one subject. Must be of lower level or HD than caster. Forbidden spell. (Will Sv) Medium range.  (Victim is dead dead, below -10 hp.)