GeekDad http://geekdad.com Raising Geek Generation 2.0 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:00:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Gadget Review – The Ecoxgear Ecorox http://geekdad.com/2014/09/ecoxgear-ecorox/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/ecoxgear-ecorox/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:00:06 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63149 My latest project has been incorporating a car stereo into the golf cart. Little did I realize that this would be a costly endeavor. Just the wiring needed will run more money than I care to spend. Due to this, I decided to go with an enclosed system... Continue reading

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ecorox-tech-specs21

My “hobby” project has been recycling a salvaged golf cart that I purchased at a garage sale a few months ago. I live in a golf course community, so families riding around the neighborhood in these kinds of carts are an everyday occurrence. Many families have some really nice custom rides too, but I cannot afford to invest too much in what is technically a toy for me.

My latest project has been incorporating a car stereo into the golf cart. Little did I realize that this would be a costly endeavor. Just the wiring needed will run more money than I care to spend. Due to this, I decided to go with an enclosed system. I figured that a good wireless speaker system that would not need to be wired into the carts batteries would be the best way to go. It is not like I am going to be listening to the radio or cds – I just wanted something to pair with my mobile device to listen to stored music.

After all of my browsing, I decided on the Ecorox by Ecoxgear. The main reason being that the sound that this little unit pumps out is dynamic. I really could not believe that these are full range 6 watt speakers. When I first saw that they were 6 watts, I laughed and dismissed it; but I was corrected quickly after I paired it with my phone and belted out some tunes.

eco

Mounted on my golf cart!

It also has a built-in mounting bolt on the bottom, so mounting it on my cart was as easy as finding a correctly sized bolt. It uses a standard camera sized mounting post, so it was no problem. It is also nice that it is completely water proof. Not water resistant, water proof – as in, it will float if you throw it in the pool. This is especially nice for riding around in all weather conditions, but also great for travel of any kind. Just put your phone in a baggie and Bluetooth connect the Ecorox and you are ready to go.

Other things that you would expect from a Bluetooth speaker are here also. I can be used as a speaker phone, it pairs very easily and it is compact and light. I have so far clocked about 9 hours of usage from mine on a full charge and it still has juice left. The manual states 10 – 12 hours of continual usage, so I would agree with that statement. It charges via USB plug, which it comes with the cord, but not the actual wall plug, so you would need to hook it to a computer straight out of the box – or use one of your other USB wall plugs from nearly any other device.

All in all, I would definitely recommend the Ecorox by Ecoxgear for anyone looking for an all-purpose all weather Bluetooth sound system. It is perfect for all those family events that one would have coming up – and it looks great on a golf cart too.

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Updating my 5th Edition D&D Adventurers League Character http://geekdad.com/2014/09/updating-my-5th-edition-dd-adventurers-league-character/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/updating-my-5th-edition-dd-adventurers-league-character/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63142 Back in August, I had a fun time sitting down and going through the new 5th edition D&D Player's Handbook and creating a new character for the Encounters hosted events that happen every Wednesday evening. Unlike the AD&D rules that I was most familiar with, my return to D&D came with some nice changes regarding leveling and Ability Score bonuses and more. With AD&D, every class had its own Experience Point chart -- leveling for a fighter required less XP than leveling for a magic-user, for example. The new 5e Player's Handbook not only strips out the complexities (instead offering a single XP chart for leaving of all classes, for example) that I recall with AD&D, but adds a lot of new (to me) interesting twists such as Feats and class-specific choices that offer even more customization and fun ways to play a character. Continue reading

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Adventurers League

Back in August, I had a fun time sitting down and going through the new 5th edition D&D Player’s Handbook and creating a new character for the Encounters hosted events that happen every Wednesday evening. Unlike the AD&D rules that I was most familiar with, my return to D&D came with some nice changes regarding leveling and Ability Score bonuses and more. With AD&D, every class had its own Experience Point chart — leveling for a fighter required less XP than leveling for a magic-user, for example. The new 5e Player’s Handbook not only strips out the complexities (instead offering a single XP chart for leaving of all classes, for example) that I recall with AD&D, but adds a lot of new (to me) interesting twists such as Feats and class-specific choices that offer even more customization and fun ways to play a character.

My return to playing D&D started with my developing a character named Niloshis Quietwalker. He’s a half-elf sorcerer with a hermit background. For Ability Scores, I elected to use the 27-Point Score Buying System that allows a player to “buy” attribute scores. (If you’ve got a Player’s Handbook, this is all found on page 13.) Without race-based modifiers yet added, I distributed my scores as follows:

Strength 8
Dexterity: 14
Constitution: 15
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 14

Why this distribution? A sorcerer’s two major Saving Throws are Constitution and Charisma. It’s also important to remember that your Hit Points are calculated by rolling a die and adding your Constitution modifier. Spellcasters are traditionally low on HP, so anything I can do to help my Sorcerer stay alive should be paramount. Applying the highest score of 15 to my Constitution and the 14 to Charisma is a good start as that will ensure high modifiers associated with those two scores.

Half-elves get Ability Score bonuses that include Charisma +2 and +1 for two additional Ability Scores. Bumping Charisma up to 16 (with the +2) and applying the two +1s to Constitution and Wisdom is how I chose to roll… meaning I now had the following scores (and modifiers):

Strength 8 (-1)
Dexterity: 14 (+2)
Constitution: 16 (+3)
Intelligence: 10 (0)
Wisdom: 11 (0)
Charisma: 16 (+3)

Why didn’t I increase my Dexterity that would help out with my Armor Class? I could have done that, but with the sorcerer class, one of the choices I can make at level 1 is a Sorcerous Origin. I chose the Draconic Bloodline (Brass) for many reasons, but a key one was the base AC — 13 + Dexterity modifier. Meaning I have a starting AC (with no armor) of 15. Not bad for a spellflinger. The Draconic Bloodline also provides an additional +1HP at level 1 and +1 for every level attained afterwards. Yeah! At level 1, this means my sorcerer started with the following:

AC: 15
HP: 10 (base 6 + 3 Constitution mod + 1 Draconic Bloodline)
To Hit +5 (+2 Proficiency +3 Attribute modifier)

You can read more details about the initial development of this character in my original post, including my initial purchases of equipment and the background details such as Ideals, Flaws, etc. But now it’s time for some upgrades! Throughout my time with Encounters (six sessions under my belt) and one Expeditions event (a handful of one-hour mini-missions), my sorcerer managed to inch up in XP to level 2 and then level 3. Unfortunately, while involved in Encounters, I was not really able to take advantages of the level ups because a Long Rest was necessary to restore spell slots, regain HP, etc. As of last Wednesday, however, my sorcerer got his long awaited rest. Now, it’s time to take him up to level 2 and then 3.

Level 1 provided my sorcerer with four cantrips and two spells. For cantrips, I selected Firebolt (1d10DMG), Ray of Frost (1d8DMG), Poison Spray (1d12DMG), and Chill Touch (1d8DMG). Yeah, heavy on damage spells. For the two spells, I selected False Life that provides 1d4+4HP to self or other character for an hour. I also selected Shield, a pretty standard defense spell that adds +5AC and can be fired off as a reaction spell against projectiles and other attacks on self or other player. Its duration is only to the start of next turn, but a +5 on your AC on a particularly nasty attack can save the day.

5e Player's Handbook

Level 2 was reached by hitting 300XP. The only changes to Niloshis were one additional spell (no additional cantrips), two Sorcery Points, and additional Hit Points. For the third spell I selected Sleep — it’s interesting in that you roll 5d8 and select a point for the center of the attack. Any creature within 20 feet radius of that point risks falling asleep, starting with the lowest HP creature first. You subtract the lowest HP creature’s HP from the 5d8 total and then move up the line. With an average of 22.5HP total, the Sleep spell can easily take out 3-4 low HP creatures. Level 2 provides me with three Level 1 Spell Slots, and this Sorcerer-specific thing called Sorcery Points allows me to buy additional spell slots or “cash in” a spell slot for points. Later these points can be used to buff spells with additional power, so I’m looking forward to gaining more Sorcery Points if Niloshis can survive to some higher levels.

For HP, I take the base 4 (versus rolling), add my Constitution bonus of 3, and get the +1HP for my Draconic Bloodline. This bumps my HP up to 18. Yeah… a level 2 sorcerer with 18HP Max. Cool.

But reaching Level 3 at 900XP! Oh, yeah… hard to believe a single level jump beyond level 2 could be so important, but it really takes Niloshis up a notch. With level 3, I gain two level 2 spell slots and one additional level 1 spell slot, but only increase my Known Spells to 4. This is tough, because I’ve identified two level 2 spells I really REALLY want… but I can only pick one. Or maybe not. More on this in a moment. Level 3 also offers me the Metamagic feature, which allows a sorcerer to “twist” spells in interesting ways — I get two choices out of eight options, and I’m selecting Distant Spell that allows me to increase the range of my spells and cantrips in exchange for Sorcery Points. (My Sorcery Points increased to 3, btw.) I also selected Twinned Spell that allows me to target a second creature with the same fired spell using Sorcery Points.

For the Adventurers League, players are allowed to fine tune their characters up to level 4, and make certain changes such as the selection of spells. I’m going to take advantage of that and change up my spell selection by dropping the Shield spell. In its place I’m going to grab two level two spells — Invisibility and Mirror Image. Both can be used defensively, but the Invisibility spell may offer Niloshis or a colleague a chance for some real sneakiness as the adventure moves forward. The Mirror Image will create three duplicates of Niloshis that have a high probability of absorbing attacks from enemies.

With four level 1 spell slots and two level 2 spell slots, Niloshis will finally get a few more spell casting opportunities before exhausting those slots. Level 1 offered two slots versus level 3’s six slots. I can even choose to cast the level 1 False Life and Sleep spells with a level 2 slot and increase the benefits of those spells. Cantrips, of course, can be used over and over again.

AC remains the same, but the Hit Points increases again. With 18HP for level 2, I now get to add the base 4 + 3 (Constitution modifier) +1 (Draconic Bloodline) for 26HP Max! WOO HOO!

MY XP is currently sitting at 1077. Level 4 won’t come around until I hit 2700XP — plenty of adventures ahead of me before I reach that level. And that’s a good thing — characters are currently capped at Level 4 for Adventurers League, and no additional XP can be earned once level 4 is reached until the next stage of AL kicks off.

During my adventures, I’ve managed to gather 194 gold pieces and a Potion of Climbing. The gold will come in handy when the adventure ends and I have to pay for “living expenses” during downtime.

I’ve been having a blast playing Niloshis for Adventurers League. I must admit, though, that I’m anxious to start DMing again. I’ve had so few opportunities to play D&D, so until the Dungeon Master’s Guide is released, I’m going to continue to play Niloshis and maybe even create a new character. This Wednesday starts Chapter 2 in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, so I’ll be submitting my report later this week after that night’s adventure is complete… I’m hoping to report some fun and interesting actions with my new spells, the Sorcery Points, and the Metamagic spell twists. Stay tuned…

 

 

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Celebrate Nintendo’s 125th Birthday in Style http://geekdad.com/2014/09/nintendo-125th-birthday/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/nintendo-125th-birthday/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:00:02 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63157 I know I often think about how great it would be to dress up like Luigi or Link from the Legend of Zelda, but then think about how awkward it would be for an adult to go around in a costume. That is when I am not dressed up a the nearest convention. Now I can just zip up a hoodie and BAM, I am a costume character ready for some fun! Continue reading

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nintendo-super-mario-bros

What could be better than showing your love for Mario and the gang by donning a costume hoodie from TvStoreOnline.com?

I know I often think about how great it would be to dress up like Luigi or Link from the Legend of Zelda, but then think about how awkward it would be for an adult to go around in a costume. That is when I am not dressed up a the nearest convention. Now I can just zip up a hoodie and BAM, I am a costume character ready for some fun!

hoodie-sweatshirt-21Honestly, I did pick up the Mario hoodie to check out from TvStoreOnline.com and here is what I can tell you. First off, these things are comfortable. Now that Fall is here, I love to put something light on just to cut out the chill. These hoodies fit that bill. Next, it is a hoodie! If you ever have worn a hoodie, then you know everything else I could tell you.

They are constructed of quality materials and hold up very well in the wash. These hoodies are perfect for anytime you need a costume in a pinch or you just want to show off your fandom.

Heads up – these hoodies are sized a bit on the larger size. I would recommend that when you order yours from TvStoreOnline.com, that you order a size smaller than you normally wear. That is if you wear your clothes loose. Pick one up today by clicking here.

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Introducing the Fluxx Theme Song by The Doubleclicks http://geekdad.com/2014/09/fluxx-song-doubleclicks/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/fluxx-song-doubleclicks/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 09:00:27 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63071 To celebrate the fifth edition of Fluxx (coming soon), Looney Labs teamed up with The Doubleclicks for a theme song! Continue reading

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Fluxx was one of the earlier games I encountered on my journey into Tabletopland, and it’s still going strong. It’s a fairly casual game and quite silly—the cards you play change the rules of the game—and the different flavors of Fluxx (pirates, sci-fi, Monty Python…) offer something for everyone.

To celebrate the fifth edition of Fluxx (coming soon), Looney Labs teamed up with The Doubleclicks for a theme song!

 

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Trap Team Villains and Levels Revealed By Kids at EGX Show http://geekdad.com/2014/09/trap-team-villains-levels-revealed-kids-egx-show/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/trap-team-villains-levels-revealed-kids-egx-show/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:01:25 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63134 Over in London last weekend, 100’s of kids were playing Skylanders Trap Team. By cleverly all using the same save Continue reading

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Over in London last weekend, 100’s of kids were playing Skylanders Trap Team. By cleverly all using the same save file, together they managed to progress through the game with just two characters available.

We were there to record their progress, and what they revealed:

As you can see in the video thanks to their clever play we got a first look at the villains: Eye Scream, Eye Five, Hood Sickle, Krankenstein, Scrap Shooter, Dr Krankcase, Threat Pack, Hawkmongous.

We also had a play through chance on the following levels:

Mystic Mill

Wilikin Workshop

Time Town

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Kickstarter Alert – SAM: The Internet of Everything for Everyone http://geekdad.com/2014/09/kickstarter-sam/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/kickstarter-sam/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:27:56 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63124 SAM is a new project which has just launched on Kickstarter, taking the idea behind individual electronic components that connect together - pioneered by littleBits - and freeing them from the need to be physically connected by adding a battery and wireless chip to each module. Continue reading

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The prototype SAM modules

The prototype SAM modules

We’re big fans of littleBits here at GeekDad which is why I really like the look of this new Kickstarter project from Sam Labs – a multi-disciplinary team of designers from the Royal College of Art and engineers from Imperial College London. They’ve taken the basic concept of littleBits – individual electronic modules that connect to each other to do things – and re-thought it from the ground up, and won 3 editor’s choice awards at the recent Maker Faire in New York for their work. There are three big improvements over the littleBits model:

Wirelessness:
Every SAM module has a built in wireless chip, which means that each module doesn’t have to actually be connected directly to the others. The magnetic system of littleBits is great, but there are always times when then become disconnected. With SAM, children can run around the room without their system unclipping or disconnecting.
This also decreases the overall cost of the system as there’s no need for additional modules that enable wirelessness or extension wires

Design footprint:
The wirelesses also means that each module must have its own power source, which means you actually need less modules overall. The littleBits equivalent to a single SAM Button would be a Battery, a PowerBit, a Button and the new CloudBit – so SAM modules reduce both the size and cost of the system. Each module has a micro USB port too to allow them to be charged easily.

The App:
With littleBits, you either had a small system that did one thing or you could hook it up to an Arduino based system for more control. With SAM, there is a custom-made app that handles all the programming via a simple, but powerful, drag and drop Flow-Based interface along the lines of Scratch. This is a great way of teaching programming skills and visualising the data flows, especially for kids. And of course, this work wirelessly too.

Kids testing out the SAM prototypes

Kids testing out the SAM prototypes

They’re already well on their way to the modest £50,000 goal, so check out the Kickstarter page to help them get there.

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Have Big Dumb Fun With Hyrule Warriors http://geekdad.com/2014/09/big-dumb-fun-hyrule-warriors/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/big-dumb-fun-hyrule-warriors/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:00:25 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63106 Hyrule Warriors takes all of the subtlety and nuance of the Legend of Zelda franchise and tosses it right out the window -- to great effect! Continue reading

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hyrule warriors

My relationship with the Legend of Zelda series is likely different from most. As a child I played the original and its side-scroller-y sequel on the NES, but the property didn’t get its hooks into me until the GameCube era. I adored Wind Waker, and it was through that lens that I truly began to perceive the weight of all the titles that had come before.

While it’s a far cry from the Toon Link of that oft-maligned “Cellda,” Hyrule Warriors represents another noticeable shift in the property. Gone are the delicate soundtrack and careful, deliberate problem-solving and measured combat of LoZ-proper. They are replaced with the unrestrained bombast of the Dynasty Warriors series. And I kind of love it.

In a storyline that doesn’t stray too far from the established “Hero of Time” motif, Hyrule Warriors sees Link lead the kingdom’s soldiers into battle against a veritable sea of classic enemies – ranging from relatively harmless Bokoblins to the more difficult Darknuts and Lizalfos – on a mission to hack and slash his way to victory over Ganondorf. The difference this time around, aside from the gloriously mindless button-mashing inherent in the combat system, is that the player controls not only Link, but other series stalwarts like Midna, Impa and even Zelda herself in an adventure that spans established series locales and beyond.

This time-hopping adventure puts you in each different character’s shoes in turn, often limiting your selection based on the combat scenario and generally letting you know which hero and weapon combination will prove the most advantageous with a helpful thumbs-up symbol. Experience, buffs and secondary weapons abound in each spacious (but occasionally maze-like) level, with bombs and bows and the like quickly becoming available for an additional dash of mayhem.

Loot and Rupees are collected and subsequently used to flesh out each character’s skill tree to allow for better bonuses, lengthier buff effects and bigger combos via craftable badges. Each map contains various controls points, wherein your character does the most of his/her fighting, and wresting these from enemies’ hands, while not necessarily a victory condition, always helps shape the battle. Often the game warns that your soldiers in a certain area are in danger of being overwhelmed, leaving you to ponder whether to charge on toward your ultimate goal or fall back to offer aid. A morale system rewards allies around you for your own superlative combat performance, a subtle system that cuts both ways to turn the tide of battle.

The weapon system itself seems intentionally vague, with simple stats like damage supplemented by a star system, to denote rarity and overall power, and bonus effect slots, which provide additional attacks and supplemental damage. Add to this a crafting system wherein effects from one weapon can be moved to another with one or more open slots – destroying the original in the process – and you get a feel for the seam-busting content and barely controlled madness that is Hyrule Warriors.

And therein lies my big gripe with the game. Hyrule Warriors, from its oddly meandering plot and disparate cast of characters to its mission objectives and less-than satisfying camera controls, looks and plays wonderfully from the cursory 10,000 foot view, but when examined critically its flaws begin to show. Success and failure within each battle is measured via specific objectives, and expect these to change in the heat of battle – a lot. “Capture this place” quickly becomes “No, find this other thing” and, by the way, “Whatever you do, don’t let this third thing happen!” — oh, “Also a bonus Gold Skulltula has just appeared somewhere on the map, so good luck with that.”

It’s a fun enough mechanic, but amid pitched battle and relying on a map system that’s barebones at best, it can get a little frustrating. This is compounded by a camera system that’s not exactly polished itself. The L-trigger locks onto the nearest non-grunt enemy in your combat area, but when more than one mini-boss appears Hyrule Warriors doesn’t seem to know who the hell it wants you to fight. Even with just a single high-value target in your sights, the system falters by losing camera focus entirely, and trying to finagle a proper viewing angle using the right stick muddies up the otherwise frantic but fluid combat.

Hyrule Warriors has heroes and combos and weapons galore, it offers the Wii U’s hallmark GamePad-only view (in case you need to share the television with an otherwise distracted loved one) and it even manages to rock those classic Legend of Zelda melodies up with a truly inspired level of guitar-shredding. Still, when the title does stammer it always manages to let you down at the worst possible time.

Does this mean I recommend passing on this game? Not even close!

I can’t imagine Hyrule Warriors is going to take home any ribbons for its graphics or its gameplay, but you’ll likely be having too much over-the-top fun actually playing it to worry about either. Plus, between all the unlockables, a secondary old school map-based “Adventure Mode,” two-player co-op and multiple controller options, it packs in a ton of content.

The fate of Hyrule is up for grabs, but, in the battle of enjoyment versus frustration, the former always wins.

Review material (and a super-sweet scarf) provided by: Nintendo of America

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Bounded Enthusiasm #6: Paul Pope, Battling Boy, and The Rise of Aurora West http://geekdad.com/2014/09/be6-paul-pope/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/be6-paul-pope/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 11:00:15 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=62978 Today's episode is an interview with Paul Pope about his latest comic book series, Battling Boy. Paul Pope is a prolific cartoonist and illustrator, perhaps best known for Batman: Year 100, for which he won two Eisner awards. Continue reading

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Battling Boy, Paul Pope, The Rise of Aurora West

Today’s episode is an interview with Paul Pope about his latest comic book series, Battling Boy. Paul Pope is a prolific cartoonist and illustrator, perhaps best known for Batman: Year 100, for which he won two Eisner awards. (If you haven’t read it yet, you should look it up!) While talking to Pope, I could tell that he’s interested in using comics to tell deeper stories: although it may appear to be just about a monster-fighting super-kid on the surface, Pope draws from classical hero stories and mythology.

Battling Boy, released last year, is about a young boy who is sent to Arcopolis, a vast city overrun by child-stealing monsters. His nameless father is some sort of war-god, and Battling Boy has been sent to this realm as a sort of coming-of-age ritual. But he’s not the only one fighting off the monsters.

Arcopolis has its own hero: Haggard West. He’s a bit like Batman—he has no superpowers but uses a lot of gadgets of his own design. Haggard has been keeping the monsters at bay and has been training his daughter Aurora in the family business … until he is killed in battle in the first scene of the book. It’s as Aurora is preparing herself to take over her father’s role when Battling Boy arrives on the scene, stealing the spotlight.

Now, the second book in the series arrives: The Rise of Aurora West. It actually serves as a prequel, and we get to see a lot more of Aurora’s relationship with Haggard and some of the events leading up to Haggard’s final battle. There’s a bit of a mystery about Aurora’s past—memories she can’t quite recall, hints at something driving the monster activities, and so on.

There are two books planned for Aurora’s story arc, and two books planned for Battling Boy. Paul Pope writes and illustrates the Battling Boy books himself, and Aurora West is written in conjunction with J.T. Petty and illustrated by David Rubín. Although the four books will form an interweaving story arc, they can also be read as two standalone stories, and First Second Books has elected to use a slightly different format for the two. Battling Boy is slightly larger and in full color; The Rise of Aurora West is a little smaller and in black and white. This may also reflect, in part, the different sensibility in the storytelling between the two books—Battling Boy is more action, with mostly straightforward, linear storytelling, where Aurora West gets a little darker, more nuanced, and jumps between current day and flashbacks.

Both are excellent reads, though, and appropriate for tween/teen readers. I look forward to the next two volumes!

Click here to download the MP3, or use the podcast player below:

You can find Paul Pope online at paulpope.com (note: contains images that may not be kid- or work-appropriate) or follow him on Twitter at PULPH0PE (that’s a zero, not a letter O). For more about First Second Books, visit the website.

Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of Battling Boy and The Rise of Aurora West.

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Hands-on With Chapter 7 of Skylanders Trap Team http://geekdad.com/2014/09/hands-on-skylanders-trap-team/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/hands-on-skylanders-trap-team/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:00:31 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63098 Here's a new level from Skylanders Trap Team, out on 5th October in the US. Continue reading

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Here’s a new level from Skylanders Trap Team, out on 5th October in the US:

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Explore the Science of Animation at OMSI http://geekdad.com/2014/09/animation-omsi/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/animation-omsi/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 11:00:55 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63077 The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, Oregon, just opened a new exhibit about animation, developed in partnership with Cartoon Network. If you and your kids like animation, this is a great way to see how it works. Continue reading

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OMSI Animation

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, Oregon, just opened a new exhibit about animation. I took my kids on opening night and we had a great time. The exhibit was developed with Cartoon Network, so there are a lot of familiar characters in the displays: maquettes of the Powerpuff Girls, examples of cels and sketches from Yogi Bear and the Jetsons, how to draw characters from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

The exhibit is full of hands-on stuff: storyboarding, recording dialogue to match animation or creating animation to match recorded dialogue, foley effects, bullet time, pixilation, cel layering, stop-motion animation, and more. It’s a great look at the traditional tools of the trade as well as more modern techniques, and if you and your kids like animation, this is a great way to learn a bit more about how the magic happens.

Here’s a little video showing some of the cool things I saw at the exhibit, followed by some photos of some of the stations. For more information about the exhibit, which lasts until January 11, 2015, visit the OMSI website.

OMSI Animation storyboard

The Storyboard station lets you put the various “scenes” in order, and then watch a video of those scenes. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSI-Animation-cels

You get to “build” one frame of a scene by layering cels—background, character cels, and effects. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-horse

At this station, you get to animate a horse model, with some guidelines to show you how to position the horse. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-foley

Try your hand at Foley effects by using various objects to match the scene in the cartoon. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-pantograph

The Pantograph is a tool for enlarging or reducing images to scale. OMSI’s uses a Magnadoodle and large stencils to show how it works. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-mutoscope

The Mutoscope is a crank-driven flipbook. Here you get to see W.C. Fields in “The Golfer.” Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-scrollingbackground

This station demonstrates how a moving background with stationary characters makes it look like the characters are flying. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-greenscreen

Fun with green screens! An OMSI staff member takes snapshots to form a short animated scene. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-dialogue

Use the chart and the mirror to animate this character speaking a line of dialogue. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-praxinoscope

The Praxinoscope uses mirrors to make it look like the beads are moving up and down the poles when you spin it. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSIAnimation-stopmotion

Make a simple stop-motion animated scene at this station, which is usually in OMSI’s Turbine Room area. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

OMSI Animation Screening Room

What would an animation exhibit be without a screening room? Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

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Stow That Phablet With Bond & Co http://geekdad.com/2014/09/bond-co-shirts/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/bond-co-shirts/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 10:00:32 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63079 Last week the tech world was rocked by news that great big ol' smartphones may be a bit bendier than advertised. This makes me wonder where users can safely stow these beefier current-gen phablets. Continue reading

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the captainLast week the tech world was rocked by news that great big ol’ smartphones may be a bit bendier than advertised. SCANDAL!

But this does make me wonder where users — particularly those that don’t relish the idea of stowing their devices in a bag or massive belt holster — can safely stow these beefier current-gen phablets. The answer, it turns out, is simple.

Boutique clothier Bond & Co, a company at the vanguard of the now not-so niche integrated technology clothing marketplace, already offers multiple shirts with features like hidden earbud holders in the collar and a secondary pocket specifically designed for larger phones.

Better yet, a little bird told me — and by “a little bird” I mean Bond & Co’s Neal Bond — that they’re planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign for another similar design (with a drastically reduced price tag) tomorrow. I’ll happily share more details as they become available, but in the meantime hit up the company’s official web presence to peruse their snazzy shirts.

 

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Timothy Zahn’s Soulminder – Excerpt 7 (Sponsored) http://geekdad.com/2014/09/soulminder-excerpt-7/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/soulminder-excerpt-7/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 11:00:54 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=62795 Check out our final excerpt from Timothy Zahn's Soulminder. Continue reading

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soulminder cropped

And with the rain dripping through the cracks in the roof, Sommer had held his son in his arms and felt the life leave the little boy’s body.

The life. The soul.

Could he have been saved? That was the question that had haunted Sommer’s every waking hour in the eleven years since that night. David’s body had been badly damaged, but even in the middle of a storm Sommer had been able to see that most of the injuries could have been repaired with proper medical care. Maybe all of them could have been.

But there had been no chance of that. Not that night. Not with the two of them trapped in the car, with the raging storm scrambling every cell phone in the area. And so Sommer had held his son, and watched David’s last few minutes silently drift away into eternity.

He vividly remembered wishing over and over that there was a way to keep his son alive. To keep the child’s soul attached to his broken body for a little longer.

Or if not to keep body and soul together, perhaps to capture and preserve that soul until the body could be repaired.

It was in the moments afterward, as Sommer laid his son gently back onto the cushions, that the idea of Soulminder was born.

Two months later, he resigned his position at the hospital and set off to make that desperate hope and dream a reality.

Everything he’d done since had been focused on that goal. He’d dug into the literature and discovered the work of James Mullner, who had investigated the long-forgotten fad of Kirlian photography and found an unexpected but intriguing link between a person’s coronal discharges and his moods and personality. He’d found Jessica Sands, whose technical and electronics genius more than compensated for Sommer’s own limitations in those fields. When the insurance settlement money ran out, he’d cobbled together enough loans and grants from friends, colleagues, and small professional groups to keep the work going.

Only now that work had hit a dead end. Possibly the final dead end.

Sommer snarled a tired curse under his breath as a particularly dazzling spear of lightning blazed across the sky directly in front of him. No, he told himself firmly. There’d been other roadblocks over the years, and he and Sands had always found a way around them. They’d find a way around this one, too.

Somehow.

Sommer had made a promise to himself, and to David, and to every parent, child, or friend who had ever watched a loved one die. And that promise was going to be kept.

For the rest of the story, pick up Timothy Zahn’s Soulminder! 

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Soulminder Week Wrap-Up (Sponsored) http://geekdad.com/2014/09/soulminder-week-wrap-up/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/soulminder-week-wrap-up/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 10:00:54 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63074 Don't forget to pick up Timothy Zahn's Soulminder, available now at brick-and-mortar retailers and digital storefronts everywhere. Continue reading

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soulminder croppedToday we reach the inevitable conclusion of Soulminder Week here at GeekDad. I’ve genuinely enjoyed sharing this novel and my impressions of it with our loyal audience. All that remains is for me to thank you, the reader, Kat (and the rest of the team at Open Road Media) and the one and only Timothy Zahn himself.

If you missed them, you can check out all of this week’s Soulminder excerpts in the GeekDad archive. Also, there’s still time to enter to win an autographed copy of the novel. But don’t let that dissuade you from picking up the book on your own; it’s available now at brick-and-mortar retailers and digital storefronts everywhere.

 

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First 30 Minutes With Angry Birds Transformers http://geekdad.com/2014/09/first-30-minutes-with-angry-birds-transformers/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/first-30-minutes-with-angry-birds-transformers/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:55:47 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63066 Here's a quick look at Angry Birds Transformers. Due out on iOS on 15th October and Google Play on 30th October. Continue reading

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Here’s a quick look at Angry Birds Transformers. Due out on iOS on 15th October and Google Play on 30th October:

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11 Things Parents Ought to Know by Now http://geekdad.com/2014/09/11-things-parents-know-now/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/11-things-parents-know-now/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:12:01 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=63061 So somebody over at the Huffington Post wrote this thing about raising boys, and the blogosphere went a little crazy. It seems some of her observations were a little on the obvious side, and at least a couple of them read to some folks as more than a little sexist. So let's take a look. You can read the original over at the Huffington Post; here are my comments. Continue reading

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Photo by Visit Greenwich,  Used under a creative Commons Licnese

Photo by Visit Greenwich,
Used under a creative Commons License

So somebody over at the Huffington Post wrote this thing about raising boys, and the blogosphere went a little crazy. It seems some of her observations were a little on the obvious side, and at least a couple of them read to some folks as more than a little sexist

As it happens, I have a son, so I am in a position to review her post. As it also happens, I have two daughters, one older and the other younger than my son, so I am also in a position to consider whether her comments are indeed sexist.

So let’s take a look. You can read the original over at the Huffington Post; here are my comments.

1. Star Wars is akin to religion.
This is true, and it’s an incredible parenting tool. From the moment he sees Star Wars, you get to hold his every action up to the standard of a Jedi Knight and challenge him to rise to it. “Son, does a Jedi talk to people that way?” It works with daughters too. George Lucas has given us such a gift.

2. Simultaneously hating and being grateful for the privilege your son will have as an adult male.
How about this: Teaching my son to be aware of the privilege he has, and training him to always use it to benefit those who don’t share in it. It’s surprisingly easy to do, and it turns your son into a good man that others respect; the kind of guy who, when a teenage girl is stuck at a bus stop after midnight in an unsavory part of town and a creepy guy starts bothering her and she runs to hide in the restroom at the nearest fast food joint, when she whips out her cell phone to call  for help, your son is the first person she calls. He gets out of bed, gets dressed, comes to you and says “hey, I need a ride, we need to go pick up my friend.” When that happens, the pride and satisfaction you’ll feel will make it worth every drip of pee on your bathroom floor.

3. Boys give the best hugs.
Um, girl hugs are pretty great too. Truth is, up until about age 7 or 8, boys and girls are equally affectionate and guileless. Enjoy it, because there will most likely come a period when they (both boys and girls) are too cool to hug you. Don’t worry, they get over it.

4. Farts are funny.
Like most comedy, timing is everything. A fart at the right time and under the right circumstances is hilarious. For kids under five, “pull my finger” is comedy gold.

5. Everything will be covered in pee.
We never really had this problem. Maybe it was knowing that his sisters would kill him, but he seemed to manage to not douse the whole bathroom. Your mileage may vary.

6. Anything can, and will, become a gun.
True story: when my brothers-in-law were little, their mom tried to discourage guns and war toys; she gave them a toy farm instead. It took all of fifteen minutes for the pigs and cows to declare war on each other. So, yeah, conflict does seem to be hard-wired into boys, but my son was never particularly obsessed with guns. Sticks were his thing. He always had a stick or staff in his hand, stomping around like Gandalf. Kids are weird.

7. Boys are physical.
Some boys are, some aren’t. Some girls are, some aren’t. Granted, boys are generally more likely to rough-house, girls are somewhat more likely to enjoy dance or gymnastics. Both genders seem to enjoy karate class about equally.

8. Boys don’t listen.
Hot tip: Girls don’t either. The research may say that girls have more sensitive hearing than boys and are more attuned to voices, but they sure can tune them out when they want to. Here’s a second tip: kids don’t listen any better when you yell. Yelling just tells them that you’ve lost it. Kids figure out your patterns really quickly, and they know exactly how long it is between when the screaming starts and when you’ll actually get around to imposing some punishment. The trick is, get quiet. As any mafioso can tell you, people with power never raise their voices. They don’t have to; they know that when they speak, everyone listens or there are consequences.Your kids need to know that if you tell them something, there will be consequences. Yelling just tells them how long they can ignore you.

9. Marvel versus DC. Pick one.
Please. We don’t practice two-party politics; we vote for the man, not the brand. Batman is cooler than the Punisher, because he’s noble and heroic and doesn’t need a gun, to cite one example. There are plenty that go the other way as well. We taught our children the alphabet using superheroes. A is for Ant-Man, Atom, Aquaman and Angel. By the time they could read, they were well-versed in both DC and Marvel. They had favorite comics; our firstborn liked Legion of Super-Heroes (post-Zero Hour) and Green Lantern; our son liked Captain America, Batman and Wolverine, and our youngest adored Herobear & the Kid and Leave it to Chance. None of them were ever loyal to a particular company.

10. Clothes mean nothing.
That totally depends on the child. Some kids, even boys, are super-attuned to what the other kids are wearing, and won’t be caught dead in something that isn’t cool. My youngest girl was the clothes-horse, changing her outfit several times a day so as to be appropriately dressed for whatever the occasion. Our eldest daughter was even less concerned with clothing than our son; she had a basic uniform of t-shirt and jeans, while the boy was at least concerned that the superhero on his t-shirt was from the same company as the logo on his socks or underwear or whatever.

11. Boys love unconditionally.
So do girls. When your little girl stomps her foot and tells you to leave her alone, your boy will slam his bedroom door and scream at you. When your tween daughter is sullen and sulky and hates you, your son thinks you’re the stupidest person who ever lived. When your teenage daughter gives you the silent treatment, your son will think that everything you say, do or think is idiotic and embarrassing. But when they don’t feel those things, when their friends comment on how cool they think you are, when they are happy and everything is right, they will love you with all they’ve got. The boys and the girls. They will simply love you. And they will say so. Unconditionally. When they are grown and out of the house, off on their own adventures, they will call or text and tell you they miss you and love you. The boys and the girls.

Truth is, we raised two girls and one boy, and the differences were fairly slight. Almost 28 years ago, a doctor handed me a little girl, and I said “holy crap, now what?” Three and a half years later, another doctor handed me a boy, and I said “oh boy, how am I gonna do this?” Five years later, the first doctor handed me another little girl, and I said “okay, I think I got this.” All these years later, with our kids all grown into amazing young adults, I know two things are true: (1) every kid is different, and (2) the differences between any two children are far greater than the difference between boys and girls in general.

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Sneak Peek at the New Catacombs http://geekdad.com/2014/09/peek-catacombs/ http://geekdad.com/2014/09/peek-catacombs/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:00:58 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=62897 Earlier this month, Aron West of Elzra Games was visiting Portland and brought a prototype of the new Catacombs to show off, and it looks great. Continue reading

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Catacombs Cover

Catacombs cover art concept by Kwanchai Moriya. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Earlier this month, Aron West of Elzra Games (formerly Sands of Time Games) was visiting Portland for XOXO Fest, and brought a prototype of the new Catacombs to show off. Catacombs is a fantastic dungeon crawl game that uses flicking disks instead of rolling dice, and was my 2011 Game of the Year. (You can see my original review here.)

Catacombs art

Concept art for the new heroes, catacombs lords, and monsters. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

In April this year, Elzra Games successfully funded a new edition of Catacombs with brand-new artwork by Kwanchai Moriya. One of my only complaints about the original Catacombs was, in fact, the artwork, so I was thrilled to see the game getting a makeover (and, clearly, so were a lot of other backers). West showed me that the game has been updated in other ways as well, with an eye to making the gameplay more streamlined and easier to pick up without a lot of special rules and exceptions.

Catacombs

Art for the disk stickers. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

We met up at Guardian Games, my friendly neighborhood game store, and West showed me new card artwork and some of Moriya’s concept art, and walked me through some of the differences in this third edition of Catacombs.

Catacombs Player Boards

The player boards have been heavily updated: heroes on the left, catacombs lord on the right. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

One big change is to the player boards. In the original, each hero has its own player board with a health track and abilities. They weren’t all a consistent design and, as West pointed out, each time they introduced a new hero, they had to create a new board as well. The new hero boards show a castle scene, and there are spaces for various cards.

Catacombs Hero Board

An example of how the Hero Board might appear. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The heroes are now made of cards: one has the portrait, along with the name and race of the hero. The accompanying card shows your abilities: the types of attacks you can make, along with additional starting equipment. There are slots for starting equipment and additional items you may purchase, as well as a slot for “Poisoned” cards, and one for allies, which are new. The health tracker on the left goes up to 15, though your starting health will be shown on your character card. The health tracker on the right is for allies.

Catacombs Lord board

The Catacombs Lord board. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Likewise, the board for the catacombs lord has also been streamlined. There’s a card with the portrait and one showing the types of shots, plus a third card that shows what board and which monsters you’ll use. The bottom half of the board is where you’ll place the various monster cards that are in play.

Catacombs Heroes

The four heroes from the base set. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

One of the major rules changes is to the monster abilities. In the original, there were some different types of attacks (melee vs. ranged, for instance, or a stun shot that made you lose a turn), and some monsters had additional abilities. In this new version, nearly everything is done in terms of shot type. There are different types of shots that are indicated by icon and color, so now you’ll be able to glance at a reference chart and find out how to resolve attacks. Also, because they’re done as shot types, it’s easier to allow for a hero to gain a weapon with the same shot type as a monster.

Catacombs Monsters

The monsters are color coded and also have a monster level. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The icons have various colors and I asked West about color-blindness since there were some icons that were identical except for color. He explained that he’s actually color blind himself, and that the colors selected are ones that should be easily distinguishable for even color blind players. (There are some that have additional markings, too.)

Catacombs Art

Concept art for some big monsters and the Antients. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Another new feature is the monster level indicator, at the top right of each monster card. This gives the relative difficulty of the monster, from 1 to 4. It goes along with the generic room cards, another new feature. The original game had cards that were very specific: use this board, and put these specific monsters in it. But that meant every time an expansion introduced new monsters, you’d have another set of cards with all of those monsters included. And if you wanted to use combinations of old and new monsters, there would need to be cards including both. The generic room card instead has a difficulty rating, and then indicates how many monsters of what levels to include, and the catacombs lord player is able to customize the rooms as desired.

Catacombs Antients

The Antients are a new type of monster. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

There’s a new type of monster now: the Antients. They are huge, powerful creatures that cannot be killed, and can be summoned onto the board through various means. Once they’re on the board, however, they can be controlled by the hero players and the catacombs lord player, making them dangerous and somewhat unpredictable.

Catacombs Location cards

Special Location cards. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The new location cards look great, too, depicting little scenes. Rather than having a lot of text on the cards themselves, the explanations for each will be included in the rules. This way, future expansions may even introduce new rules for existing locations depending on the scenario.

Catacombs Lords

The Catacombs Lords from the base game. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I can’t say enough how much I like the new artwork. Moriya has done a great job—the heroes and monsters are cute, but with just enough creepy thrown in. I feel like they’re more kid-friendly and also more generally accessible than the original drawings.

Catacombs boards

Two of the boards in prototype form. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The artwork on the boards is great, too, with lots of little details. The boards are quite a bit bigger than the original, which will be nice for gameplay. West also mentioned that there’s a cardboard “wall” that will go around the board to prevent disks from escaping too far, which happens often when things really get intense.

Catacombs board art

More artwork for the boards. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Overall, I think the new edition of Catacombs will be a vast improvement over the original, and I’m looking forward to breaking it out when it arrives. West is still hoping to make the November delivery date, so keep your fingers crossed!

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