Two of my favorite things are music and gaming.
I’ll be sharing some of my favorite music, including both covers and original compositions, as well as information about guitar playing in general. On the gaming side of things, I post reviews and information about tabletop games, including everything from Dungeons & Dragons to Clue.
If you’re interested in guitar articles, click the Guitar category link on the site menu. If you’re interested in tabletop gaming articles, click the Gaming category link. If you’re interested in both, the home page is where you’ll find a mix of both categories.
Quite a while back, I wrote about a series of books by Steve Jackson titled “Sorcery!”. These are basically RPG versions of Choose-Your-Own Adventure books, with stats, dice-rolling, and monster combat.
Sorcery! is a series of 4 books that make up one overarching story, but they’re part of a bigger series of books called Fighting Fantasy. Some of the Fighting Fantasy books take you to all kinds of creepy, fantastic, and wonderful locations. The very first Fighting Fantasy book, called The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, is more or less a dungeon crawl that takes you through the twists and turns of a dungeon deep within a mountain.
One of the really fun things about Fighting Fantasy books that have mazes or dungeons, is that you can draw maps of the adventure as you play through the book. It takes longer to go through the story, but the process of drawing the map as you go can be a lot of fun.
A friend of mine also recently got back into these books. We met for lunch yesterday to get wings, and he brought a book that he’d been using to draw a map for The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (which I really should just start referring to as TWoFM). Since I’ve always enjoyed making maps like this, it was cool to see someone else’s version of a map from one of these books. Here’s his map from TWoFM (click for a larger version):
Seeing his map brought back some pretty good memories of playing through this story. I have no idea where the map I drew for this book is, or if I even still have it, but this makes me want to look around to see if I kept it.
If reading through a story that lets you roll dice to fight monsters sounds fun to you, I’d recommend picking some of these Fighting Fantasy books up. There are vendors who sell them at ridiculously high prices, but there are also vendors who sell the same books for dirt cheap, so they’re not that hard to come by.
So I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went to an unexpected concert when a friend of mine won Whitesnake tickets from a local radio station. This past weekend, my wife and I went to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, near Cleveland, to see Van Halen’s 2015 tour. Unlike the Whitesnake show, this one was planned, and what a show it was.
Awhile back, I wrote about a dice game called Dungeon Roll. It’s a simple, fun game, but I’ve felt like the thin cardboard treasure chest that holds everything would eventually fall apart.
So, this past weekend, my son and I were getting ready to head out of town to a father/son safari camp. My wife mentioned that she and my daughter would be going to a craft store over the weekend while we were gone. I asked her to see if they had any small wooden treasure chests that I could use as a custom box for Dungeon Roll.
By the time we got back from camp, I had forgotten about our conversation about the wooden treasure chest. My daughter says to me, “Dad, I’d really like to play Dungeon Roll today.” Still didn’t remember the conversation. So after getting some things unpacked and getting settled back in, I went to get Dungeon Roll. I looked in the spot where we keep it, and I couldn’t find it. There was some little wooden chest in the way, so I moved it out of the way and kept looking. Still didn’t remember the conversation about the wooden treasure chest at the craft store. I moved some more stuff around and still couldn’t find the game.
Finally, I looked at the little wooden chest and saw this:
Back when I was a boy, a new game was released that captured my imagination. It was 1980 and the game was the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game made by Mattel Electronics. The game was pretty cool for it’s time, and gave me a great sense of mystery and adventure as a kid, at least as much mystery and adventure a kid could get from a board game on a living room floor or dining room table.
After recently and unexpectedly seeing Whitesnake live, I remembered how much I used to love the guitar tone that John Sykes had when he recorded their 1987 album and his follow-up Blue Murder albums. I’ve always heard that he used a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier for those recordings. The HD500X Cali Tread model is based on the 2001 version of that amp, so I decided to create a patch using the Cali Tread.
You can hear a sample of the patch here, and download at https://brianmhall.wordpress.com/hd500x-guitar-patches.
So, if you had told me two weeks ago that I’d soon be at a Whitesnake concert, I would have just looked at you funny and laughed. But you would have gotten the last laugh because that’s exactly where I was last night.
A friend of mine from church called me up a couple of weeks ago and said, “Hey, I just called a radio show contest and won two tickets to go see Whitesnake. Wanna go?” My first reaction was that he was joking, but it turns out that he wasn’t, so I said, sure, I’ll go.
I’m not much of a Whitesnake fan, but I will admit that in the late 80s, I did like them quite a bit (I just won’t admit if it was the 1880s or 1980s). I even saw them in concert somewhere around ’89 (again, maybe 1889, maybe 1989, I’m not saying). So when my friend asked me to go, I thought it would be fun to go and reminisce. It was actually a pretty fun show.
Every summer (or at least most summers), we stay at Ravenwood Castle in Hocking Hills in Ohio. It was originally advertised primarily as a quaint, romantic getaway and my wife and I spent part of our honeymoon there. It has gone through new ownership a couple of times since then, and the current owners have turned it into more of a gaming bed and breakfast, while still retaining the original idea of a romantic getaway (although we take our kids with us these days, so “romantic” isn’t usually our goal anyway, at least not on these trips).
So now when we go, the check-in office has a shelf loaded with all kinds of board games that can be checked out (for free!) during our stay. This is how we first had the chance to try out Forbidden Island. When we checked that game out, the employees that were getting our keys and taking our money also suggested that we try a game called “Survive – Escape from Atlantis!”.
Just a quick note that the long awaited first errata document for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition has been released by WotC. You can read more about it and download it here.
Several weeks ago I wrote about stage volume and beaming when it comes to using an amp on stage. Today I want to talk about my experiences using microphones to send the guitar sound to a PA system.
First let me start by saying that I don’t have extensive experience miking amps, and I generally don’t need to either because I either use a multi-fx pedal going straight into a PA system, or the amp itself was enough without needing to have it mic’d.
Having said that, there was a period of time when I did need to use microphones to get my guitar sound into the main speakers controlled by a PA system. I spent quite a lot of time trying to learn the best methods to do so, and after a lot of trial and error, this is what worked best for me.
The main thing that I found, as mentioned in the article I mentioned above, is that the amp has to have enough volume before being mic’d or else you’ll just be amplifying a small, weak guitar sound. The other things that I learned are 1) that you need to find the correct mic placement, 2) that you need to find the best mic angle, and 3) that you need to find the best distance of the mic from the speaker.
I recently started running a D&D game using the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure from Wizards of the Coast. This adventure is the first book of two in the Tyranny of Dragons story that combine to create a full adventure. The group that is playing consists of a DM (me) plus several adults and some of their sons. So, we have a group of 30 to 40 year old players with a couple of 9 year olds.
Ok, after re-reading that last sentence, I realize it could be interpreted as a group of one year old players with 30 to 40 members, but I actually meant that some of the members are in their 30s and 40s. I’m feeling too lazy to go back and change it, which makes even less sense when you realize that it took longer to type this paragraph than to re-word the previous one.
The first session went really well, and the adventure is pretty good. So far, I’m liking it quite a bit better than The Lost Mines of Phandelver from the Starter Set. It feels more gritty and realistic, and being an “adventure path”, it just feels more epic.