Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2014

Ok, this post has nothing to do with gaming but I wanted to post this some where and this blog drew the short straw.

My wife signed my up for this race since she knew that if she didn't she would be going alone and she didn't want to go alone. The Tinkerbell Half Marathon is a Disney race held in Disneyland every January that is marketed towards women. Men are not allowed in the first corral and get no medals nor prizes. As a result of the 13000 participants this year only about 1500 were men. Note I wrote "participants" and not "racers" or "competitors". It is a timed race but the vast majority are not out there to break any records, in fact I would go so far to say the vast majority do not even run.

I have to say the race is very well organized. It starts at 5am but there were thousands already present when we arrived just after 4AM. The race is divided into 5 corrals. When you registered you were asked to submit a previous run time from another race. They used that time to place you in the appropriate corral. The faster you are the closer you start to the front. As I said earlier even though I can run a half marathon about 50 minutes faster than my wife she started in corral A and I was back in B. I'm not sure I understand the logic of not letting the men be in A. Someone told me that it was so that a woman would be the first to cross the finish line but if that is so they needed to give Corral A a bigger head start since even with an 8 minute lead over the men, a man was still the first to cross. One guy I talked to said that last year the men had to start in Corral C which was a nightmare since he spend the first half of the race trying to run around slow women running or worse walking in packs. He still finished 9th overall so I guess it wasn't that bad.

I think it is a result of different objectives. If it's a real race and I am being timed and I am going to go full speed and run the best race I can. My wife first goal was to get lots of good pictures with Disney characters; a decent finish time was secondary. They should put the people who actually intend to run at the front and let the rest follow behind.

There was good security at the starting line. I guess Boston scared organizers last year and I saw several sniffer dogs at the start and again at the end. Security also ensure everyone was in the correct corral. You could move back but not forward. I saw one guy get escorted back to B from A just before the race started. Did he really think he would not stand out in the group of all women?

Apparently slow people at the back in Corral E complain that they might not have enough time to get pictures and still have time to finish walking the course. My response is "Run bitches!" but I'm not the most empathetic of people.

As I said, Corral A left at 5am and then we slowly moved up to the starting line where they held us for 8 minutes. Then we were allowed to begin as they moved up the groups behind us which they staggered as well. The first part of the race consists of running around the north perimeter of Disneyland. The streets are closed to traffic and since I was at the front of the pack in Corral B it was a nice start. Some people passed me early on but I'd be seeing most of them again. Eventually on the far side of Disneyland we entered the park through an employee entrance, went through a tunnel and then found ourselves in Disney California Adventure which is to the south of Disneyland. By this point I was moving into the back of the mass of female runners from Corral A. Running through the park was kinda cool but at the same time a pain in the ass. There was lots to look at but the paths were fairly narrow and women would randomly start to walk, pull a 90' turn to get a picture with a Disney character, and worst of all were the water stations where all of the female runners would slow down and grab a drink (why?) without moving off to the side. I had a couple of near misses and actually clipped a rather svelte Buzz Lightyear whose stupid wings hit me in the face.

We also ran through the backend of the park. It was neat being in areas the public doesn't normally see like of some of the studios and offices but I have to admit I was focused more on my pace than anything else.

Finally around the 10km mark we passed out of the park into the dark streets of Anaheim. Ironically as I left the park I had also left behind the bulk of Corral A. It was so peaceful running down Walnut street I have to admit it was probably my favorite. My pace increased significantly and yet my heart rate went down. There was no more dodging and weaving on tight turns in the park it was just long straight roads, cool night air and the occasional light breeze. As I moved down West Broadway I caught up to a younger Asian fellow who congratulated me on my race. I wished the same to him and then he picked up his pace a bit and we pretty much ran together for the rest of the race.

There was a slight downhill slant to the last few km (or at least I convinced myself there was) so I kept picking up my pace. When my Garmin beeped 20km, I decided to go kick it up one last notch. I pulled ahead of my running buddy and did my best to sprint to the finish (although it turns out my sprint was not all that much faster than what I'd be doing previously). I kept going around these corners only to find that I wasn't there yet. I could hear the finish line in the distance and I knew I was close but it seemed it was always one turn away. Finally I passed two more females and there it was! I did hear the announcer call out my name and where I was from, but I was pretty much blind at this point and all I could see was the last corner and the finish line peaking out over the spectators.  I crossed at 1:31:41 chip time or 1:39:57 gun time which was fast enough to make me 26th or 28th overall depending on which standings you look at (the standings on the Tinkerbell site are broken up by sex and division which make it really hard to compare to the amalgamated list). I found my running buddy in the standings. He finished only a second behind me but technically finished ahead of me since he started a minute later.

There were lots of photographers in the finishing area so I got one done and then went to get my food and drink. The photos are ridiculously expensive. At the Calgary Half last year, marathon photo harassed me for months with increasingly betters deals to buy a picture. If I have any decent ones I'll hold off a while before I shell out my hard earned cash for a digital picture.

The finishing area is well set up. Lots of room and an obvious progression. Even later when it got busier I'm sure it would have not been too congested. The bag pick-up was sorted by last name which would have been good had I checked anything. I was eatting my banana as my wife texted me she was at the 16km mark. I wandered over to the finishing area knowing it would be at least 30 minutes before she showed up.

I am amazed at some of the costumes people run in. Tons of women put on a shiny skirt and many had fairy wings strapped to their back. Some guys dressed up as Tinkerbell as well. There was one guy dressed up as Minnie mouse holding a camera. Apparently he is super fast but must have stopped for lots of pictures or was taking it easy since I beat him by about 15 minutes. I saw guys dressed up as Jasmine from Aladdin, Captain Hook, and one guy running in a 3 piece suit with a name tag that said Walt. It's neat how many people really get into it. My wife finished with a 2:20:00 which is pretty good since she spent a total of 12 minutes doing pictures.

My favorite part of the race was definitely the second half. It was faster and more relaxed at the same time. Running through the park is cool and all but if you want to enjoy that part of the race why not just lollygag your way through the 10km race the day before which takes place solely in Disneyland. I just found running through a horde of slow moving sight seeing women stressful.

If you are wondering what the actual course looks like you can find the route HERE

Overall I really liked the race. It was very expensive however and I can't see myself doing it again anytime soon. I'm running the Princess Half marathon at Disney World next month so we'll see how the two events compare. It's another female oriented race so I'm sure many of my current complaints will apply. It may have gotten hopelessly crowded and congested later on but we didn't see any. Of course we had time to finish, return to our hotel room, finish packing, sit around with our feet up for a while and were down waiting for the shuttle to airport when the last walkers crossed the finish line.

Personally I was very happy with my run. I came in 19th once on a 10km race but there were only a total of
500 runners. This race had over 13,000. My 26th place finish would be more impressive if it was a more athletic event but I'm still pretty happy I knocked 5 minutes off my best time. I think some of it had to do with perfect running conditions: temperature about 10C, no sun, no wind, no hills and it is at sea level which makes a big difference (Calgary is at about 1100m elevation).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Way of the Wicked 11

This posting is late and will be a bit shorter than usual as a result.

So the villains were down to the final 3 days of the ritual. With their layered defenses in ruins they decided to pull their remaining resources (the alchemical golem and the Ceustodaemon) up to the Sanctum and abandon the lower levels.

Shortly after the midnight ritual a pack of 6 Hounds of Tindalos gated in and attacked the villains in an attempt to take over the ritual. They were dispatched without too many problems although the Ceustodaemon was killed in the battle.

Next up a raging barbarian came charging up the stair from the lower levels. He changed into a silver dragon and managed to paralyze most of the party with his breath weapon.Only the wizard and the bloodrager managed to either avoid the attack or make their save. I expected this encounter to be very difficult but the bloodrager killed the dragon in 2 full attacks (he was hasted by the wizard). The bloodrager took lots of damage but with perma-displacement when raging over half of the dragon attacks missed.

The last combat encounter was the "Sons of Balentyne" - relatives of the NPCs the 9th knot slaughtered back in the first book. They consisted a paladin, a cleric, a wizard, and a fighter/barbarian. I have to give my players credit on this encounter. When we first started this campaign I told them I was going to be ruthless and I wanted them to play smart, not just our normal kick down the door style. Well, they out played me on this one. The wizard entered the sanctum invisible and immediately set up what I thought was a safe zone where the party could finish buffing for the battle. A wall of force was put up protecting the NPCs and they began buffing to super human levels. Some of the PCs retreated around the corner to protect their final sacrifice for the ritual when the PC wizard decided to fly over the wall separating the two groups and polymorph the wizard. The wizard rolled poorly and "POOF" the fight was pretty much over before it even began. The rest of the PCs pick up on the strategy and either fly over the wall or have the alchemical golem toss them over.

The paladin when down fast to focus fire, and the cleric tried to keep the fighter/barbarian up. The evil PC cleric got a little too close to the battle and took a full round attack which left him unconscious. Once again the bloodrager ripped through the heroes and left them dead. He crit once for 114 points of damage which is pretty damn good for a 9th level character.

So will all of the forces of good dead the time of the final ritual arrived and Vetra Kali-Eats the Eyes was summoned. They played fairly smartly. Their first request was for Vetra Kali to kill no one for 24 hours. It sighed but agreed and consumed its first eye. The second request was for the Tears of Vetra kali. It was delighted that mortals wanted it and handed it over gladly. It then consumed its second eye. The third request was for it to return to its home plane. Vetra Kali was enraged and removed the magic that was holding the Horn together. It began to shake apart and the 9th knot teleported away leaving their alchemical golem behind. It took almost an hour for the Horn to finally come crashing down.

The 9th knot broke the seal and shortly Tiadorra arrived with their reward from Cardinal Thorn. They were given a letter and told to go Ghastenhall where they would receive their next mission in 30 days.

As so ends Book 2. It should be noted that the third request was only for Vetra Kali Eats-the-Eyes to return to its own plane. There was nothing in there about not returning....

We still had some time left in the evening so we played a round of Red Dragon Inn and then everyone went home.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hero Kids - a second adventure

So, Warrior-Mommy, Healer Big-Sis and Hunter Little-Sis assembled once again last weekend for another adventure (Warlock-Auntie returned home). We played Curse of the Shadow Walkers, a longer and more difficult adventure featuring wolves, spiders and other menacing denizens of the night. This time around didn't run quite so smoothly. There is more role-playing and problem-solving in CotSW than Basement O'Rats and the fights are tougher and more numerous. The girls are still trying to wrap their brains around the freeform nature of rpgs in contrast to the strict rules of boardgames of which they are more familiar. Things got a bit tense at one point when the kids had to acquire some wolfsbane from a ravine infested with giant spiders. Everyone was hurt and three spiders remained. A tactical retreat was in order and I, as DM, subtly suggested to Warrior-Mommy that she should lead her charges in an orderly withdrawal. Hunter Little-Sis was fully onboard with the plan, but Healer Big-Sis wasn't having any of it. Neither I nor Mrs. Rognar was aware of it, but apparently Healer Big-Sis has a bit of the bloodlust. She was determined not to surrender even an inch of ground and could not be convinced otherwise. Hunter Little-Sis bugged out, but Warrior-Mommy stood her ground alongside her little berserker and immediately fell to the spiders (although she took one of the little beasties with her). Healer Big-Sis now stood alone against two spiders for a round as Hunter Little-Sis changed her mind and returned to the fray. It was then that the gods of the dice, perhaps moved by the sight of two wee lasses standing over the body of their wounded mom, smiled upon them. Healer Big-Sis blasted the arachnid horrors with her searing light spell, while Hunter Little-Sis lashed them with her magic hair and all the time, the girls dodged the deadly fangs. The battle was won, Warrior-Mommy was healed and the wolfsbane was acquired. Everyone stopped to catch their breath and prepare for the final confrontation.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Way of the Wicked 10

The party wasted little time in deciding to go after the White Raven for their betrayal in the last session. The party broke the seal which normally summons Tiadora but instead it was Cardinal Thorn himself who showed up. He was not pleased with the White Ravens betrayal. He always had doubts about Elise Zadaria as she is not an Asmodean but instead worships a deity of winter. Thorn released the seventh knot from his protection and tasked the PCs to destroy them. He even offered to provide assistance which they declined. Thorn gave them a decent reward for turning down the aid.

The plan was to split the White Ravens into two groups and defeat them separately. They did an excellent job playing on Zadaria's vanity and managed to get her to send Trik and Trak out to the Horn to take care of Sylvan monsters. The PCs caught her in a tight corner and finished her quickly before she could escape. Her bodyguard raged but failed to avenge her.

Trik and Trak upon arriving a tthe Horn and finding it nearly undefended went about scouting it hoping to find out what was happening at the horn to provide more intel to Zedaria. They bypassed the Boggards easily and managed to bypass most of the illusions and traps. Where they did run into trouble was against the two Daemons and the alchemical golem. They managed to slay one of the daemons but were themselves defeated. The White Ravens were no more.

The next few weeks were fairly quiet. One of the boggards asked for better weapons and food. The Abbess of Saint Cynthia-Celeste managed to send out of town asking for aid against the growing evil. A fair came to town and the villains managed to pick up a few more small magic items. A powerful merchant approached the Anti-paladin's organization and asked them to perform a few assassinations for her. Three succeeded and three failed but a handsome fee was still paid.

During week 23 the silver dragon came out of hiding and attacked the Baron Vandemir's manor. Unfortunately no one had any advanced warning of the attack nor was anyone on hand to witness what happened, only that the Baron and much of his house guard were slain.

The next week the party heard that a bunch of Knights of Alerian (Mitra's holy order) had come to Farholde. The villains went to investigate and ran smack into the knights now led by Sir Valin Darian, Farholde's current keep commander. The knights put up a fight but were no match for the villains. The knights were dragged back to the Horn and their bodies were given to the boggards as food. (I silently cringed.)

Returning to town they decided to ask around and find out if the their were any candidates suitable suitable for the final sacrifice handy (has to be a descendant of the Victor - Darian the first). It didn't take long to find out that the only suitable candidate was the current commander of the keep  - Sir Valin Darian, who the party had just fed to bogards only minutes before. With only 6 weeks to go they didn't have the time nor the resources to go strolling around Talingarde looking for another suitable sacrifice. The boggards had been pretty thorough eating the knights so aside from a few bits and pieces there wasn't enough left for a Raise Dead. As the PCs were trying to come up with a solution I was scrambling to come up with one as well.

Someone had the good idea of asking if the Knight had a love child. The Anti-paladin's Bard cohort made a sky high Gather Information check so I let them find one. Derailment averted.

A few more weeks passed with only a Gorgimera showing up to cause trouble. The PCs avoided it and eventually it left on its own.

With only 5 days to go a few complications arose. Upon completing the dawn ritual, Vetra Kali Eats-The-Eyes partially manifested, and managed to damage the artifact keeping him from this plane. The effort caused a massive Earthquake damaging the horn and weakening many of the Horns defenses.

Shortly after the midnight ritual as people were beginning to settle in (the villains has retreated to the Upper Sanctum and are going to make their final stand there), the green protective barrier dropped and an angelic being flew into the sanctum. The Bloodrager moved to protect the Alter since there was little else he could do. The angel hovered near the ceiling raining down lightning bolts and empowered Magic Missiles on the party. It wasn't until the Anti-paladin quaffed a potion of Fly that the angelic threat was removed. Having few ranged options is bad, Mmmkay.

On the afternoon of the next day a massive mud elemental scaled the side of the Horn and entered via the balcony. Not knowing what it was several party numbers were reluctant to engage (Brave Sir Robin the Anti-Paladin - although in his defense he is the eldest PC). The bloodrager rushed in and started smacking it. The Mud monster had good reach and decent DR but was quickly dispatched by the heavy hitters.

Three and half days remain until the ritual is complete...

Can the PCs hold on?

Stay tuned as we play the final part of Call Forth the Darkness this coming weekend.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Red Dragon Inn

There is another chapter of WotW coming but first I want to talk about a game that my wife picked up over the Christmas holidays (one of many). It's a card game that can be played with 2-4 players (more if you buy the expansions). The gist of the game is pretty straight forward. You are a group of adventurers that have returned from the dungeon laden with gold and you want to blow off some steam at the Inn. The objective is to be the last one standing. Each player has three resources to track: Gold, Fortitude, and Alcohol level. If you run out of gold you get tossed from the Inn by the bouncer, If your alcohol level meets or surpasses your fortitude you pass out drunk and the rest of the players split your Gold.

On your turn you get to play an action card of some kind. You can start a poker game and try to take the other player's gold, you can inflict damage on another player, or force them to take drink. Other players can play counters and often you get a good back and forth going.

Each player gets their own deck which are largely the same but different characters tend to be stronger in certain areas. Gog, the half-ogre barbarian, has lots of cards that allow him to inflict damage on the other players. Fleck the bard is good at cheating at cards. Dimli the Dwarf is hard to make drunk. There is a Red Dragon Inn 1, 2 and 3 and each game is self contained but you can use the character decks from any game with each other. There are also two separate expansion decks you can buy, Erin the Druid, and Mott's psychotic familiar Pooky the bunny (from RDI 1). The characters in Red Dragon Inn three have an extra mechanic that randomizes their effectiveness somewhat (Piety for the Paladin, Inventions for the Gnome, the Troll makes potions, and the Pixie has an animal companion).

I really love the game as it gives me a chance to talk in stupid voices (Gog being my favorite). It is easy to pick up as Rognar and his wife vanquished first myself and then my wife before having an epic drink off to eventually knock each other out at the same time.

So if you are looking for an easy social game to play that doesn't take too long (about 30 minutes per player) then this is a good one. The game is lighthearted and pretty funny especially if everyone gets into it. I recommend it!

This is a good Youtube video of a group playing Red Dragon Inn 1.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Hero Kids first try

On New Year's Day, I got the munchkins together with Mrs. Rognar and Mrs. Rognar's sister for a game of Hero Kids, a tabletop rpg for children ages 4 to 10 years. We had a good mix of characters, a Warrior-Mommy, Warlock-Auntie, Healer-Big-Sis and Hunter-Little-Sis. We played the Basement O'Rats intro adventure, a harrowing race against time to save a poor unfortunate lad named Roger from a bunch of giant rats who have kidnapped him and taken down into their underground den for later consumption.

Characters in Hero Kids have three stats, sword, bow and spell, which also represent strength, dexterity and intelligence respectively. Each character will have two dice in one of these stats indicating their attack ability. Most characters and monsters will have one or two dice in shield as well. In combat, the attacker rolls her dice in the appropriate attack stat and the defender will roll however many dice he has in shield. Only the highest numbered die in each roll is compared with ties going to the attacker. There are three levels of injury for characters and boss monsters, bruised, hurt and KO, meaning a character can take two hits before being knocked out. Characters also have special abilities, items and skills that allow for more options in play.

The game went pretty smoothly. Our youngest player is 5 years old and she had no problem grasping what was going on. She had the highest bow skill, which also meant she had the highest dexterity, making her the best character for throwing Mom's rope up when a climb was called for. She took this responsibility very seriously. The 7 year old was the healer, so she was always ready to rush in when one of her friends got bitten. It was a fun time for everyone.

Hero Kids is available at