That's right, I mean Dwarf Fortress. It's an awesome game. I don't just like it, I love it. While the graphics may be simple, the game itself is dangerously complex. Dangerous I tell you!
Just as a warning for what's about to follow: I'm a bit high on my meds right now. I had to not only come home early from work yesterday but to stay home today because I have just contracted a latex allergy! I wasn't aware this was something you could just spontaneously get from working around and with latex, and I'm sure not happy about it. I'm rashy (although even after not even twenty-four hours of meds, the blisters are already drying up and the rash looks tons better) and dizzy and exhausted. I slept for close to twelve hours last night and will probably nap later. As long as I'm sitting, things aren't too bad, but standing up makes me want to sit down again. Whoo.
16 oz (2 cups) of heavy whipping cream
16 oz (2 cups) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Pour both in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in small intervals (15-30 seconds, depending on the strength of your nuker), stirring after each interval. Continue until the chocolate's melted and the two can be mixed. Mix!
For the frosting, the basic recipe had this added to it:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
a dash (somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 tsp, to taste) vanilla
Once the chocolate and cream are mixed, add the sugar and vanilla and mix again until combined. Cool to room temperature (if you're lazy or pressed for time you can toss it in the fridge, but keep an eye on it) and beat with a whisk until to the desired consistency. Spread over cooled or frozen cake and enjoy!
It's been a while.
There, with that out of the way...
K and I, I might as well admit, are crunchy. At least, that's what she tells me! It doesn't bother me either way, really, it's just a label. But I do like the cloth diapers, and making our own stuff when possible, and the organic food really does seem to taste better. My favorite part is totally making our own food, like the things that we would normally buy prepackaged and over-processed.
My most recent was chocolate syrup, like you'd use to make chocolate milk. Hershey's Syrup for those with trademarks on the mind. Well, after checking out the ingredients and looking around, I decided to try to make my own. The fact that they had to add the word 'flavor' after the words 'Genuine Chocolate' had no small part in this decision.
First, I found Alton Brown's recipe from the Art of Darkness II episode of Good Eats. Man, I love that show. One part mad science, one part cooking, one part crazy. But some of his recipes, though incredibly smart and tasty, are way over-complicated, or require some very hard-to-get things for a dad on a budget. This recipe isn't any of those things, but I still didn't like it. It called for corn syrup which, well, lets just say I'm wary. So I left out the syrup, but the result was less than satisfactory: it was watery, over-sugary, and not very chocolaty.
So I found another recipe online, through another blog, and tried that one out too! Turns out this one was much the same, watery and not chocolaty. So it was time to experiment.
On a basic level, the recipes are all pretty much the same: a simple syrup of 2:1 sugar to water, and some cocoa, about 1/4 as much cocoa as syrup, a dash of salt, and some vanilla. So I thought, hey, what if I use some of these chocolate chips we have in the fridge instead of cocoa? Maybe that'll make the flavor right. So with some backwards conversion, I ended up taking out a little of the sugar for the syrup and boiling it all with some chocolate chips instead. It didn't really help, and it ended up adding some unnecessary oils, too. Not a big deal, mind you, but still. Simple ingredient conversions aside, it was time to think about what the real problem was.
It wasn't chocolaty enough! It just tasted like I added some sugar water to the milk with a hint of chocolate in it. And usually the vanilla taste overpowered the chocolate. So, easy solution: reduce the syrup, increase the cocoa (well, not both at the same time) and remove the vanilla. So that's what I did, actually double the amount of chocolate chips I put in. And it was better! But still not great. You could taste the water, in the milk, and it was off-putting and weird. Yeah, I know, water is tasteless and blah blah no it's not. Even if you add some water and then boil it away you can still taste it, which is why so many cooks on the Food Network add other liquids like stocks or juices or alcohol when they need to make their dishes more watery instead of just water. It makes things taste cheap. So, what's the solution? Well, what am I going to be mixing this stuff into? Milk!
Well, the conclusion for me wasn't that cut and dry: I actually did some other research first, upon thinking to myself that I wanted to make it taste like fudge. Actually, specifically, I wanted it to taste like my mom's fudge syrup. (Story behind that: Mom used to try to make fudge when I was really young, and unfortunately fail - I think it was the lack of a candy thermometer so she'd know when it was hot enough, with a touch of impatience: I mean, it's fudge! You just want to eat it. Her fudge trials would end up being this sticky liquid goop that tasted oh-so very good on vanilla ice cream and made an awesome shell when it cooled. Not the kind you'd have to crack, but it sure did stick to your spoon.) I'd asked Mom before where she got her fudge recipe, and she'd told me her old Joy of Cooking, which I'd gotten a copy of from my brother as a birthday present. If you don't have one and you like cooking, go get one! It's kind of old and stuffy, but the information and techniques are incredibly useful. I jokingly refer to it as my master's spellbook, while I'm writing my own spell book with my own, translated spells in it (OMG D&D REFERENCE WHO'S SURPRISED). So I looked up the fudge recipes in there, and was surprised to find the basic recipe was the same: simple syrup of 2:1, about 1/4 as much cocoa, and some salt. Of course, as cocoa, they involved a lot more boiling and getting to the right temperature, and then usually adding a little butter at the very end, but the basics were the same. But, one of them (fudge cockaigne, whatever that means) called for milk as part of the simple syrup instead of water! Perfect!
So I tried it. And it was awesome. So here it is:
1 cup milkBring all of this almost to a boil at low heat, stirring often. Let stand to cool, then add to milk until the desired color and flavor. Best if stirred with a whisk.
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
While I said that I'd post something about my meta-game idea for Furcadia today, I actually think I'm going to skip it. It's not that I think this idea I AM going to post about is better, it's just more developed. The Furc idea needs to simmer a bit in the stew of my creative juices.
That's actually a really gross metaphor.
I've just recently gotten my grubby paws on a copy of the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook by Wizards of the Cost for 3rd edition D&D. It's old enough so it's probably built for 3.0 and not 3.5, but that doesn't really matter so much; the two are nearly the same anyway, so it's not like it's a big thing. I'm sure a lot of players looked at this book and thought 'Oh, look, more specified rules for an already too-specific game, making it even less of a ROLE-playing game and more of a ROLL-playing game. Whoo. I'll pass.' but in my want for completion, I snagged it up to take a look-see. And while it took a while for the idea to come to the surface of my mental soup (ewww) I got some neat ones from it.
First off, the ability to not only build but price practically any practical building with the system put out in this book. If any of my players in 3rd ed really wanted to sit down and say 'Hey, I want to build my own bar,' I can pull out this book and sit down with them and say 'Okay, here's how you do it and how much it'll cost.' Sure, I could just as easily pull something out my butt and call it good, but it really seems like the uber-planning is half of the fun of 3rd ed. You can sit down and plot out everything to the last speck of dirt and hair if you want to, and sometimes that's a whole lot of fun. Sometimes it's not, and that's okay, but when you want to, there's no better system than 3rd ed.
Another reason to do it is the same reason that I printed a copy of the World of Warcraft RPG section about making cities and towns, and why I photocopied the pages from an old Dragon magazine about building countries: because I'm an idea man, and putting them into 'reality' isn't my strongest suit. Sometimes it's nice to have something there to rely on - to fall back on - to help me out with this stuff. To tell me and remind me what a temple needs in it, what a town needs in it, and all of that. The system has also helped me realize what's wrong with some of my oldest ideas - for instance, Pine's Bend - and work toward fixing those problems so my world doesn't have those gaping plot holes as elephants in the room that no one wants to bring up else they'll fall into them. Pine's Bend isn't a trading town, it's a guardpost and stopping point at which people just happen to also trade goods. It's not a town, it's a stronghold, and I can use stuff in this book to create it and draw it up as such.
The best reason I like this book, however, is because it may let me realize one of my favorite things that I've tried to do with a tabletop RPG for as long as I can remember: Play Warlords. Specifically, for the purposes of that link, Warlords I. I can remember long afternoons, mornings and nights, sitting with my brother playing that old DOS game on the computer that Dad built, having him beat me over and over but I didn't care, it's a fun game and we would sit there for hours, before school, after school, on weekends, whenever we could, just playing the game and listening to Weird Al. To this day, I can't hear "Slime Creatures from Outer Space" without thinking about Lord Bane and the Sirians.
But ever since getting into D&D and playing that game (which, if my memory serves, happened in reverse order) I've wanted to combine the two. To be able to control a fantasy race with a leader who can get cool stuff, and go take over keeps and landscapes and explore ruins and dungeons while building up keeps and troops and dealing with plagues and and and and I could go on, but I won't.
So here's what I'm thinking. I get together a decent bunch of people. They all choose a race and make a hero, probably 5th or 6th level is what I'm thinking right now; high enough level to be important, but not high enough to be the ultimate leader of their people... Yet. Choose whatever the heck you want; all 3.5 rules are available, especially including and suggesting the rules from Savage Species (one of my favorite books thus far, btw). Everyone gets the Leadership feat for free as a way to start off the game; you're a LEADER for crying out loud, you have to have some people to follow you. Plus, everyone would start off with some extra cash specifically toward putting together their first settlement. Enough to make a small keep or something along those lines. I'll have to crunch some numbers to figure out how much money that ends up being. Then, using their initial race as a starting point, they enlist their cohorts and followers (sidekicks and minions?) and hire their henchmen (cannon fodder?) and do whatever it is that they're going to do! I think it would end up having to be played like Warlords, so to speak: Slowly. It's not something that you'd sit around a table on Sunday nights playing. It'd be more of a PBM type game. Which I've never done but heard good things about, so hey!
I'm going to go make Pine's Bend as a settlement and see what that takes for cash, and use that as a guideline to figure out how much to give these people. Then I'll bring it all up and see what they think.
In a few instances, this concept requires cheating, and may not be for everyone, but they might just be a good way to get some more play out of an old, good game.
The first and the one that I've been playing this way for the longest is something I fondly refer to as Beastmaster DooM, perhaps not-so-aptly named after the movie of the same name. The concept is to play DooM - as in the video game of the same name - while putting a new twist on it. The idea is never to kill anything yourself. In many levels, especially those in Doom II, there are plenty of monsters and zombies and what-have-you that you may never have to actually dirty your own hands to get through the level and even get close to a 100% kill ratio. Here's how you do it.
Start the game off as normal - begin the level in question with a pistol, and that's it. Sure, you could cheat if you wanted to and give yourself more guns and ammo with a simple code, but there's no need. What you do want to do, however, is to make yourself invulnerable (otherwise known as god mode) and gain the ability to walk through walls - and thus, monsters as well. This keeps you from picking up any more ammo or weapons too, but in this scenario, that's a good thing, as you only need the one gun that you already have. Besides, if you get really strapped for ammo, you can fix that easy enough with the aforementioned cheat code.
I never really decided on a real story idea behind this one, but the beastmaster idea always appealed to me, for the same reason that I enjoy Pokémon - you get to be in virtual control of something else that you can make fight for you. And because the monsters in Doom will fight each other if you can get them to damage each other - a brilliant and fascinating game feature that seems far before it's time for such an old game, and one that I've never seen correctly reproduced - you can go through the entire game letting everything else fight for you.
Walk through the level chosen as normal, getting the attention of the demons and zombies therein and enjoying the symphony of their screams and rage as you do so. Don't worry, you're not even here - practically an illusion to them, since you can walk through them and they can't affect you in the least. If you're not getting the proper attention, take it from them with your pistol; consider it a godly smite for not worshipping properly, or a simple slap from a trainer to get the unruly beast's attention. Since it takes several pistol shots normally to kill anything, even the simplest zombie, the pistol is the best weapon to use. Then, after you get a decent sized group following you, lead them into another group, and have fun! See which side comes out victorious, and egg them on if you have to.
Here's a few tips and strategies I've found work well with this type of game:
* Imps are the best army of folks to use in this scenario for one simple fact - their ranged attack doesn't aggravate or damage their fellow imps, so they'll never set upon themselves. Because of that pack mentality, they'll be the best to get to follow you, and they'll follow you the longest.
* Try to stay close to your chosen herd. If you have their attention, they'll usually engage you in melee (that is, those who have melee attacks will, anyway). If you want something else to get their attention, pop out of melee - remember, you can walk through anything - and get the attention of some long-ranger with your smite pistol, then hop back behind one of your herd as the other target shoots back. Instead of hitting you, the new target'll hit your herd, and then you'll be at it again!
* Try to stay away from elevators and teleporters. Sure, almost all of them work for the monsters, too, but sometimes it's hard to get them to follow you onto them.
* Use Doom Legacy. All you need is the (small) program from their site to run the game, and the (large) Doom and/or Doom II and/or Heretic .wad files that hold the game information. Honestly, the main problem these days is actually getting your digital hands on the wads; unless you own a copy of Doom or Doom II, they're practically impossible to find, and since they're supposedly still being produced, it's not abandonware.
* Have the monsters respawn. It's not an actual cheat code like you'd expect, but apparently a game setting (at least, I know it was available in the copy of Doom 95 I used to play on, and in Doom Legacy as well). The monsters are on a timer; after they die, their corpses disappear in a flash of green light and they respawn where they originally are. This will greatly increase the amount of time you can spend in a level having fun, and (if you're a completionist like that) also increase the chances that you'll get at least 100% kill ratio greatly.
* Pick the right level. A good level for this type is a decently large one with a good selection of monsters and a good number of them. Of course, always play the game on the hardest difficulty - not Nightmare difficulty, since the cheats don't work, but the one below that - so you get the largest number of monsters in each room. My favorite level to play this style of Doom in is one from Doom II. It's called the Refueling Station, and I believe that it's level #14 in the wad, but it's been a while.
I was going to use this post to also describe my thoughts on how to make playing Furcadia more interesting if you're tired of just hanging out in one dream and/or role playing in one place, but I don't want this one to get too long.