A Week Off Means Existential Crisis

I’m at the start of a week off from client projects work, due to it being the fifth week in a month, so I am of course teetering on the brink of a depressive episode and feeling aimless and introspective.

I wonder how common it is for men my age to realize that their work life has mostly subsumed their sense of self. I don’t even work as many hours as a typical salaried type, but even I feel at times that the totality of me that is valuable to society is the me that fixes computers and websites for a living, and everything else is chaff.

On a private Discord I run, one thing we’ve spent a decent amount of time talking about is how insidious the capitalist notion is that we are only the value of our work, and that we should all be allowed to feel worthless from time to time. I really struggle with doing that. Almost all time exists in a potential state of what I can accomplish with it. Even if that thing is “play a video game” I am very task-oriented in every aspect of my life. Simply existing isn’t satisfactory to me. It feels vaguely troubling, in fact. Like I’m wasting something precious.

I don’t know how much I want to change that. I want my time on this Earth to feel like I added value–well, there I go again, parroting capitalism. I want to… improve? things, make them a little better than they were when I found them? Even that feels like far too big of an ask in this era of decline and imminent eco-collapse. I guess at the end of the day, I can’t relax unless I feel like I’ve been productive with my time. My standards for being productive aren’t that high, though. Maybe just an hour or two a day even on weeks off will be enough to stave off the existential jeebies. We’ll put that to test this week.


A Brief Review of Star Wars: Shatterpoint

This is cross-posted from a post I made over on reddit/r/shatterpoint. I was lucky enough to get early access to this board game, and wanted to share my thoughts with others.

First my history with miniatures games – I got seriously into 3D printing for tabletop games 8 years ago, which led me from my core hobby of RPGs into war gaming. I’ve since played many games of everything rom Warhammer to Warcry to Frostgrave and Stargrave and many other games in-between including Malifaux. And of course, I’m a life-long Star Wars fan. I’ve played large amounts of X-Wing and Assault, but never did get into Legion. I’ve played a couple of games of Marvel Crisis Protocol, but not enough to be an expert and make strong comparisons. I’m also not a huge Marvel fan, so I didn’t like it as much as I like this.

My FLGS owner asked me to assemble and paint their core box, and starting last Tuesday, I put all my spare time into putting it together. Assembly was very easy (especially compared to some of the smaller Malifaux models) except for the very finicky Battle Droids. Painting, however, was easy all around. I mostly use speed and contrast paints and aim for table ready at best. I wanted to get these all painted on the table as quickly as I could for demo games.

I finished painting up Thursday and sat down for my first few games that night. I have played twice using the standard compliment of Separatists/Dark Side and once as the Galactic Republic/Light Side folks. I’ve lost two games, and won one (as the good guys). Since my games, others have used our store demo copy to play, and we’re currently sitting at about 50/50 wins from the two core box teams. I don’t think we’ve tried squad building at all yet, but there are a lot of plans for such when the official release arrives.

Our first game took about 3 hours, with a lot of paging back and forth in the rules. We definitely got a few things wrong. If I have a single major criticism of the game, it is that the rule book doesn’t seem to have a good organizational structure for reference while learning/playing those first games. There are a lot of tiny little edge case rules (some that you find in Asoka speech bubbles) that are easily missable. After our first couple of games, some of us spent more time at home reading the rules and identifying what we did wrong. The next batch of games went more smoothly. Our biggest mistake was allowing double-attacks or double-moves. It made things like focus and hunker actions less used, but later games actually implementing the action economy made much more use of these actions. Not the game’s fault, but ours. Even playing it wrong, we had an absolute blast.

I’ll start with my praise; I’ve read that the designers were aiming for a Saturday morning cartoon vibe with this, and I would say that they have hit it out of the park there. The struggle tracker results in this great “back and forth” feeling and movement and number of figures vs active objectives makes it feel like there’s always something that you can do to turn the tide, even if it might be a bit of a gamble.

Thanks to the combat trees on the stance cards, the ability to put characters in reserve when drawing from your deck, and more, everything in this game seems to be about giving you a rich variety of tactical choices in the moment (also reinforced by the design of the one mission in the core box). Does it make more sense here to lay on thick damage and try to wound your opponent vying for that objective marker, or should you load them up on statuses and shove them around? Does it make sense to use these force points and abilities now, or will you need them later? I feel like in some games, I make choices, but there are fewer meaningful ones.

I loved my choices I got to make here. The decision space is rich, and I can only imagine that will improve with yet more figures and missions being released in the future.

In our games, which settled into about an hour and a half to two hours after the first one, we only ever had one character (Bo Katan) removed from the table entirely. I very much like this, actually, as it kept the tactical environment complex and it always feels kind of crappy to lose figures in a squad game like this. I imagine if it ever made sense to focus on eliminating a figure, we would have, and wounding them certainly is a good tactic due to the momentum tokens you earn, we didn’t find a strong incentive to drive characters off the board over capturing points (at least so far). This also lends to that “cartoon” vibe.

The other thing I absolutely love about this game is the way the struggle tracker works. Earning momentum when you wound opponents makes combat feel consequential and important. And the catch up mechanic of earning momentum on your side if you fail to bring the transparent cube back to your side after scoring makes it feel like there’s always a chance things might swing back in your favor. This feels, for lack of a better term, very “Star Wars.”

I’m fairly critical of games I play, and I do have some minor complaints about the game, but not as many as I would have expected. Like I mentioned before, I think the rule book does a poor job of condensing things for easy reference during play. This will be solved and has been already on the Facebook group with some cheat sheets that make it easier to reference token and symbol definitions all in one place. I have some quibbles with icon design – I find it easy to confuse the shove and the dash icon with my aging eyes so I have to double-check myself for those.

But really, not much else at this point. I cannot wait to get more characters on the table. I can’t wait to see what squad building brings to the game, and I look forward to exploring all the cool new decisions the game gives me in the future. The designers of this seem to really get Star Wars in a way I agree with. Character mechanics design felt very thematic, from Rex’s hunker powers and Ashoka’s fighting styles, to how Lord Maul seems built to destroy people and die quickly like a beautiful firework. And Anakin – Anakin is a beast. When Anakin comes running at you, you feel exactly like a Battle Droid would at that sight. Oh no…

I think for me at least, the future for Shatterpoint is bright. I am even more excited for the game now that I’ve played it. I wanted to share my experiences for those of you who haven’t had a chance yet, and start a discussion of the overall experience for others.


a man that is standing in the dark


WooCommerce and Captcha – Why You Need One

Hi there. This is a quick post that I hope will show up in search engines to spare others the suffering I’ve had to deal with recently. You need a captcha plugin or something like it on your WooCommerce sites. If you don’t have some barriers, a bot will take advantage of your site and use it for carding attacks.

What is a carding attack? That is when a hacker or other nefarious type person buys a list of credit cards on the Dark Web (or whatever) and uses a website like yours to test those cards to see which ones are still compromised. They like websites with small purchases that are likely to go unnoticed- so RPG publishers selling $1 PDFs are a popular target, I have learned.

A carding attack will take this list and generate hundreds or thousands of fraudulent orders on your store. Most will fail, but some will succeed and need to be canceled and refunded or you risk your merchant account.

So why a captcha? Captchas typically stop these bots pretty well – we use Cloudflare TurnStile to decent effect. We require human confirmation at checkout, and this saves us a lot of trouble.

I don’t really like blogging about my day job – I have huge imposter syndrome about what I do and I am terrified that someone more knowledgeable than me will come along and call me a fraud. But it’s a huge part of my life so I need to start blogging about it more often. We’ll see if I can get over this hangup.


person using laptop computers


Our Bird Balconies

One of the few highlights of our lives during the pandemic around here was when a pair of house finches made a nest on our front porch and raised babies. We watched them go from eggs to fledglings, and we really wouldn’t mind having a chance to do that again.

Since the pandemic, finches have tried to make nests on our porch atop the pillars that hold up the roof several times, but the locations are a bit cramped and small. Some attempts have fallen out entirely. Sarah and I decided to put our heads together and solve the problem for them, or at least make things a little easier.

Sarah took measurements and drew me some plans ( I took her draing into TinkerCAD to create a 3D design. TinkerCAD is about the simplest CAD program out there, but They’re crude, but they get the job done – I really need to learn a proper CAD application this year.

I fired them off in white PETG on the printer – normally I print in PLA because it doesn’t matter if my stuff is outdoor safe, but these needed to stand up to the elements a bit better. We printed two of them and this past weekend, mounted them.

A picture of one of our bird balconies installed atop a pillar under our porch

It remains to be seen if they will attempt to make use of them, but really it wasn’t too much time to create, so either way, I’m happy with the results.


red and brown bird on gray rock

Personal Life, Wildlife

Money-based Thought Experiment

I had trouble sleeping the other night because I was filled with a question I couldn’t precisely answer.  That question was simple:  what do I want right now?

I had spent the day unhappy and unsettled, and I wasn’t sure why.  Weekends lately are harder for me than work days because I am given more time to contemplate these things, and I don’t have easy answers.  As I tossed and turned, I began asking myself these questions.

  • What would you do if someone handed you $10 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $100 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $1,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $10,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $100,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $1,000,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $10,000,000 right now?
  • What would you do if someone handed you $100,000,000 right now?

The purpose of this experiment is to help us understand where we sit economically and also to free ourselves from the constraints of concerns about finances when trying to understand our true desires. 

Meeting our basic needs consume much of our time and energy (a varying amount depending on your socioeconomic level), so finding the question above that pegs where you stop meeting needs and start thinking about wants is a useful one.  

It helped me to consider these questions. The answers don’t so much matter as much as how you feel as you consider them.


April Fools Pranks are Not Good Marketing Strategy

I get it. Working in marketing can be boring as hell; tried and true works, but we all want to innovate and stretch our legs sometimes. The temptation to write a goofy April Fools joke is strong. But do not give into this temptation, I say, the Slayer of Fun Things and Goofy Ideas.

I think it’s a terrible strategy that is pretty much lose-lose 90% of the time. Internet veterans are tired of dishonesty, even when the point is humor. The best you can hope for is a chuckle. The typical response is mostly a groan and an eye-roll. And what if you do pull one over on some of your customers? Which, no matter how ridiculous you think you’re being, you’re going to do?

Then you made a customer feel like a fool. That’s the point, right? Well, there’s a chance that they’ll take it in good stride. It might also leave them with a bad taste in their mouth in regards to your business. That’s what I hear they call an unforced error in sportsball. It’s hard enough to earn customer respect and trust in this era – it’s not a currency worth burning for some chuckles.

There is an exception to this rule which is an April Fools joke that you follow through on. An example of this was the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon game. Announce a silly product and actually release it? That is the one way that I think takes advantage of the whole fauxliday (fail-i-day?) and turns it into an actual marketing advantage.

The rest is just too played out or exhausting to contemplate. No matter how bored we are with writing yet another opt-in marketing newsletter.


black flat screen computer monitor


RPGs are the Cheapest Form of Gaming Entertainment

I was annoyed earlier today about yet another board game that aims to recreate the tabletop RPG experience without being an RPG, and I didn’t understand why people want a watered down RPG experience when they can get the real thing just as easily (possibly easier, financially, as I’ll explain in a bit). I complained about this to some gamer friends on Discord, and they pointed out a blind spot for me.

As one person said, “don’t discount your experience.” They outlined the following points that were well taken.

  • You need DM who is willing to run games.
  • You need to have the time to run a full 3-4 hour session (shorter games are possible but this is the sweet spot in my experience)
  • You need friends near you to pull together a group.
    • They need to have the time for 3-4 hour sessions.
  • Not everyone has the experience to just pick up and play RPGs some people find the whole idea intimidating. I’ve been playing almost 40 years. It’s easy for me. Not everyone.

I had forgotten rule #2, which is “I am not the target audience for all things.” I forget what Rule #1 is, probably don’t talk about fight club.

I went on to argue that, despite these things, penny for hours spent, RPGs are about the cheapest form of entertainment. I can run an RPG with a pencil, a few sheets of paper, and dice. Sure, you might want some books too if you want to get all rules-y, but the basics are things that a lot of people already have. They may not have polyhedral dice, but I guarantee they have a copy of fucking Monopoly knocking around in a closet somewhere. You and most everyone has the basic materials needed to run an RPG in their home.

They just don’t know how to get started, and the opportunity costs can be high, as said above.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Gen Z and Millenials have caused an explosion of popularity for RPGs, given this economic advantage. Video games are great, but AAA titles cost $60 to $70 now, and you’ll run out of material in, what, a month at most? If you buy three core D&D rule books for around $100, that gives you the materials you need for about, and I’m roughly estimating here, 45 years of entertainment. Provided you can satisfy the requirements above.

Enjoy your board game RPGs, though. I am not here to tell anyone how to have fun. Me, I think I’ll stick with the full RPG experience most of the time, but I’m now much more aware of my grognard privilege.


green and black dice on brown wooden table


I Hate Kid’s Youtube

Every week on Wednesday I watch Youtube with my kid and I hate the way Youtube is produced for children. We mostly watch video game “entertainment” which usually involves some douchebag of a young dudebro playing a video game and making the worst unscripted jokes ever and basically improv-ing all over some generic video game footage by being extremely loud and speaking every thought that enters their head.

Basically, it’s too much like my blog and I don’t like it.

But at least I write this way because I’m mentally ill, not because of some fucking ALGORITHM.



A Post I Never Thought I Would Make

I am actually kind of looking forward to the new Dungeons & Dragons movie.

I know! I know! We all suffered through so much in the way of terrible tie-in products. Let’s be honest with ourselves; the 80s cartoon wasn’t good. The 2000s movie was outright dogshit. The books, eh, so so. I guess they’re fine if you love Drizzt (I do not).

So the fact that all the reviews I’ve seen for the new movie are positive has my hopes rising. I thought I’d likely wait until the whole boondoggle hit streaming, and then catch it. Instead, we’re going to see it with my local D&D play group. Insanity!

The next thing you’re going to tell me is, Baldur’s Gate 3 will actually be a good game!


Last Week Was a Flop (for blogging)

It turns out that finding time to blog after you’ve been on vacation isn’t easy. I don’t know why I’m acting like this is a surprise. Probably because this most recent vacation was the closest thing to a real vacation I’ve had in ages, so by not working much during it, I was left with a tsunami of stuff to get done when I got home.

I scheduled quite a few meetings with potential clients, and can happily say that starting in April, we’re doing tech work for two more RPG companies at Clockpunk Studios. We’re leveraging what we know about WordPress for more independent creators, which is living the dream.

Onboarding tends to cause a big rush of stuff to get done, though, so it meant I just didn’t have time to ruminate about anything that wasn’t work related. I did find a little time to read some of a book called Building A Second Brain. I’m not done, but it’s inspired me to get my Evernote into better shape.

I need to spend some time thinking about what goal I am trying to accomplish on this blog. I’ve been writing just for the sake of writing, but that isn’t leaving me with banger content. The whole place feels a bit inspid, if I’m being honest. It feels a lot like like in your mid-40s. Mostly fine, comfortable, but not exactly full of adventure and genius.

I’m determined to do better, though. I just need to figure out by what metric I measure “better.”


Personal Life