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Nate R RSS Feed (San Jose, California)

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Numenera Corebook
Numenera Corebook
by Monte Cook
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $53.99
25 used & new from $42.60

4.0 out of 5 stars A bridge between new school narrative RPGs & the oldish school "kill them and take their stuff" gameplay, November 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Numenera Corebook (Hardcover)
At first, I didn't like it. I thought it stuck too closely to D&D, and in many ways, it doesn't try to step too far outside that style of roleplay. So many of the character options are linked to killing things and taking their stuff, even if XP doesn't come from that mode of play. It's an odd contradiction when so many character creation & development choices boil down to killing NPCs more efficiently, and yet the rules don't reward player characters for killing.

At the same time, the GM's function is a lot cleaner and less adversarial than in D&D. It's not the supreme cheerleader function that you'll get out of Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World, but you're not setting up evil stat boxes of doom like you are with D&D3x or Pathfinder.

The GM Intrusion mechanic is one of the critical parts of the game, allowing for steady XP flow & for a clever GM to craft narrative. FATE or Apocalypse World GMs will latch onto the Intrusion rules as something that sets Numenera apart from its D&D-ish roots.

And Monte points out the Cypher system (talking about one-use techno-gadgets in the game world, not the name of the game's underlying system) as another bit of critical difference in Numenera. I think a lot of folks seem to use it as crazy devices that break the game (usually big nasty hand grenades or some other stupid-kill devices), but I think that would sell the Cyphers short as potential narrative busters. Cyphers don't have to be combat monsters any more than characters do, and Cyphers give you (the GM) an opportunity to give characters some abilities that don't fit inside the combat sphere (especially since D&D players will often rig their stuff that way because that's how they've always had to do it). Cyphers are another tool in the GM's bag of tricks to get players thinking more broadly (provided that the GM is giving them reason to do so).

In the end, it's an interesting bridge between the world of combat-centric D&D and a more narrative-styled game like FATE or Apocalypse World. I would recommend this for sure, even if I prefer stronger narrativist games, myself.

From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack)
From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack)
DVD ~ Sarah Bolger
Price: $18.49
31 used & new from $16.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More human than many other great Studio Ghibli films, October 16, 2014
A great movie from Ghibli. As others have said, it lacks the fantasy elements of Totoro or Spirited Away... and yet without the fantastic parts, it's as if the slice of life in Japan is even closer and more connected to me as a non-Japanese person. It's more approachable, the gentle coming of age story, because there's no weird Japanese fantasy monsters jumping off of the screen. The characters are left to struggle through their emotions and their histories on their own, or with the humble help of other regular people. It might not thrill the animators and manga fanatics, but I love that this movie has no giant kaiju creatures running amok.

As much as my kids enjoy Totoro or Ponyo or others from Ghibli, this is the movie they keep coming back to. And movies like Frozen or Tangled are long since relegated to the "Ewww, Dad" pile. Disney & Pixar just don't have the staying power of Ghibli. Even for us adults, there's an undeniable beauty in the way the story unfolds, and leaves you to imagine at the end without wrapping it neatly into a bow.

There's something in this flick that speaks more to the people my kids would like to know more about, and I think that's great.

Disney INFINITY: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) Video Game Starter Pack - Xbox 360
Disney INFINITY: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) Video Game Starter Pack - Xbox 360
Offered by Laptop Deals and More
Price: $64.99
76 used & new from $54.00

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb follow up to Disney Infinity. Open world superhero gaming? Incredibles all over again (in a good way), September 27, 2014
The original Disney Infinity was great. Open world roaming? It's like GTA, but for kids! My son & I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean playset most of all... the pirate ships, the freedom to explore, the swords and pistols - great fun! Looked absolutely amazing on a Xbox 360. The Incredibles playset was a close second with the super powers, and the Metroville environment.

The DI 2.0 Avengers playset (which comes with the Starter Pack) is like the Incredibles playset in many ways, except it's Manhattan & not Metroville. And it's the Avengers instead of the Incredibles. Monster spawning (where you could not take many steps in Metroville without a swarm of bad bots attacking you) is very much toned down in Manhattan, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your opinion of fighting the bad guys.

Characters? At our house, we have (as of now) the starting 3 (Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow) plus Captain America. (Father Noel will provide us with the Guardians of the Galaxy set at Christmas.) In some ways, Thor and Captain America remind me of each other with the way the Hammer or Shield works, while Black Widow and Iron Man have similar ranged attacks.

Each character has their own Skill Tree, which allows you to create different "builds" of their characters. With limited skill points, you can't do everything well. You have to specialize... hand-to-hand? mobility? healing/party support? ranged combat? All have their pluses & minuses. This is a huge plus in DI 2.0.

ALSO, DI 1.0 characters like Captain Jack Sparrow & Mr. Incredible? YES, they have skill trees as well! So in the Toy Box mode, you can build them up how you like!

Other DI 1.0 compatibility issues? Those little plastic power disk? They STILL WORK with DI 2.0.

Biggest negatives so far?

This is clearly intended to be a Xbone/PS4 title. Things look more muddy & fuzzy on the 360. Now, there is so much more going on with DI 2.0 compared to DI 1.0, so the fact that DI 1.0 was more visually impressive is not a huge concern.

The other thing is the load times. Swapping a character in DI 1.0 was very fast, but that's not the case with DI 2.0, as said in other reviews. I notice the load times for characters now, and I didn't notice them in the original.

The least "negative" negative... character death. It's much more harsh now. You have to rez your buddies. They don't auto-respawn. The game lets you hot swap to any viable character to continue the fight (and any "dead" characters are resurrected at the end of the fight). This makes boss battles a lot more challenging in DI 2.0. My son needed my help to get past Loki (his sister was not good enough). So if you have little ones, definitely get the original Disney Infinity first.

EDIT: The starter box also comes with 2 additional "discs" - Assault on Asgard & Escape from Kiln.

Assault from Asgard is like a tower-defense game (think Dungeon Defenders, Orcs Must Die, etc), mostly built from what looks like Disney Infinity Toy Box bits.

We've been spending the most time with Escape from Kiln, which is a Diablo-like 3rd person adventure RPG game. The camera is set back like Diablo, and you go around and "kill" bad guys, and collect loot to put on your minions.

What we're doing now is the "Survival Mode" from Escape from Kiln. This presents you with randomized levels (using, again, Toy Box bits) where you beat up all the bad guys to get to the next level. It's a good way to score tons of experience sparks in order to level up. I don't know how they do the randomized thing, but it's pretty cool.

What's more, the Survival Mode is good for your old Disney Infinity 1.0 characters! So if you like overpowered characters like Elsa from Frozen, you're all set! (Elsa is totally OP, though) The Survival Mode really breathes more life into the Toy Box-only characters from version 1.0, where characters like Wreck-It-Ralph didn't seem to have a real reason to exist compared to Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible.

Torchbearer RPG
Torchbearer RPG
by Luke Crane
Edition: Paperback
7 used & new from $31.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern homage to retro-style roleplaying, September 19, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Torchbearer RPG (Paperback)
This is a mod of Luke Crane's "Mouse Guard" RPG, which is OOP, and prices for that book (as of September 2014) are amazing at ~$73 for a used copy. Pretty darn amazing. "Mouse Guard" is itself a mod of Luke's "Burning Wheel" RPG, which is a very different style of game than good ol "Dungeons & Dragons" as it exists today.

"Torchbearer" is an attempt to get back to that "good ol" feeling of the original D&D, and not this 5 foot move miniatures gaming of today. Even the book itself looks and feels like early 1e AD&D. It's a real homage to the days of killing things and taking their stuff.

HOWEVER, it's also clearly "Mouse Guard" inspired. This means Beliefs, Instincts, and Goals help to fuel the character. This means the Game Master (I wish they could have used "Dungeon Master" or even "Torch Master") has to get up in the players' faces and challenge those things that their characters hold dear.

"Torchbearer" is really a kind of mash-up of Burning Wheel's low-fantasy Tolkien-esque world with the newer systems in "Mouse Guard". Elves who finally give in to their Nature still wander off into the West, like in Burning Wheel. Characters suffer Hunger, Anger, and all sorts of challenging conditions that hamper their ability to take one more step towards their goals.

If you're a huge fan of Luke Crane's stuff, this is a must-buy. If you're not sure what kind of stuff he does, I'd try to get "Mouse Guard" at a reasonable price first. Otherwise, this is worth a look for those who want a dungeon delving game with a little more soul.

One more observation. Luke Crane's games tend to be about emergent stories. Writing extensive stat blocks, intricate dungeon designs, scripted encounters (with magic users having explicitly pre-cast certain defensive spells in order to make it "difficult" for true powermongering players)... this is not what Torchbearer is about. A simple sketch, a couple notes, and that's it. That's dungeon prep for you.

So if more recent D&Disms, massive stat blocks, challenging specific player stat builds, and the grind of accounting-style gamemastering is not for you, then this might be worth a look.

T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 635 - No Contract Phone (White)
T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 635 - No Contract Phone (White)
9 used & new from $74.49

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Integrated Microsoft experience? And Cortana, too? This is the phone for me., July 31, 2014
If you want some level of Microsoft integration with your phone (including the Halo franchise and Xbox Live), then this is it. You need a phone like this, running Windows Phone 8.1. Don't think about anything else, and get a phone that can run this OS. I never have used WinPhone before, but 8.1 is freaking amazing for a Halo/Xbox fan.

Where to begin? Cortana. I really like it. (Her?) I love Halo, and having a digital assistant named Cortana and with Cortana's voice? OMG, SOLD. I'm finding ways to use it, and it works. I even downloaded an image of Cortana to use for my phone background. Is that obsessive? I hope not. I briefly had her call me "Chief", but I got over that. Of course, I've got Cortana pinned to the top of my display so I can call up baseball box scores & weather conditions, set up reminders, and just generally replace multiple phone app icons with Cortana's Windows tile.

Xbox Live. The Games icon/tile calls up your phone's Xbox Live integration, and gives you a menu of all your games on your device (even if you pin some to the top level display). What's more, it's your Xbox Live gamertag (assuming you're using the same Outlook/Hotmail ID for your phone)... and it's YOUR achievements on display. I could literally go through every achievement that I've ever earned on Xbox through my phone. It's even your Xbox Live avatar that drops into the screen. Seriously. Your avatar from your Xbox in your phone. How ridiculous is that?! My kids were blown away when they saw my Xbox avatar ON MY PHONE. My daughter even STOPPED DEMANDING THAT I BUY HER AN IPHONE. She wanted a phone like my cheap Lumia 635. That was mind boggling, and so yet so simple. Little stuff like the Xbox Live avatar, you don't really think about, but it makes the phone a little more fun and unexpected.

App selection? Yeah, it's not iOS. It's not Android. On the other hand, it has what I want. I've got Twitter, some maps, a GPS thingy, something that hooks up to my local library. I've got a lot of popular game apps (Flow Free, Temple Run 2, one of the Angry Birds, etc) along with some really cool MS apps that also happen to use my Xbox Live gamertag. And remember Xbox Live integration? I'm getting Xbox Live achievements while I'm playing through stuff like Temple Run 2, which has the Xbox tag on it (although not every game does have that Xbox Live achievement integration).

Yeah, yeah, the device isn't fancy. No front camera (so I don't use it for Skype. I have a 8" Dell Venue Pro tablet running Win8 for that). A little slow running apps, but no big deal for me. Memory isn't huge, but the storage manager on the phone is darn nice. I love the data manager & the battery manager as well... very interesting apps that help you analyze what is going on with your device.

If you love Halo & Xbox, I think this is your phone. If you're not a huge Halo fan or Xbox fan, then you might not get as much utility out of this kind of phone.

Nerf Rebelle Sweet Revenge Dart Kit
Nerf Rebelle Sweet Revenge Dart Kit
Offered by royal_premier_distributing
Price: $23.91
73 used & new from $18.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Helps my daughter feel like part of the fun/chaos, and even better than the Zombie Strike Hammershot, July 19, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Got this for my 8yo daughter. The action is a little nicer than the Hammershot, which is the "boy" version of the Sweet Revenge in the Nerf Zombie Strike line. The handle has a better feel to it compared to the stuff stuck on the Hammershot.

Having the safety glasses is a nice bonus for dart tag. Also, since the Rebelle darts have different colors than the N-Strike Elites & the Zombie Strike darts (even if all the darts seem to be otherwise the same), you know which darts go to which gun... so that those who shoot randomly all over the house have to be responsible for their own brand of darts instead of taking all of your darts.

Neewer® 3P Comfortable Waterproof Assault Pack Tactical Backpack Molle Bag
Neewer® 3P Comfortable Waterproof Assault Pack Tactical Backpack Molle Bag
Price: $13.46 - $45.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Questionable plastic components, July 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Some of the plastic components snapped the first day I used it. It's nothing that some duct tape can't fix, but the fact that I have to fix a new pack with duct tape could be a deal breaker for a lot of people.

fBIKE Direct 6 Speed Folding Bike (Margarita green)
fBIKE Direct 6 Speed Folding Bike (Margarita green)
Offered by fBIKE Direct
Price: $249.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good commuter folding bike for the price, July 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a value-priced folding bike for commuters who don't mind a bit of heft in their folder & need a bike with gears. You will find fancier folding bikes that will be: lighter, fold into a smaller/more compact shape, and/or some combination of those things. However, the point of a folding bike is to be a commuting option that is more portable than a full sized bike. For that, this bike definitely has a bunch of value.

The Margarita green color is also an eye-catcher. Almost like a green fire truck color. Being seen is being safe when you're commuting. Other people have given plenty of compliments on the color choice since almost everyone else's bike is black, white, or sometimes red.

Why the lower rating for me? Day 1 of commuting, the chain fell off, and I cut my index finger badly trying to get the chain back on the gears. Didn't like my bike being disabled on the way back to the train, even if I made it to my train with a couple minutes to spare.

Day 3, handle bars went all wonky. There's this screw that holds a plastic collar where the bar holding the handle bars slides down into the bottom half of the handle bar pipes. The plastic collar has a groove that keeps the handle bars aligned with the front tire. Somehow, the screw popped out, and the collar was no longer anchored to the bottom half of the handle bar tube, and began rotating freely. I didn't wipe out, but having the steering go out could have been dangerous. I fixed this with duct tape afterwards, but having one small screw hold that plastic collar in place doesn't seem like a great design choice.

I do like some of the components. The Shimano shifters seem to work well. I like the frame (although one of my female co-workers said it probably would be too heavy for her to reasonably carry up the stairs from BART). The seat is good. The folding mechanisms make sense, even if there are (more expensive) bikes that fold much smaller. However, it wouldn't be truthful to say that the experience has not been without problems.

Would I recommend the bike? Probably not to a total bike novice, and not to someone who is afraid of commuting on a bike. To the bike commuter who wants a pretty decent folding bike to replace or supplement a full-sized commute bike? You could do much worse. Just make sure you put the thing through its paces & get to know its quirks.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 15, 2014 3:53 AM PDT

Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot Blaster
Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot Blaster
Offered by Terrapin Wholesale
Price: $24.95
9 used & new from $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Nerf blaster for bigger kids, July 10, 2014
The best thing about this Nerf blaster is the hammer action. #1 It allows for one-handed firing. #2 The revolver-ish action grants a little feeling of "realism".

Also, it shares ammo size with the Elite darts, making ammo even easier to come by (especially if you use that line of blasters as well).


I guess you could fan fire it like a revolver, but the results aren't that great. Some people might take issue with that.

The blaster is for bigger hands. Smaller hands won't work the gun really well. (Fortunately for my boy, I got him the Stryfe CS-18 mission kit. The semi-automatic Stryfe is at a definite advantage over the Hammershot, but that's how I wanted it.)

Dungeon Village
Dungeon Village
Price: $4.42

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fun, but too easy, March 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dungeon Village (App)
I have a few Kairosoft games now... This one, Grand Prix, Pocket League, Beastie Bay, and the Dream House game.

Here are my likes and dislikes on this one.

- Like other Kairosoft games, it isn't incredibly draining on the battery.
- Doesn't require as much micromanagement as Beastie Bay or Pocket League or even Grand Prix.
- Very simple to level up your buildings via item drops from fighting monsters & (more often) purchasing materials from the store (using in game currency since this doesn't use IAP for funding).
- Cute graphics, whimsical writing/translation.

- Way too easy to bring your village to give star status. Once you know how to upgrade buildings, it's really just a matter of time.
- The village isn't very complex, and is rather small. You don't have many different building choices. Ditto to the RPG elements. It feels like a partial city sim combined with part of a RPG.

In the end, I think the Grand Prix game is the best of the ones I have so far. Would I recommend Dungeon Village? Yes, if the other Kairosoft games are too difficult for you, you want less micromanagement, and you like the fantasy genre. Otherwise, you can skip this one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2013 7:22 AM PST

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