Role-Playing Games

Role-playing games have been a staple of my entertainment since grade school. From Dungeons & Dragons to City of Heroes, Mutants and Masterminds to Mass Effect, from muds and chat sims to play-by-post and table top. Role-playing games have let me live a hundred lives, triumph over thousands of villains and save dozens of worlds. I’ve been a dual-wielding swordsman, a super-powered ice controller, a Starfleet engineer and many other heroes. Role-playing games allow me to venture into unknown worlds with my friends and save the world.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition

My first taste of role-playing games was back in elementary school. I had been away at summer camp for a week and my parents wouldn’t be able to pick me up until near the end of the day. An older boy and I were about all that was left. I had heard of Dungeons & Dragons previously and he had a few books spread out across the table. He taught me the basics and helped me make my first character, an elf mage. We didn’t get very far in the adventure, I think my character died after a few rounds of combat.1 It was just in the nick of time too, my parents had arrived and it was time to head home. But that taste of role-playing proved to be enough to keep me forever interested.

Spacefleet Online

My next role-playing game was a Star Trek themed online chat simulation. Every Wednesday from 9-10pm, I was Pounce, a hotshot Betazoid engineer. As a cadet, he rocketed through the academy and was picked to join the flagship of Teenfleet,2 the USS Trafalgar, captained by Vice Admiral Selivak Lynx. I have a lot to thank Spacefleet for. They gave me a safe place to role-play online without incident. They provided a well-established universe and top notch sim hosts. Spacefleet is truly where I grew up as a role-player. Without it, I’m not sure I ever make it back to Dungeons & Dragons or even step up to become one of the primary DMs for my friends.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition

In 2000, Wizards of the Coast finally put their stamp on Dungeons & Dragons and it was beautiful. This is the system I grew up on and it will always have a fond place in my heart. Skills, feats, multiclassing, the interactions. As I’ve said previously, I’ve always loved games and rules and thier complex interactions and D&D 3E fit this perfectly. The rules as a player were wonderful. I could mash classes and skills and feats and spells together to make a unique character every time.3 Plus the d20 System flourished with every genre of game imaginable. Modern settings (d20 Modern), science fiction (Star Wars), superheroes (Mutants & Masterminds). The 2003 rules update (D&D 3.5) made a solid series of changes to clarify things and adjust some power settings. And with that update they released my favorite setting, Eberron.4

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition

The latest (and least?) edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I’m impressed by certain advances they made and the inspiration they drew from MMORPGs. But many other parts of the system are just not fun for me as a player or a DM. As a 4E player, I never felt like my character was really in danger. This really wasn’t on the DM at all.5 I honestly can’t remember a single character death in either of the campaigns I took part in.6 This lack of lethal threat makes the game lack a certain oomph. In addition, the combats just slogged on far too long in most cases. Once the players gained the upper hand, it was never relinquished and everyone was bored by the end. I’ve talked about the negatives enough but I really enjoyed healing get spread out to different classes, the taunt/marking mechanic was well-implemented if a little weak. And the tactical combat was very good if very slow.

Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition

The current version of Mutants and Masterminds is a lot of fun. At least from a character creation and game master perspective. Not all of my players enjoyed the free-form combat where distances don’t really matter. But I loved it. Plus you could build any imaginable superhero or supervillain from scratch. Out of all the role-playing campaigns I’ve run, I’m most fond of this one. It played well with the audience and even though it was short, I feel it was a memorable one. One that I hope my players will remember as fondly as I will.

Dungeons & Dragons Next

Finally, the preview rules of the next version of Dungeons & Dragons. It seems like Wizards and the D&D brand manager finally understand and convinced Hasbro that D&D is not like their other properties and that it can be successful without being Magic: the Gathering or Transformers. It also seems like R&D has decided to roll back the clock and pretend most of 4th Edition never happened. I’m happy for this change and while I loved 3rd Edition, there are a few things D&D can learn from it’s last edition and I hope they find a way to incorporate a lot of the stuff I mentioned above. We’re playtesting this version right now with my current group but I’ll talk more about it in a future post.


  1. Completely appropriate for a solo wizard. 
  2. A section of the sim group catered to the younger crowd of simmers. 
  3. Even if I only really play humans and elves. 
  4. While Eberron is far and away my favorite D&D setting, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting was the single best book during the 3rd Edition run. 
  5. Okay, there was one instance where I was basically begging for him to kill me and he didn’t. 
  6. There was a semi-scripted death in the campaign I was DMing to kindly remind my players that characters could die. Unfortunately, the campaign took an extended (and then permanent) hiatus not long after. 

Tabletop Gaming

You’ll notice the title of this article is tabletop gaming and not board gaming. The reason for this is two-fold. First, board games often have a younger connotation associated with them. Board games are for kids they say. Wil Wheaton, [Chess Grandmaster] and many others are here to tell you otherwise. Second, there are lots of table top games that don’t involve boards of any kind.

First, let’s talk about puzzles which aren’t really tabletop games (they are generally put together on tables and there are rules). I’ve always seen “the big picture” well. One decent look at the picture and I can put most of it together. I suppose one could hone their skills by doing more and more puzzles but while puzzles are good for solitude, they’re not so great for groups. So, I’ve left puzzles mostly behind but every once and a while I’ll get a new one and spend time putting it together. Now that puzzles are out of the way, let’s move on.

My history with table top games is a long one. It probably started with Monopoly (or maybe Candyland or Life or Sorry!) but my first table top true love was Chess. This was a game made for me! The game has lots of constraints that have complex interactions plus a single opposing player. Most people would say that I “see the board” well which is probably the best way to describe it.1 I was an avid chess player throughout elementary school, the latter part of which I shifted to math competitions. I’ll still play an occasional game of chess but my skills have deteriorated significantly.

The next table top game to take hold of my life is the grand daddy of all card games, Magic: The Gathering. I think it was about 4th grade where I was really absorbed by it. A couple of my classmates were playing it and I immediately became invested in. The artwork, the strategy and the story, I found all of it incredibly compelling. In all my years of Magic, I never played at a particularly high level. It was mostly just for fun with my friends.2 I did do a round of Block Constructed and I’ve participated in several drafts. I shelved my cards for good after Apocalypse. They’re all tucked away in storage but I still play the Duel of the Planeswalkers video game series. It gives me enough gameplay to scratch the itch when it arises without the huge costs of playing at the local game store. Also, I don’t feel so bad buying a game as opposed to the virtual cards that the Magic Online application sells.

Table top games took a hiatus in my life for a while after I exited the collectible card game scene. A mix of role-playing games and computer games took over. It wasn’t until a group of my friends started playing Risk that I got back into the table top scene. Just about every Wednesday, we’d get together at one of our apartments and play a few rounds of risk.3 This weekly game routine kept for a while and eventually I received Settlers of Catan for my birthday. The heavy strategy games started to take their toll and eventually game nights disappeared when my little brother left for grad school.4

The next big game to take over our game nights was Red Dragon Inn. I was introduced to this game by a long time friend of mine. This was the first game that got lots of my friends involved and restarted our somewhat weekly game nights. Since a lot of us were playing D&D it fit in well with the group. The humor and our borrowed rule of having to read the title of a card when playing it keep the game from becoming overly competitive. Of course being a good amount of fun and very replayable help.

Recently, we’ve discovered co-operative table top games which go over far better with some of our friends. We’ve also mixed in a few competitive games that are more fun and not so much cutthroat.5 Our current rotation: Zombicide, Pandemic, Forbidden Isle, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Ticket to Ride. Each of those games merits their own post. So, I’ll wrap up by saying that now is a great time to be a table top gamer and a lot of this is due to Wil Wheaton’s Table Top


  1. Not unlike seeing “the big picture”. 
  2. Some of them would dispute the “for fun” part. 
  3. Properly titled World Domination Wednesdays. 
  4. This would be my fraternity little brother, Kevin. I have a younger brother, David, but he is far from little. 
  5. Also better play by a few of our uber-gamers (myself included). 

Moving on from Florida Drupal Camp

Since it’s inception in 2009, I’ve been a faithful Florida Drupal Camp attendee1. Each year, I’ve met some amazing people and promised them that I’d get more involved in the Drupal community. Unfortunately, the demands of my current position never really allowed me to do that. I’ve learned a lot every year I’ve attended up until this year. This is not a criticism of FLDC or the wonderful hosts. It’s far more a reflection on where I’m at in terms of Drupal ability. I feel confident that I’m knowledgeable enough to start giving presentations.2 It was all of this plus the lack of vacation since August 2011, that I decided to make the leap and go to the next North American DrupalCon.

Travel and Accommodations

I was not alone on my journey to Portland, Oregon. My mom decided to hitch along for the ride and explore the city while I attended the convention.3 Due to some careful planning, I was already in Orlando for the weekend prior to DrupalCon. My mom met me there and we left her car with a good friend of mine and flew out to Portland where we landed around midnight local time. It took a bit longer on the first leg to Denver because of the storms over Oklahoma but we were able to connect without much trouble. Even though we were a bit more tired than expected this helped us adjust to the time change pretty well. We stayed at the Marriott near Lloyd Center. It was close to a lot of eating places and a light rail station along with a couple of movie theaters and a shopping mall. The rail station was important because it let both of us travel across the city with ease. I really wish more cities had good light rail systems. The return journey to Orlando was far less eventful, we got back in around 8pm and made it to Gainesville by 11pm. Fortunately, Monday was Memorial Day and gave us a day to recover.

Portland

The weather was rainy for most of the week but Saturday was a beautiful day. I personally didn’t get as much time to explore Portland as I had hoped but it was entirely my own fault. Conventions are exhausting and I had to do a fair amount of remote work while away. I walked a lot to and from the convention center and I did at least get to Powell’s Bookstore and found sometime to walk around downtown. On Saturday, we went to the Market and hit up some of the food trucks.4 The appeal of Portland is easy to see and it was definitely added to my list of relocation options.

The Convention

DrupalCon Portland on a whole was a bit overwhelming. I knew only one other person that was attending, and we did meet up for lunch, but it was daunting being basically alone in a convention of nearly 4,000 people. I very much felt like a face in the crowd but I understand that’s just a part of hosting such a large convention. Even at Florida Drupal Camp these days it’s hard to know a large portion of people. I think getting involved at the local community and also in the core development queues, I’ll be able to get to know more people in the community better.

Core Conversations

On to the actual convention, I spent most of my session time in the Core Conversations track. While I barely qualify as a core contributor, I am trying to position myself to be one in the near future. In the past, I’ve created minor patches to fix documentation and spelling issues. By going to the core conversation sessions, I hoped to gain insight in how to contribute more and learn about the directions the current core developers envision for Drupal. Also, there was much to learn about the tools that the Drupal community uses and how well the core initiatives worked. Finally, while I didn’t necessarily meet any of the names I’m readily familiar with from their work in Drupal, I at least got to see who they were and heard what they had to say about the current state of core development.

Sprinting

The final day of the convention was spent participating in the core sprints. At first, I wasn’t sure what team to work on but I ended up with the Views in Core tables which turned out to be a great opportunity. To get started, I rolled up the initial patches for a few of the function renaming patches. Then I started work on re-rolling the watchdog/views integration patch. Finally, I wrapped up the day working on converting the ‘Recent log entries’ administration page into a view. The people I was working with were helpful but gave me the space to learn.

Taking the Next Step

I feel that going to DrupalCon Portland was an important step for myself. I’ve been using Drupal to build small community websites for friends and associated organizations since 2005. But I never really ventured much further than that. The experiences of Florida DrupalCamp and DrupalCon Portland made me confident that I can take the next step and become a real participant in the larger Drupal community. My plan is to first use everything I learned to make this website the best that I can. Once that is finished (and partly during that time), my hope is to help move one Drupal issue forward each week. It might take some time to get up to the pace and then it’ll probably take longer to make the next jump but I feel these are achievable goals that will help not only me but Drupal as a whole.


  1. I missed the 2010 camp because of prior commitments to another convention being hosted in Gainesville. 
  2. Indeed I’m starting to make preparations to present at the local user group. 
  3. Quite a reversal from my childhood where my parents (both special ed educators) constantly took my brother and myself across the country every year for their convention. 
  4. Though I’m not entirely convinced these were the same food trucks Portland is famous for. 

Intro to Psikik: Sports

For most of my life, sports have been an integral portion of it. From little league soccer and baseball to adult rec softball, I’ve often been a participant. These days I enjoy sports by watching them or getting updates on my iDevices. It all probably started with my Dad, he’s an avid sports fan and has been very influential on my sport and team of choice. If I could only save one sport and one team? Baseball and the Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore had always been a bit of a romanticized ideal of baseball for me. Cal Ripken, Jr. Eddie Murray. Mike Mussina. A rich history and lots of tradition. I lost my ways for a while when I moved away for school. It didn’t help that the Orioles were in the midst of a decade of losing seasons. But a couple years ago, the Orioles were calling up their latest prospect, a switch hitting catcher by the name of Matt Wieters. I couldn’t afford a full season of MLB.tv but I paid for a month and watched his debut in the Show. Then last year it really took off the O’s were back in the pennant race and a return to winning. So last year and this year I’ve been glued to my iPhone or iPad Mini or AppleTV as I watch them on MLB.tv for the full season.

There’s so much to like about these Orioles, they’re scrappy but there’s loads of talent to be found. Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis and JJ Hardy for a solid every day core. Now all they need is to develop the starting pitching. They’ve got a few decent arms and with the way the O’s mash, they’re in just about every game. But if Goose (Kevin Gausman) and Dylan Bundy develop the way we hope, we’ll be making pennant runs for the foreseeable future.

Besides Major League Baseball, College Football has to be my second love. I grew up a Florida State Seminoles fan during the dynasty years. My Mom, an alumnus, raised me to cheer for the garnet and gold. I’ll admit the 90s Noles spoiled me and I was heartbroken during their decline in the mid-2000s. I moved to Gainesville in 2006 for college and ended up going to school at the University of Florida. And so, the Gators, the rivals of my childhood Noles, tried to wrest away my fandom. But a single season cannot erase a lifetime of cheering and so by halftime of the Battle for the Governor’s Cup, I was back to rooting for my Noles. But that doesn’t mean I don’t root for the Gators. My college allegiances are a mess but in order: Florida State, Florida Atlantic, Florida.

I personally find the college game a lot more fun and interesting. The guys in the NFL are so good and play at such a high level that the game feels repetitive and boring. But the diversity of offenses and defenses and experimental plays keeps the college game constantly fresh. The only other college sport I tend to follow is baseball but I tend to just follow along in recaps and game threads only catching the occasional televised game.

Next up, professional basketball and the Miami Heat. I was born and raised in South Florida and I used to have a strong affinity for the teams there (Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins) but I never was a big basketball person until the emergence of Dwayne Wade. I had somewhat followed the Heat during the early Mourning years but when I was growing up everyone was a Jordan fan. But Wade. He took Miami by storm and hasn’t let go. His ability to drive to the rim and draw fouls is amazing. And then he grabbed his two draft-mate friends and brought them to South Beach to win it all. And win it all they have (though it took them a year).

Finally, my last sports love is the Seattle Sounders. I love them from far away and don’t get to watch many of their matches but if I were living in Seattle, I’d proudly be a supporter and season ticket holder. Soccer was my first little league sport but baseball became my true love. Recently, I’ve rediscovered the joy of watching soccer matches and I plan on continuing to do so. My hometown team, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, is my second division team though if they moved up to MLS, I might have a hard time sticking with the Rave Green.

So that’s my sports life wrapped up in a single article. My hope is that each of these introduction articles gives a little bit more insight into who I am.

Greetings

Welcome to Concrete Chaos, my personal slice of the internet. Over the past decade, I’ve maintained some sort of presence but this my latest (and hopefully most successful) attempt. Part of the reason for this new push is that I’m looking to find a new position and relocate. Another major reason is I keep stacks of spiral-bound notebooks with various creative endeavors and I’d like to share them with the wider world.

The main portion of this website is my portfolio, there you can find in-depth reports on projects I’ve worked on. This blog is probably the largest section, you can reach it two different ways, first by visiting psikik.net/blog or by going to concretechaos.com. The latter is just a re-direct to the former, but in the future I have plans to provide a different look to the content when visiting that site. Finally, there’s two large creative areas to the site. The first is the which holds all of the images I upload to the website. The second area are my virtual notebooks, these are virtual representations of spiral-bound deadtree books, though the content will be far more organized and edited.

If you’re looking for more information or a way to contact me, you can visit the [about][about] page which also has a few social and coding links. I’m not looking to take on any freelance projects but I am interested in full-time software developer positions.

As for the content of this blog, below is a listing of topics I’m likely to cover:

  • Technology (Computers, Space, the Internet, Podcasting)
  • Gaming (Tabletop, Computer, Role-playing)
  • Movies & Television (Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy)
  • Books (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Alternate History)
  • Sports (Baltimore Orioles, Miami Heat, Seattle Sounders, Florida State Seminoles, Florida Gators)

I don’t have any particular posting schedule planned and I’m not even going to suggest a possible one. I have lots of ideas to share and as my ideas move to drafts and then to complete thoughts, I’ll post them as soon as they’re ready. Over the next few posts, I’ll take some time to introduce the various subjects that are near and dear to me.

: http://psikik.net/gallery