Back in my 2018 Life Update post, I mentioned starting a new Adventurers League1 Tomb of Annihilation campaign. At DragonCon, David and I, with some close friends, spent all Friday playing Dungeons and Dragons. We had a great time and David commented about wanting to play more. We’ve grown up a lot since our last time playing and knowing that Babels had a firm schedule made it easier to try.

The quality of individual modules in Adventurers League can vary, so I opted for pitching a hardcover. I narrowed the choices. Other GMs had run or were running Out of the Abyss and Tales from the Yawning Portal. I love the Elemental Evil stuff but I wanted to save Princes of the Apocalypse for another time. Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat had received mixed reviews.

That whittled the options down to Curse of Strahd, Storm King’s Thunder and the newest adventure, Tomb of Annihilation. Friends had suggested they had strong interests in running the other two in the future. Tomb is the current storyline season and GMs running the current season receive boosted rewards.

My experience with the past few campaigns I have participated in as a GM or a player, I wanted a more frequent game. Life happens and those interruptions can harm a campaign. If the campaign is only meeting once a month, if you miss a session, you could go 10 weeks without playing. Also, managing plot threads and themes is more difficult as the impact of the previous session fades over time. So, I planned to run weekly, with the expectation that any individual would take part in about 75% of the sessions.

Now it was time to see if I could find enough players to give that kind of commitment. Adventurers League limits table size to three to seven players per table. Given that and the attendance policy, I was hoping to find about five players. Amber was in. I was willing to commit hours of time and money to run a campaign, but my best friend, Marc, is in the midst of graduate school. But he is someone who will show up if he commits to it. Once he was on board, I reached out to my brother, David. He works 12 hour shifts, but since we’re starting the game after Babels goes to bed, he was in. I contacted the other friend, Alex, who played at DragonCon with us. And then finally, I contacted one of my former players who hadn’t been able to play since we lived in the same city.

With firm commitments in hand, I bought the module on Roll20 to help reduce the amount of time I’d need to prepare for each session. It was pricey, same cost as the hardcover book, and while reusable, platform locked. But it has saved me tons of time. Plus, if I want to run Tomb of Annihilation again, I can press a few buttons, and I’m ready to go.

We’ve been playing since October, skipping only a handful of weeks for holidays and GM family emergencies. Otherwise, we’ve been able to play and it has been very rewarding. It’s something I look forward to every week. A few hours of Dungeons and Dragons fun with my family and friends.

On a quest to locate and destroy the Soulmonger, a necromantic artifact of unspeakable power, the party continues their foray into the jungles of Chult.

  1. Adventurers League is the organized play campaign for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. 

Life Update

Welcome back to Concreate Chaos, life preparing for and with an infant has been crazy. I started wrapping up my commitments early last year. I was going to devote much of my attention to our new family member.

I said goodbye to my dear furry friend, Rocket. He died of cancer in October 2016 and it had profound effect on me. I found myself unable to write. Whenever I sat down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, my thoughts drifted to him and the cat sized hole in my heart. I miss him still. It took over a year, but I’ve healed now.

I signed off of podcasting. Culture Conquistadors was a labor of love for many years. Movies remain a favorite passtime of mine. Though these days, they’re seen months after release via streaming or Redbox. Now, my former co-host and dear friend launches his solo venture, Iconography. You should definitely have a listen as he starts into season two.

I left two D&D campaigns. My regular group continued on their journey in Wander-Lost without Chase Starryeyes. Despite my desires, I was never able to return to play her again. In a few sessions, Wander-Lost will wrap up. Operation Phoenix concluded last year before Babels was born. The play time of the campaign doesn’t lend itself to my participation, but even so I haven’t made an effort to rejoin.

I gave up watching sports live. My Saturdays in the fall were often filled with Florida State and Florida football games. There’s a lot of things wrong with football at the collegiate level. I will always love it in some ways, but I won’t dedicate every Saturday for months to it. Instead, I spend my Saturdays with my new family watching Babels grow.

We did manage to make it to DragonCon. Babels was a hit as Salamence and my Brendan cosplay looked sharp. We went to the Marvel photoshoot for the first time in a few years. It was a far better experience this time around. Nova is a much lighter costume for the summer Atlanta heat. But the event ran far smoother also. I spent a day playing D&D with my brother, my best friend, and another good friend. It was an amazing experience. David enjoyed it so much, he asked if we could find a way to play again.

So, I started an Adventurers League legal Tomb of Annihilation campaign. With Babels’s schedule set, we were able to carve out some time to play some Dungeons & Dragons. I wanted this group focused on a regular, exciting experience for my family. I set expectations for schedule and commitments and invited the players. It’s been a resounding success.

Amber started an in-person Adventurers League legal Tales from the Yawning Portal campaign. We play roughly monthly. I wish it were more frequent, but scheduling is difficult. With two new players, it’s always fun watching them discover bits and pieces of the game.

Blog Update

With the last year of my life highlighted and recapped, what does the future hold? My hope is, a lot of reading, gaming, and writing. It’s been fun being back in the DM seat for Tomb of Annihilation. I haven’t ever run a published adventure cover-to-cover. Despite the monthly game, I miss playing D&D more frequently. I want to run a modern day urban game later this year. And for DragonCon, I have a new costume in pre-planning.

I’m hopeful that all this will lead to more writing, here, at Concrete Chaos. I’ve already added a few new pages to my notebooks for the last few years of books, games and films.

Goodbye 2015!

It’s been a great year but I’m excited for 2016. 2015 was a year filled with growth and change.

In April, I asked the woman I love to marry me.
In June, I moved to Tallahassee and in with my newly minted fiancée.
In July, I said goodbye to Gainesville for one last time.
In September, I returned to Atlanta for our now yearly pilgrimage to DragonCon.
In October, I helped two of my dearest friends get married.
In December, I built my third video game for 2015.

There were many more events. Seven weddings in total. Numerous holidays. Travel throughout the Southeast US. And a decent showing at the gym.

I haven’t yet discussed my love of Science Fiction but trust me it’s there. For me, Star Trek is my first love but Star Wars has it’s place too. I generally just find the exploration and technology of the Star Trek universe far more appealing. But the Star Wars trilogies are a wonderful epic.1 The Jedi and the Sith are great and the video games have generally been superior than their Star Trek counterparts in every measure.

One of the things Disney has done to push attendance numbers in certain parts of the year is to have themed days or nights, weekends or weeks. Disney gets the benefit of increased attendance, while attendees get to meet people with similar interests. One example that most people are familiar with is Grad Nites, where high school seniors invade the park in the late afternoon/evening and stay in until early morning. Another is Night of Joy, an event much like Grad Nite but focused on Christian youth and music.

One of their best events, in my not-so-humble opinion, is Star Wars Weekends. They put on a great show at their Hollywood Studios park in Orlando with parades, special guests, themed shows and performers and a giant pavilion of Star Wars and Star Wars-themed Disney merchandise.2 The first time I went was in 2011 with my fraternity little brother and little sister and my mom.3 They managed to get me on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster and I picked up a sketch of Stitch as a jedi. I didn’t make it last year but I was determined to go again.4

This year, the timing was perfect in a lot of ways. My girlfriend’s birthday is May 17th and we had planned on seeing Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX 3D and that was the opening weekend for Star Wars Weekends. Also, I was flying out of Orlando on May 19th to travel to Portland, Oregon for DrupalCon. So we spent Saturday at Hollywood Studios. We arrived a little later than we had planned but we managed to see the 501st Legion part of the parade. Then we quickly darted towards Star Tours to pick up our fast passes and run on the ride quickly.

Star Tours continues to be a great ride no matter how many times you’ve been on it. The droids are funny, the multiple choice paths offer a lot of diversity, and the movie itself is good and uses recent 3D tech. All important considering I tend to get migraines from 3D and movies. As we got out, we ran into one of our friends and her siblings getting ready to go to one of the major shows of the afternoon. The show was about the voice actors from the Clone Wars and was well done and funny.5 In the end it was one long, but very good, advertisement for the final season of Clone Wars.

We ate lunch at the 50’s Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater and it was easily the best dining experience I’ve had at a Disney park as an adult. The atmosphere was perfect, dimly lit by the tables and with the big movie screen projector. I’m not sure what it was but Disney seems to have improved on their food selection without raising prices too much. The only complaint I have is that the tables are a bit small in the two person booths.

We wrapped up the day by watch the Beauty and the Beast show and visiting Darth’s Mall. I picked up one of the Disney/Star Wars action figures, Stitch as General Greivous. All in all a great day. I followed this up by visiting a few weeks later with my mom. We had a great time and hit up several of my favorite rides and shows.[^6] We went to the Voices Behind the Force show again and this time got to meet the current voice of Yoda and the narrator of the Clone Wars series.

If you’re a Star Wars fan and you have the ability to go, you should definitely visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a weekend in late May/early June. It’s a great event. So much so that even when I leave Florida, I’ve been planning on making a trip to Hollywood Studios every year for Star Wars weekends as a way to meet up with some of my closest friends.

  1. Excluding Episode 1 of course. Speaking of which, a good friend of mine introduced me to the <IV, V, II, III, VI> watching order. While I haven’t had the chance to watch them in that order, after reading the post and thinking it over, I agree with the premise and wouldn’t be surprised if that is truly the best way to watch the movies. 
  2. It took a round of editing to change this to Hollywood Studios. It’ll always being MGM to me. 
  3. I know, I was 26 and still hanging out with my mom. But that’s the thing about Disney, to me it’s always about fun times with family and friends regardless of age. 
  4. Especially now that my fraternity little brother had relocated back to Gainesville. Of course, we didn’t end up being able to time it for both of us to go at the same time. 
  5. Though I was very confused by Ashley Eckstein’s wardrobe selections. 

2010-09-14 - New Frat Fam

My frat little brother got his own little brother last night! I’m sure he’s gonna do great.

(L-R: Me, Kevin, Rachel)

Day Four:

2009-01-05 - P365D4

Today the AFC East Champion Miami Dolphins took to the field for the last time this season. Nic and I went to Kim Bokamper’s Sports Bar and Grill. Unfortunately, we arrived a little bit late and the place was packed full. However, we lucked out when one of the managers stopped by and asked how many people were in our party. It turned out there was another couple that had a booth but their friends had never showed. So we got to sit with them. The girl was sweet, the guy was a bit drunk. We ordered food and enjoyed the game. At halftime we decided to head to Nic’s place to finish up the game and it just lucked out that the couple’s friends showed up. It was a good time and we had a great talk while we were at her place. Unfortunately the Dolphins lost but we spent a good five plus hours together talking and having fun.

I went to my best friend’s graduation today. It was quick and painless. Afterwards I packed up and headed home. I got to surprise my family as they were expecting me tomorrow.

I’m gonna have a busy time while I’m here. Going to be working remotely a lot. Also, doctors appointments and visiting friends.

Tomorrow might go to church. Then brunch with the family. Then wash my car and vacuum the inside. Then hopefully visit Nicole.

Well I’m about to wrap things up at work and go pick up some stuff for tonight.

Pledge Bowl – Our chapter has an annual football game between the brothers. The last two classes and their trainer line up on one side and the rest of the brotherhood lines up on the other. I didn’t get to play last year but I’m excited for this year even if my little brother is on the other team.

Christmas Party – We don’t have an official formal for our frat and our joint banquet is in the Spring semester. So this is our formal event for the Fall. It’s a classy affair with egg nog and apple cider, cookies, sodas and other fun stuff. I just need to get home right after Pledge Bowl and clean up and get some stuff.

After the disasters that were Wednesday and Thursday, this Friday is shaping up very nicely.