Vegas, 2021, Part 1 of 3: The Luxor and the Strip #Vegas #travel

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Introduction

Every year without a new pandemic, I go to Las Vegas for blackjack. They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that’s not really a problem for me. I usually don’t even drink when I’m there. This year was a little different, but still not worth hiding anything. These posts are an assortment of photos and videos from the Vegas Strip. Most of the videos are from an aquarium I visited. The images are pretty big, so if you blow them up, you should still get good resolution.

I always stay and gamble at MGM properties. My credit card doesn’t get me gas credits or airline miles; it gets me gambling comps, so everything but tips are paid for because I paid my car insurance bill, got gas, or bought food at the grocery store. The comps really add up, so I use that card for everything I possibly can. I started the trip with $1,327 in available comps ($200 added just for reserving the room, so you can get those), and that was before I sat down at a blackjack table to gamble.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

Luxor

I stayed at the Luxor, which has a pretty cool design. Here are a few views from the elevator lobby.

The view from my room wasn’t so great, but very few rooms get an unobstructed view of the strip. In all of my trips to Vegas, I’ve gotten that kind of a view only once. This time, however, I got a partially view of the T-Mobile Arena (I almost bought a ticket to the Monday night game between the Ravens and Raiders), as well as my former preferred spot, the Excalibur.

Don’t knock the Excalibur. I always get what I want there. Whenever I’m down, I walk away from the table, head over to Excalibur, and win it all back. I was up $1,000 this year but headed there anyway because I know I could do better. I started with $900 and played for 4-1/2 hours, bouncing between $650 and $910, never gaining ground. Then I went on a run of about 15 straight winning hands, jumping from ~$700 to $1,900 (as explained, I gradually increase my bet as I win, and with ~15 straight wins, my chips explode). Once I finally lost a hand, I walked away. The Excalibur is always awesome to me.

Back to Luxor, one thing bothered me. I stayed at the Luxor once before, but my room was on the first floor. This year, I was on 17, and, well, I’m not sure why more people haven’t fell to their deaths at the Luxor.

If you click through to You Tube, I cite a story about strange deaths at Luxor, but that includes things like a UNLV player dying after a fist fight. Few of the deaths that occur are from falling over these ledges. Considering how short they are, and how drunk may guests are, that’s surprising to me.

Bellagio

Tuesday night, I took a walk down the Strip, stopping at Bellagio for the fountain show. I’ve done that four times before, so it wasn’t a new experience, but it wasn’t as good this time.

I had to wait another 15 minutes for the next song. All Night Long by Lionel Richie was next up. I thought the choreography was a bit weak, but I’m a child of the late 70s and 80s, so I can live with that. The copyright holder is allowing the video to stay up, but there will be ads.

Why I Can Talk About Vegas

On the walk back to Luxor, I passed a few shops and knew I had to tweet about them.

Even the ATM is green.

Sorry, hippies, but this just ain’t my sort of thing.

On Wednesday, I visited Mandalay Bay‘s Shark Reef aquarium and virtual reality show. To keep these posts short, I’ll post those photos and videos in a separate post tomorrow.

I love Vegas.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc


More Fan Fiction: A New Manuscript on the Arthurian Legend #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I came across an article, “Researchers Find Hidden Secrets in Rare Old Arthurian Legend.” Apparently, we’ve got some more twists to the fan fiction that is Arthurian legend. If you don’t know why I’m calling it fan fiction . . . .

A good screenwriter would pounce on this new material. Why not? Some of it has never been seen before, so it’d seem like a fresh take on the legend, yet it would be as legitimate as any other version you’ve heard or read.

I’m not a good creative writer, so I’m out.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc


Traditional, Naval Star Trek Images @StarTrek #StarTrek

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s some neat Star Trek art from Young Rascal, a.k.a., Rich Kingston. I’d like to post a sample but, while I don’t know if he properly acquired the rights to publish the actors’ likenesses, I don’t want to trample on his or anyone else’s copyrights or publicity rights.

You’re just going to have to click on the links.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Star Trek @StarTrek

Cat People v. Dog People and the MCU @MarvelStudios #Caturday #MCU

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Here’s an article pondering who in the MCU is a cat person v. dog person. I have a response to each entry.

  1. Loki, cat person: Hiddleston provided the best acting in the entire MCU.
  2. Steve Rogers, dog person: I’ve been called libertarian (or libertarian adjacent), and that label is reasonable, but Steve Rogers is the most naïve of libertarians. “We don’t trade lives.” Really? One willing life for trillions of unaware innocents? That’s a dog person for you.
  3. Tony Stark, cat person: Tony Stark is the MCU.
  4. Bruce Banner, dog person: Couldn’t figure out a woman loved him until she beat him over the head with it. Even then, walked away from it. Dipshit.
  5. Thor, cat person: Strongest Avenger and had the greatest entrance in the history of cinema.
  6. Natasha Romanoff, cat person: The glue of the Avengers. Everyone had a special relationship with her.
  7. Clint Barton, dog person: Every rule has an exception, and this is it. Clint’s alright.
  8. Nick Fury, cat person: He’s the spy. He organized the whole thing without a superpower to stand on.
  9. Sam Wilson, dog person: Really a cat person, but went dog because he does whatever Steve Rogers does, just slower. Loses respect points for that one.
  10. Bucky Barnes, dog person: He was probably a cat person until Hydra scrambled his brains.
  11. The Vision, dog person: Because dog people aren’t really people.
  12. Wanda Maximoff, cat person: Rivals Thor for strongest Avenger. Took on Thanos one-on-one.
  13. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, dog person: Iron Man wannabe. Really mean person requiring unconditional love in order to have companionship. Yep. Dog person.
  14. Peter Parker, dog person: Again, requiring unconditional love, but in Peter’s case, it’s because he’s an insecure teenager. He’ll grow out of it. He better.
  15. Carol Danvers, cat person: She can fly in space. Her powers come from an infinity stone.
  16. Scott Lang, dog person: No, he’s a cat person. They say he’s an excitable pup, but opposites attract, and the opposite of a pup is a kitty. Scott’s still okay in my book.
  17. T’Challa, cat person: Ruler of the most technologically-advanced kingdom in the world. A freaking king.

MCU cat people >> MCU dog people.

Follow me on Twitter at @gsllc
Follow Marvel Studios @MarvelStudios


More Thoughts on First Edition AD&D: Secret Rolls and Spells @slyflourish #ADnD #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Withdraw spell. This week, another spell from 1e Unearthed Arcana caught my eye: Meld to Stone. The spell allows a cleric (and gear) to meld into a large block of stone. It has a duration of 1d8+8 rounds, but the 1d8 is rolled by the DM so that the cleric doesn’t know exactly how long protection lasts. This spell isn’t unique in this regard. There are a few spells where the DM rolls secretly.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that the last thing I want is an overbearing DM that thinks, “This is my table!” No, dipshit; it’s our table. As Sly Flourish will tell you, the players do as much story writing as the DM does. But giving the DM this kind of control isn’t anything like that. The spell is simulating how capricious or uncaring gods can be to those pesky little gnats that call themselves “mortals.” To do that, the DM must seize control, but this control is baked into the rules, reducing the potential for conflict between players and DMs. I’ve seen too much conflict at tables, and this spell shows that you can avoid it even where the DM appears to exercise a great deal of control. I say, “appears,” because it’s really the dice, and therefore the gods of luck, that are in control.

Besides, if players don’t like the spell, they can take another instead. This effects players only if they’ve willingly bought into it.

You still have control over your character, but not the entire surrounding universe.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Sly Flourish @slyflourish


Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)


Visiting an Old Friend, the 1st Edition Fiend Folio: Dragons #DnD #RPG #ADnD

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

My review and discussions of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (“1e“) has me visiting an old friend, the Fiend Folio (“FF“). My impression, which is anecdotal and thus suspect, is that the FF wasn’t very popular. Oddly enough, it was the only compendium of monsters I owned as a kid other than the small collection in the AD&D Blue Box and the monsters contained in the mods I ran. Plus, none of my friends owned it, so I had something on them. Needless to say, it holds a special place in my heart. I’m not making even more “dumbest monsters of D&D” posts. We’ve all had enough of those. These are about things I like.

| Kamadan | My Favorites | Elemental Princes | More Cats | Giants | Dragons |

I mentioned in the My Favorites post how I love categories of monsters. That was true in 1977 and holds true today. The FF gave us new creatures within existing categories. I’ve already discussed demons, devils, and giants in prior posts. Today, it’s dragons. And how could it not be? The game is Dungeons and Dragons, right? They were originally called oriental dragons, then lung dragons, and while they aren’t in 5e as far as I know, they’re generally called eastern dragons now as far as I can tell.

Whereas the chromatic dragons were all evil, and the metallic dragons were all good, the eastern dragons are neutral along the moral axis. That is, they were chaotic neutral, true neutral, or lawful neutral. (Do you notice what I did there? Probably not.) The Yu Lung live a larva-like existence, morphing into one of the other types after reaching the “old” age (101 years). The others fly despite all but the Li Lung being wingless. Only two of the six have breath weapons. In short, these aren’t your Monster Manual‘s dragons, which gives you new material when providing a familiar context. I could have stood for an eastern equivalent to Tiamat or Bahamut for them, but if that has no basis in the legends, then its absence is understandable.

Wizards of the Coast has a lot on their hands. To my knowledge, they haven’t recreated these dragons for 5e, but if they get the chance, they should. These dragons, among other creatures, could provide a cultural backdrop in which the many, good, non-western stories could be told, and it’d be a shame if the current generation of gamers weren’t able to have some fun with them.

Whatever their reasons.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Is First Edition AD&D Really Rules Light? #ADnD #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Maybe. Sort of.

A friend shared a video with me reviewing First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (“1e”). It’s one of many out there, so watching this particular video isn’t what’s important here. Something the speaker said struck me as odd. He referred to 1e as “rules light.” I know this isn’t a popular position, but I disagree.

In game design, there’s always a push and pull between abstraction and reification. Is what happens governed by rolling dice or describing the setting and negotiating what makes sense? In this respect, the differences between games are twofold: 1) Which rules are abstracted v. reified; and 2) in what proportion (i.e., how often is abstraction chosen over reification)? That is, with respect to #1, one game may abstract initiative to a die roll, whereas another game may base initiative on how the encounter and character actions were described. With respect to #2, if a game has 10 rules, what percentage of those rules are abstracted?

I suspect that the reason 1e players see 1e as rules light is based on what they take for granted about the system. They see the complicated rules governing combat and spellcasting and say, “Well, of course those rules exist, but that’s it. Everything else is negotiated.” However, those rules, deeply layered with intricacies, are what make 1e as rules heavy as any others, just in a different way. You can pore over my posts from the past several weeks to see what I’m talking about, but as an example, the distance between the parties at the instant combat begins is largely determined not by a negotiation between the players and DM, but by a die roll. That’s a rule that’s been abstracted by every other game I can name, but in 1e, roll an X on a 1d6, and you start Y feet apart. That doesn’t sound “rules light” to me. Here’s a new one: Sure, on the surface, 1e doesn’t seem to have a system of skills to govern how well a fighter can pick a pocket, but in fact it does have such a rule. They can’t do it. You have to be a thief, assassin, monk, or thief acrobat (I think) to do that. The rules on class abilities define that. Just because the rule isn’t stated expressly in the fighter section doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. No one has ever credited 1e’s rules as “well-organized.”

I don’t mean to overstate the argument. Overall, 1e may be rules lighter than, for example, 5e, but I’m not sure the difference is as great as many may think. If 1e is truly “rules light,” it may be because players are choosing to play it that way through house rules and ignoring rules they don’t like (I’m looking right at you, armor type adjustments). That’s fine of course, but the point is that players can do that with any system. That doesn’t make the system rules light per se.

Whether a game is “rules light” is defined by what’s in the sourcebooks, not by how you choose to play it.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc


Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)


Visiting an Old Friend, the 1st Edition Fiend Folio: Giants #DnD #RPG #ADnD

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

My review and discussions of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (“1e“) has me visiting an old friend, the Fiend Folio (“FF“). My impression, which is anecdotal and thus suspect, is that the FF wasn’t very popular. Oddly enough, it was the only compendium of monsters I owned as a kid other than the small collection in the AD&D Blue Box and the monsters contained in the mods I ran. Plus, none of my friends owned it, so I had something on them. Needless to say, it holds a special place in my heart. I’m not making even more “dumbest monsters of D&D” posts. We’ve all had enough of those. These are about things I like.

| Kamadan | My Favorites | Elemental Princes | More Cats | Giants | Dragons |

I mentioned in My Favorites post how I love categories of monsters. That was true in 1977 and holds true today. The FF gave us new creatures within the main categories. I’ve already discussed demons and devils in that prior post. I’m moving on to another.

Serious question: Does anyone not like giants (p. 42)? Besides the fact the Norse pantheon was my favorite pantheon of ancient religions, they’re just cool concepts. The test screenings for the first Blade movie illustrate an already-proven point: People prefer anthropomorphic enemies, but with some sort of twist. A towering human with an axe or sword larger than you are is certainly some sort of twist. Combined with the fact that some people are exceptionally tall due to a medical condition, and perhaps even that ancient cultures discovered dinosaur bones that looked human enough, giants are pretty popular in folklore.

Fog Giants (Level VIII)

The FF gave us two new giants. I’ve mentioned that cloud giants were my favorite giants. Why? It’s a combination of their relative power (in the Monster Manual, 2nd only to the storm giants) and their lairs. A castle on a magical cloud would be a cool place to visit, both exotic and regal. The FF gave us more primal cousins to the cloud giants, the fog giants (level VIII, 2% chance of encounter). What if cloud giants never took to the sky? Even if they were acrophobic, their inherent nature would still draw them to “tiny liquid water droplets that hang in the air.” Thus, if you wanted a cloud giant but with a slightly more primal feel to it, the less sophisticated fog giant could work for you. (Side note: I recall liking their treatment in 3e.)

Mountain Giants (Level VII)

Mountain giants (level VII, 1% chance of encounter) are closely related to hill giants. In fact, they’re too closely related. I don’t see why they exist. To give us a sense of consistency, giants in every edition have a ton of similarity. The differences are in culture/theme, weaponry, the elements they control, their specific use of magic, alignment, and their servants. The last two are the only differences between hill and mountain giants, and they’re still pretty close. Chaotic evil v. chaotic neutral? Meh. Hill giants sometimes were accompanied by dire wolves, lizards, and ogres, whereas mountain giants were accompanied by ogres, trolls, or hill giants. That’s not thematically distinct. They’re also both level VII monsters. I just never saw what mountain giants added to the mix. If you want mountain giants to stand out, you have some work to do.

Giants have a chance of appearing in temperate and subtropical climates, which is based on the predominant terrain (1% or 2%, but 10% for mountains). In such an encounter, the chances of it being a fog giant are 2% for plains, scrub, rough, hills, or mountains; but 9% for forest, and 35% for marshes. They also have a 4% chance of appearing in tropical or near tropical environments on the shore or a small island. For mountain giants, there’s a 2% chance of appearing in temperate or subtropical plains, scrub, forest or rough terrain, but 3% in similar hills, and 11% in similar mountains.

Giants >> amorphous blobs of blood.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Gods of Luck @drgnfly06 #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #Vegas

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

This week, I’m taking my annual trip to Vegas. With the pandemic, I didn’t go last year, so both my comps and my anticipation are at an all-time high. Accordingly, I’m linking to a listing of several gods and goddesses of luck from ancient religions across the globe. Maybe one of them is really out there and will appreciate the shout out.

The Best and worst blackjack hands and how to play them | The TwinSpires  Edge

The link comes from Carla Huffman, whose Twitter handle often posts mythology-related matters. She holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, which makes a lot of sense. Mythology is clearly a window into how the people in a given culture thinks. Maybe she’ll have something to say about my request to the gods, and maybe she has more credibility with them.

Probably, “This is superstitious nonsense, dipshit.”

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Carla Huffman @drgnfly06


Midlife Crisis, Star Trek Style @StarTrek #StarTrek

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s work-related. Once per week, my office highlights an employee, sending his or her picture to the office with a short autobiography. This week, it was a 30-something who ended her bio with “Live long and prosper.” I was going to respond, but then I’d know I’d have looked like this.

I’m old.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Star Trek @StarTrek