Category Archives: Ramblings From the Sanctum

HFY Stories I Like

I’ve been reminded of one of my favorite story genres nowadays, and decided I’d share some of my favorites (I’ve probably mentioned a few elsewhere on the site).

For those who don’t know what it is, HFY stands for “Humanity, F— Yeah!” It’s generally about reversing the old science fiction trope of humans being the weak rung on the ladder compared to aliens, whether it’s via strength, intelligence, or other.

Usually it involves humans being crazy enough to try things no sane species would ever try, and that gives us our edge against other species in the galaxy.

A lot of stuff in that genre can be found here on Reddit:
r/hfy

Deathworlders

One of my top favorites, that I read the new chapter of each month. Humans need not fear the scariest monsters of the universe. They fear US.

It stems from the theory that Earth is what’s termed a “deathworld,” in that we may be an edge case for what is survivable for intelligent life to develop on. Our gravity being stronger, our background radiation more severe, and the everyday perils of our world in general being much tougher than what most lifeforms in the universe have to deal with, making us tougher as a result.

The link below goes to the first chapter of the story, and covers the premise. It was originally written as a one-off, and then the author found out people had been talking about it and adding to the universe, so they continued it as a series.

Deathworlders: The Kevin Jenkins Experience

Stabby the Space Roomba

Why Vulcans Let Humans Run the Federation

Star Trek Mad Science

This one explains why humans are in charge of the Federation. It is hilarious. If you’ve watched much of the shows and the movies… I think it’s a fair assessment of humanity.

PM Seymour VA’s Humans are Space Orcs Compilation

Week In Review: 09-06-2020

It’s been another hobby filled week here at the sanctum. I’ve been working on a few things here, sadly I can’t fill you in on quite all of the details, as some of it is being kept secret for a competition.

To start out with, I’ve been doing a lot of work towards an online competition with the Cyberdeck Cafe. Here’s the flyer:

And here’s the link if you are interested: https://www.cyberdeck.cafe/post/deck-builders-competition

The short version of it is that we were given requirements and a short timeframe to design a cyberdeck based on a pi zero. The winner gets their design printed in resin and constructed by one of the judges, and sent to them. I’ve been spending a lot of time running through prototypes, though hopefully I’m just in the fine-tuning stage at this point. I’d tell you more… but I know some people from the associated Discord occasionally check this site, and I want to maintain the surprise on my entry. I’m fine with not winning the competition, I just don’t want to lose to someone using my idea and doing a better implementation of it.

While running off prototypes on my printer, I’ve been trying to use up what’s left of a few partial spools of filament. It’s past time I clear out the stock of old filament. I’m planning on transitioning over to better grades of filament, but it would have been a waste to simply throw out the older filament. And I needed to use it sooner rather than later, because the filament can degrade and get brittle (hence one spool’s remnant being tossed out due to frequent breakage).

I’ve been putting the finished off spools to good use, as shown in the cover image for this post. I have a second miniatures tower on a turntable to more neatly store my minis. At this rate of minis production lately, I may have to make a third when I have the spools. And I should probably learn how to paint minis at some point…

With all this 3D printing, I finally got a test and validation of one of my upgrades. I think I posted way back that I had put my 3D printers on a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) in case of power failure or tripping a breaker. A couple nights ago I tripped a breaker while printing on both printers (and having some other loads on the system), but since I had both printers and the control system on the UPS, I didn’t lose these multi-hour prints! Successful test of 3D printing on UPS backup!

Mini Project Update: “Medieval” Backpack

Years ago (before I started this blog) I made a medieval-ish backpack for Renaissance Faires and the like. I had wanted something to carry stuff around at events while in costume without carrying a very obviously modern backpack. Recently I’ve decided to take a crack at fixing/updating it. Here it is when I first built it years ago.

One of the “features” that I was not happy with, and prompted the repair work, was that the leather support straps would sometimes pull out in the direction of the furniture tacks holding them to the frame. I removed the leather straps, sanded the wood a bit, and used wood glue while reattaching the straps to the frame, clamping it to make a stronger connection.

I also reinforced a couple connections with the posts that hold the box in place on the frame. I placed glue in the gaps, and hammered the posts back in tighter. My guess is that they had been pulling out from the frame from the load of the box.

When the glue had 24 hours to dry, I worked on my next annoyance: I had never cut the leather straps flush to the wood. The corners stuck out past the frame, contributing to the straps coming off in the past when things caught on a corner. After some experimentation on some scrap leather, I used an exacto knife to cut the leather, and only then removed the clamps from the frame. Why add unnecessary stress to a recently glued item?

Since I was working on it anyway, I decided to tackle another thing that had always bothered me: the shoulder straps. Here’s another old photo:

Note the rope being used for terrible shoulder straps. At some point between then and now, I swapped them out with some belts from cargo shorts. These are the belts I’m talking about:

They were MUCH more comfortable, but still doesn’t look quite right. None of them match, and it still looks crude. I did some thinking and researching, wanting to swap them for leather ones. I had always wanted leather ones, but after a while I had kinda written it off and forgotten about them.

This time, though, I came across some sword belts that looked like they might work with the frame, so I ordered those. Unfortunately, it was not as easy a swap as I had hoped, and I’ve still got work to do. Here is one of the belts that arrived:

If you look closely you’ll note that all the metal fittings were corroded prior to arrival. This stained the leather and made me loath to use those fittings. The buckles would require heavy cleaning, and the chicago screws were pretty much a lost cause. The leather should be fine, though. That did inspire me to look for some upgrades. I’m replacing the buckles and all the screws, all with antiqued brass.

It’ll look better than it would have if they had come through properly! However, I’ve still got to do some leatherworking, as the straps are actually too long for their intended positions. Also, the holes were not positioned correctly for wrapping around objects of the size of the rungs on the pack.

At least nowadays I have a workshop set up, and more tools to work with, so it’s a much less daunting task than when I originally built the pack! It shouldn’t take too long to do, but I want to make sure that I take my time and do it right, so I’ll have to make sure I have a solid block of time to work on them.

Sanctum Upgrades: Surge Protection

I’ve been dealing with a lot of thunderstorms lately, and got kinda fed up with my old habit of unplugging my sensitive electronics every time they come through, so I decided to finish fully surge-protecting my primary workstation and my router.

The internet connection required a few changes while I was at it. Here it was before.

I kinda dropped a whiteboard on the coax connector a while back, and was worried that it might have been damaged a bit in the process, so I replaced it just in case. Also, the coax cable stuck out of the wall, taking up a bit more floorspace than necessary, so I replace the cable with a shorter yet more flexible one and installed a 90 degree connector. I added an in-line surge protector on the coax cable, and replaced the wall surge protector (I wanted to use the other one somewhere else).

Now it doesn’t stick out as far, and I don’t have to worry about surges going through the router. Though, I guess I kinda went a little redundant on protecting the PC from power surges on the internet connection, as the the ethernet cable was already routed through a surge protector. Oh well, there is no such thing as overkill.

While I was making some changes, I also replaced the old surge protectors for the computer’s peripherals. Here are the old ones:

And here is one of the new ones. I’ve installed them on the walls to be neater. Hopefully the command strips will hold in this configuration.

My Favorite Technomancers in Fiction

Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

These characters in fiction epitomize this concept with their devices… in some cases being able to defeat things that normally required magic through their technology.

The Doctor (Doctor Who) – The guy solves many problems through technobabble, a “not-a-magic-wand” sonic screwdriver, and the TARDIS, a ship that travels through time and space, can make pretty much anything… and is bigger on the inside.

Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters franchise, duh) – In many other franchises, you have to have access to divine or supernatural powers to get rid of ghosts. These guys and gals build their own energy weapons capable of defeating ghosts, capturing some, and blowing up others. Awesome.

Iron Man (Marvel) – Tony Stark builds a suit of armor that allows him to fly, shoot energy beams from his hands, and do many other things that would be described as magic by previous generations, so I’m gonna count it.

Seto Kaiba (Yu-Gi-Oh) – This guy recreates the feel of ancient magical games with holographic projections, and in Dark Side of Dimensions even defeats “unstoppable” ancient magic through the power of his own technology. Badass.

Technomage Elric (Babylon 5) – This is the main technomage we meet in the Babylon 5 series. They purposely and explicitly use technology to create what would have been considered magic.

Sanctum Upgrades: Mad Scientist Light Switch Cover

Every mad scientist’s lair needs an unusual light switch! I’ve had my eye on this one for years, but between printer size and reliability issues, I hadn’t had a chance to make this one until recently.

This one is actually someone’s remix of one that has been on Thingiverse for years. I think it came out really well. I had to use a bit of tack on the switch to get the “nubbin” to stay on well.

You can find the files (again, not mine) here:

Frankenstein Light Switch Redux 1.0 by Muckychris

I think there is a bit of a gap between the plate and the wall, so I’m probably going to put some weather stripping on the back for a cleaner appearance.

“IGOR! Where did we put those brains again?”

PAX East Shoutouts

I went to PAX East this year, and I thought I’d go over some of the things I’ve come across.

 

Wild Bill’s Soda:

These guys seemed pretty popular, and I saw two stands from them.  You buy a tankard from them, and you get free refills of their drinks for the day.  You can bring the tankard back on a different day or a different event, and pay for another tag for a day of free refills.

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www.wildbillssoda.com

Graffiti Games:

These guys were demoing a couple of their games, the one that grabbed my attention being Cyber Hook, where you play as a decker navigating past obstacles in the matrix.  It caught my eye mostly from the aesthetic, didn’t see enough of the game to know whether there is much story to provide staying power.  It’s supposed to come out in Q2 2020, so I’ll keep an eye out for it.

(Btw, if you guys are reading this, you should remember to include your url on your handouts)

www.graffitigames.com

Rainway:

I was looking for the badge-in portals that PAX East had for achievements, and found one at this booth.  This particular one spins a virtual slot machine, and I ended up winning a tiny flashlight.

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Anyway, Rainway appears to be a system that allows you to access your games that are on your PC on any device you own, anywhere.  I’d think there’s likely a lag problem, but I haven’t gotten around to testing that.  Seems to be a neat concept, anyway.

https://rainway.com

CritSuccess:

These guys make spinny dice rings, where you spin the outer section of the ring and get a  result.  I’ve heard of them for a while, and finally decided to get d20 ring, just to amuse myself.

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www.CritSuccess.com

Norse Foundry:

These guys make a lot of dice, minis, and game accessories.  I ended up picking up one thing I found interesting.  They made a game map compass rose that you place on the map to define the orientation of the map.  I know you can just draw an arrow and write an N next to it, but the coin looks cooler.

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www.NorseFoundry.com

Elderwood Academy:

These guys are known for dice towers and dice boxes.  I didn’t pick up anything here since it doesn’t fit my particular needs at the moment.  They make some really cool stuff, though.

www.elderwoodacademy.com

Ayopa Games:

These guys gave me a free product code for a game called Dungeon Crawlers on Steam.  Don’t know much about it yet, but eh, free game.

(Again, people need to list their URLs on their handouts)

Prints by the Bard:

This guy was our DM for organized play.  Apparently he also does 3D printing himself, resin printing in his case, and shared his card.

And I totally called that a slime was hiding in the rubble.  Too bad I didn’t roll high enough on initiative, and could only watch in horror as it came out.  Oh well, Drocan Disorderly was able to fight them off with a torch (didn’t want to damage my heirloom weapon).

www.printsbythebard.com

Geekify:

These guys make a lot of cool custom stuff for people.  I didn’t get any of their samples (I’m a bit skittish of carrying around a summoning scroll for Cthulhu, and the other scrolls weren’t from my particular fandoms), but they make really cool stuff.

geekifyinc.com

Chessex:

If you are a tabletop gamer who goes to cons, you probably already know these guys.  You’ve just gotta stop by and look at their assortment of dice.  I picked up a few this time.

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www.chessex.com

Arenanet:

They had a Guild Wars 2 booth.  Also, got a code for a free in-game outfit.  Yay.

www.guildwars2.com

Spaceteam VR:

I’ve played the regular app, and I’ve seen that there is a card game.  You are on a spaceship that is constantly in peril and blowing up.  And you receive instructions… for everyone else’s consoles!  You have to yell and listen for instructions to cooperatively survive all the disasters befalling your ship.  Asteroids, wormholes, slime, shorting panels, etc.  It’s awesome.

Now… VR is in the works!  Some of my friends tested it out, and it was hilarious!  I still think it was extremely satisfying that the devs were confused at how one of my friends was doubling the highest previous score.

“Oh, didn’t you know?  He’s an aerospace engineer.”
“WHAAAT?”

spaceteamvr.com

Megacat Studios:

These guys make new games for old consoles, complete with custom cartridges that fit in the old consoles.  I’m gonna have to keep an eye on these guys for some possible collab.

www.megacatstudios.com

Dice Dungeons:

This group is where I got my D&D character coins from.  They had a booth, and while I was looking I saw that they had some cloth maps.  I decided to pick up their tavern battlemap.  I think if I start DMing homebrew again I’ll just have to make taverns a franchise business to explain the common layout!

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I also found a deck of quest notices.  This will definitely help when I need to populate a quest board at the adventurer’s guild in homebrew!

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www.dicedungeons.com

Widget Ridge:

This is a steampunk deckbuilding game of some kind.  It looked somewhat interesting at a glance, but I haven’t really looked too much into it yet.

https://www.widgetridge.com/

Greater Than Games:

I meant to spend more time at this booth, but we never timed it out right.  These guys make the game Kill Doctor Lucky, a sort of inverse version of Clue.  Instead of trying to find out who murdered Mr. Boddy, you are trying to kill Dr. Lucky without being seen by the other characters.

(I’d include a link, but this one is flagged as a security risk by my antivirus, so I won’t).

Acq Inc. Documancer:

I didn’t catch her name, but there was a lady dressed as a documancer from Acquisitions Incorporated who had an awesome wooden backpack filled with all the essentials for documancy.  Prewritten contracts, paper, quills, ink, etc.  She gave me a contract for intern employment at Acquisitions Incorporated.  I’m still periodically checking to make sure I didn’t accept the terms by touching the contract.  You never can be too careful with those guys!

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Miscellaneous:

There were a few other purchases where I forgot to grab business cards, but here is some stuff I picked up.

Crystal caste style dice, for my fireballs and healing potions.  I can never seem to find these online.

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Obligatory set of new dice.  I liked the Tolkienien script on parchment style of these.

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Dice bag for all the dice:

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From the Desperados 3 demo booth:

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My friend and I demoed the game “Who’s Your Daddy,” and won a shirt.

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Educational Games

With all these people (and especially kids) having to stay home due to you-know-what, I thought I’d make a list of games with educational value to occupy their time.

The list is short for now, as this isn’t something I usually look up, but I’ll try to keep adding things to this post as I keep looking around a bit every so often.  You can probably find some more games that are both fun and educational if you look around a bit.

 

The current list only contains games from the Steam Store.

 

All Ages:

Math Rescue and Word Rescues:  These ones are classics that I grew up on.  Helps kids learn spelling and progress through some simple mathematics.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego:  Learn about global geography as you track down Carmen Sandiego.  This one is a new one, releasing March 16th!!!!  Finally, a new one!

Kerbal Space Program:  Silly Minion-like creatures going to space, with you controlling their space program.  Learning about astronautics along the way.

 

 

Slightly older kids:

Hack ‘n’ Slash:  This is a game that teaches programming as a mechanic in a hack and slash style adventure game.  You can reprogram things from within the game in order to get through the levels.

PC Building Simulator:  Learn how to build and repair PCs.  Useful technical skills.  Includes real-world parts.

Epistory:  A game that teaches typing, where typing allows you to progress through a story by typing the words over interactable items and enemies.

 

For those with VR:

HoloLAB Champions:  It teaches laboratory practices from within VR.

There are a number of applications that allow you to view museum and art galleries in VR.

PAX East Backpacking

This past week has mostly been occupied with prepping for and attending PAX East.

Now for your weekly (cough) dose of content, here’s how I packed my backpack for the con.  I wanted to make sure I had options for gaming with my friends, supplies, and a way to carry a coat so we wouldn’t get anchored to a table watching our stuff.

Here’s the main compartment.

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It’s filled with the game organizer, some snacks, my wizard hat and safety goggles (which I kinda ditched after the first day), writing utensils, spare loot bag, name tags, sanitizing wipes, and snacks. The big plastic bag in the middle is one of those vacuum storage bags.  The bag allowed me to stuff my puffy longcoat into it, then squeeze the air out to reduce weight and volume and store it in the backpack.

Here’s my first iteration of the contents in the organizer that came with the backpack.  I packed it with tokens and dice for magic, tokens and pawns for D&D and other tabletop games, and a few small box games for waiting in line or at the hotel.  Before the con I removed one of the games and some of the tokens, as I realized that the pack was getting heavy.

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The side pockets were packed with snacks, meal bars, and water that I had shipped to the hotel ahead of the con.  I didn’t feel like having to leave lines, games, or whatever else to go get food if I didn’t have to.

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The top little pouch held my earbuds and chargers.  The battery packs were in the laptop compartment (not shown).

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The upper compartment held the magic decks, RPG dice, dice tray, character coins, business cards, and some other odds and ends.

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All in all, this backpack worked really well for this con.

 

But it felt heavy for someone not used to wearing a loaded pack for long durations.  My shoulders are still sore from it!  The upside is that I had fewer circumstances where I felt the need to ask someone to watch my stuff, I was able to keep it all with me and move more comfortably.  Next time I might bring the optional belt, to distribute the load onto my hips rather than my shoulders.  Also, I did try to pare down the contents as the con went on, tailoring them to what the group was likely to do that day.

Still, I could tell we were all much more experienced at attending cons than the first time we went!  Things went much more smoothly this time, we were able to move more freely, and we were able to participate in pretty much everything we had planned to.  It gets better every time.