VR Sensor Rerouting

In order to get a 3 sensor setup for 360 degree coverage with my Oculus Rift, I had to route cables around the top of the walls quite a while back.  First I mounted it with painter’s tape, but that was glaringly ugly.  I’ve also tried variations/combinations of double-sided tape and masking tape.  Given that the color of the masking tape is closer to that of my walls, it’s not quite as bad.  However, I realized later that this is leaving a nasty residue on the wires, and still sometimes falls.  And still looks crappy.

So, I’m trying something new.  Previously I’ve picked up some pieces that are for routing cables for phone chargers and such, but they are a bit of a pain to use.  More recently, I picked up some command strip hooks meant for wiring holiday lights.command hooks.jpg

I took down the sensors and the extension wires, and spent rather longer than I’d like cleaning the gunk off of them with alcohol wipes.

My next step is to figure out how I want to rearrange my sensors (I’m doing some reading/viewing on Oculus sensor layouts), moving the sensors with some new command strips, putting the command hooks in to support the wires, and clipping all the wires in.  It’s a lot of work, but hopefully it should get me some better sensor coverage and look a lot neater in the process.

VR Horizon: TPCAST Wireless Adapter For Oculus Rift

I was browsing around the internet, and was reminded that this is a thing.

TPCAST Wireless Adapter

It’s a wireless adapter that removes the need for entangling cables with VR, with the tradeoffs (that I know of) being:

  1. Additional cost (it’s listed at $319 at the moment on the manufacturer’s website)
  2. Added weight on your head
  3. You have an external transmitter pointed at you, if you worry about that sort of thing

It comes in three parts:

  1. PC Transmitter module
  2. RX Module
  3. Power box

The transmitter module streams the data to your headset, the receiver receives the transmission and sends it into the headset itself, and the powerbox that recharges the battery.

The battery appears to have a 5 hour power supply, so that’s more than my usual VR time.  I’m not sure how heavy it is, though.

At the time of writing, they are out of stock at the manufacturer’s website, so I likely won’t be ordering one anytime soon.  I see it listed elsewhere… for more than $200 additional!  Eventually, though, going wireless could be worth the cost.  When I’m on the treadmill I’m constantly getting tangled up in the wire when I turn a lot, and dealing with the headset wires in general is a pain.  Also, the systems I’ve seen for suspending the cable would require me to put screws in the ceiling, which I’m not inclined to do.  If it were a plain ceiling, I wouldn’t care, but I don’t want to risk doing excess damage to the textured ceiling.

From the reviews I’m seeing, there are many issues with the base version, and an upgraded 3rd party software (Open TPCast) takes a bit more money and work to get working, but is apparently worth it.  The base version has latency issues, dropped frames, and the microphone stops working.  The upgraded version requires buying and downloading additional software, then installing it on to a microSD card hidden inside the battery pack’s casing.

Still, it’s something to consider for the future.

VR Rig Upgrades: SSD Capacity

An issue I’ve been fumbling around with for a few months now is upgrading my VR rig with a new Solid State Drive (SSD).  I had originally mounted it in a hot swap port on my PC (and had to create a case over it to protect it).  However, it eventually made my PC unstable, and I had to remove it and send it in for warranty replacement.

The replacement came in a few weeks ago, and this time I decided to install it as a replacement for the existing SSD inside the computer.  When I had had my PC built years ago, the computer was built with an SSD to run the operating system and some programs, as it would make them load a lot faster than on a standard hard disk drive.  This was fine.  However, it has filled up over time, despite me installing most things to the hard drive instead.  I had kind of reached a stable maximum on that drive.

The problem was that the load times for games was getting rather lengthy in newer games, largely in part to the time it takes to read the data off of the hard disk.  In regular games, it’s no big deal, but in VR, load times make a HUGE difference.  You are sitting or standing there, blind to the world, with very little input except whatever loading screen the game designer had incorporated… and they didn’t always think those through (holy crap, the glare of a bright logo in a dark background is miserable).

This is why I had bought the new SSD in the first place, to add a terabyte of storage space to transfer all my VR games to.  Anyway, this time I decided to just replace my old SSD with it, and move everything over.  This is where I had gotten stuck until I did some research and talked with a few people I know who are more knowledgeable in this area.  I finally got it to work this past weekend, and I’ve been trying to tweak and move stuff since then.

Here are the main things I wish I had known more quickly going into this.  I know this is not going to be the best detail, but it should be enough to help you find the rest of the information more quickly.  I was doing this over the period of a few weeks, and I wasn’t exactly taking notes.

  1.  When you first plug in a new SSD, you will have to initialize the disk. You have to have it plugged in, and access compmgmt.msc through the cmd prompt.
  2. While you are there, make note of all the details of the partitions that are currently on your main SSD.
  3. You will need another hard drive with space larger than the SSD you are upgrading from.
  4. You will need Acronis software, and a thumb drive to run it’s software from.  Use this to backup the original SSD onto the extra hard drive.
  5. You will need another thumb drive.  Use the tools that come with Windows to make a repair disk on this thumb drive.
  6. Turn off the computer, and use standard computer modding procedures (turn it off, unplug everything, ground yourself, etc) to swap out the SSDs, leaving the original disconnected.  Put everything back together.
  7. Using the Acronis software on the flash drive, and the hard drive you made the backup to, restore the image of the original SSD onto the new one using CUSTOM settings.  You will want to set the system and recovery partitions on the new SSD to the same size as the original, and expand the size of the C: drive partition to fill up the rest of the space on the drive.
  8. When you try to boot your computer afterwards, it won’t work.  You haven’t done anything wrong, the Windows OS apparently uses references not just to the pathname of the drive but references to the specific drive hardware it is running on.  You will need to shut down the computer, swap out the Acronis software drive for the Windows Repair drive, and reboot the computer.  The repair software will fix the install itself.
  9. Now that it’s working, you may still have some cleanup to do.  If you have been running games from your hard drive, you will want to move the installs.
    1. Oculus:  Thankfully, in more recent updates since when I previously tried to install the SSD, the Oculus software has added an option for being able to move installs from one location to another.  Use it to create a new game install location on the SSD and then move all your VR games over from within Oculus.  DO NOT TRY TO MOVE THE FILES MANUALLY.  It appears that Oculus software does not acknowledge files that are already within the correct folder unless Oculus moved it there in the first place.
    2. Steam: For Steam, you use the software to define a new install location, then move the files from their old location to the new one, and try to run the game.  Steam will get confused for a bit, but then track down where the current install is and run from there.

So, that’s the gist of what I did.  I know it’s lacking in the technical details, but hopefully it will be enough to help you track down the latest info on how to swap an SSD out for a larger one if you need to.  I didn’t know enough about some of these concepts when I started to realize that some of those steps were even a thing.

Less loading time, and more game time for me!

LOOT DROP: ULTIMATE BOARDGAME BACKPACK, PART 2, DM or Porter?

Here is how I pack the new backpack for DMing D&D 5E.

Starting at the top of the pack, there is a small compartment, meant for earbuds, chargers, etc.  I don’t really use it much.

earbud compartment earbud compartment open.jpg

Next is the large upper compartment of the pack.

top compartment.jpgI keep the dice case in the dice tray, held in place with provided elastic straps.

dice case.jpgdice case and tray.jpg

dice case in straps.jpg

On the right in an internal pocket, I keep my “Healer’s Kit”

health dice in pocket.jpg

I kept getting annoyed trying to find how much healing each healing potion did, and finding sufficient d4s for it, so I made this kit.  On the inside of the lid it has the values for each healing potion category, and an important reminder:  It takes an action to quaff a potion!

health potion kit.jpg

health potion kit inside.jpg

On top of the healer’s kit, and in the upper left mesh pouch, I keep some sets of spell cards.  In the upper right mesh pouch I keep a set of extra d6s, because it is the one die that uses multiples the most often.  Fireballs, anyone?  Green for green flame.

top compartment mesh pockets closed.jpg

top compartment mesh pockets.jpg

Moving out of the upper compartment in the side compartments I keep more sets of spell cards (for different types of characters.  In the bottom right compartment I keep a bottle of water for cleaning wet erase markers off of game mats.  I also strap my game mat to the side of the pack inside a dry bag.

right side of pack.jpg left side of pack.jpg

left side.jpg

In the pocket on the outside of the main compartment “door”, I keep my folders and character folios.

folders and folios 2.jpg

In the mesh pockets on the inside of the main compartment “door”, I keep the spellbook for my wizard (I made it before I really started collecting spell cards), wet erase markers, other writing utensils, a laser pointer, and some paper towels for cleaning the game mat.

mesh door.jpg

Now, for the main event, I have the main compartment fully expanded.

main compartment.jpg

I keep a lot of rulebooks with me, the core 3 + Xanathar’s Guide + whatever hardcover I’m running are the main ones I keep with me.  I use the Dungeon Master’s Screen (Reincarnated version), with a few notes that I’ve attached to it.

rulebooks and screen.jpgI also keep the toolbox and flatminis case in there for minis and tokens.

flatminis and toolbox.jpg

I also have a small card folio that I use whenever I need to compile a spellbook for a character from my spell cards.

spellcard folio.jpg spellcard folio inside.jpg

And, there you have it.  My massive DMing bag of holding set up for Adventurers League nights.  There is more I will probably throw in here if I run homebrew games, but this is going to be it’s usual configuration.

Starting Gear: Items for New 5E D&D Players

Some new players may find the amount of stuff that some people bring to D&D games intimidating, because we make it look like you “need” a lot of things to play, and a lot of these items can be expensive.

However, you don’t really “need” a lot.  In fact, for your first session, many players at the game table will have spares of the essentials, so they might be able to help you out the first game or two, but if you stick with the hobby there are a few things you should get at some point.

For your first session, if you are just trying out the game, I recommend printing out a couple of blank character sheets, bring a mechanical pencil with a good eraser, and bring something to write on.  Someone will usually have spare dice they can loan you for the night, some generic mini for on the battlemat, and you can usually find someone who will loan you their player’s handbook for the night and help you create your first character.

Character Sheets

If it’s an adventure league game, like what is often run at game stores, you will also need some log sheets.  You can make a free account at DMsguild.com to get access to the documentation and additional rules for Adventurers League.

Adventurers League Player & DM Pack

If you continue with the hobby, though, I recommend putting together the following kit as “Starting Gear.”

  1. Player’s Handbook (often shortened as PHB).  This contains all the essential rules that a player will generally need to make characters and play the game.  There are many other books out there, but you only really need this one, the others are optional for players.
    • Note: for the short term you can get away with using the basic rules document, but it is missing a lot of the information and options available in the full book.  You can find the document here. 5th Edition D&D Basic Rules
    • Here’s the rulebook you’ll want to get.  If it doesn’t have this cover, you’re probably getting the rulebook for a different edition, and the rules are NOT cross-compatible.Image result for player's handbook
  2. Pocket folder.  There will be a lot of papers (character sheets, logsheets, handouts) and you’ll need a way to carry them.  You might want to mark the folder clearly so that it doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s.
  3. Tabletop RPG dice set.  Dice are denoted with a d followed by the number of sides of dice (example:  a d6 is a standard 6-sided die).   The exception is that d% indicates that you roll two ten-sided dice, with the one of them labeled for the tens digit, and you use them to get a number between 1 and 100.  A complete set includes a d4, d6, d8, d10, d% (the tens digit die), d12, and a d20.  You can find these easily at your friendly local game store (FLGS for short) or online.  There are dice sets available cheaply on Amazon, just search for “rpg dice.”
    • Some people (myself included) like to get fancy sets of dice, but I highly recommend starting out by getting a simple set of dice that are highly readable from a distance, like the bottom set.  More often you find sets that look like the top set, which look nicer, but the tradeoff is that they can be harder to read.dice sets.jpg
  4. An extra d20.  Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons often uses mechanics called advantage and disadvantage.  If the dungeonmaster says you have advantage on an attack or other d20 roll, you roll two d20s, and take the higher result.  If they say you have disadvantage you roll two d20s and take the lower result.  In either case, it’s handier to have a second d20 rather than borrow one or rolling the same die consecutively.
  5. Your current character sheet (and corresponding log sheets, if it’s an Adventurers League game), in the folder.  If you lose your character sheet, you might be allowed to rebuild it, but that is up to the DM and playstyle of the table.  You might have to make an entirely new character, or borrow one, and nobody really wants to do that.
  6. Blank character sheets, log sheets, any printable references you use.  It’s always good to have backups, because you never know when you’ll need a new character.
  7. Mechanical pencils with good erasers.  Pencils seem to roam and disappear at tables, so I recommend spares.
  8. Something to represent your character on a 1-inch gaming grid.  You need either a miniature or token of some kind that clearly marks where you are on the battle map, and fits inside a 1-inch square when upright.  There are a lot of miniatures you can buy or 3D print (if you have access to that), but there are a lot of crafty solutions I’ve seen online and at the game store for cheap minis.  I’ve seen people print out images and fold them up to stand up with a coin, pictures in small stands, pictures glued to corks; there are many options that don’t break the bank.
  9. A bag to keep all of this together and be able to grab and go.  If you let your stuff mix in with other stuff at home, you might find that you don’t have everything you need at game night.
  10. A dice bag.  Just something to hold your dice together in the larger bag.  Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and one usually comes with the dice that you buy.

That’s it!

Anything past that is optional for players, though I know many players (myself definitely included) who carry much more, but this is all you really need to get started.  Have fun!

NEW MODELS POSTED: 01/13/2019

I’ve been going through some of the files on my desktop, and decided to catch up a bit more on uploading them.

Bardic Inspiration Token

This is one of the 3D printed items that I’ve used the most at the gaming table.  It helps remind people when I’ve given them bardic inspiration, and reminds me of how many uses I have.

Bardic Inspiration Tokens.jpg

The below items I haven’t got printed examples of, as far as I know.  They are items I mixed into new items, but then decided not to actually use.

Bone Pile – Based

Meeple-Based Commoner Token

 

 

DM Tools: Flatminis and Case

I’ve probably been a bit confusing with some of my posts so far, referring to my collection of Flatminis without really explaining them, so here it is.

Flatminis are series of RPG minis available on Thingiverse for free to 3D print.  They are more of what I refer to as 2.5D minis, as they are designed to print flat on a 3D print bed, and it adds depth to them in layers, not requiring any sort of support (though I do highly recommend printing them using rafting, or you’ll have a hard time getting them off the plate).  You print the mini that has a standardized connector tab, and you print a matching base system to go with them that you insert the tab into like so:

1.

flatminis 1

2.

flatminis 2.jpg

3.

flatminis 3.jpg

The base design is standardized, so if you have your printer calibrated well you can print a number of the bases, and then print an even larger number of minis because you likely aren’t going to need all the minis at the same time.

Also, by storing the mini and base separately, you can store them much more compactly.  I keep a lot of the bases in my toolbox, and the player character/npc minis in a separate case for ease of storage and access.  The case is a little display case that I found at a hobby store and added some layers of felt to thicken up the padding and make it look better.  I also had to tape back the display stand portion of it so it wouldn’t flap in the way.

flatminis case closed.jpg

flatminis case open.jpgflatminis case back.jpg

Personally, I sometimes refer to these as Crayola Characters.  Why?  Because I like 3D printing, but not so much doing the detailed painting others do with minis, I literally use crayola markers to color in the white plastic characters, and then clearcoat the outside with nail polish topcoat 24 hours later to seal in the ink and prevent smearing/wearing off on other items (or my hands) in use or storage.

flatminis-colored-in.jpg

Sure, these minis can be simplistic and goofy looking, but I like them.  It allows me to safely and easily carry a wide variety of minis for when someone (particularly newer players or players with new characters) doesn’t have a mini, or when we need some random NPCs in a game.

Also, my enemy minis are mostly Flatminis as well, allowing me to keep an assortment of common enemies on hand without having to carry a bulky foam case with a lot of fragile minis.  I have at least 8 of each of the following minis.

flatminis enemies.jpg

Thingiverse has a pretty good variety of them, which I and some others add to every so often as we create things for our own needs.  I tend to remix in the connector pieces from existing Flatminis, and use a combination of Paint and Microsoft 3D Builder to turn 2D images into minis designs like I did with the heads of the orcs.

flatminis orc.jpg

Sometimes I also find keychains or other mostly flat designs on Thingiverse and remix them into Flatminis, like I did with my ninja minis and making twig blights out of a model of baby Groot.

flatminis ninja and groot.jpg

For DM accounting purposes I made some modified bases with numbers on them,

numbered flatminis bases.jpg

There are also some large size Flatminis.

large flatminis.jpg

It’s really convenient storage and portability-wise to use Flatminis, and enables me to always have a good amount of mini variety at the table.  It’s also kinda awesome when we have new players at the table who don’t have minis.  There’s almost always something close enough for someone to use.

Note:  There are weapon sets made to fit Flatminis, but I don’t make these due to some issues with the 3D printing process of such small and thin objects.

Maintained by Adept Ral