I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big Civilization fan. Well, I’ve been dipping my toe into the world of game mods lately, and I found a really fun one: A huge, sprawling Faerûn mod for Civ 5: Gods and Kings. The social policies have been replaced with Schools of Magic, and culture is now “Weave points,” so you advance in areas like Conjuration, Necromancy, or Evocation. There’s a separate Underdark map, and some powers like Menzoberranzan are naturally located there. You can build heroes like rangers, paladins, or specialist wizards. And many of the independent cities like Westgate, Iriaebor, or Luskan are naturally city-states. Oh, and the physical map is a spot-on rendition of most of Faerûn. It’s a ton of fun for a Realms fan. I’ve been playing as King Lhao of Tethyr. First thing I did, I turned on Calimshan and drove them off the planet. That seemed to go well, so I went after Amn next. The Tethyrian Empire now stretches from Baldur’s Gate to the Lake of Steam, and I have to say, I’m wondering if Waterdeep would be better off under my administration.In the “What have I done for you lately” category, I’d like to announce that Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures set 2, Bandits High, is now on sale. This is about the last thing I did for Wizards while I was on staff there. I managed to slip a few unexpected planes into the set list like the IAR-80 or the Ki-44 Tojo, and I came up with a fun tactical bombing option that adds a ton of new gameplay and flight construction strategies to the game. I really hope the game gets a third set, though—there are about ten more planes I think just *have* to be done to get to a reasonably complete set of WW2 fighters.
Gaming: I reluctantly stepped down from the DM chair in my Thursday night group after only a couple of months of running the game, simply because my current work schedule and after-hours writing schedule are making it hard to find a couple of hours a week for game prep. On some reflection, the group decided to return to a D&D 4th Edition game, this time set in Eberron. My character is an elementalist sorcerer—one of the Essentials-style character options introduced in Player’s Option: Heroes of Elemental Chaos. Basically, my fire sorcerer Halamar works a lot like a 3e-era warlock (or a firebender, if you prefer) throwing flame bolt after flame bolt. It’s the slayer-build for a spellcaster.I became a big fan of the slayer and similar Essentials classes shortly after those books came out. While it’s true that you can’t easily amp up to meet a single intense challenge by, say, using all your daily powers in one encounter, you get pretty reliable damage downrange every round. One of the things I don’t like about the 4e game pre-Essentials is the fact that you have to design your turn each time your turn comes up, building it up out of your available mix of actions. The slayer, the hunter, the elementalist—they minimize the choices you make about the minute details of your action, and encourage you to spend more time concentrating on the “bigger picture” of a battle: Who am I attacking, and who’s attacking me. Building my turn out of actions and powers draws me out of immersion, but the Essentials-type classes mean I spend less time fiddling with the interface and more time enjoying the experience… or so I think, anyway.
Politics/Current Events: I think Michelle Obama is going to be the Democrat nominee for President in 2016. Things like the Ellen show appearance, the Jimmy Fallon appearance, the Academy Awards presentation… it’s starting to look a *lot* like a pre-campaign to me. Now consider the fact that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign organization has continued raising money nonstop even though the man presumably won the last election of his life back in November. (The campaign is now known as “Organizing for Action,” a 501 (c)(4) organization.) Who else are the Democrats going to run? Biden is a joke. John Kerry is apparently making some noise about trying it again. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee, is facing an age question (she’ll be 69 on Election Day in 2016), and Benghazi might resurface as a difficult issue for her. Michelle Obama would slaughter the rest of that field in a Democrat primary.She is, of course, largely unqualified for the position, having never held elective office. But I think that Barack Obama’s presidency illustrates the fact that America in the 21st century worships celebrity for its own sake. Her lack of a record would be a tremendous asset; like Obama did in 2008 and 2012, she could campaign on nothing but a slogan, revealing nothing about her intentions for governing. And that might be all she’d need to crush any Republican opponent. Who do the Republicans have that could beat her?
I’m kinda depressed by the prospect, because I am not an Obama fan. I think that the prospect of a 16-year Obama presidency is just awful, although I’m cheered a little by the thought that the Obama kids won’t be 35 by 2024 so we won’t make it 24 or 32 years in a row. Ultimately, I think it depends on what happens over the next 3-1/2 years. If the economy tanks, if the Mideast explodes, it will be tough to dissociate a Michelle Obama candidacy from the current administration’s part in those disasters. But in that case the Obamas might hand their wreckage to a hapless Republican in 2016, then have Michelle step in to save the day in 2020.The Finer Things: Crooners. I don’t know how we acquired the taste, but when I sit down for dinner with the wife and our daughters, the IPod shuffle goes to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Michael Buble, Etta James, etc., etc. Dinnertime in the Baker household sounds like you’re eating in a classy steakhouse. I never would have been caught dead listening to that sort of stuff when I was a teenager. Life is funny.