Garlic-Butter Steak and Bacon Gruyere Mac and Cheese

 


Searching for a complete meal that’s packed with flavor and comfort and cheese-y, garlic-y goodness? Look no further!!

For the steak, I just kind of made-up the recipe as I went, drawing from past experiences and knowledge of making steak with garlic butter.

For the mac and cheese, I used a recipe from foodnetwork.com as a base, but made quite a few changes. You can find the original recipe here.

For the garlic knots, you can use your favorite recipe, or purchase some from your local bakery/grocery store!

Sorry for the lack of step-by-step pictures! This recipe is being posted quickly as it has been being requested by multiple people 🙂

Continue reading

Gatekeepers RPG Review

 

Source: Gatekeepers Rulebook PDF

Source: Gatekeepers Rulebook PDF


Introduction and Disclaimer:

I have been fortunate enough to have a sneak peek at a new RPG coming to Kickstarter (tentatively) on February 23rd, 2017, and I’d love to share my thoughts on it with you! (And some pictures!)

I’ve read through the basic rules (unfinished pdf version), got a copy of the cards and tokens, and have played many iterations of the game at various conventions.

I need to throw a couple disclaimers at you lovely gamers before we continue, as I solidly believe in being open and honest about biases in reviews.

 

I am personally related to the game designer (um, how cool is THAT?!).

I received a free copy of the game so that I could review it.

 

My copy of the game may vary compared to what you receive, especially depending on which tier of the Kickstarter you buy into, and what the stretch goals (if any) are. Here is a visual of some of the game elements that might be available for your purchase:

Gatekeepers RPG

Even though family is very important to me, so is gaming and spending money wisely on gaming products. So I’m going to give my honest opinions on aspects of the game and the materials you get in the box.

Here’s what some of the cards look like:

Cards1

Cards2

I refer back and make comparisons to some of the gaming systems I know best: Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), Pathfinder, and Dungeon World. Keep in mind these are the reference points from which I use as a jumping off point.

Your gaming needs and goals are going to be different than mine, so as you read my review keep in mind how you usually game, what your group dynamics are like, and the amount of prep time you (or your GM) usually has for a game day.

 

 

Pros & Cons List:

 

Pros:

  • Rulebook and cards are extremely fun to read (cheeky and amusing)
  • Character creation can be simple and quick or in-depth: your choice!
  • Group dynamics created from day one
  • Great ideas for character, group, and world creation (for ANY game)
  • Game uses only six-sided dice, which are easily acquirable (no need to spend a lot on dice sets)
  • Art style is fun and fantasy-epic
  • Cards are easy to read (icons are simple and prominent, text is inclusive and comprehensible, combat actions come with a map diagram of area of effect)
  • Even on a failed roll characters have options to direct the story
  • Rather than hit points, Gatekeepers uses “marks” and “scratches”, which is an interesting twist on an old mechanic (some marks can even be beneficial to the player, allowing them access to an icon they didn’t have before!)
  • The “stance dance” (switching out items and abilities for new ones) forces the player to think critically about the battle or task before them and make clever choices
  • Rather than straight-up dying when your character receives too many scratches, you pull from the injury deck which has bad consequences (e.g.: “Bleeding Out”, “Broken Arm”, etc), but won’t always end in death, and may give the story a new direction!
  • A full copy of the game (read: everything you need to play) runs about $40 plus shipping during the Kickstarter (after the Kickstarter the price will be around $55), which is how much you’d pay for ONE rulebook in D&D or Pathfinder, or one board game
  • Optional rich world to explore with your characters (think Forgotten Realms, with detailed organizations, races, factions, cities, ancient mysteries… I LOVED the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, so I can’t really give the lore any higher praise than that!)

 

Cons:

  • New system to learn (uses a lot of gaming-industry standard ideas, but new implementation could lead to confusion, as with introducing any new system to your game table)
  • Cards and stances as characters and the tokens as wounds and rewards make playing over long distances difficult
  • The “stance dance” (switching out items and abilities for new ones) isn’t my favorite mechanic as it can be frustrating to have the “wrong” ability or item equipped, or not have access to everything your character can do
  • Suspension of disbelief required for some stance changes in order to balance rules (e.g: Fairy card allows a character to fly, but if it’s covered to use different abilities, the fairy character loses the ability to fly — story explanations can be created, like you have to plant your feet to use a sword or a crossbow, but if the fairy only has magic spells and abilities you have to do a bit of hand waving)
  • Price: I’m listing this as both a Pro and a Con because $40 is a substantial investment for some, and there are cheaper systems out there (Dungeon World comes to mind at ~$20 for the one book you’ll need to play) — and don’t forget that after the Kickstarter the price goes up to $55(ish)! 

 

 

TL;DR:

Gatekeepers is…

  • a fresh take on role playing games
  • an RPG meets storytelling meets board game
  • a great option for game masters who don’t have a lot of prep time
  • a system for beginners or experts
  • a game that gives you more rules structure than Dungeon World, but all of the storytelling capability
  • versatile: quick rules for a fast paced game, or more in-depth for campaigns
  • a rich world with history, factions, and mysteries (think Forgotten Realms!)
  • probably not for those who game strictly online with friends around the world
  • fairly priced for the gaming industry (there are cheaper systems, but this is an entire game for the price of one D&D or Pathfinder rulebook)
  • creative and fun
  • visually appealing with cheeky anecdotes

 

 

Dungeon World – Session #3

Session #3 : The Lake

Cast of Characters:

  • Borin
  • Brand
  • Fedwig
  • Lumpy
  • Red
  • Russell

While setting up camp in the tunnel, the party is joined again by the cleric Borin and Red. They each tell of their adventures while they were absent.
Red was investigating the burned city and found some hidden traps and had some rubble fell on him from unstable buildings.

Borin went to the lake near the Evermoors in order to lay the ashes of The Lonely Maiden to rest. His divine magic awoke beings in the lake. As they came closer, Borin found them to be undead, skeletal dwarven pirates! They warned him against worshiping Hoptimus, and asked to show him the “truth”. The cleric refused and had to do battle with the skeletons. After much difficulty, he prevailed! He found an odd coin and an interesting waterproof satchel among their rags.

The party was very interested in Borin’s tale and investigated both the coin and the bag. It was found that the coin was very old, from a kingdom that no longer exists. And a map was found inside the bag. Upon further investigation an “X” was found on the map leading the party to believe that it was in fact a treasure map.

A lot of discussion happened between the party as they tried to decide where to go next. Eventually the party came to the conclusion that they should investigate the lake further.

Once at the lake, Fedwig set about studying a spell that would allow him to speak with the undead that had accosted Borin. Brand totally helped.
Lumpy shapeshifted into a frog to investigate the lake further.
Red started skipping stones into the lake.

Suddenly a group of bandits emerged from the brush and demanded tribute from Fedwig and Brand!
A HUGE crocodile was attracted by the stones and attacked Red and Russell at the edge of the lake!

Red and Russell dispatched the beast thankfully before Red could be eaten.
Brand calmly explained to the bandits that they outnumbered them, and that they should sod off. Two more bandits came from the woods accompanied by wolves and the fight was on!

Eventually the party triumphed over the bandits and wolves, finding some gold and an interesting note in their pockets:

R-
Everything is set and ready to go on your signal.
-V

Lumpy’s grand lake adventure had him plunge into the depths of the deep lake, avoiding large stalagmite-like protrusions from the bottom. At the center of the lake he found a sunken ship, split in two and partially buried beneath the silt at the bottom. He also had to avoid the female of the crocodile pair who had made her home inside the ship and was guarding a clutch of eggs. Bravely daring to get closer, Lumpy was able to scoop up a prize from the lake floor, dodging the female crocodile, and swimming as fast as he could back to shore.

Once there, Lumpy and the party discover that the prize he carried was an intricate skeleton key with silver filigree and a decorative metal-mesh ribbon. And even better, the filigree on the key matched the decorative stitching inside the waterproof satchel that Borin found!

Fedwig was finally able to cast his spell, and due to his diligence studying and Brand’s help, he was able to compel one of the dead dwarven pirates to answer three questions.

  • Question: Can you identify these objects? (The bag and the key) — Answer: Yes
  • Question: What is the significance of these objects? (The bag and the key) — Answer: They lead to and unlock the treasure we were searching for.
  • Question: What do you know of this? (The stone) — Answer: It is the Chaos Stone. It was created by the same forces that drive us. It will be your undoing. And now you know too much!


Places:

  • Kindlewood (now known as Nevermore), a formerly-wealthy town located on a trade route near the Evermoors. Used to boast a lovely tavern and a stone mage tower. Former home of Brand and Lumpy
  • The Evermoors, a stretch of swampland to the North-Northeast of the ruined Kindlewood
  • The lake, borders both Kindlewood and the Evermoors. It is located at the northern end of Kindlewood and empties into the Evermoors. Has large crocodiles living in it and also a sunken ship
  • The Lonely Maiden, formerly a cozy tavern within Kindlewood, now a burnt ruin. Russell and Borin met Fedwig here
  • The Bloodprow, a sunken ship Lumpy found at the bottom of the lake. This was mentioned by the skeletal figures that Borin met
  • Oakbridge Keep, a keep to the southwest of Kindlewood

Notable NPCs:

  • “R”, single initial printed on a note the party found on a dead bandit
  • “V”, single initial printed on a note the party found on a dead bandit
  • Hoptimus the Thirsty, dwarven deity whose worshipers include Borin Ironbottom

Previous Post: Session #2 – Kindlewood is Nevermore
Next Post: Session #4 (coming soon)

Dungeon World – Session #2

Session #2 : Kindlewood is Nevermore

Cast of Characters:

  • Brand
  • Fedwig
  • Lumpy
  • Russell

After the battle for Lumpy (where the party rescued the halfling druid from the kidnapping bandits), the party stands in the ruins of Kindlewood.
Suddenly a thumping noise is heard from below their feet!

Digging around in the rubble, a locked metal door is unearthed. Without their trusty expert, Red, the party is left to pry the door open. Russell does this with his sword (which is roughly the size of a grown human… and serrated…). The door bursts open, a bandit rushes out screaming bloody murder, and the opening down into the cellar of the merchant’s basement is left with jagged and sharp edges.
The bandit is quickly dispatched and the party is left figuring out how to get down into the basement without harming themselves.
Russell chooses to muscle through and let his armor do the work for him.
Lumpy turns into a quick-footed rabbit and leaps down the stairs after him.
Fedwig, being of slim build, slips through unharmed.
Brand grabs the clothing from the dead bandit and uses that pad the edges so he can make his way downstairs.

In the room beyond, the party finds lots of smashed open and looted crates and barrels. A pattern in the dust alerts the party to a hidden door, and they search for the mechanism with which to open the door. Brand and Russell find this (and share a bro-ment) and a secret door opens!

Beyond the secret door lies a looted and smashed workshop. Fedwig realizes that the chemicals and equipment contained in the room is definitely used in the manufacturing of poisons! He also spies a poisonous beetle escaped from his captivity crawling around on the benches. Lumpy makes friends with the beetle and learns a little about the operations of the place.

Beyond the workshop was a hallway. Lumpy hears an odd voice echoing down the hallway speaking very creepily of eating something. He attempts to speak with the entity beyond. After stalling for a bit, the being Lumpy made contact with reveals herself as a giant spider and shoots webbing at Russell!
A fight begins and everyone gets covered with sticky webbing. Lumpy shapeshifts into a great bear to do battle with the spider, and through a series of events Russell ends up riding Lumpy into battle as he became stuck to his fur while trying to leap over the bear. Fedwig enrages the spider by shooting magic missiles into her eyes, Brand gets wrapped in webbing but uses his firemancy to conjure a spider of fire, and together the party slew the great arachnid!
Searching the room, the party finds a bunch of spider eggs, which Brand quickly dispatches with a conjured beast of fire. The webbing and eggs are burned away, along with whatever, or whomever, was rolled into cocoons…

Lumpy’s friendly poisonous beetle makes an appearance, crunching on some moss (which is known to have psychedelic properties for its species) and informs the party to a group of bandits is waiting in the room beyond.
The party thinks on the best way to get the drop on them, even though the bandits know they’re coming. While they’re deciding how best to do this, they hear a fight break out in the room, and footsteps pounding away!

Fedwig readies himself by turning invisible. Rushing into the room beyond, they find a small storeroom. At the back of the room is a tunnel leading up and a pedestal with smashed glass at the bottom. A bandit lies slumped against the pedestal, desperately trying to hold his insides in!
The party charges in! Lumpy shapeshifts into the form of a wolf. Russell puts the dying bandit out of its misery, and the party summarily dispatches two of the three other bandits. The last one is hamstrung by Lumpy and the party questions him. Brand is able to get some information out of the bandit (he found a treasure in the room, and he desperately wants to keep it) and the party promises to let him live, but Russell ends up killing him anyway! Russell also ends up killing the friendly poisonous beetle for threatening to touch the stone.

The party investigates the treasure the bandit found, which is a curious stone. Russell touches it and it promises him power… but he has to kill Fedwig! He declines and drops the stone. The stone is carefully stowed away in a bag for safekeeping.

Following the tunnel further, the adventurers find that it empties out into the Evermoors.

Deciding that was enough excitement for one day, the party decides to make camp in the tunnel leading out.

Places:

  • Kindlewood (now known as Nevermore), a formerly-wealthy town located on a trade route near the Evermoors. Used to boast a lovely tavern and a stone mage tower. Former home of Brand and Lumpy
  • Nevermore, a ruined town that was burnt to the ground during a horrific bandit attack. Has a large burnt and blackened stump of a great tree near the edge of town. Surrounding the ruined town are farmlands
  • The merchant’s basement, a curiously fortified basement that survived the burning of the building above and held quite a few mysteries and unanswered questions in its depths

Notable NPCs:

  • The friendly poisonous beetle, friend of Lumpy
  • Wealthy merchant, used to have a home in Kindlewood. The party believes that the merchant had been creating poisons in his basement and selling them to the bandits

Previous Post: Session #1 – Character Creation
Next Post: Session #3 – The Lake

Dungeon World – Session #1

Session #1 : Character Creation

 

Russell of Clan Crow – dwarf, fighter
Borin Ironbottom – dwarf, cleric
Lumpy – halfling, druid
Fedwig the Humble – human, wizard
Brand Artrisfea – human, immolator
Red – human, thief

 

Lumpy is a halfling druid with messy hair and sleepy eyes. He dresses his short and chubby frame in practical leathers and has a youthful look. But his most distinguishing features are a black bandit mask marking on his face and a fluffy raccoon tail!
Lumpy made his home in a town called Kindlewood. He lived in a big tree on the edge of the town. An angry squirrel also lived in the big tree and would throw acorns at Lumpy’s head.
During a large bandit raid on Kindlewood, Lumpy was knocked unconscious and kidnapped. The party rescued him, but unfortunately his treehouse was burned to the ground (along with the rest of the town).
Lumpy now wears an acorn from his old tree around his neck.
At some point before the bandits attacked Lumpy had captured the angry squirrel.
Lumpy has shown Fedwig a secret rite of the land.
The spirits have told Lumpy that Brand has a great danger following him.

 

Fedwig the Humble, self-named for his humble beginnings, is a sharp-eyed human wizard. He drapes his tall, thin frame in worn robes. Being a wizard, he completes his look with a pointed hat.
Fedwig was born into a farming family that lives on the outskirts of Kindlewood. His family is very large, so they were happy to send him off to be apprenticed to a magician when he showed magical talent.
Fedwig’s mentor was Professor Hedrick who lived in a stone tower in Kindlewood. The apprenticeship only lasted about 6 months (during which Fedwig grew resentful of his teacher for only showing him the “basics” of magic) before his teacher threw him out.
Fedwig tried to go home after being kicked out of his apprenticeship, but his family refused to take him back saying they didn’t need another mouth to feed and they already gave away his room.
Kindlewood was Fedwig’s first stop after being denied by his family, and he met Borin and Russell at the bar there.
Fedwig likes hanging out with Borin and Russell because they tolerate him and are the only ones who haven’t tossed him out.
Fedwig believes Borin is destined for great things because of his bearing and confidence.
Fedwig learned to make friends by engaging in studious conversation.
During the battle in Kindlewood, the bandits tried to take Fedwig’s mentor’s tower. They got inside but then the tower exploded from within. Fedwig believes the bandits made off with something valuable from the tower.

 

Russell of Clan Crow is a scarred, battle-hardened dwarven fighter with hard eyes and shorn hair. His ravaged body is armored with scale mail and he carries a shield and a huge, ancient dwarven sword.
Russell is from the Clan of Crow, a nomadic dwarven clan that believes in trial by combat, and seeking honor and glory.
Because of these values, and his love for beer, when Russell and Borin met in a bar they became fast friends.
Russell was once in one-on-one combat with a giant. He won by rocketing himself off a rock into the giant’s groin, then pile-driving him into the rock. This fight left Russell with a scar through his beard – the one scar that urks him slightly, as he carries all his other scars with pride.
Russell has a healthy respect for giants, but wants to fight them all because of this.
Russell also bears a scar from Brand. They dueled in Kindlewood before the bandit attack and Russell was burned by Brand’s flaming whip.
After meeting Fedwig, Russell thinks the wizard is soft and that he needs to toughen him up.

 

Borin Ironbottom is a dwarven cleric with sharp eyes, a flowing black beard and wild locks. He dresses in flowing robes over his flabby frame. He carries a token of his deity, a silver tankard that always seems to be full.
Borin wasn’t always a cleric of Hoptimus the Thirsty, though…
Borin found his wife cheating on him with a member of the Copperchest Clan – Bjorn. He and his wife separated after this (she threw him out of the house) so Borin went from bar to bar on a bit of a bender.
In one such bar, Borin met a dwarf who told him about Hoptimus.
Borin now travels from bar to bar to spread the word of Hoptimus, and he met Russell this way.
Borin also met Fedwig in a bar in Kindlewood and wants to convert the wizard to his religion.
When Borin met Brand however, the immolator insulted Hoptimus, and now Borin finds it hard to trust Brand.

 

Brand Artrisfea is an immolator, skilled in the ways of fire manipulation. With smoldering eyes, perfect skin, barely-hidden rage, and whispering voice, Brand is a lean male of medium height but a smaller build. His passions are what keep his inner fire burning brightly and permits him to endure the harshest of conditions. His appearance is of a handsome, eccentric (but rather effeminate) finely dressed young man with long black hair almost always in a tight pony tail. Sharp features coupled with dark eyes give him an aggressive appearance. Always carrying a sketchbook, constantly searching for new, inspiring things to fuel his artistic passions… so he can burn them!
Brand always wears a red scarf with burnt ends, a memento of his mother (who was also an immolator and very beautiful).
Brand was raised by his uncle in Kindlewood.
When the bandits attacked, Brand sacrificed Lumpy’s treehouse to the fire, using the flames to scare off a group of the bandits.
Also during the battle, a mysterious talking squirrel found Brand and told him of Lumpy’s kidnapping, pointing the party in the right direction to rescue the halfling.
Brand thinks that Fedwig needs to learn the meaning of sacrifice – he relies too much on material things. (Also, he’s jealous of how smart Fedwig is!)

 

Red is a lithe, svelte-built thief with blue eyes and close-cropped red/brown hair. One of his most prominent features is his bright red goatee. He dresses in darker colors, fluctuating between cleanly pressed or rumpled to match the area.
Red was in Kindlewood because he got a tip about a potential score in the form of an opportunistically empty house used by a merchant.
Unfortunately for Red, the bandits had made that empty house their headquarters for their planned attack against Kindlewood.
During the fight, Red was taking advantage of the chaos to kill off bandits and steal their stuff!
Red saw the bandits making off with Lumpy and met the party along the road to rescue him.

 

Places:

  • Kindlewood (now known as Nevermore), a formerly-wealthy town located on a trade route near the Evermoors. Used to boast a lovely tavern and a stone mage tower. Former home of Brand and Lumpy
  • Nevermore, a ruined town that was burnt to the ground during a horrific bandit attack. Has a large burnt and blackened stump of a great tree near the edge of town. Surrounding the ruined town are farmlands
  • The Lonely Maiden, formerly a cozy tavern within Kindlewood, now a burnt ruin. Russell and Borin met Fedwig here
  • Hedrick’s Tower, the stone tower home of the mage Hedrick (also Fedwig’s place of apprenticeship) was blasted apart by unknown forces during the bandit attack in Kindlewood
  • Fedwig’s Family Home, a farm on the outskirts of Kindlewood, situated along a road that runs southwest
  • The Evermoors, a stretch of swampland to the North-Northeast of the ruined Kindlewood

 

Notable NPCs:

  • The talking squirrel, friend of Lumpy
  • Professor Hedrick, Fedwig’s former mentor
  • Clan of Crow, Russell’s nomadic dwarven clan
  • Ironbottom Clan, Borin’s dwarven clan
  • Hoptimus the Thirsty, dwarven deity whose worshipers include Borin Ironbottom
  • Copperchest Clan, a rival to the Ironbottom Clan
  • Bjorn Copperchest, lover to Borin’s former wife
  • Ms. Ironbottom, Borin’s former wife
  • Ms. Artrisfea, Brand’s mother
  • Uncle Artrisfea, Brand’s uncle who raised him
  • Wealthy merchant, used to have a home in Kindlewood

 

Previous Post: Dungeon World – Introduction
Next Post: Session #2 – Kindlewood is Nevermore

 

Dungeon World – Introduction

Recently I have started up an online tabletop group as the Game Master (GM). We are using a system new to me called Dungeon World.
I read about this system in an article online and was so impressed with the flavor of game play that I ordered the book on Amazon. I’ve since read it cover to cover, and kept being more and more impressed by their ideals.

 

The biggest draw for me about Dungeon World is that everything is couched in terms of the shared fiction being woven by both the GM and the players. There is less emphasis put on number crunching and static skills and abilities and more emphasis put into the story.
“Play to find out what happens” is a big motto in Dungeon World, and I love it. I love the idea of exploring the story together and giving the players control over the outcome.
Dungeon World is not a system where you play out a set story line with the players as characters within it. It is a world in motion and the players choose where, when, and how they change the story. Continue reading

What Draws Me to a Video Game? — Final Thoughts

(See my intro here for the first part of this series!)

Final Thoughts

So here we are at the final thoughts section of this multi-part blog adventure.

I examined a bunch of different aspects of video gaming and thought hard about what I wanted to experience within the game.

But what do all these different answers to all these varied, different questions really mean? What’s the big picture? Continue reading

Insomnia

It’s night
and it’s dark
and I’m all alone
until suddenly a noise
has me wishing for the loneliness again.

Peace is elusive
the tag of my t-shirt itches my back
and every fluff on the blanket is suddenly spiders
crawling all over my skin and I have to turn the light on and check.

Back in bed
fighting for comfort
fighting for warmth
and, hell, acceptance and love
and just, please, five hours of sleep
if I fall asleep right now I can get five hours of sleep.

As if rational thought has any place here.

Clear your mind
close your eyes
try to count sheep
but they’re not sheep
they’re fears and worries and “what ifs”
until tomorrow looks so bleak you almost can’t stand it anymore
but if I fall asleep right now I can get four hours of sleep
please, I’ll take four, that’s why they invented makeup, right?

As if hopeful thought has any place here.

Flip the pillow
as if flipping it changes it
I flip myself all the time and it changes nothing
then fluff it, push it back into the shape of a pillow
as if once it’s pulled apart it can ever be the same again
this side is wet, too
my tears from earlier haven’t even dried
but why not because this night has been so long
and if I just fall asleep right now I can get three hours of sleep.

As if wishful thought has any place here.

It’s starting to get light
but my eyes still hurt from staring into the darkness
trying to find the meaning
trying to find the purpose
trying to find myself again
we all lose our way but was I even on the path?
and if I just fall asleep right now I can get two hours of sleep.

Is it even worth it?

As if introspective thought has any place here.

Fuck it
get up, get a shower
get some caffeine
leave plenty of time to paint on the face
that is the silent, elaborate lie you tell everyday
but, maybe, if I fall asleep right now I could get just one hour of sleep…

As if any thought has any place here.