Office Humor – Technology Support Model

A universal model for technology support 

A friend and I were talking at work about how we need to have one model for support for tools and stuff.  That got me thinking about how generic support has become.  Back “in the day” we used to do a lot more pure troubleshooting – using your general knowledge and instincts to resolve problems.  In recent years in the industry there is a push to make support a commodity…making the experience the same for everyone trumped good old fashioned “stand back and let me work my fucking magic.”  Scripts with procedural steps that drive you insane are turning good techs into guys and gals that read scripts.

Don’t feed me that bull about, “this makes for a consistent experience.”  This is actually about moving support to low-cost locations.  It also sucks from a customer satisfaction perspective.  Have you ever called for support on something like your internet connectivity at home?  All of us reboot the modem before we call, we know that’s a step.  But when you get Comcast (in some exotic land) on the call, they tell you to do it.  “I already did – move to the next step.”  “I am sorry sir – I am required to make you do it.”  Sidebar:  I lie to them, tell them that I am rebo0ting – just because I can and hate the idiocy of the process.

So, I started thinking about the most generic support model every tech support can use. This is draft and aimed at making you smile – especially my friends in support.  Enjoy the image above!


Review of Dystopia Rising RPG


I want – desperately desire, a good post-apocalypse RPG.  I liked Degenesis and the old Gamma World (I’m talking VERY old Gamma World – first edition).  Mutant Year Zero was okay – but too rigid of a universe for me.  So I picked up Dystopia Rising.  It promised me a wasteland filled with zombies and zombie-offspring.  There are times that is appealing.

Apparently this is the tabletop version of a live-action game – which doesn’t really matter but it does make Googling reference material a bit challenging and sometimes confusing.  I picked this up for $24.99 off of and at first, I have to admit, I cringed.

It is done in Courier font – which is designed to look like you did it on a typewriter.  Why?  I have no idea.  I will say that reading it after a while is a chore.  Strike one.  Strike two, some of the artwork is, well, very Napoleon Dynamite-ish in quality.  That’s not a compliment.  Look, if I am shelling out $25, I want some sizzle.  I’m not saying I could do better, but I am also not an artist.

I have to admit – at first glance, it was looking grim.  Then I got into the rules.  I mentally erased the first two strikes.  This is a solid RPG with a pretty slick system.  When you generate a character, you pick a strain – which is kind of like a mix of character class, genetic makeup, and a clan.  The key is that these strains really give you some solid role playing aspects to work with.  Some don’t seem to make a lot of sense as a strain, but the advantages and disadvantages makes your strain selection critical to your characters survival.

Next comes your building blocks – or your attributes.  Agility, Appearance, Brawn, Endurance, Knowledge, Luck, and Wiles.  These work alone or in tandem to determine things like your health, defense, etc.  You need to really be careful in character creation to get the right balance.  Then comes skills – which is straight forward.  Next are advancement and detriments which are both pluses and minuses for your character.  Oddly, near the middle of the book are the Faiths or what your character believes in.  Think of these as churches – but some are more political than religious.

The game has psionics too. Yeah, it’s a little bit like magic, but what the hell.

The rules are remarkably well written.  I don’t mean that to be a shock, but once you get past the artwork and the font choices, I was surprised.

Combat is solid in this RPG, a mix of cards and dice which oddly works well for me.  But what makes this game purr is the mass combat system.  There are zombies here.  Fat ones, skinny fast ones.  Zombies in this game are hoard/pack creatures.  You don’t have to manage hit points on 20+ zombies in the game.  The mass combat system makes this happen smoothly and effectively, allowing GM’s and players to focus on role playing rather than complex hoard management.

I find myself liking this game system despite the poor presentation.

I give Dystopia Rising four out of five stars.  If you want to mow down packs of zombies – this could be a good game for you to pick up.

Book Review: Indefensible: The Missing Truth about Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach, and Making a Murderer by Michael Griesbach


I was seduced into reading this book, not because I had watched the Netflix Documentary (if that’s what it can be called) but by the hope to cut through some of the hype and get to facts.  Michael Griesbach’s book does that – though it takes a long road to get there.

As a true crime author I carefully watched the chatter/buzz about the Making of a Murderer documentary.  What I took note of was the gross omissions that many claimed the producers made.  In fairness, I’ve only seen snippets of the documentary myself.  I wanted to know the truth about the crime without having to binge-watch the documentary.  I wanted the truth.

Mr. Griesbach gets us there.  The first few chapters tell us why he wrote the book and his role in the prosecutor’s office.  It was okay, but dragged.  I found myself chomping at the bit to get to the details of the crime.

When I finally got there, I got the book I purchased…it delivered.  I have seen some professional debunking in true crime before, (Gerald Posner’s JFK book Case Closed as well as Vince Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History).  This book isn’t on par with those epics, but does a stalwart job of tearing apart the documentary with the skill that only a professional prosecutor could.

The author did a masterful job of picking apart even the background story of Mr. Avery as presented in the films.  The entire incident of the cat being set on fire, which I found online, was presented in almost a “boys having fun,” manner when in reality, it was pure, vicious animal cruelty.

I’m not getting into his guilt or innocence and the book does a good job of not laying that framework – only dismantling of the “evidence” presented in the documentary.

With a slow start – I give this book four out of five stars.  My only words of caution: I think you’ll enjoy it more if you have watched the documentary.

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 4



They all mocked me for prying off that demon skull from the ogre’s club and putting it in my knapsack. They don’t understand – not at all.  I have struck a bargain with the Old Ones, one that compels me to search for the darker truths in the world.  How often do you get a chance to study such a rare object?  Who knows what secrets it might eventually reveal?  Sure the eyes glow red and I hear voices occasionally – but is that too much of a price for knowledge?  I am a seeker of dark truths, albeit the shadowed side of magic.

I didn’t sleep that night after we defeated the ogre.  My wounds ached – yes, but it was the black and crimson nightmares that kept me tossing all night long.  I cannot remember their details now, but I do remember jolting myself awake all night.  Bor commented that it was the demon skull I had next to me but what does he know of these matters?  I doubt it.  It had to be just the feeling of coming out of battle.

We rode north on the trail through the Fields until we spied a large hill or mound off to the northeast.  Something wasn’t right about that hill, it had a shimmer of white coming from it in places.   There was growth, but it did not look like grass – only spots of green.  I could tell immediately that this was no ordinary hillside.

As we got closer we went off the trial to investigate.  I was at the ready, as always.  In a place like the Gellesian Fields the wild dark magic is all around you – it is merely a matter of tapping and controlling it.  We saw that the hill was covered with bones.  Not ordinary bones – a mix of creatures I have never seen.  Theren pointed out the skulls of several dragons on the massive hill, most of their teeth were missing, but I also saw several fractured scales of dragon hide.  You could see arrow and spear points stuck in some of the bleached white bones that rose up covering the natural hill.  Someone had clearly piled these remains from the battle here as a memorial – or as a warning.

I reigned in my pony Phillipe’ as we got near the base.  Among the thick growth of vines that wove their way up the mound of death – we saw statues.  Most were broken, toppled over years ago.  None looked like statues we had seen before of proud warriors or clerics.  These were in strange poses, ones of stark fear.  Not a single one showed signs of a pedestal.  There were humans, elves, dwarves – quite a broken menagerie – many showing signs of wear and breakage.

Where I was wary, Galinndan was not.  The rogue said that he was going to check out the statues while the rest of us stayed some distance back.  We appreciated his skills and his willingness to put his life at risk to scout for us – though I wonder if he had really thought that through.  Even Bor commented, “I’m not so sure that is a good idea.”  Galinndan ignored him – and a few minutes later, wished he hadn’t.

“Well?  What do you see?” Arius called out.

“None of these statues have bases – no names.  They all look terrified.”  Galinndan called back.

“That can’t be good,” Bor said in solemn tone.  Theren nodded in agreement.  “If those are dragon skulls, there are spell components I can gather there that will be worth a fortune.”

“We are not here for that,” Arius replied.  The paladin could be dour at times. Me, I saw possible spell components too.  That druid and I were going to be on a mad scramble – it was only a matter of time – or so I thought.

From where we were, some 40 feet away, we could see a rustling in the brush at the base of the hill. Something was moving.  We couldn’t tell what they were – all we could see was Galinndan running back at us at as full sprint.  “Arghh!” he wailed as something struck him from behind.

They came into view, a mix of chickens, bat and lizard.  “What are they?” Bor asked.

“Cockatrices!” Theren replied, readying his bow.

“Shit!” spat back Bor.

“What is a cockatrice?” Galinndan asked as he spun, swinging his sword, cutting into one of the creatures.

“You don’t want to know, Arius replied.  “Don’t let it bite or scratch you!” he said, burying his own blade into one of the monstrosities.  The cockatrice wailed out a most insidious sound, a bird-like squeal with a deep hiss like a giant snake.  It is a sound I wish I had never heard nor will I forget.  My heart pounded in my ears as they were upon us.

“Too late,” Galinndan wailed as one of the feathered monstrosities tore into him.

“Smite these beasts!” Arius bellowed.  If Galinndan was about to be petrified, there was little any of us could do anyway.  Kill the creatures first, then see if anyone was stoned.

I knew of these beasts well from my studies arcane.  Their wounds could turn you to stone.  And these were black-streaked cockatrices, you could see that in their feathers.  Their bite could turn you permanently into rock.  I reached for my weapon as the bird-like creatures hit us with full fury.

One half-flew, half-lunged at me but I reeled Phillipe’ my pony – who bore the brunt of the vicious bite.  My poor pet stiffened under me as the vile creature’s magic took hold.  Phillipe’ became a statue under me, cold, lifeless, frozen forever in agony.

I swept my own weapon into action, but the cockatrice was on me in less than a heartbeat.  Its beak tore into my left thigh and the pain was stunning – followed by a chilling cold sensation.  I stabbed at the creature, driving it back – then hitting it with a burst of eldritch energy, making the creature explode with blood and feathers.

My comrades dispatched the other two monsters as I groped to my own injuries.  A good chuck of my thigh was gray, stone-skin!  I could not feel my hands as I touched it.  The magic had started to petrify me, only to stop.  As I climbed off my stony-steed, I landed with a limp.  My half-stone thigh hindered my movement.  I was cursed with the knowledge that stone-skin was permanent in most cases, unless a proper healer could be found.  Such remedies were rare, costly, and involved the church which was adverse to healing warlocks like me.

“Am I going to get petrified?” Galinndan asked.

Arius looked at the wound on his back.  “Nay.  Not today.” Those were hardly reassuring words.  We were in the middle of a haunted battlefield where powerful magic had been unleashed.  Perhaps his words were wisely chosen.

“Are you okay?” Theren asked me.  He must have been able to read the concern in my face.

“I fear not,” I replied.  “This will take getting used to.”  My comrades looked at the gray patch of my thigh, most shaking their heads.

“At least it is not spreading,” the druid replied, trying to shed good light on my concerns.  I appreciated the words, even if they did not alleviate my worries.  How does one fight with a partial stone leg?

At least I had not ended up like poor little Phillipe’…not yet anyway.


Thus ended our first four hour session.  I hope you enjoyed this “novelization” of the party thus far.  Here are the previous episodes in case you missed them.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Player Background for Characters

The Campaign World (for Players)

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 3


Theren Meliamne…

We arrived at the entrance of the Gellisian Fields and it seemed smaller to me than whey I saw it as a child.  The great stone arch bore the names of the gallant warriors that had fought there, with marker stones every mile along the border of the lands where the War Against the Black Banner ended.  We paused for a moment to drink in their names and remember the stories we had been told of this great battlefield.  It stretched for leagues in every direction and the road cut through the heart of it. Penetrating the battlefield was not likely to be an easy trip.

There was an eerie calm over the rolling hills and copses of trees that dotted the landscape.  It was as if nature itself were attempting to suppress the horrors and atrocities that took place on that soil.  That was something I understood all too well as a druid.  Nature abhors pain and anguish and will always soothe such suffering.  It is the way of the loam of the world, to heal.  Even as we passed under the arch I could smell the torment of the land in the air.  It was almost a coppery taste in the back of my mouth.

We were now beyond the lands any of us have explored in our youth.  All of us had talked of adventure, of seeing the world, and now we were thrust in it.  I could not help but wonder what we could do against someone daring and defiant enough to attack a Gray Rider?  Having heard the stories of the tormented ghosts that still are chained to these lands, I wondered what kind of thief would use the Fields as a home or base?  This is not a foe to take lightly.  How would we ever find them?

We sent our rogue Galinndan to take point as we moved north on the road.  With the trees growing along both sides of the path and the rise and fall of the land, our concern was the same kind of ambush that had led to the Gray Rider’s demise.  Near the end of the first day’s march we were stunned to see Galinndan running south on the road, right at us.

Lumbering behind him was a mountain of flesh and death.  I had never seen an ogre before but this one fit the image my nightmares had of such creatures.  It carried a shield that was made of four other shields, no doubt scavenged battle relics – a hodge-podge of hide, wood, brass and iron, cobbled together crudely.

Its armor was the same – bits of chainmail, leather, doeskin, ork-hide, all haphazardly draped over its thick tree-like muscles.  We could not see the creature’s face, it was adorned with an old iron cooking pot that had been made into a disfigured helmet – with lop-sided eye-holes bore through the iron. “Pot head,” that was what I thought when I saw him.

It swung a massive club of crude oak, adorned with a gnarled white skull with glowing crimson eyes.  The skull of a demon, no doubt dug up from some grave.  It nearly clipped Galinndan as he scampered towards us, fear filling his eyes.  The glowing eye sockets made one think of death and doom.

We attacked…what else could we do?  Though things went wrong almost immediately.  Arius summoned his searing smite and his blade burst into crimson holy fire.  “Face the wrath of the one god!” he spat as he swung the blade with all of his might.  The Ogre actually grinned as the blade missed by a good four inches, impaling itself into Bor Boskin’s chest.  Our gallant fighter burst into flames – intended for the ogre, flying back two feet before collapsing unconscious form Arius’s fumbled assault.  Galinndan swung to the flank of the creature and stabbed at it as I poured on arrows and curses at the creature.  Arius’s second stab did draw blood from the beast, but also drew its attention.  Althalus’s eldrich magic sent emerald bolts of energy into the chest of the ogre.  While the smoking holes in its cobbled armor were testimony of the hits, it only grinned at the warlock, as if taunting him.

I lowered my bow and did summoned the powers of the earth and plants around me to stop the flames on Bor and save him before he passed the veil of death.  The flames went out and he stirred.  I distinctly heard him ask, “Is that bacon I smell…or chicken?” not realizing that it was his own flesh, broiled by our paladin’s holy fire.  He staggered to his feet, realizing the ogre was still a deadly threat, feebly stabbing at the creature but only serving to irritate it further.

The ogre drew back its massive skull-encrusted club and swung it at Arius, crushing his chest and sending his body flying back, shimmering a most unholy crimson from the creature’s weapon.  Althalus moved to tend to the paladin’s injuries – something that would have been ironic if they were not such close friends – a warlock helping a holy warrior.

The pot-headed ogre saw the warlock and wanted a bit of revenge for the eldritch blast, so it swung the skull-club, doing a devastating amount of damage.  For a moment, if only a moment, it appeared we were doomed.  Most of our party was either unconscious, smoldering, or wetting itself from fear (just a little – I admit it.  I’m not proud of it, but you would have peed a little too at the sight of this creature.)

Galinndan stabbed him from behind – it was his way.  Finally, the massive creature, riddled with arrows, staggered and dropped, coming just shy of crushing some of my fallen comrades.  We were so badly mauled by the melee we got off of the trail and did what we could to heal and recover.

Arius, when he awoke, went to the body and found a large green and red gem of considerable value.  Althalus became obsessed with the club.  “Perhaps we could strap it to Phillipe’, our last pony.  But the club was too large for the pony to haul.  Althalus, always looking for some scrap or bit of magic, used his dagger to pry off the demon skull that was ebbed on the club.  He stuffed it in his pack, despite the fact we all gave him a wary look.  Bor cocked his eyebrow at what the warlock was doing.  “Are you sure that is wise?”

Althalus grinned.  “I am sure this is worth something…”  He seemed to be ignoring the fact that the eye sockets still had a bit of crimson glow to them.

This was not going to end well – I was sure of it.

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 2



We set out from WhiteRock with 15 silver pieces each in our pockets courtesy of the coffers of the good citizens. I guess that is what they consider our lives worth.  I did take careful note of where my friends put their silver.  Some of that was force of habit.  The rest is me watching in case I have to take an “unapproved loan” at some point. What the party doesn’t know won’t hurt them.

We tried to convince the livery owner to loan us his two horses, but he was not interested in loaning them – only selling them.  I could have stolen them – I am a Guild Thief by trade, but common sense comes into play.  Guild Rule #12:  You don’t rob your own roost.

We set out for the Gellesian Fields with two of us riding ponies and the others on foot.  I’d been to the Fields in my youth, we all had.  Fathers take their sons there as a rite of passage, to tell the tales of the glorious battles fought there.  I wasn’t that impressed when I made the journey.  I was not a fighter nor did I want to be one.  I preferred to make my money the old-fashioned way, taking it from the rich.

Our second night on the road there were some noises off to the west.  With the rolling hills they were hard to make out, so I woke the others to join me.   Bor couldn’t see in the black of night so Althalus tried to summon an illusionary torch for him to carry.  I like to think his heart is in the right place.  It was, of course, pure folly, a classic Althalus stunt.  There are times I wonder if that warlock does things like that just to make me laugh or is he serious?

We never did find out what the sounds were coming from.  In the end we opted to depart.  This suited me just fine – as I have said many times, I am not a fighter.  I’m in this for the money (after the Guild takes its 20%).  Guild Rule #1:  The Guild always gets its cut – even from the dead.

Midday on the third day on the road north, we came across eight copper coins, two of which were stained with dried blood.  They were on the road and off to the east.  Copper coins, hardly worth picking them up from my perspective.  We moved out and by evening found the remains of some human-like creatures, flayed, in a heap at the bottom of a small valley.  The stink of decaying flesh made my eyes water.  Flies swarmed around the remains in sickening gray

clouds.  Whatever had happened to these wretched souls had happened days earlier.  To me, it looked as if they had been flayed – not just murdered.  I was all for checking the bodies, (Guild Rule #46  The dead have no use for gold,) but night was coming and the thought was that we would come back in the morning. No one was keen on being down with the dead when night came.

Our plan was changed on the fifth watch – my watch.  It began with voices on the night breeze.  I couldn’t make out what they said, but they were murmurs in the darkness, barely discernible as language.  Then came the reflections of light coming from where the rotting carcass’s lay.

I woke up Theren and the others and he and I agreed to scout out the source of the sounds.  We crept forward in the tall cool grass, wet with dew.  I reached the crest of the hill and slowly lifted my head for a better view.  I came up face-to-face with a goblin.  “Ahh-reee!” it squealed, stabbing at my arm with its dagger.  My armor deflected it, my bladder released a bit, and the battle was on.

I’ve never face goblins before.  They were spry, nimble, angry little buggers.  Arrows filled the air along with javelins, mostly aimed at Theren and me.  I got hit twice – enough to convince me to start to fall back and to bleed profusely (I didn’t really have to be convinced of that part).  As I thinned my blood supply, Theren turned and had a gob-javelin sticking out of his left shoulder, still in the fight.  Poor Bor, he rushed to the crest, pulled out his throwing ax, let it fly – only to have it skid in the sod right at one of the goblin’s feet.  Althalus conjured his accursed eldritch blast on two of the creatures, making one’s head explode in a sickening red-green mist.  Arius’s enchanted blade lit with eerie holy fire and he set one of the creatures ablaze with his magic.  Five of the creatures fell before the others fled into the night.  We toyed with the idea of pursuit – but it seemed foolish.  I don’t know much about goblins, but I feared they might be luring us back to a larger camp.

The next day we awoke to find one of our ponies, Pedro, was gone.  The goblin footprints near his cut reins was as infuriating as the fact it happened on my watch.  Mine!  I am the expert in stealthy movements – and one of those creatures got the best of me.  I hate to think about what they might do with that pony – or what they could have done to us. I found solace in the Guild Rules, #210 Revenge is a right that can be delivered at the most inconvenient time.   That goblin would pay – just not that night.

Theren and Althalus checked out the dead both from our battle and those bodies left there.  The only thing out of the ordinary was the goblins…they were a rough cloth tunic with the letter “L” on it, far too ornate for goblins.  Was this a sign of their tribe or something else?  Was I the only one that wondered what goblins were doing in this region?  The road to the Fields was safe when I was a child.  This was not safe – not at all.  What were goblins doing this far south?

To the Gellesian Fields – Part 1 of My New D&D Campaign


So, just to keep my creative juices flowing, I am going to chronicle the campaign out as we go, switching between the player characters perspectives as I do so.  Here’s part one.  Feel free to follow my blog for the rest.

Sidebar:  I did not want to kick this off in an Inn.  That is SO cliché I just had to avoid it for the adventure hook.

Kick back and enjoy this first tid-bit.

Sir Arius The Seeker…

Our story did not begin in a tavern or inn as so many other great stories and legends do.  It began with the sound of WhiteRock’s temple bell tolling.  It usually only tolled for services or for celebrations.  This…this was a bell of warning – rapid, shattering the calm.  Something was wrong.

Being the best and the brightest in the village, we knew we had to answer the call.  The locals had already overblown the “Great” Owlbear incident at the mine, weaving it into some sort of epic battle.  For a bunch of a farmers it must have seemed that way.  We certainly didn’t stop the growth of the story over time – it was always good for another round of mead.  If the locals want to think of us as heroes – so be it.  As a holy warrior, I do not claim victories that are not mine – and it was my blade that finished the beast.  If the retelling by others makes out the beast to be twice the size as it was, it is not my place to humiliate the liars.  The One God will do that.

We arrived at the village square to see a magnificent steed of white…a horse of a Gray Rider!  Dark maroon blood splatters showed on its ivory main.  The burgomaster saw us and cut through the gathering crowed.  The pudgy man was clearly shaken.  “I’m glad you’re here.  A Gray Rider has come.  Follow me!”

Gray Riders came every now and then, usually passing through.  There was an urgency in the burgomaster’s voice that told us that something was wrong.  The crowed parted as he led us to the Temple of the One . I crossed myself as we entered – it was the way of my Order – a member of the Invisible Ones, for me, almost a reflex.  I saw Theren and Althalus cringe a little bit as they entered.  Althalus liked to joke, “I haven’t been hit by lightning yet when I enter the Temple.”  It wasn’t as funny as one might think.  He had made a pact with the Old Ones and for that I could not forgive him.  He rarely spoke of it, but we all knew that at one point it would consume him if I was not forced to kill the warlock first.  Theren had his own reasons for not wanting to go in…Druids and the Church had been at war for decades.

The air in the altar stung of incense and a whiff of rotting flesh. The Gray Rider was laid out on the altar.  His right arm was severed mid-forearm and corruption had set in.  You could smell the rotting flesh in the air.  Whatever had taken the arm had not done so cleanly.  Black and gray skin was seared and peeled back under the swelling.  The rider was wet with sweat and dust from the road, his breathing ragged.  The priest shook his head.  “I have tried to heal him but it will not take.  Whatever burns in his blood is beyond me.” I have seen death before, and it was stalking this rider.

Who would dare attack a Gray Rider though?  That was an act that was akin to high treason.  Either it was a fool or someone with a darker purpose.

Theren stepped forward to help but the priest stepped between him and the injured rider. “I’ll have none of your heathen ways in this temple.  Save your herbs and weeds and wild magic for someone else.”  Theren glared at him but stepped back.  Today was not the day or the place to setting the disputes between the Druids and the Church.

The rider’s breath was strained.  “I was ambushed in the Gellesian Fields…” he said as more of a sigh than anything else.  “They got my pouch – and most of my arm with it.”  There was a cough and a hint of crimson on his lips

“Who got you?” Bor probed.

“A woman – a bandit,” he managed.  For a moment he seemed to slip to unconsciousness – only to fight his way back to the land of the living.  “A message…for Lord Sklaver….important he get it.”

His eyelids fluttered as he fought to form the words.  “You must recover it.  Complete my ride-” then he exhaled, and a death rattle came with his last breath.  All that filled the air around him was the smell of rot from his horrific arm wound.  For a moment, there was silence, shattered with the wail of his ride in the court yard.  Legends speak of the bond of Gray Riders and their mounts.  Clearly the magnificent mount knew that his bonded partner had died.

Paladins of my blood take such requests, from the death bed, as seriously as holy quests.  I looked to the others and saw that feeling of dread they shared.  Althalus looked at me dead in the eyes and muttered, “We’re screwed.”

I wanted to strike him for speaking with such disrespect in the temple but the wily warlock had only spoken what we all were thinking.