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Cooking with Dungeons & Dragons

We’ve started a new D&D campaign at home. I’m not the GM this time, which frees me up to do lots of other projects and just play along.

Last week I looked on my bookshelf and realized I still had a nicely worn copy of Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home, a this-and-that miscellaneous guide to the D&D world of Dragonlance. The book contains music, short stories, poetry, and — critically — recipes, in a chapter called “Tika’s Cookbook.” I recall that when I was younger, all but the simplest recipes were dismissed as too tricky for a preteen to cook. There were a lot in there that I hadn’t tried. Now that I’m fully grown, have my own kitchen, and I’m having people over once a month for D&D… why not give this stuff a shot?

Hence, my new miniature project: cooking my way slowly through the recipes from The Last Home. (And the other books like it, if I can find them.) So here is a journey through “wow, is this book really more than 20 years old?”

This week for the D&D group I cooked:

Fizban’s Fireball Chili

If you think about it at all, Fizban is the worst sort of D&D character. He’s “the GM’s NPC,” a character who is both simultaneously all-powerful and can do anything, but also hilariously bumbling, so he gets himself into scrapes just so the PCs have to do something about it, but it’s actually clear he could have handled it himself all along if he’d felt like it because he’s basically god. Sorry, spoilers.

The chili named after him is supposed to taste like a fireball.

The dish actually isn’t complex; it merely takes time. Get a bunch of stew meat, dump a list of spicy ingredients on the meat, and marinade for about two days. Then stew. It kind of looks like a big red pot of Hell at first.

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I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, because it calls for an entire jar of Tabasco for every pound of meat. I was tripling the recipe, and only scared up two jars of Tabasco. I substituted the rest with Frank’s Red Hot and also added about a tablespoon of chili powder instead of just paprika. Later, I realized I also had some fresh jalapeño and half a yellow onion sitting around. The original recipe had no vegetables in it, but onions and peppers are great in chili so in they went.

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After marinating it looked appetizing. After stewing it basically disintegrated, so it didn’t look as attractive, but it was very good. It was, however, a bit too hot for some guests (hubby and I thought it was just right, but we’re used to Indian food). The suggested serving is to put it on flatbread with a bit of sour cream and this turned out quite well.

Still, since I made some changes, I didn’t quite exactly make Fizban’s Fireball Chili. Oh well, I made a tasty thing. Fizban is a dumb character anyway.

I also made

(Kender) Kiffles

This is a type of fruit-filled cookie that is actually more like a miniature hand-pie. I’m not reproducing any recipes for copyright reasons, but, if you can get your hands on the book these are a high recommend. The basic step is to make a pie dough, then fill it with fruit jelly. I chose apricot and blackberry and both were terrific. I think the recipe would even work with other pie fillings like lemon curd or chocolate pudding.

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A couple warnings about the recipe – it says to refrigerate the dough “2 hours or overnight.” I went with overnight and found it really hard to work the next day. I understand the point of chilling a butter-based dough, but maybe the two hours is just fine. Or leave it out on the counter for an hour or so before trying to work it. It’s super stiff and hard to roll out when very cold.

The recipe says it makes five dozen cookies, but either that’s a typo, or the original authors rolled these out much thinner than I did. I was lucky to get about two and a half dozen. Fortunately, this was enough for my group.  I did make mine slightly larger than recommended (I have a 3.5 inch rather than 3 inch round cookie cutter) but it still seemed like a big discrepancy.

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Thanks for joining me on this small interlude about some of my other hobbies. Gaming and Cooking for the win!

If you got this far, don’t forget to check my Events calendar for updates today. Tomorrow I’m speaking at Philly Game Works! I’ll also be at PennApps again this year!

I Started a Video Blog!

I started a new video blog on Channel 9 at MSDN. I’m going to try to post at least every other week with a video about gaming, IoT, or just some technology I’m working with. Hopefully it will give some people more ideas for fun projects.

Check it out here with my first entry, which is a very basic 100-level demystification of Kinect. I link to more advanced Kinect content too.

Please check it out! I’m gonna work a bit on the logo and branding but I wanted to get started with videos.

Amanda Lange’s Video Blog

Also, in the video, I mention you can get a Kinect adapter to hook up your Xbox One Kinect to a PC. That’s this cable here: http://www.amazon.com/Kinect-Adapter-Windows-xbox-one/dp/B00NMSHT7E

Here is the link for Kinect 2.0 SDK: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=44561

Happy developing!

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Spouse Alert – a Useful IoT Hack

During this week I participated in a Hackathon to increase my own skills and work with my work team. I decided to do a quick project using the Particle Core!

A lot of times during the day my husband wears headphones and it’s hard to get his attention. I thought it might be fun to create a flashing light device that gets his attention whenever I needed him. I set it up with a few different color functionalities, and used the topper from our wedding cake to set the Particle Button inside. The Button has a ring of muti-colored LEDs that can be activated with the use of a simple API call.

I used a fork of the basic Button code, which is on my GitHub here, and created the “SpouseAlert” script. Using Particle Build, I then flashed the code to my device.  Here’s what the chip looks like with the lights on and flashing (red, in this case)

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Then I wrote a short Web App to activate the different lights. Using the Windows Voice Commands QuickStart I was able to create an app that could be activated either by clicking or by voice. If I say “Particle, Spouse Alert!” it will open up the app page with the appropriate alert selected.

Here’s the app – it’s pretty simple but it gets the job done. And yes, I used a phone to take a picture of a phone…

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I can also activate the lights using a call to Yo. Yo is a silly app but it does something simple – sends a “Yo” message to a person or thing. That means it’s pretty fast if you want to send a “Yo” to an object. In this case, I’m activating the call to Yo with If This, Then That. I learned about this trick from David Washington, whose Super Bowl touchdown light project was an inspiration for me to try the Particle Button!

After putting all the code together, I fit the Particle Button underneath my wedding cake topper. Yes, I saved it all this time… all I had to do was carve a couple holes in it for the wiring. Here it is lit up!

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Now when I activate the app it uses a few different patterns of bright lights to send an alert. I hope it’ll help out with communication for us for a while! I think a device like this would also be useful for people whose spouses are hard of hearing. Different colors and flash patterns could be used to send different quick messages, and you don’t even have to be at home!

Hopefully soon I’ll post a tutorial for interacting with the Particle on Channel 9. Also, I’m teaching an Intro to Particle at Walnut Street Labs’ iSchool in September! You can join me the evening of September 9 and I’ll show how to get started with Particle and make simple experiences like this one!

 

Philly “Move Your Body” Game Jam

The game jam at Philly Dev Night this month was a huge success! I was really happy to be able to sponsor such a cool event and participate in playing all the games!

The secret theme that we announced at the event July 2 was “Move your body.” This year I’ve gotten really interested in gamifying ways to get fit, between Xbox Fitness and Fitbit… and I was wondering what other great movement-based game ideas that people would have. Microsoft sponsored by catering the game showcase on July 16. Here’s a look at some of the games!

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The crowd favorite game (by popular vote) was Headbanger. Headbanger consisted of an iPhone attached to a long-haired rock ‘n’ roll wig. Music played (through hooked up speakers, so the crowd could also hear) and the headbanger player had to bang his/her head in time with the music. Pictures were hard to take because the headbanging was so fast and furious!

Up close: a scrambled brain

Up close: a scrambled brain

Dancing Master used up to four Xbox 360 controllers to control feet on the screen and step in time with music. The twist is literally twisting…. The controls for the game involve using one stick and set of shoulder buttons, on each side of the controller, for each foot. It was surprisingly difficult to get things to line up! But it had a great selection of music and was fun to watch.

A few games were on the iPad – one rolling ball demo involved holding the iPad still to avoid the ball onscreen rolling off. Drumandala was developed as an iPad or PC game, but worked better on the touch screen, using fingers to tap shapes in a shooter-like, but zen, atmosphere.

One jammer took the theme “Move your body” literally, and made an adventure/stealth game about how to most effectively hide a corpse. This was improved by the addition of sloppy awkward ragdoll physics on the corpse… oh, and Will Stallwood’s photograph attached to the head for an ounce of realism.

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A couple of non-digital games were also displayed. Jake O’Brien called his game entry  Sight is Over Rated. Two teams worked together, with one blindfolded member and one member telling the blindfolded teammate how to move. The object of the game was for the blindfolded team mate to pick up cards from the table while avoiding an obstacle course of cups.

Safari Sock Hop was another purely analog game, involving pantomime to music. Cards handed out to two two-person teams told them what animal to mimic, and what type of dance they should do while pretending to be that animal. Here’s a tap-dancing octopus, for example:

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My personal favorite game of the jam was Cipher Prime’s game, which was just called Bodies. This game encouraged all the players to get up and walk around the city, several blocks around the building. Their smartphones would give them a “hot and cold” interface when they were close to a point of interest, and then when they were close enough, a riddle appeared onscreen. If they took a photograph that matched the answer for the riddle, they got a point. Cipher Prime wants to eventually expand this game to allow people to create customized geotagged scavenger hunts for each other.

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I was really proud to take part in this jam. The games were great and there was a ton of energy! Thanks to Philly Dev Night for a great time! For the curious, Dev Night does game jams monthly! Just check the schedule at http://phillydevnight.com.

 

Leaving for Origins!

Tomorrow we’re taking off for the Origins Game Fair in Columbus!

How exciting is this: this year I’m going to be DMing a couple of sessions with Rogue Cthulhu! I love playing in their games every year, and this year I’ve finally got the courage to run my own!

But you don’t need me to make posts about my travel anymore. As you can see, I’ve added a handy Events Page to show you where I’ll be. Just check it out here: SecondTruth Events

Best of Build and Windows 10

Now some important news from Microsoft for developers out there:

Build sold out in record time this year, so a lot of people may have missed out. If you’re one of those unlucky few, there’s a few ways to catch up on news…

Microsoft Virtual Academy has a “Best of Build and Windows 10” video series you can check out! It goes into the new app model, news for game developers, info about the new Edge browser, IoT, open-source, and more.

And for more in depth Windows 10 development content, a free live-streamed event will be held on the same web site starting tomorrow! Register now for A Developer’s Guide to Windows 10.

Or, if you’re near a major city and want to venture outside, check out the Build Tour. Day-long live events may be coming to your country/area! We have Atlanta coming up on May 20, and Chicago on June 10, and lots more. These events are international so one may be closer to home than you think! Look it up at https://www.build15.com/

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MomJam – The Voxelles Mother’s Day Game Jam

I’ve remarked quite a bit in the past about “Dad Games:” the gamification of fatherhood that seemed to be a recent fad in AAA game design. But the inevitable question arises: where are all the Mom Games?

When I say “games about moms,” many people mention “well, there’s that one with the badgers” (Shelter). Cart Life has an honest exploration of human motherhood. Moms do show up in blockbuster games, but often as antagonists. Now Sonya Blade can perform a fatality on her own daughter, which… has some psychological ramifications I’m sure. But surely games about motherhood is a topic that needs more exploration.

This month the Voxelles, Chicago’s female game development group, had a Mother’s Day Game Jam about this very topic! And I was there! Continue reading

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