Sunday, January 27, 2013

Miscellany: Benchmade 940 review - Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint

A lot of everyday carry knives try to wow you with "extreme" marketing and gee-whiz features. The Benchmade 940, designed by Warren Osborne, eschews all that. Instead, you get a straightfoward production folder that's remarkably slim and light (a hair under 3 ounces) considering its 3.4" blade.

The 940's blade is made of S30V steel, and sports what Benchmade calls a "modified reverse tanto" (essentially, it's a spear point). It was sharp out of the box and breezed through routine knife tasks. Despite the blade's length, it's fairly thin and small; I wouldn't try really heavy cutting chores with it.

The handle has a chalky finish that provides good traction without being obnoxious. As you can see, it has a pretty funky color scheme - green 6061-T6 aluminum handles and a purple anodized titanium backspacer. Sorta reminds me of a certain killer clown:

I like Benchmade's Axis lock, though I have heard scattered reports of the spring breaking in some knives. The 940's lockup was okay out of the box, but became progressively looser with use. I had to use some blue Loctite to get it to tension properly.

The pocket clip is tip-up carry only, though it is reversible.

I liked the Benchmade 940 enough to put it in my regular EDC rotation. The only potential dealbreaker is the price - the 940 retails for about $150 on a lot of sites. You can get many other quality folders for much less.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Miscellany: D&D Next Playtest Report - Journey to the Raven's Egg

Unlike previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, "D&D Next" has been released to the public for playtesting before its official debut. As you might expect, my friends and I jumped at the chance to try out (and perhaps shape) the latest version of D&D, so we rolled up an adventure and characters using the available core rules. Here's how it went:

Prepping, prepping, prepping

To keep things simple, I set my adventure in my "Sparks of Fate" universe, a sort of twisted version of Eberron where all the magic that folks had come to depend on suddenly vanished. I wanted to play with the "Poisonous Captive" trope, so the basic structure of the 4-5 hour adventure was easy: the PCs are part of an imperial military task force escorting a dangerous terrorist called the Vinecaller to the Raven's Egg (a palace/prison at the center of the Riedran Empire). Along the way, the PCs get waylaid by enemies.

I mentally prepped three fights in the days leading up to our session, and spent a half hour looking up monster stats right before we played. I did no other prep. My friends ZiggyZeitgeist and SpookySquid created three characters - Milos, Osbourne (one of my favorites - a fast-talking, supremely confident monk), and Lokasenna. The journey to the Raven's Egg began...

The Rules

D&D Next seems like an attempt to get the D&D series back to its roots. They've purposely revamped monster hitpoints and encounter scaling, so that each fight isn't an hour of people whacking away at each other like an MMO. I appreciated this, since I always felt fights took too long in 4E.

The other parts of the game are pretty minimalist, which is appealing to a rules-light DM like me. There are still skill checks, but the degrees of success and failure have all been helpfully simplified, and you can always make vanilla ability score checks in weird situations. There's explicit advice that DMs should be allowed to eyeball results of dice rolls and adjust results accordingly, which I think 90% of DMs do anyway.

Running the Adventure

I opted for my traditional DM tools: pen, paper, a wet erase grid map, plastic figures, and the monster tokens from the Monster Vault. As per usual, I opened with a fight set in the overgrown ruins of a farm (the Vinecaller summons, well, vines). The PCs did well to shrug off furniture flung by Carnivorous Apes and Monkeys. From there, they encountered plenty of hazards, including a collapsed bridge, a stopover in a haunted town infested by wolves, a bargaining session with Ursta the Grey Witch, and a final showdown with mysterious opponents at the boundary of the Empire.

The battles were swingy and fast, with most enemies falling in one or two hits, but dishing out tons of damage if allowed to. We all felt the fighter class was stronger than the other characters in combat, though obviously less capable outside of a fight. In the end, the PCs prevailed, the Vincecaller was taken to the Egg and psychically tortured (yay...?), and peace reigned through the land.

Final Thoughts

Counting the adventures I ran for my sister from "The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game" boxed set, I've been DMing some flavor of D&D for more than fifteen years. D&D Next feels much more like those early sessions than the MMO-influenced slugfests of 4E, so it'll be interesting to see how this new edition pans out.

Links: Winter Gun Blogroll Update

Lurking Rhythmically - Quick, name a Florida blogger who likes role-playing games, guns, and magic? If you answered "Mulliga," you'd be correct, but you'd also be correct if you answered "Erin Palette." You see, Palette is the author of "Lurking Rhythmically," a neat website and blog that covers everything from mods for your Mosin-Nagant to MLP:FiM. But where'd the name come from? Here's Erin with the explanation:
The appellation in question was created many years ago by a friend of mine to whom I shall cleverly refer as Captain Kidd. I was game mastering a session of In Nomine hacked to use White Wolf mechanics when the good Captain observed that "Goths don't dance. They just sort of lurk rhythmically on the dance floor." I found this observation both pithy and apt, and resolved that if I was ever in a goth band I would use that name.

Failure to Fire - I've spent time in quite a few small gun stores, so I recognize a lot of what goes on in "Failure to Fire," a webcomic by Mel Hynes and James Grant. The comic follows a gun shop clerk named Mick and his misadventures with the opposite sex. There are occasional strips that have direct tips for the reader, like this one where Mick shows new gun buyer Heidi his recommendation for home defense: a 20 gauge shotgun. What can I say? Great minds think alike.

Scratching Post - Kathy Jackson's great website about shooting and CCW, "Cornered Cat," has a blog. I really don't have too much to add, other than to recommend that you keep a spot for it on your bookmark bar.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Guns: Ruger LCR-22 review - "Blade Runner" Blaster


Ruger's LCR revolver really shook up the snubnose world a few years ago.  The aluminum-and-polymer framed guns were a radical departure from the decades-old design of other snubbies, and they have proven to be a great option for concealed carry. The LCR's popularity has led to about a half-dozen variations - you can get LCRs in .38, .357, and even .22 Magnum.

Today's review will look at the LCR-22, chambered in .22 LR (it can also fire .22 Long and .22 Short). The LCR-22 is intended to serve both as a training gun for people who want to practice with a snubnose, and as a CCW gun for people who cannot handle the recoil of .38 Special. How does it fill these two niches?

First Impressions

The LCR-22 has the same form factor as the service caliber LCRs. It's slightly heavier than the .38 Special version, but slightly lighter than the .357 version. Mine came equipped with fixed sights and the futuristic-looking Hogue grip (to me, the LCR resembles Deckard's blaster from "Blade Runner"):

The LCR-22's trigger pull is noticeably worse than the centerfire models, due to the physical limitations of the rimfire ignition system. With the trigger's heavy weight, I found that it was hard to keep the LCR still during dry-fire. The trigger stroke feels a bit different, too, since the LCR-22 holds eight cartridges instead of five.

At the Range

The LCR-22 was reliable with all the .22 ammo I fed through it, including Federal and Winchester bulk pack. As with any rimfire, you will eventually get a light strike or two, but even those were few and far between. Fired cases also extracted without incident.

It took a fair amount of time to get used to the LCR-22's trigger. In the end, I resorted to staging the trigger in order to get recognizable 2"-3" groups out of the gun at 10 yards. Here are some examples of what  my LCR-22 did at that distance with common target ammo:


If you already own a snubnose, the LCR-22 is an excellent way to keep proficient without burning through box after expensive box of .38 Special. Even though it retails for $400, the LCR-22 will eventually save you money if you shoot more than a couple thousand rounds through it. Moreover, the LCR-22 is actually harder to shoot than its big brothers; if you can shoot the LCR-22 well, your carry revolvers will feel like laser beams in comparison.

As a CCW gun, the LCR-22 could work for people whose hands cannot withstand recoil. It's a rimfire, and inherently less reliable, but it's also a revolver - if you have a failure to fire, just pull the trigger again. Of course, you'll need to have the hand strength to pull the trigger in the first place, so shooters with fragile wrists should check out the LCR-22 out in a gun store before they buy (the recently released .22 Magnum version of the LCR is also worth a look, though it only holds six rounds instead of eight).

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Movies: New Year's Evil

"New Year's Evil" is the best New Year's Eve-themed slasher flick ever made. That's not surprising, since it's the only New Year's Eve-themed slasher flick ever made:

The premise seems fun enough - a mysterious lunatic named "Evil" calls into a TV show on December 31st, and announces he's going to off someone every time the clock strikes midnight in each time zone in the U.S. Unfortunately, "New Year's Evil" feels like it was put together by someone who knows the dictionary definition of a slasher movie, but has never actually seen one. There are jump scares and plot twists, but they're never assembled in a manner that creates any suspense.

Even worse, this is a low-budget Golan-Globus production, which means wooden acting, awful boring kills (there's one where a lady is suffocated by a plastic bag), and a cheesy theme song that's played about seventy times:

Rating: 3/10 (10/10 if you need a schlocky horror film for New Year's Eve to mock with your friends)