Archive for the ‘House’ Category

Gaming Table Obtained

So last weekend it showed up, by which I mean, it showed up at Pier 1 and I had to rent a u-haul truck to go pick it up.  And of course all they had left was 14′ trucks, so I had to rent this massive thing to bring home one table.  I guess the good news there was that there was plenty of room inside the truck to rip open the packaging so we could bring it upstairs to the family room piece by piece.  With just Jenn and I as labor, it would have been impossible to carry up the whole box as a single piece.  Here though, is the end result:

1239578_705244492362_1781798040_n

As you can see I’m quite excited (though that may be due to simple physical exhaustion).  The chairs are still just some folding chairs I set up to get a sense as to how many people could really sit at the table.  10 will fit easily with the leaf in, and I can imagine 12 might squish together.  With the leaf removed it’s still a pretty imposing table, but not totally overwhelming.

Behind the table you can see my two miniature display cases mounted to the walls, with shelves between them ready to hold my dwarven forge collection.  Just off to the right you can see my GM’s Valet from Geek Chic.  I have to say, 12 year old me would probably be pretty amazed at the gaming setup I’ve managed to make for myself.

Not pictured (behind the photographer) is the 10′ tall mural of an enormous moose, complete with real antlers hung on the wall at the top of its head, courtesy of the previous owners.  So before I go unpacking all the miniature terrain, books, etc, I’ve got a lot of sanding and painting to do.  Soon though, I hope to put my game-cave to serious use.

Chairs too, I gotta find me some chairs.

 

The Hunt for the Great Gaming Table: Part 2

OK, so I knew I needed a new table and I had laid out my requirements.  Where to begin?

I looked at some websites of local furniture stores (Bob’s, Jordan’s, etc.), but the styles popular these days just weren’t quite right.  As I said, I kind of like the look of some hefty wooden trestle table.  I did some more internet hunting and found some very nice custom work out there, but custom woodwork tends to break the bank.  They were far too expensive.  Next stop: craigslist.

There were some promising items to be found used locally, and the prices were the lowest of anything I looked at.  Generally though they fell into one of two problem categories.  First, were tables that were just, well, ugly.  Right size, good price, could be easily transported, and just screamed 1977.  I guess that chunky wood trestle table style was in back then, and it’s hard for me to put my finger on what separates those beautiful custom items linked above and the mass produced 70’s stuff I was finding, but I could tell it when I saw it and I just couldn’t bring myself to go in that direction.

The second category was even more disappointing: impossible to move.  These tables looked great, maybe needed a little refinishing, were cheap, and super far away and heavy.  I suppose I could have rented a trunk to drive up to New Hampshire if I was absolutely sure I wanted one of them, but I knew for any table there was going to be at least two trips: one just to check it out and a second to actually transport it.  And no doubt the two photos on the average listing would be misleading or not show some important detail.  I suddenly foresaw many weekends of driving around looking at these things in hopes the next one would be the right one.  Gosh, it sounds a bit like house hunting, and didn’t I just finish doing that nonsense?

I sent a few craigslist post to Jenn in hopes that she might help the search a bit, and also so she could express her opinion on any furniture I might bring into the house.  Enter etsy.  I never would have thought of looking there, but Jenn sent me this very cool looking item:

Farmhouse Trestle Table DIY Kit

OK, this looked promising.  I like the way it looks, I can customize the exact size, it’s pretty cheap, I thought we might have a real winner.  My only fear based on the pictures was the grooves down the length of the table.  They looked like d20 catchers, and I fore-saw a lot of cocked dice disputes.  Then the idea hit me of making a topper for it, some flat piece of wood perhaps felted on top that could be fit and held in place on top of the table for gaming.  Should we ever want to use the table for something else (eg. Thanksgiving dinner), the top could be easily removed.  OK, it’s getting to be a bit bigger a project than I wanted, but the topper could probably be delayed.  We were basically living at Home Depot over the weekends these days, so I took the opportunity one Saturday to examine the wood that would be used for the table top.

Well, it was clear that not only was I going to have a problem with the grooves, but the transport issue was beginning to show itself again.  The 2×10 planks it calls for are huge and heavy, and of course I’d want a good 8′ in length on these.  There’s no way our little car could carry these massive boards.  So toss in there a truck rental just to bring the wood home.  Transport, labor, dice catching grooves… no single one of these problems was insurmountable but put all together it was starting to feel like this was not the table for me.

And that’s where we were this weekend.  Nothing obviously promising on the horizon, and honestly far from our minds as we drove about on more house related chores.  We were at Pier 1 to look at curtains for the living room when I saw the trestle table at the front of the store.  It looked like they it was probably too small, but I liked the style so I went and poked around.  Next to the trestle was this table, which looks pretty plain and boring on the website, but in person was quite nice.  Not quite the trestle style I’ve been looking at, but it has a good solid chunky look.  The price was good too, the only problem was it felt a bit smaller than what I wanted.  Then I saw sitting on the table the advertisement for the other pieces of the collection: chairs, bench, and oh my goodness, a variation of the table that includes a 24″ leaf.  Perfect!

I tried to order it online when I got home, and unfortunately it looks like it’s only available for store pick-up.  The store is only a few miles away, but will I be able to transport it?  Well, the good news is there’s a u-haul rental place just down the block that will rent me a truck or van for $20 plus $0.60/mile.  It was border-line failing the transport requirement, but OK what the heck, I ordered the thing.

So there you have it, table ordered and scheduled to arrive within 10 days.  Coming soon, The Hunt Part 3: Chairs.

Gaming Tables

Back at last!  The move went relatively smoothly, and we’ve been spending every weekend since with various projects and unpacking.  All the essentials are unpacked, and now my thoughts are turning to the gaming space.  I installed shelves in a closet to store board games, and hung my miniature display cases on the wall of the family rom in easy reach of the… wait a minute, there’s no game table here!

Over the years I’ve played games on many different surfaces.  Dining and kitchen tables dominate, but I’ve seen my fair share of unusual gaming tables too.  I spent a summer playing a game in a friend’s basement on an old forgotten pool table.  I’ve played sitting on couches around a coffee table.  I’ve played at conference room tables in offices, folding tables at conventions, and on a $15k Geek Chic Sultan.  With this wide range of experience, you can bet I have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to equipping my own house with an appropriate play surface.

One of the first pieces of furniture we ever bought new (rather than inheriting from family or friends), was a dining room table.  It’s a beast of a thing: 60″ long rounded rectangle with two built-in 12″ leaves that fold up and collapse into the table itself.  This made the table top super heavy, and I always feel bad when we make movers move the thing.  We bought it for our last apartment from Bob’s Discount Furniture, and I still recall Bob personally calling Jenn to tell her when it was going to be delivered (a job for robots these days I imagine).

That table came with us to our first house in Maynard, and was the home of a three year long campaign when we lived just a 5 minute walk from the offices of 38 Studios.  When we moved out to Medway the new dining room was enormous, and the sellers had a beautiful antique dining set they were looking to sell.  We snatched it up and the old dining table was moved to the game room upstairs to become the official gaming table.  Many more game were had on the thing there, while the dining room table was used strictly for meals.  Now in the new house the dining room is much smaller and couldn’t hold that antique set, so like our predecessors we unloaded it before the move.  The old table, now a bit battle scarred from years of use and several moves, is once again in place in the dining room and being used regularly.  That said, we have an enormous family room up stairs ready and waiting for a gaming table, so for the first time in my life I find myself in the unique position of having a dedicated gaming space with no pre-existing furniture to fill it.  I’ve been waiting for this day!

No really, I’ve been thinking about this a long time.  I remember back at our first house, which was much smaller than either house since, imagining what it would be like to have a dedicated game room.  The first question to pop to mind was what kind of table I’d want to have.  At one point I even sketched elaborate plans for a very unique surface.  The shape I thought would be best was a half circle, allowing the DM to sit along the straight edge giving him a very large space to spread out his materials.  The players would sit around the curved edge, thus ensuring there was no “good seat” close to the DM, as they’d all be equidistant.  The surface itself was two layers about 6-8″ apart, forming a shelf below the table top for each player.  The top surface would be either entirely glass, or at least have a glass rim of about 12″, such that players could leave papers or open books on the shelf below and still see down at it to read as necessary.  It was a nice fantasy, but the table is actually completely ludicrous.  To fit a decent number of people in a semi-circle requires a huge radius.  The two layers are complex to build, and I can’t even imagine how you’d get a curved piece of glass to fit.  And who wants to roll dice on a glass surface?

That custom Geek Chic Sultan table I played on cemented my opinion against fancy custom tables.  Don’t get me wrong, that thing was gorgeous, in addition to being custom built explicitly for gaming.  That said, it was totally incorrect for my style of game.  I imagine they’re great for games that require heavy miniature use, and it’s really nice to have lots of extra storage and the ability to just slap a lid over the minis between sessions.  I don’t use much minis in my games these days, so all that’s kind of lost on me.  What I did notice is that when you sit with your legs under the table the top is practically at your chin.  OK, more like nipple height, but still, there’s a lot of bulky table between you and the other players.  The other option is to get a tall stool, but then you lose easy access to all the fancy cubby holes and desk surfaces.  And all that bulky material between you and the other players, well, it just feels like a big barrier and not at all conducive to such a social activity.

So, here are my requirements now for a gaming table:

  1. Must comfortably seat 6-12 people.  OK, it can feel a bit crowded at 12 that’s fine, as long as it’s still possible.
  2. Must be reasonably priced.  Dining tables are not cheap, and chairs are surprisingly expensive.  That said, I’m not going to drop thousands of dollars on this thing.  I seem to recall that Bob’s table cost us about $800, including chairs, and that feels like close to the high end of reasonable to me.
  3. It should look appropriate both to its purpose and environment.  Personally, I like a hefty chunky trestle table, something kind of medieval looking that could hold up to years of gaming.  That said, it shouldn’t look out of place in its environment.  A huge fancy piece of ancient looking woodwork may not quite fit right in my carpeted, white walled, family room.
  4. Chairs should either not look terrible or not be included.  I’d rather solve the chair problem separately than be stuck with horrible looking or uncomfortable chairs.
  5. Not too much work.  I’m willing to explore the idea of refinishing some old second hand thing, but I don’t want a project that’s going to take months of work.  I’d rather spend a few more dollars than hours swearing in the garage about my terrible carpentry skills.
  6. Transportable.  That means either someone’s got to deliver it, or it needs to break down in some way such that I can actually transport it myself, and I do not own a truck or van.  I do have a roof rack I can tie things to, but I’m not comfortable with overly large things up there for very long journeys.

OK, looks like this is going to be part 1 of a multi-part tale.  Rest assured the problem is close to solved at this point, but I think it’s worth exploring all the details of my hunt and this post is already overly long.  So next up, part 2: the hunt for the great gaming table.

 

No GenCon, Moving

Unfortunately it looks like I will not make it to GenCon this year.  The good news is the reason — its very likely I’ll be moving at the end of August.  Everything is proceeding as hoped for in the house sale and purchase.  We have a signed Purchase & Sale agreement for our current house, which means there is now real money on the line should things fall apart.  We haven’t quite gotten that far on the purchasing side, but it’s getting very close.

GenCon aside, I hope this move will have a positive impact on gaming for me.  When I started this blog we were still living in our first house.  It was a small house, but also a very short walk to the original offices of 38 Studios.  This was a golden time of gaming for me.  I was running a campaign with friends many of whom were co-workers, and it was very easy for them to pop over to my house after work for a game.  We’d crowd around the dining room table and play right up until bedtime.  My oddly early schedule has in the past made scheduling games a bit difficult, so hosting things at my house was always preferable as I didn’t have to drive anywhere afterwards before collapsing into bed.

When 38 moved to Providence the game lived on, we just started playing in the office.  This was a bit more difficult for me personally, as now I had a 45 minute drive after the game before reaching my bed.  Also the bitter irony was that the house we moved to in Medway was much larger, large enough to finally realize my dream of having a dedicated game room.  But it was in Medway, far away from pretty much everything, and the fancy game room was used but rarely.  Still, 38 provided more players than I could handle and I got to play very regularly.

When 38 collapsed, the game room suddenly became very handy.  Everyone in my game was laid off, and having a weekly D&D respite was very welcome.  You’d think with everyone suddenly having oodles of free time we’d play all the time.  But no, everyone was dealing with the crisis in their own ways, frequently off to go on interviews, prepare for moving, or otherwise just try to cope with the unexpected change.  For a while though we kept the regular game schedule transposed here to my house in Medway, and found solace in killing the orcs of clan Chafee.

Eventually though the game petered out everyone drifted away.  I got a new job in Cambridge, a painful hour plus drive away.  I ran a couple games for folks in the new office but while there was interest there for more, I couldn’t handle that commute after a game and nobody in Cambridge wants to drive out to Medway for D&D.  I’ve now been without a game for almost a year.

The new house is half the distance to the office, and I’ve been promising folks I’d run another game at the office once I moved.  The new house also has a pretty spectacular space for gaming.  Also, it has central AC and a pool, and yesterday it hit 99 degrees outside.  So, despite missing GenCon, I’m pretty optimistic about my future chances of having a regular game to play.  At least in the summer.

Randomness, Probability, and House Selling

Yesterday for my birthday my darling wife got me a copy of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.  I’m only about a third into it, but it’s really a great read and I highly recommend it.  I’m kind of hoping by the end it will reveal to me whether my way of coping with the last bout of house selling blues was actually based in any kind of realistic mathematical models, or just silly superstition.  Though if anyone cares to take a whack at this particular problem I’d love to hear your feedback.

OK, here’s the deal: back in March we made our second attempt to sell our house.  It had been on the market from early September to late November last year with no success, but that’s a slow time of year for house selling so we weren’t completely discouraged yet.  The spring market is pretty active and a lot of people came, saw, and rejected the house.  Finally in late April we got an offer – two offers in fact.  The first was a real low ball, but our agent was able to use it as leverage to get the second – “We’ve got another offer, so if you want to make one now’s the time!”

Everything seemed great, and though it was taking longer than usual for the buyers to arrange for an inspection, we were happy to wait as we thought we could use the extra time to find a house to buy ourselves.  Then, on May 13th (my wife’s birthday) we were ready to put in an offer on a house we liked when we got the news – the buyer of our house had received a job offer in New Hampshire and was pulling out.  We had to put the breaks on our own offer and were basically back to square one.  Ugh.

We debated going back on the market.  Could we really handle round three?  Would we ever get an offer?  I logged into MA Pass, the system used by realty agents to schedule viewings of our house and to leave feedback, and collected a little data.  Between March and May we had 20 showings, of which two resulted in offers.  Thus, I reasoned, 1 in 10 people who see the house liked it well enough to make an offer.  It felt a little bogus given the fact that both offers came at the end of the 20 showings.   After showing 19 the number of offers was still 0.  Of course, that line of thinking though will lead down to hundreds of other unknowns — how many of those showings were second showings?  What about open houses, from which we have no stats?  There are so many factors I knew I had to pull back and ignore them all and just look at the raw numbers from a wide view — 20 showings, 2 offers, thus 1 in 10 showings results in an offer.

So we started showing the house again, and I started counting.  When a request came in I’d email Jenn – “it’s #5!”, “here we go, #8, almost there!”, etc.  Many showings ended with the same feedback that we had seen so many times before: “The second floor layout doesn’t work for my family.”  Yeah, the layout on the 2nd floor is a little unusual, it’s a very old house and that’s part of it’s charm.  We talked about adding a floor plan to the listing, but our agent advised against it.  “That might scare some people off,” he reasoned, “better to get as many showings as possible and hope someone loves it despite the odd layout.”

Showing number ten occurred on June 23rd, and the feedback was not surprising: “they decided the layout would not work.”  Then, we had a dry spell of no showings for over a week.  I admit, I was pretty discouraged at this point.  My theory had failed, and to be honest I wasn’t totally surprised.  We had had a few promising bits of feedback along the way.  Some buyers had narrowed their search down to ours and one or two others, but seemed to always choose one of the others. We had a couple relocating from Colorado say they liked it, but were waiting on their own house to sell.  Another couple apparently really liked it and saw it twice, but that was back on June 15th and we hadn’t heard anything from them since.

Then on July 3rd, three days before my own birthday and on the eve of a four day weekend we had another showing scheduled.  To be honest I didn’t expect it, I figured the holiday would mean people would be off traveling and not looking at houses.  I expected nothing from this showing, but was at least slightly buoyed by the fact that at the dry spell had ended.  The next morning, the 4th of July, I got an email from our agent — they liked it so much they put in an offer after just one showing.

And that’s where we are right now, trying not to get our hopes up too high as we’ve been here before.  Once the inspection is over and we have a signed contract, then I’ll celebrate.  Still, it’s encouraging, and I noticed very close to my original estimate.  It took 11 showings instead of 10, reducing our rate of offers from 10% to 9.677%.

Or maybe that math is pure baloney, and we just got lucky.  Ultimately it probably doesn’t matter, the math did what I needed to, it kept me sane from showing number one to showing number 9, from mid May all the way to the end of June.  Still, I can’t help but feel a little pride in how close I got with my prediction.  Perhaps I should take up a career in meteorology.  What do you think?

My New Valet

When we first moved in to this house back in July and I realized I would have space for a dedicated game room, I placed an order with Geek Chic for one of their excellent GM Valets.  While most Geek Chic furniture is overkill for my style of gaming (being extremely miniature light), I frequently put some kind of surface to my side for holding extra books when DMing.  So why not have a dedicated piece of furniture customized for the task?

It wasn’t the fastest process, I suppose custom furniture never is, but it finally arrived yesterday.  I’m so excited, it really is an awesome piece.  I can’t wait to run a game with it. The only hiccup was that the removable bin that should live on the right side was missing, making it look a little lop-sided with the two cup holders on the left, but I was assured the error would be rectified quickly.

The very first thing I did was run out to Staples to buy some hanging folders for the filing compartment in the back, and experienced a wonderful bit of serendipity while there.  Right out front was a table of bargain items, and I noticed as I passed a pile of cardboard magazine containers, marked down from 5.99 to 50 cents each.  I immediately bought them all.

You can see in the first picture of the GM’s valet on the bottom is a big white box, which contains all my old D&D modules.  I put it there as the valet needs some weight in it to be less tippy when opened.  It used to be on one of the bookshelves, but it’s always been a pain to pull out to get at the modules.  You can see in the later pictures the white box has been replaced by a big group of magazine holders, much nicer and easier to access, and with plenty of room for more modules in the future!

Anyway, on with the pictures:

Game Room Nears Completion

Having finished my shelves, I could finally unpack the last of my gaming paraphernalia from the move.  I’d like to think those were the last unpacked boxes, but I bet there are more hiding somewhere.  I also happened by Micheal’s where they were having a buy-one-get-one-free sale on poster frames.  I have a bunch of posters that have been wanting framing specifically for this room, so I bought some.  The game room is now really starting to come together.

Item still missing:

  • We really should repaint this room at some point.  The ceiling especially wants it.
  • I ordered a GM’s Valet from Geek Chic.  I’m really excited for this piece to show up, which should happen I think by January.  I’ve reserved a space for it in the room.
  • Gamers!  It figures now that I have space enough for a game room, everyone I game with lives far away enough to not want to come all the way out here for a game.  I must find some way to drag them out here.  Perhaps this post will help.

But enough blather, now for the pictures!

Hidden Chambers

No, not in D&D, in my actual house!  This weekend I tackled a project I’ve been meaning to do for some time — hanging shelves in my game room closet.  On the second floor of my house we have a bedroom that I’ve converted into my game room.  The closet had your standard top shelf and pole for hanging clothes, which is all very useful for a bedroom but not what you need to store all your board games, miniatures, etc.

My plan was to remove the pole and then add more shelves.  I bought the wood and looked online for how to build in shelves, it all seemed pretty straight forward.  One thing that bothered me though was that there was a spot in the back corner that someone had covered up with a couple extra squares of sheet rock.  I assumed there was a hole in the wall there, and being  a closet, the previous owner didn’t bother to make it look nice.  My options were to build around it, or take it down and see if there wasn’t some better way to patch up whatever was behind it.  I decided to remove the sheet rock and at least see what was back there.

A secret room is what was back there!  The sheet rock covered about a 2′ x 3′ hole cut in the back of the closet that revealed a small space about 4′ x 6′ behind it.  It seems to have previously been part of the bathroom.  You can see the back of the tub and shower stall in there.  I guess when they redid the bathroom they just closed up the part of the room with a sloped ceiling to put the shower and tub in and make the room square.  It’s no big deal as the bathroom is plenty big without this extra space, but still, it’s extra space!  I had to fight really hard to suppress the urge to find some way to utilize this space.  In the end, I just put the sheet rock back up and shelved over it.

Some day, perhaps if and when we re-do the bathroom, we’ll reclaim that space.  Until now, I think it’s super cool that there’s a secret hidden room in my house.  I took some pictures before I closed up the wall which you can see below.  They’re not great, as I had to stand in the closet to take them.

Of Trees And Servers

You may have noticed this site hasn’t been loading for the past two days.  I apologize for the outage, but the fact is the server this blog runs on is sitting right here in my basement.  What can I say, my old-school tendencies reach beyond just gaming.  I’ve been running my own server since I was in college, and I guess it just stuck.  There’s something very satisfying though about knowing exactly where my site is.  I have complete control, and if anything ever goes wrong with it, I don’t need to go through anyone else, it’s all on me to fix it.

Of course, that cuts both ways, and basically whatever happens in my house affects the site as well.  What can bring down the server?  Well, the same thing that brings down trees:

Downed tree behind the house to the right was split right in half.

 

Downed tree to the left intercepted by other trees and the fence from crashing into our garage.

And of course this is just the two houses directly adjacent to us.  There were more trees down the block down, and power lines in the street as well.  The cops came and bocked off our street, and it sat like that for two days.  Finally tonight the power is back.  Thank goodness.

Hopefully now we can return to our regular scheduled geekery.

Getting Ready to Sell

My posting has again lagged, mostly due to preparing to sell our house and buy a new one.  It’s amazing how much work went into staging our house for sale.  I felt like I needed to document all that hard work, so I went around and took some pictures.  A professional is coming tomorrow to take some real pictures of the house for the listing, but these I thought would do to show what we’ve done.

In addition to all the stuff described in the photos, we also packed up an entire cargo van’s worth of stuff from the basement to put into storage.  We then used the newly empty storage space in the basement to hold all the things we packed up while “de-cluttering” the house.  We also painted the stairs going down to the basement, which were still bare wood from when the previous owner installed them.

Anyway, here are the pictures of what it looks like now.  It doesn’t even feel like our house anymore.