Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Bullet Journal - How I use mine

Using the Bullet Journal has changed my life and kept me on top of tasks that were at one time overwhelming.

I had been trying various digital apps on my phone in an attempt to get a grasp on everything. My occupation is critical to a military unit's ability to operate and be successful at its mission. Everything goes through my office that deals with budget, maintenance, procuring new equipment, repairing old equipment, fielding equipment, investigating the loss of equipment, etc etc. We oversee the handling of $47 million in equipment and an annual budget of around $2.5mil. There are four of us that know what we are doing and attempting handle this deluge of information and activity. Last year half of the team deployed and that left just two of us to handle everything. Needless to say, I found myself swimming in very deep water and struggling hourly to simply keep my head above the water line.

About nine months ago I discovered the Bullet Journal, or BuJo. If you know nothing about it, please go here first:

Beginning to use the BuJo.
I began using the Bullet Journal system and after struggling initially, I have now turned on about fifteen people in my unit and a few of the doctors I see onto the system. At first I attempted to use it exactly as the site explained. Then I made the mistake of wandering into the bottomless pit of Pinterest and fell in love with the millions of ideas of 'How to make it better!' and "See my sexy journal!" pictures that dominate the journaling pages.

There are a bajillion ideas on how to journal. Ignore them.

Let me repeat that. Ignore them.

Start with the basic BuJo system explained on the site and go from there. Try it for a week, just like Ryder Carroll explains. At the end of the week sit down with your journal and consider what worked for you and what did not. THEN try tweaking it.

I found much of the 'set up' was a waste of time for me. I rarely used some of it. So I cut it out. Keeping these things in was a time killer for me. Time is something I have little of.

The first thing to go was the Index.

Bye bye Index.
The index, I just do not use it. Most of my tasks are of the "OMG This MUST be done NOW!" sort and I rarely have to return to them. If I do, they are often recent tasks that reoccur within in a week or month. The index is over kill for me and the time wasted I could better spend elsewhere. In your own life you could very well have a reason to revisit tasks.

Sticking to the BuJo system...or not.
The next thing I learned was use the symbols that make sense to you, are not complicated/detailed, and are easy to draw. At the time I started I did not have a squared journal - that is the official term for Moleskine journals with grid paper. I had a lined journal and drawing perfect little squares or circles the same size was a challenge. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist and I found myself agonizing over how crappy my journal looked compared to those on Pinterest (see the section above where I said ignore them, I was not joking). Later I realized that I needed the squared journal and I went and got one. I already have two more waiting for when they are called to the front line for action.

I played around and realized the symbols that I could easily draw - a square, dot, and a triangle. A child could draw them. Simple, quick, effective. You would not believe how many weeks it took me to arrive here. I use just three.

Armed with just these three Task Identifiers (as I call them), my BuJo really began to work. Over the months since I have tweaked my symbols here and there but I always come back to the core three above, always finding that old saying really does work KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.

I added new signifiers (those things to the left of the task squares), these I discovered often added a layer of complexity that was pointless, so I dropped most of them. If you check Pinterest (I know you did, it is ok) you will see tons of neat, cool looking signifiers people have come up with. Many take too long to draw, are too complex to be reproduced easily and quickly, and end up cluttering the page.

That said I have narrowed my useful signifiers to just three: Important or Hot! items, thing I need to look into or research at a later time, and school related tasks. I find the look up items tend to be cool things people point out on Google+ that I want to remember to look into later, usually at home after the work day is over. Below are my signifiers. YMMV

A typical day starts.
Today A typical day for me starts like this.

You will notice I have added a small tracker at the top. I am under orders from the doctor to no longer run so I walk, each block stands for 5,000 steps, my goal is at least 10k a day, but I would like to build up to 15k. I am attempting to watch my weight and part of that is drinking more water, filling that tummy with zero calorie water so I do not fill it with a Snickers bar or M&Ms. I picked up a 32oz Nalgene bottle that I refill, each full bottle drank is a square. I aim for three of those a day.

Next are the tasks I start the day with. Some of these have important sub-tasks I need to remember to complete BEFORE the main task can be accomplished, so I have added sub-tasks indented below the main task as in the "LR Brief @COC" seen above.

Sometimes I want to note how a task was done, as in the "Workout" task at the top of the list. Did I walk or do circuit training (the CT)? This is not really important but I like to recall at the end of the week how often I did each as I (hopefully) start to get in better shape after breaking my foot twice this year.

Planning and closure.
I tend to do my planning and closure at the same time. Before I head home at the end of the day I review my task list. Anything that I did not complete is migrated to the next day. I review the tasks I have completed and make note of any new task that resulted because of these tasks.

I spend about five minutes, really, that is it, using this process. During this time I close out tasks that I forgot to mark complete during the day, migrate ones that did not, basically build tomorrow and end up with something that looks like that above for tomorrow(see the typical day above).

Future Logging.
Alastair Johnston came up with a great system to quickly note events or tasks that will happen some time in the future. You can see the details here on his page: This is something I am just beginning to experiment with. I think it will be useful as I have found other systems too heavy handed and a time sink to use on a regular basis.

(Hopefully not) Final thoughts.
One major side effect of this process is that I am retaining details and tasks so much better. I suffer some memory loss from my time in the Army and the stress of my job only makes this memory issue worse. Studies have shown that writing with a pen, you know the old fashioned way, registers the information much better in our brains than those fancy digital tools people these days are fond of utilizing.

I can verify this 100%. Since starting the my BuJo I have been able to recall information much easier, longer, and I seem to be able to intelligently think on that information. Somehow it seems to have kickstarted my brain a little.

Another major side effect is stress reduction. This could be based on a multitude of factors but I like to think the structure of the BuJo and task organization in general have given me some clarity of thought, an expectation of what is to come or expected of me in the coming day, and some closure at the end of the day. Seeing a full page of tasks that I have completed (yeah, a full page does happen), gives you some sense of satisfaction, that you are getting somewhere, moving forward, etc.

I am quite proud of my BuJo and I DO take some time here and there and embellish it with some designs here and there but I do not go overboard. This is a thing of work and purpose for me. I like it neat and organized. I do not want it to be too distracting, flashy, or busy.

Have you started your own BuJo? How has it been working for you?

Friday, November 27, 2015

[map] An architect's bad design

This ruins was once the home a proud, and wealthy lord. As a gift to his young bride be ordered a small keep built into the side of a hill. The keep would serve to defend the young bride's favorite shrine to the goddess of beauty. Some sad the shrine was cursed but the lord was so in love, he ignored their tales.

Unfortunately, it appears as if they were correct. The architect designed the keep with a flaw, designing the arrow slits incorrectly. As the keep neared completion the young bride grew ill and died suddenly. Distraught, the lord ended up engaging in a foolhardy battle and was soon slain.

Today, locals proclaim the keep haunted by the lord while the bride haunts the shrine, never to meet and lost in despair and remorse for a love lost and lives wasted.

Black and White version.

A faded color/black and white version, creates a strong contrast for the walls.

If you enjoy these maps, swing over to my Patreon page to download the full resolution. While you are there, feel free to toss me a few quarters of support.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Happy Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day to all those who have, or do, wear the uniform.

May this flag fly until the sun no longer sets and services as a beacon of freedom to all humanity until that time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

[map] The Village of Glynndale

Playing around with a style used by +MonkeyBlood Design and after dinner drew up a quick attempt. I decided to clean it up and share with everyone. Drew this on plain printer paper with a two fine Sharpie pens (one almost out of ink) from pens I found in my desk (too lazy to get my real markers).

I really liked making this one, fun, free and fast style. I think I made too many with fences and should have left more open but closer together, so it formed more of 'downtown' area.

If you dig maps like these, drop by my Patreon page and check out all the maps I make, maybe even drop me a quarter or two. Maps I post to the blog are reduced quality while maps posted to Patreon are full print quality images and most are posted with variations in style or background.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

[map] The Duchy of Araveol

Playing around with some GIMP options and styles and I ended up making a map. Go figure.

If you dig maps like these, drop by my Patreon page and check out all the maps I make, maybe even drop me a quarter or two. Maps I post to the blog are reduced quality while maps posted to Patreon are full print quality images and most are posted with variations in style or background.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fantasy races

Best image of the fantasy races. Ever.
Not only that, but this is probably the most practical envisioning of what it would be like. Average joes just sitting around the campfire after a little adventuring. The halfling, always the most flamboyant speaker of the group, is talking up the a-little-shy dwarf to the pretty elven maid, telling how he took out three orcs with a powerful swing of his hardy battle axe. Knowing he is embellishing the story a wee bit, she knowingly smiles at the little fella. The dwarf allows the exaggerated story, hoping he might steal a kiss from the lovely lass, decades later it would be a grand story he could tell his cousins back at the mine.

When I think of gaming, this is the image I always picture in my head.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

[map] Kahthgart Ruins

Just a quick map today, hope you like it.

If you dig maps like these, drop by my Patreon page and check out all the maps I make, maybe even drop me a quarter or two. Maps I post to the blog are reduced quality while maps posted to Patreon are full print quality images and most are posted with variations in style or background.

Friday, October 9, 2015

[map] Thangardt Gaol

One of my patrons over on Patreon said they needed an old duergar dungeon with jail cells so I went to work and knocked out a map this morning. I hope he has a great time killing some characters as they explore the dark chambers.

If you dig maps like these, drop by my Patreon page and check out all the maps I make, maybe even drop me a quarter or two. Maps I post to the blog are reduced quality while maps posted to Patreon are full print quality images and most are posted with variations in style or background.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

[map] XF-149: Planetary Exploration Pod

In honor of White Star STILL being #1 on RPGNow after five months in the wild I decided to draw up another scifi themed map.

If you dig maps like these, drop by my Patreon page and check out all the maps I make, maybe even drop me a quarter or two. Maps I post to the blog are reduced quality while maps posted to Patreon are full print quality images and most are posted with variations in style or background.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

[map] The Constable's Gate at Cardiffdunn

Latest map is up on Patreon. For full resolution and variant versions of the map, please visit my Patreon page:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

[map] The Abbey of St Martin

I am currently listening to Redwall by Brian Jacques and was inspired by the novel of little mice living in an ancient abbey and exploring the forgotten countryside

I also put together a very large version, I think this would look badass on a large cloth tapestry that a GM could drop over a table for an adventure with a band of brave souls.
Click on any of the images to head over to my Patreon page to download the original resolution files. If you enjoy the maps, please consider signing up as a patron, every little bit helps me continue to make these maps for gamers everywhere.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

[map] The Village of Treacle

The Village of Treacle sits upon the western edge of the Known Lands, clinging to a hardy life upon the Mistgrume Sea. The village is populated by rough men and women always on edge. Life upon the Mistgloom is a dangerous one and few live more than a decade before succumbing. Most of the men make their living here working the sea, catching fish and clams to feed the village.
1] A large building near the middle of the village is the one place well known outside of the locals. The Dagget and Blok is a two story building, though not in truth as the first floor is simply the silts upon which the second floor resides. The location is known as a Work Porter and those travelling through can come here to find work, rumors and facts on the local area, like-minded company, and grab something to quench your thirst and hunger. In most cases the barkeep is the source of a knowledge and the most interesting person, here this is not the case. The patrons are by far the sources of knowledge here and for the price of a drink or perhaps a bowl of stew one can learn the wonders of the Palatial Ground of the Golmogis Bollumbog, the Terputmen's Terranium, or even the location of the Lost Gaetus of Felandricus.

2] A brightly painted sign anoints this building as the home of Betterman's Ferry. The building appears sound and in well care from the outside and once entered, visitors will find the inside is no different. The interior of the building contains just a few items: a large black chalkboard rises up behind a simple wooden desk that rises high like a podium. The chalkboard is covered in lines and text, declaring the times of travel to and from Treacle to the far cities of the Known Lands. Next to each time is the illustrious names of the ram and raft that leaves or arrives in Treacle.

At the desk a small and skeleton-like man will judge each visitor from behind wire-rimmed glasses. "Where do you wish to travel," the man will ask in a low and almost annoyed voice. Without emotion the guide will direct the traveler of the time their conveyance will arrive in Treacle. He will charge and extra coin as a fee for arranging the travel.

3] This long building is made of dark and grimy wood with a faded sign that faintly proclaims this to be the residence of Lagonis Brindbarrel's Scripts and Potives. Walking inside will cause one to be struck by the pungent odors of nature, almost overwhelming. The middle of the building is the public area and is overstuffed with shelves containing far too many small vials, pots and bottles of a myriad of various flavors of scripts and potives for the sale. A moment after entering the area a small woman will enter, small and weak looking and yet still strong of mind, this is Lagonis.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

[table] d6 Deadly Pants! Yes, you read that correct.

So I was browsing a few blogs I regularly visit and on +Tim Shorts's awesome Gothridge Manor blog I spotted a link to another blog that had an awesome sounding post:

"Deadly PANTS" I thought it read - I was not wearing my glasses at the time. Sadly, the post was not about pants with a penchant for killing. I was momentarily sad that someone had not come up with some deadly pantage, then I said Fuck it! and promptly made some.

God help you if you find yourself wearing one of these. Roll a d6 bitches.

1 - Thorsberg’s Leggings - Thorsberg was a squirrely fella and liked his pants very tight to “Show my manliness to the ladies” he would proudly proclaim. A natural looking codpiece beneath the groin area makes the wearer appear to be very well endowed. He receives a +2 on all rolls when speaking with women so long as his pants are visible. However, after these pants have been worn for a total of one week the wearer will lose all manly ability to perform for said ladies.

2 - Barbarian Breeches - Historically it was believed that only savages wore pants and some fool mage made these pants, we hope in jest. Upon donning these pants the wearer immediate flies into a barbarian-like rage. This lasts for approximately 2d4 rounds or until the pants are forcibly removed. If the wearer is killed while still wearing the pants, his corpse will continue to rage until the effect’s duration is complete.

3 - Braccae - These pants cover the wearer from the waist to just below the knee. If folded nicely each night these pants will self-clean and deodor themselves. If the wearer fails to remove them in the evening and let the pants ‘air out’ the pants will slowly grow tighter. After one day they will be uncomfortable to wear. After two days they will be painful to wear. After three days the legs will begin to bleed through the pants. On the fourth day the pants will become so restrictive that the wearer will not be able to focus on anything but the pain. The fifth day dead will come for the wearer. Once the pants are on, only a wish spell will remove them.

4- Prandler’s Poofy Pantaloons - These appear to be regular, sturdy leather pants. After they have been worn for four hours there is a 1 in six chance per day the pants will suddenly balloon out to a form a round poofy balloon on each leg. These are so large they restrict movement. After two minutes the air inside the pants becomes lighter than air and will lift - feet first - the wearer upward. The pants can lift over 400 pounds and will continue to do so for one full hour. At the conclusion of one hour the pants will suddenly deflate, dropping the wearer from whatever height they have attained in the last hour.

5 - Knickerbockers - Also known in certain circles as Buttkinkickers, these pants appear to be a pair of elegantly made and expensive trousers. For most purposes they are, until they are worn around someone of importance such as a noble, high ranking clergy, or a powerful demon. They then spring to life and take control of the wearer’s lower legs. The pants will seek out the most high-profile or powerful being it can reasonably reach (including performing leaps far beyond normal human capability, up to 100 feet) and begin to violently kick the being, preferably in the arse. The pants will continue to do this until either the pants are removed (by force), the wearer is slain, or the target is killed. If the pants manage to kill the target of its kicking, they will return behaving as pants should.

6 - Hell’s Bells - These overly large-ending pants are plain white, almost blindingly white. Once worn the wearer will immediately long for the sea and being in smelly, small, and cramped rooms with many men. But that is just where the horror starts. Immediately following these strange desires the pants will literally clang out a resounding tone with every step the wearer takes as if the wearer worn massive brass bells upon their legs. This sound is deafening within twenty feet and carries well over two miles, letting all know exactly where the wearer is located.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

[adventure] Siege at the Temple of Gorush

First off, I did not write this one (for those of you lacking in observatory skills and missed the author above). This was written Pits & Perils, one of my favorite rules-lite old school style game, back in the early days of the system being written. It was ran at a convention by the author and not too long ago posted for public use.

Being the fool I am, prefer the digest sized booklets - they are simply easier to take with you for reading while out of the house. If am not taking my tablet, I am taking one of these small booklets wherever I go. You never know when you will get a five minute break in the insanity and want to read something. So I took the adventure James had written and reformatted it for a digest size.

You can read a little history behind this adventure here:

James was gracious enough to allow me to post this to my own blog. If you enjoy some old school gaming - and even if you have never read Pits & Perils - take a moment and look this over. The adventure is a solid old school adventure.

Oh, and this is my call to arms aimed squarely at +Olde House Rules, where is my digest sized version of the rulebook? Come on!  ;-)

Monday, July 27, 2015

[map] The Isle of Kalvania

Another quick map for the month and then I think I will focus on my writing. This one was drawn while my family watched TV and relaxed after a busy weekend. This is another in the style +Matthew Lowes posted on Google+.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

[map] Welcome to Ratown & Bagel's Olde Wood Shoppe

As a long time DM I have often found that images and maps can be great as tools at the table to help get a location's feeling or atmosphere across to players, BUT I have also found those same thing to be fountains of inspiration for the stumped DM. That's where this piece is coming from. I created this map to be used but also to hopefully inspire. My hope is that a DM would be using this map and get inspired by the hints on the map to flesh out the underground market known as Ratown.

Each business in Ratown has a small hint at at what might be inside - a name or perhaps what is sold inside. My hope is that this will spark a creative idea in the DM and help them create unique locations and inhabitants of Ratown for players to visit.

Let's give it a try.

Near the middle is a location with the term "Bagels" on it. Now, while I might like bread just as much as the next guy, bagels are not my favorite bread product (barely nudging out croissant, that evil doughy thing from France). That means I would likely steer clear of this being a bakery that specializes in bagels...what if the owner is named Bagel instead?

Bagel's Olde Wood Shoppe - 
Bagel (pronounced bah-ghel) is white-bearded gnome that shares his race's affinity for pointed hats, in his case a blue one. He is most often found wearing sturdy - and dirty - coveralls and a belt with many pockets. Bagel is a serious and hard worker with a specialization in woodwork. With his natural ability in magic and his god-given skill in woodworking he has mastered the skill of wand and staff making, providing a wide variety of each.

Bagel's Shoppe is dusty and tight. The store is divided into two sections with the front being essentially a hallway that runs between the two doors. This section is full - from floor to ceiling - with small boxes of wands stacked upon each other and small barrels choked full of staves. There are so many to choose from that a visitor will feel a little overwhelmed when they enter. This is actually a ward that Bagel has cast upon the entryway. Moments after entering the shop Bagel will appear from the back and wave off the ward's effects.

The back section of the shoppe is Bagel's workshop and is full of stacks of wood and a large bench covered in the various tools Bagel uses to create his masterpieces. This area is exceedingly dusty and will cause anyone entering to begin suffering complications. These will include coughing, itching and watering eyes, and a general feeling of discomfort from the dust-filled air. This is caused by another ward being placed upon the area.

All of Bagel's products are sold ready to accept any magic placed upon them and are inherently magical due to charms and wards he places upon each when he is finished working his craft. Thus, simply owning one will afford the user a +1 to any single roll each day (player picks).

What does BagelRandom Woodcraft Generator
Type of wood (d10)
1- Oak
2- Hazel
3- Mahogany
4- Cedar
5- Willow
6- Ash
7- Black Ash
8- Holly
9- Birch
10- Elder

Form and shape (d10)
1- Thin and appears brittle
2- Stiff
3- Bendable
4- Strong and sturdy
5- Light
6- Firm
7- Bendy
8- Gnarled and twisted
9- Bone white
10- Strangely Heavy

Best for the use of... (d10)
1- Transmutation spells
2- Charms and illusion spells
3- The storage of any spell
4- Offensive spells
5- Healing spells
6- Defensive spells
7- Locating spells
8- Enchantment spells
9- Abjuration spells
10- Divination spells

Sunday, July 19, 2015

[map] The Duchy of Kilbomsbaron

Another of the map in the style of +Matthew Lowes, this time with Hexes! I have to admit I love the zigzag rivers on the map, love how they turned out. I may have to make more of these.  :-)

While I love the colors, I almost like the black and white one better. Just has a sort of old school magic feel to it. Makes me think of something you might find on the inside cover in a novel.

Friday, July 17, 2015

[map] The Isle Kingdom of Sewol Wehtam

Sort of feels like a map that belongs in the game Far Away Land, no?

Cool dude +Matthew Lowes  was drawing maps like this over on Google+ and I thought it looked cool enough to make me want to try my hand at it. You can view his post here:

Black and white version

You might recognize the colors used on the map (first one up above) as well, they are taken directly from the old (read: good) Forgotten Realms maps that were produced for the box sets. Damn I loved those maps!

Numbered, in case you crazy mofos want to use this somewhere.

Monday, July 13, 2015

[crafts] Crafting a medallion

So I am still working on my secret project, experimenting with a few ideas as I ensure that I could actually pull of the bits and pieces that I need to complete the project. Today I attempted to sculpt a medallion - for no other purpose than to see if I could do it.

First, I swiped some clay (not sure what brand or anything) from my daughter's art area. I am looking at a few different kinds of clay that I can buy because I would need more, much more for the project. I drew up some random designs on paper as a example before I cut into the clay. Below is what I came up with.
 The reverse side:
I baked this in my convection oven for about 20 minutes, it was dry but still bendable at the end of the twenty minutes. Kinda weird, it looks like stone but bends a little like rubber. Strange....and perfect!

Next I grabbed some paint - literally whatever I had in the garage - and started playing around. I want this to be strange, sort of familiar but not exactly right. I grabbed an orange, blue, and bright red spray paint and took turns with each color, wiping some off here, dabbing it there. Then I filled the crevasses with black paint and then dry brushed the black off the top surface in a sort of haphazard pattern. The result is below, the one side turned out mostly brown with lots of pits and scratches.
 The other side ended up more red and strangely like bloody flesh in color. Really weird.

I wanted to see what a 'final product' might look like, so using the paper I made last weekend I wrote a quick letter and then a piece of scratch paper with drawings, notes, etc.

I am not 100% happy with it, but it is close to what I wanted. For a first attempt it turned out pretty well. This is entirely far too easy and so much more simple than I expected it would be. Fun lies ahead of me!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

[map] The Babble

Named after the excellent +Billiam Babble, I present a small craft suitable for exploring the depths of space or maybe the depths of the ocean? The craft has a crew of two but can support three for a short duration. A small crew compartment offers a two bunk set up (with a cramped three bunk option) for living quarters.

Black and white version: