Monday, November 29, 2004

Back From NYC And Yet More D&D In The News

We got back from our weekend getaway to New York late last night. We had a wonderful time in NYC, and once again I am reminded of how much I like that city and how much I'd like to move up there.

Quickly (I'll go into details later), our time was spent mostly relaxing. We arrived on Wednesday night after a 2-hour long delay at MIA, ate something and went to sleep. On Thursday my wife and I took a cab ride to the
Ohel, resting place of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad-Lubavitch, as well as of his wife and father-in-law, also a Chabad Rebbe. We returned later in the afternoon to Brooklyn, had our Thanksgiving dinner, and went to see "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (we liked it, it was funny) in Times Square. Friday we overslept, so we barely had enough time to make it to Manhattan, to the Hotel 17, where later in the evening, after Shabbat had started, our friend Larissa joined us. After a meal of wraps and lots of side dishes, we took a walk around Union Square and enjoyed the cold air. Saturday my wife and I went to the Young Israel of 5th Avenue for prayers, returned for a quick lunch, joined Larissa and Yvonne for an afternoon walk around Union Square and its various stores, took a short nap, and went to see Wicked: The Musical (it was AMAZING!), closing the night at the hotel and me with a headache the size of the Empire State Building. Sunday we went shopping around Union Square and St. Mark's Place in the East Village, and ate at a great little food place called Chickpea, before going to the airport and flying back home to Miami. I'll expound later.

Also, continuing the trend, the Boston Herald has published an article on D&D's 30th Anniversary entitled, "Here there be Dragons: After 30 years, D&D Players Shape Pop Culture."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Thanksgiving in New York

In what appears to be on its way to becoming a holiday tradition, my wife and I will be flying tomorrow evening from Miami to New York to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with my sister-in-law. What's even cooler, our friend Larissa will join us from Orlando on Friday, and Saturday night we're all going to see Wicked: The Musical, starring Idina Menzel.

All in all, this weekend should be kickass! Which is awesome, because we really need to get out of Miami once in a while.

Monday, November 22, 2004

RPG Questionaire

Once in a while you find these questionaires in websites, emails and other blogs, but this is the first one I have seen RPG related. So here goes (taken from Gareth-Michael Skarka):

1. What is the first RPG you ever played?

Dungeons & Dragons. It was 1986, I was in the 7th grade, and a friend of mine told me about this game his cousin had brought from the States (I was living in Puerto Rico at the time) about fantasy and dragons. I've been hooked ever since.

2. What RPG do you currently play most often?

Though I write d20 material that's D&D compatible, the game I have most played in the last few years has been Vampire: The Masquerade, with an ongoing chronicle since 1999. Recently we started a World of Darkness chronicle with the new rules.

3. What is the best system you've played?

Personally, I've always been a fan of D&D, though I readily accept it has had many problems over the years. I like the new 3.5 edition of the game; I think it's the most solid it has ever been. For more atmospheric games, White Wolf's Storyteller system rocks; I've gone months without rolling dice, based on the story-driven basis of the system.

4. What is the best system you've run?

White Wolf's Storyteller system, I would say. I used to like the Shadowrun system a lot, but then it got too complicated. D&D 3rd and 3.5 edition are a close second.

5. Would you consider yourself an: Elitist/ Min-Maxer/ Rules Lawyer?

If by Elitist you mean middle-of-the-road or story-driven type of player, then that's me. I'm definitely not a Rules Lawyer or a Min-Maxer.

6. If you could recommend a new RPG which would you recommend? Why?

Probably the new World of Darkness by White Wolf. They took a streamlined system and streamlined it even more, taking the best concepts from 3rd edition D&D and applying it to the Storyteller system. The result is a good game that serves even better as a toolkit for modern occult genre games.

7. How often do you play?

Sadly, I haven't been in a regular game in a while. Our gaming schedule is erratic, at best.

8. What sort of characters do you play? Leader? Follower? Comic Relief? Roll-Player/ Role-Player?

Role-player/Leader. Though sometimes I like to play a combat-machine just for kicks.

9. What is your favorite Genre for RPGs?

Fantasy, hands down. I enjoy futuristic/cyberpunk too, but at the end of the day it's fantasy I come back to.

10. What Genres have you played in?

Pretty much every genre available in a game, except for espionage.

11. Do you prefer to play or GM? Do you do both?

I like to do both, though I end up GM-ing more than playing.

12. Do you like religion in your games?

Game-related? Sure. Real life? only if the people involved can be mature and respectful about it. Otherwise, no.

13. Do you have taboo subjects in your games or is everything "fair game"?

Depends on the game and the players. See previous answer.

14. Have you developed your own RPG before?

Whole roleplaying game from the ground up? No, I always adapted others, and now I write for the d20 System.

15. Have you ever been published in the Gaming Industry? If so...what?

Yes. Here's a list:

  • "Bardic Lore: The Fachan" - Highmoon Media Productions (2004)
  • "Liber Sodalitas: Erzsak's Drake Riders" - Highmoon Media Productions (2004)
  • "Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path" - Highmoon Media Productions (2004)
  • "The Player's Guide to Arcanis" - Paradigm Concepts, Inc. (2004)
    Additional Design
  • "Nishanpur: City of Secrets" - Paradigm Concepts, Inc. (2004)
    Additional Design (my name was left off the credits)
  • Campaign Magazine, Issue 8 - Fast Forward Entertainment, Inc. (2003)
    Author, "The Green Bough Glen" and "Four Magical Feats"
  • "Alchemy & Herbalists" - Bastion Press, Inc. (2002)
    Additional Material
  • "Codex Arcanis" - Paradigm Concepts, Inc. (2002)
    Additional Design
  • "Hidden Greed" - RPGA Living Arcanis adventure, Paradigm Concepts, Inc. (2001)
  • "At the Edge of the Abyss" - RPGA Living Greyhawk adventure, Wizards of the Coast. (2001)
  • "Hawk's Pride" - RPGA Living City adventure, Wizards of the Coast. (2001)
  • Pyramid Magazine - Steve Jackson Games. (1998)
    Reviewer, "Clan Novel: Toreador" book review

Friday, November 19, 2004

Nov. 19: Sad And Happy Day

November 19 has various meanings to me, some happy and some sad. Let me get the sad one out first:

November 19, 1993 --11 years ago -- was the day my father passed away. I was living in Puerto Rico at the time, he in Miami, and he had gone in for some checkups a few days before. During the early morning hours of Nov. 19 he suffered a renal failure and died shortly thereafter (there is obviously more to it, but there's no reason to go into my Dad's medical history here). It was the worst news I had ever received, especially because a few days before, when my grandparents had flown to Miami to be with my dad at the hospital, I had had one of those gut premonitions that feel like punch to the stomach telling me to go with them; I didn't.

I had spent almost all of that summer with my Dad here in Miami and we'd have a great time. I flew back to P.R about a week before I was scheduled to originally because a girl, an ex-girlfriend, I hadn't seen in 3 years was in P.R. due to a death in the family (the irony kills me), and I had some unfinished business with her that I wanted to close once and for all (a story for another time). And so my Dad paid the extra fee so I could fly in earlier and see this girl; he was sad, and so was I, but hey, there was always Christmas! It wasn't to be. He had a funeral in Miami, and then his body was flown to Puerto Rico, where he's buried.

The really annoying thing about this whole deal is, as destroyed as I was by the death of my father, when I saw his body at the funeral, my sadness was alleviated by what I saw: my father had died with a smile on his face. An honest-to-God smile. During that summer, my Dad and I caught up with like 4 seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on reruns, and he said to me one night that in Heaven, since we'd be free of the limitations of the body, we'd be able to visit all the corners of the Universe, just "beaming" from here to there without effort, all so we could see the wonders of God's creation. When I saw his smile, that conversation came to mind, and I understood. I got an image in my head of my father, dressed in a Federation uniform, just exploring the vastness of the Universe, and that made me smile in turn.

I didn't cry at this funeral, though I have cried for him many times after that (including as I type this). I can't say I understand why God decided that his time had come so soon; I needed him so much during the time of my wedding, and especially as I was contemplating my conversion to Judaism, though most of the time I simply needed him because I just needed my Dad. I just gotta trust that God did what was right, and that one day I will understand. Until then, Dad, beam on, cause one day I'll want the Grand Tour as well.

My Dad also taught me that happiness should always be held higher than sadness, and that when possible, a sad occasion should be followed by a joyous one, which is why it's no coincidence that Nov. 19 is also the day that my wife and I arrived in Ireland ready to begin our married life and enjoy our honeymoon.

Yvette & Danny at the Cliffs of Moher
Nov. 24, 2002

We had visited Europe the year before for a 35-day Grand Tour we named The Transfiguration Tour, but as much as we all wanted to go to Ireland, we just had to leave it off for another time. That "another time" was our honeymoon, and we enjoyed every single last second of it. Ireland is a country where myth and history are inseparable, truly one and the same. People may tell you that they pray to St. Brigit knowing full well she's a Christianization of the Celtic goddess Brigid, or that they don't believe in faeries, but don't piss them off because they are out there. The best thing about having gone to our honeymoon in Ireland is that now, Ireland will always be a part of our marriage; whenever we look back on those early days, Ireland is there for us, beckoning, waiting for us to go back to her.

You can check our online travel journal at Celtic Honeymoon, and follow our trip day by day, location by location. Trust me, you'll fall in love with Ireland as well.

So like I said, sad and happy day, this Nov. 19. But overall, it's a happy one. I know my Dad would want me to feel that way.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

[Highmoon Media] Letter To Our Customers & Friends

I (as Highmoon Media Productions) sent out this letter to all our current customers and to a group of friends to say thanks for their suport so far, and to let them know what's going on with HMP. I thought I'd post it here as a newsletter type of message stating where we are, and where we're headed.

Hello from Highmoon Media Productions.
We just wanted to take a moment to say hi to all our gaming friends and customers, and take a moment to put you up-to-date on what's happening at HMP.

Our three releases up to date--
Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path, Liber Sodalitas: Erzsak's Drake Riders, and Bardic Lore: The Fachan--have been selling very well indeed, giving us all here at HMP great impetus to continue releasing cool new products.

HMP's Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path was recently reviewed at
EN World by Staff Reviwer Crothian, who rated the product 4 out of 5! You can read his review here.

At, two of our customers have already left User Comments, which we treasure and value, both rating Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path 5 out 5! You can check out the User Comments here (scroll down to the bottom).

If after buying, you enjoy your HMP purchase, we'd like to ask you to leave either a User Comment at, on the page of the product of your choice (or all three), or if you'd like to write a longer review, you could post it to, or at HMP's EN World Reviews Company Page under the appropiate product. Your comments help us improve and deliver quality products into your hands.

HMP is just getting started, too. Drop by our website at for the latest news and features, like the upcoming Designer's Notes section for each of our products where we'll take you behind the scenes of the creation process. We also hope to have our d20 Future line, Da Vinci Labs, ready to go before the end of the year, as well as our first release in the new Terra Mythica line. Closer on the horizon, we have a new Bardic Lore release, The Villa of Mysterious Delights, a drop-in location for your d20 Fantasy game, and a new Liber Sodalitas organization, the Scions of the Holy Triad, masters of the Triad Combat technique, and wielders of the wicked Triskele.

Like I said, lots coming from Highmoon Media Productions, we hope you'll stick around for the ride.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Highmoon Media Releases Bardic Lore: The Fachan

Highmoon Media Productions releases its third product, Bardic Lore: The Fachan, at

I turned around, intent on facing my enemy and instead I faced my nightmares. In front of me stood a creature fully a head taller than I, its single, bloodshot eye staring at me with all the hatred in the world. It had a broad and muscled body with a single arm jutting from the center of its chest, and a single, powerful leg, propelling it forth towards me. I can honestly say I hope to never run into a fachan ever again.
— From the journal of Amergin Ó Míl

Bardic Lore: The Fachan is a 8-page PDF (7 pages of content plus OGL) detailing a new creature for your d20 Fantasy game from the pages of Celtic myth, the fachan. Included are stats for this fearsome creature, info on the fachan as a character race, the fachan paragon class, a fully-stated NPC to threaten your players, and Lore/Knowledge check information. Written by Daniel M. Perez, artwork by Kelso Kaiser.

Bardic Lore chronicles the travels of the great bard Amergin Ó Míl as he wanders around the land, learning about the mundane, exotic and magical, recording it in his journal for posterity. Each Bardic Lore release is an entry from Amergin's journal, with accompanying d20 Fantasy stats and descriptions.

Look for further releases in the
Bardic Lore and Liber Sodalitas lines from HMP.

Also available from Highmoon Media Productions:

More D&D In The News

I do not cease to be amazed at the amount of news pieces mentioning D&D this year; perhaps there are far more of us geeks than originally thought, and we do, in part, rule the world now (alongside our trusty sword +5).

The Boston Globe published on Nov. 15 an opinion piece on Dungeons & Dragon's 30th Anniversary entitled, "How 'Dungeons' changed the world."

And in similar news, Newsweek published a short op-ed in their November 22 issue, also on D&D's 30th Anniversary, entitled "Fantasy: The Thirty Years War."


2nd Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary. Two years ago, in a first-rainy-then-crips-and-cool-then-really-cold Sunday night, I married the woman who was my love and my life. It was a sweet ceremony, full of joy, and everyone who attended can testify to the overwhelming feeling of peace, happiness and hope that permeated even the air. Now, two years later, we're still married, still in love and still without having killed each other (I've always said that the secret to a long-lasting and loving relationship is that the husband and wife do not kill each other).

So, to my wife, Happy 2nd Anniversary. I love you now more than I did then, but I still love you with the passion I did that day. May we have many, many more.

You can see our wedding website at "Danny & Yvette: Our Wedding."

Friday, November 12, 2004

HMP's First Review!

I released Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path on October 12, thus launching Highmoon Media Productions officially. All this time, while the product's been on sale (and selling quite decently, I think), I have been waiting for a product review. I got two good user reviews at, which do mean a lot to me, since these are the people actually using the material, but an actual product review still eluded me. That changed today.

I did my usual morning round at, and found on the front page that Liber Sodalitas: The Blind Path had been reviewed by Staff PDF Reviewer Crothian. My heart jumped to my throat, I swear to you. Before this moment, I had read various posts from other publishers talking about when they received their first review, the anxiety and exhilaration that it brought, and I thought they were exagerating. They weren't, not by a longshot.

The review, I'm happy to say, was very positive, earning the product a 4 out of 5 rating, as well as some good comments from Crothian (
click to read the review). It's a weird ego thing, getting a review. In my case, I'm not sure it will have any impact on my sales (though it does put my product's name back on the front page at, but the fact that someone who has reviewed hundreds of gaming products liked mine and thought well of it. It validates the work I have been doing up to now, and gives me impetus to keep going, to produce more (hopefully) good stuff.

I was feeling kinda crappy this morning, but this has bettered my mood a lot. Now to finish my stuff here at work and head home, cause Shabbat now starts at 5:15 PM and that leaves no time to waste.

Great Quote

My wife just sent me this via email. I don't know who said it, but it is a great quote:
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, body totally worn out, and screaming WOOHOO!!! .....What a Glorious Ride!"

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Haman Is Dead

I was awake last night at around midnight when I got a Breaking News email from the local NBC station: Yasser Arafat had died.

Psalm 92: 7
When the wicked bloom like grass, and the doers of iniquity blossom- it is to destroy them till eternity.

I turned on the news and only BBC had something on it, so I just went to bed, knowing full well in the morning the news organizations would have all the details. I was right, and while I had my breakfast I got up to date on the death of the "Palestinian" leader and all the related going-ons in the Middle East, and especially in Israel.

Have you ever read the Book of Esther? You should. And when you do, instead of Haman, replace it with Arafat; you'll get the same result. This is a man who championed terrorism as a perfectly acceptable tactic to getting what he wanted. This is the man who kept his "people" in the dirt while living it up in a multi-million dollar lifestyle with the money he stole. This is the man who came up with the ridiculous idea of a Palestinian people and state. Did you know he was actually Egyptian, not "Palestinian?" That's because there is no such thing as a "Palestinian" people, not in the modern world. Some two or three thousand years ago perhaps, and even then that's iffy at best. There's always been Arab nomads in those lands, yes, but just the same there have always been Jews and/or Israelis as well, and we have the claim to the land, not them (and unless you're a 100% atheist there is no way you can argue that point with me).

Of course, the world is mourning him as if he'd been a hero. I got news for you: if you believe Arafat was a hero, then so is Osama Bin Laden; if you think Arafat should be accorded all the privileges of a stateman, then hand them out to Bin Laden as well, because these two were peas from the same rotten pod. Arafat was a terrorist, plain and simple; a man who hated with vehemence Israel and the USA and all that the Western World stands for, a man who had no problem ordering suicide bombings in civilian centers, who had no problem ordering the deaths of children, a man who benefited from the misery of those he pretended to represent with their full support to boot, ignorant people that they are. Today a true villain has died.

And before you can say anything, understand that I do not rejoice in the fact; at the end of the day he was just a sick and decrepit old man of 75 who died alone far from his home. But I am glad he passed away, and even more so that he died like he did, of natural causes. God simply said, "You're time's up, Arafat. It's time for your judgement." What happens to him in the afterlife is of no concern of mine, but I know he will have to answer for every single life he took, directly or indirectly.

Psalm 83
A Song, a Psalm of Asaph.
O God, keep not Thou silence; hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God. For, lo, Thine enemies are in an uproar; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They hold crafty converse against Thy people, and take counsel against Thy treasured ones. They have said: 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.' For they have consulted together with one consent; against Thee do they make a covenant; The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot.

Do Thou unto them as unto Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon; Who were destroyed at En-dor; they became as dung for the earth. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and like Zebah and Zalmunna all their princes; Who said: 'Let us take to ourselves in possession the habitations of God.' O my God, make them like the whirling dust; as stubble before the wind. As the fire that burneth the forest, and as the flame that setteth the mountains ablaze; So pursue them with Thy tempest, and affright them with Thy storm. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Thy name, O LORD. Let them be ashamed and affrighted for ever; yea, let them be abashed and perish; That they may know that it is Thou alone whose name is the LORD, the Most High over all the earth.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Thoughts From The Weekend

Two things have stuck in my head from the weekend and have prompted some thoughts.
First, my rabbi, Rabbi Dalfin of Ohr Menachem Chabad of North Bay Village, made a comment on this week parasha (weekly Torah portion), Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24), specifically on the moment when Abraham "argues" with God to save the city of Sodom if there are enough righteous people, starting with 50, then 45, 30, 20 and ending with 10; less than 10 is not enough to spare the city. This is one of those places in the Torah where we see clearly the value and importance of a minyan, the quorum of 10 adult Jewish men.

So the rabbi tells a story of the
Alter Rebbe (the 1st Chabad-Lubavitcher Rebbe) of a time when he was travelling in Russia and lodged at an inn run by a Jewish man and his family for generations in a somewhat isolated area of the country. The Rebbe asked the man why did he live so far from a Jewish community, to which the man answered that his family had owned the inn for many years and this is how they made their living. The Rebbe asked the man what did he do for prayers, to pray with a minyan. The man answered that, except for the High Holy Days, when he would travel to the city, the rest of the year he would have no minyan to pray with; a few Jewish travelers here and there, but hardly ever a minyan. The Rebbe spoke to the man about the importance of praying with a minyan, and went to his room, only to be awakened some time later by the sounds of furniture being moved. The man had take the Rebbe's words to heart and decided to move to the city to be able to pray with a minyan. The Rebbe said later to his students that he had been moved by this man, who was not his student or one of his followers, but that had taken his words to heart so thoroughly. It's a great story, and it indeed points to the importance of praying with a minyan.

But there's another side to the story, a side-effect, if you will. Because of the Rebbe's words, this man closed his inn and moved, thereby removing the one small presence of Judaism that there was in this remote area of the country. While the man was there, a Jewish traveller could be assured to find a host sensitive to his special needs, assured to find kosher food in the middle of nowhere, assured to find a candle in the middle of the gentile darkness around. With the man moving away, that candle was extinguished, who knows if ever to be rekindled again. My rabbi took this as a great example to be followed, while I was bothered to no end by it. What if this man's mission was to be a roadside candle for travellers? What if the true difference he made in the world was by being a spark of Judaism where you wouldn't think of finding one? Yeah, it's important to pray with a minyan, but it is also important to bring light to the nations; that's our calling after all!

At its core, this bothered me because one of those "perhaps one day" dreams that I have is to move to Europe (the Dingle Peninsual in Ireland is at the top of my list), open a little B&B, and enjoy peace and quietness while having the wonders of Europe just outside my door. This would most likely mean being the only Jew around for miles, and not being able to pray with a minyan. But this would also mean that I'd be a little spark of Judaism in a place where you wouldn't exactly expect to find one. I'd be that opportunity for a Jewish traveller to find a kosher meal in western Ireland; to find that timers and pre-cooked food (perhaps even some cholent) come Shabbat; to find someone who understand when this traveller says he/she wishes they had some kugel or burekas; to help all the gentiles around get used to the idea of Jews being normal human beings, respectful and amiable, living with the laws of God while fully being a part of this world. In short, to be a Jewish beacon in the midst of a gentile ocean. God knows I wish I had found this when I was travelling in Ireland two years ago! How can we be a light unto the nations if we only keep to our all-Jewish communities?

The other weekend subject I was thinking about was Halloween. I think I'm over it. I used to like Halloween, a lot, but over the last few years that interest has dwindled and it has nothing to do with my conversion to Judaism; while Orthodox Judaism certainly does not endorse the celebration of Halloween (read more about it
here), it is not as dire as, say, the position on celebrating Christmas (which is a big no-no). I just, I don't know, don't care anymore. Dressing up in costume is fun, but I don't really want to do it (not even for the Renaissance Faire lately, either). I'm not sure why, either, but I just don't. Though last night I did go to my friend's house to their little party and had a good time (see the pictures). We took their 1-year old baby girl Alexis trick-or-treating and got lots of candies that we ate for her (she didn't mind). Maybe once I have kids it'll be fun again, though by then I'll also have to decided on the issue of Halloween and raising an Orthodox Jewish family... Things don't really get easy as you grow older, do they?

So, to end on a high note, here's a really good article on the position of Judaism in regards to the occult. In short, no, we're not like the Christians at all (thank God for that); Judaism is very much a way of life that stresses the middle of the road and the understanding that EVERYTHING is a part of God and part of His plan. With that in mind, the occult can be understood to be just another tool of God that can be used for benefit or harm (remember that good and evil are human inventions). The article is well-written and is completely non-dogmatic; I invite you to read it.

by Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky