ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Well, rather than sign a contract written in a language I can't read, I'll just let my livejournal account (ebartley) go. I duplicated it here years ago, and I while I wasn't careful about always posting from here and letting it be duplicated, I hadn't been posting much there. I think all I had done in years was occasional recipes, and I have the ones I care about collected elsewhere.
ecreegan: orange flames (flames1)
I've been having some thoughts about PBEM and journaling game theory. One of my favorite people to game with has enough times where she can't game that I'm very hesitant to suggest she join games, or suggest that third parties join any two-person games we're playing. And I suspect everyone who has played any sort of asynchronous game has had a problem with someone whose timing didn't match theirs -- either feeling pressured to respond more often than was comfortable, or they feeling held back in starting other threads because this one wasn't ending.

So the resulting game design challenge is: come up with a game setting where it is impossible for one player to bog down another. Scene A and scene B can each take as long as they take in real life, and in the game world once they're wrapped the players can decide which happened first or if they happened simultaneously (the latter a necessary possibility if what's happening in one scene could theoretically affect the other.)

The first setting which occurs to me is a game where the characters are artificial intelligences capable of forking themselves and merging again. AI Alpha needs to be in two space stations simultaneously, so it copies itself into Alpha-1 and Alpha-2. Alpha-0 stays home. Alpha-1 and Alpha-2 travel to the appropriate space stations and return home; Alpha-0 does a merge so that it has all three sets of memories (staying home and going to both space stations) so that Alpha-0, Alpha-1, and Alpha-2 are identical, then deletes the others.

Note that with virtual reality, this setting isn't restricted to high technology: the AIs could be programmed to think of themselves as mages in a fantasy world, telepaths in any setting, whatever -- and the underlying virtual reality could support the illusion. Given players comfortable with the underlying setting, though, you could do pretty much anything in pretty much any style (i.e. moderated or GM'd, consensual or roll-based, whatever.) However, if the underlying reality is stipulated as AI and virtual reality, the game won't work unless the players are comfortable with thinking in terms of AIs, virtual reality, forking, merging, et cetera.

There are other sorts of characters which could logically be in two places at once -- gods in some mythologies, perhaps powerful telepaths, people with bilocation as a freak talent.

I can easily see a game where the characters are all gods, perhaps from the same pantheon, perhaps from rival pantheons, perhaps some of each. My instinct says the natural gaming style would be consensual results for most interactions -- that is, I don't think it would be wise for the game mechanics to decide when Athena or Ares win a fight with each other, but either win fights with Aphrodite every time, and either loses fights with Zeus every time. You could do GM'd if you can find plots for gods that aren't basically rivalries with each other. Moderated with a focus on character-character interaction and plots secondary and largely player-driven wound be easier.

A game where the gods are characters would default to being timebound to Earth - that is, Athena might be in three places at once, but "at once" would always correspond to a specific date and time. You could tack on something in the way of uncontrolled or semi-controlled time travel, or stipulate that when the gods separate pieces of themselves they don't fully control when the pieces rejoin, to work around that and decrease the need for scenes to happen in chronological order.

A game where all players are telepaths cloning their minds is harder. Doable, I think, but -- do you set it on the astral plane and have no real world to start with? (If so, you'd need players that are very patient with getting the game started, or lots of players, or both.) Do you set it on Earth with the accompanying increased timebinding ... perhaps with the limitation that you duplicate your mind and it travels through astral space to get elsewhere on Earth, and the duplicate may have a hard time finding its way home and rejoining you? I think that could work, if the players are all interested in playing telepaths.

A game where everyone has the ability to bilocate I'm not really sure what to do with. Maybe include in the bilocation ability the ability to remerge with the limitation that if you use that to teleport home you might remerge with your other self right now, or a month from now, or a year from now. Tack on limited communication (low tech level, or multiple dimensions, or separate solar systems united by the bilocation, or whatever) and you can easily meet the challenge; the potential genres could be anything, and so could the game styles.

All of the above ideas make the simultaneous threads work by limiting the character types. They could be interesting games ... but is it possible to make the challenge work by make the simultaneity a property of the setting rather than the characters?

In order to make a setting where everything can happen in any order, we need to break chronological time. This could be any universe which had a timequake that wasn't resolved, but I think things work best if this is a dream world. In an actual physical world things happening out of sequence prompt too many other questions which need to be answered in order to help suspend disbelief. In a dream world, this could be the normal state of things: two people dream about you simultaneously, and you're in two places at once; one dream ends and another begins, so A and B happen simultaneously, then D and Q, then C and F.

That said, I think an asynchronous game set in a dream world would work better if the dream world were broken. If you break the dream world, perhaps the characters aren't (or don't have to be) natural inhabitants of the dream world. You could design a game where the characters are all from the real world; all from any fictional world; full panfandom with characters from anywhere with or without fourth-walling privileges; or near-full panfandom with a preferred genre (that is, characters can be drawn from anywhere because reality has broken down and is recreating things from elsewhere or dragging them here when dreams intersect, but the dream world in question is being dream up by dreamers from one world in particular and that dominates the way the world works, both in terms of genre and in terms of the way NPC characters and abilities work (to take an extreme example, many worlds have faeries or elves, but they're very different from world to world; PC faeries could be from anywhere and be anything, but NPC faeries would be from the dominant world.)

Anybody have any thoughts on any of the above possibilities? Other possibilities to suggest?
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
I've been having some thoughts about D&D 5th edition, and D&D 3rd and 4th editions as well.

When D&D 3.0 came out, I thought it was great fun and a great improvement. It wasn't actually my preferred style of RPG - I like more freeform and fewer crunchy bits - but it made sense, it was recognizably D&D, it had some support for non-combat activities in the feats and skills system and occasionally in the class abilities, and it was a distinct and clear improvement. All in all, it was a better system than I was expecting, and I really liked the way they managed to keep classes but not limit you to classes.

Furthermore, while old adventures would require a lot of conversion and old settings would require some, they could be converted, complete with characters. Take the old character classes, pick new classes for cross-class characters, pick skills and feats. I still love Planescape and Spelljammer from 2nd edition and I've never even played them, so I thought this was a plus. For settings, were I GMing, I'd even be willing to improvise a conversion -- have some stock characters in case of combat, but combat shouldn't happen that often, make notes as to skills you select for the NPCs as you go along, and play.

So for D&D 3.0, I had some discretionary income, and I went out and I bought a whole bunch of books.

When D&D 3.5 came out, it felt like the publisher was trying to turn a whole lot of errata into a new edition. Yes, it was better. But it didn't feel like D&D 3.5, more like D&D 3.1, and while I did buy the new edition I resented doing so. Still, the SRD was available and the product was an improvement, so I didn't resent it much. It was just a monetary complaint; D&D 3.5 had all the virtues of D&D 3.0 and slightly fewer flaws.

Then oodles of supplements came out for 3.5. The number of supplements exceeded what I wanted to spend on buying role-playing games - especially for one system that wasn't even my favorite - so I picked and chose what to buy. I had a friend who bought almost all of them, at least one more who bought more than I did, I could afford the ones I really wanted -- that was fine. I was unhappy about the power creep, however: most of the prestige classes seemed to be clearly better than the basic classes, and the later supplements seemed to have some unbalanced one. Still, there were no problems that couldn't be solved by a DM saying no as needed, and a lot of the material was cool. I was fine with it.

Then D&D 4 came out. My reaction at the time as "that's interesting, and it's different" and I bought the core rulebooks. I only bought a couple of supplements, though, and even though I'm in a campaign I haven't replaced my missing-somewhere copy of of the Player's Handbook.

I actually like D&D 4th edition and in many respects think it's a superior product to D&D 3, even D&D 3.5. It's more streamlined, better balanced, and so on. The skill challenges give explicit support for noncombat activities, and the skills system sees to it that everyone will have some noncombat skills.

However, in many respects D&D 4th is a streamlined wargaming system with role-playing rules. Imagine playing D&D 3rd without a map. It's a problem - you have to figure out who is affected by which spells, whether there are clusters of enemies for some feats, flanking bonuses, and the like. But it's not impossible. The GM can figure out the rough positions of the monsters, the players can make assumptions, the GM can let the players do a certain amount of scene-setting, and so on.

Now imagine playing D&D 4th without a map. Well, it's not impossible, because you can do pretty much anything without a map if you ignore enough rules, but all the above difficulties apply, and more. The whole mechanic of sliding and shifting becomes either unusable or subject to whim. Various race and class specific abilities (e.g. the elf's ability to ignore difficult terrain, the wizard ability which pushes back nearby enemies, etc.) are less effective or far less objective.

It's not that D&D 4th isn't at least as good as D&D 3rd in its chosen niche of combat-with-map and simple noncombat challenges. I think it's better in both respects. But D&D 3rd is better on the occasions you want to keep playing when you need to fill the table with dinner. The skill challenges of D&D 4th can easily be imported into D&D 3rd as soon as you see them, so that's more or less a wash.

Also, I think the lack of backwards compatibility hurt D&D 4th than it looked like at the time. Not only were all the recent 3rd edition purchases totally incompatible with the new edition, but the myriad D&D 2nd edition products were now incompatible instead of semi-compatible. I was expecting it, and my 3rd edition game (thank you for a wonderful game, [livejournal.com profile] crash_mccormick) had ended, so I wasn't upset, and I don't think it influenced my decision to buy only a few supplements. But I can certainly see why people who were in a game and having issues with the rules might go to Pathfinder for a few fixes rather than go to D&D 4th for a totally different game.

Also, if the new system isn't compatible with old material, why would you purchase and play D&D 4th edition instead of Pathfinder, another of the D&D 3rd edition variants, or any one of the many other role-playing games out there? Name recognition matters, and so do economies of scale, but the D&D 3rd edition had those too. And the D&D 3rd edition variants (Pathfinder, etc.) are mostly compatible with the old D&D 3rd edition books and each other and semi-compatible with the wealth of D&D 2nd edition books.

So Hasbro put itself in a position where its legacy materials helped its competitors' products more than they helped D&D 4th edition. No wonder Pathfinder became a major rival to D&D 4th edition.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Just migrated my account to dreamwidth (as ecreegan.) Cross-posting including comments for now.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)

Experimenting last night, I determined that the wonderful Calibre tool will let me reformat files into a style I prefer (moderate indentations, no blank lines, to indicate paragraphing) -- and if I prefer something else in the future, I can always do that.




I then realized I can't do that with my Harry Dresden series, since I bought it (in a right-now frenzy) from Amazon, complete with DRM. Well, technically I could jailbreak the files - I understand there's a python script, and I have python installed to experiment with Calibre's source - but that would be dubious-at-best legally and a clear violation of the Kindle agreement. And if I ignored all that and did it anyway, putting said jailbroken-and-reformatted files on the Kindle would be Just Plain Dumb. So there wouldn't be much point.

Pfeh. Another instance of DRM content being inferior to pirated content. A pity I'm mostly law-abiding. At least I can load the files into Calibre's library, if I want to bother.




(And comments are disabled, as this is ancient and I'm just getting spam.)

ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)

I mentioned in an earlier post that Amazon had lost a lot of sales to me by using DRM. Yes, I've bought ebooks from Amazon: when that was the only source I knew of, or when very pregnant/on maternity leave and didn't want to leave the house, or when I was sure I wouldn't want to reread the book, or when I just plain wanted the next book in a series right now. Generally, I won't buy ebooks from Amazon due to their DRM; I find it appalling. (I knew this when I bought my Kindle and decided it was worth it anyway, which I still think it was.)

Not that I object to all DRM. When I'm leasing content (e.g. Netflix view-on-demand, or a library book, or arrangements of that type) I think DRM is entirely appropriate, to enforce the temporary nature of your usage rights.

Nor do I object to watermarks. Okay, if my file escapes into the wild the rights-owner knows where it came from. I have no problem with this. Okay, if my computer or Kindle get stolen my name is effectively on the stolen files, but -- hey, my computer got stolen. (Or hacked, or whatever.)

I'm less than happy with files that get unlocked with your credit card number, like Barnes & Nobles Nook books reputedly are, but I consider it within bounds of acceptability if well-done. Effectively the book is watermarked in a way that makes you unlikely to be willing to hand out the unlock key. It's a nuisance, but enough of a minor one to be acceptable. My concern would be that the book could get hacked (hey, it's only a 16-digit code) and your credit card thereby derived; if the security code and expiration date aren't also embedded, this is bad but acceptable.

I don't consider DRM which tries to lock content to a device or set of devices to be acceptable. In the electronic age, devices are temporary -- maybe they last two years, maybe they last ten years, but they get replaced. I don't want to have to replace my library when I replace my Kindle (happened once already.) Most DRM schemes let you use up to X keys, but that only postpones the problem; it doesn't avoid it. This scheme of DRM sells you a indefinitely-to-long-term lease on a piece of content, charging an actual purchase price and pretending that it's a purchase. Not good.

Amazon's DRM adds the additional sin of being proprietary, though at least they've started producing players for some media (Windows boxes, iPhones.)

So my money goes to Webscriptions or Fictionwise, and I download free content. Considering Smashwords and Closed Circle, maybe Catherynne Valente's novels, for future purchases. Sometimes looking for other sources I can consider financially rewarding for producing acceptable products. The thing is, I don't always want to search through multiple publishers and distributors - sometimes it can be a fun hunt, much like looking through used book stores, but sometimes I just want the widest variety, even at higher prices. The closest thing I know of to that is Amazon's Kindle books, and it annoys me that their product comes locked to up-to-six Amazon-approved devices.


(And comments are disabled, as this is ancient and I'm just getting spam.)

ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Looking at my journal after reading the previous post, I realize I never posted anything about the birth of my son.

Robert Vincent Creegan was born in Beth Israel hospital at 5:45 on 7/30/2009.  He is presently scooting around in his beloved walker and playing pick-up-the-toy with his mother.  More generally, he's healthy, happy, and interactive.
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I've been following the Amazon vs. Macmillan dispute and contemplating the question "So, how much should ebooks cost?"

Well ... there area several different "shoulds" -- reader, publisher, author, distributor, moral, and practical.

How much should ebooks cost from a reader's perspective? That one's easy -- as little as possible without causing future books I want to read to not exist. The question of how little would cause future books not to exist is complicated, but -- usually more than zero.

How much should ebooks cost from the distributor and publisher's perspective is whatever maximizes profit -- they can take lower profits on each sale if it results in in making more sales. Publishers want to maximize sales through the publisher (i.e. you might do a bulk sale of several books from the same publisher but you wouldn't bundle with another publisher), distributors want to maximize profits through the distributor (i.e. you can't bundle some Amazon sales together with a Webscription or Fictionwise sale.)

Authors have the same logic, plus in some cases a desire to have their work read.

From a moral perspective? Well ... people have different senses of morality, and my moral instinct about ebooks more pertains to DRM than to costs. I do have a moral/aesthetic objection to ebooks which cost as much or more than as the cheapest available new printed copy, e.g. charging $9.99 for the ebook when the paperback is $7.99 (discounted on amazon.) (Oh, come on, you're trying to make me pay more for a product that costs you less to produce.  I don't think so.)

From a practical perspective? Variable pricing has to be the way to go. Not that I trust Macmillan to do it right, but -- $9.99 the day the hardback comes out has to be leaving some money on the ground. Charging close to cover price for even a week after the book's released will still get you some sales, and as long as the price does come down, relatively promptly, you probably don't lose significant total sales. Or, do it the way Baen does and charge people a premium in order to obtain an electronic copy before the book's released.

Profit-wise, I think that around $5 is the sweet spot for ebooks. (More when they've just come out, less when they're part of a bundle, of course.) Enough cheaper than a new paperback to feel like you're saving money, but probably nets more profit per copy. Note that used paperback cost less than this, so you are losing sales to people who have a computer but don't have much of an entertainment budget to spend on reading material. But well -- you're competing with a vast sea of free classics for those customers. (Interestingly, the analysis from the distributor at smashwords suggested that both $5 and $9 were sweet spots. I'm curious if they were the same sorts of books, or if the $9 books were longer/more nonfiction/more recent/something.)

My perceptions may be shaped by the fact that I love Baen's model and they charge around $6 each, or $15 for a monthly bundle of 4 new books and ~3 reissues.  Note that smashwords is automated, whereas Baen has quality control, so the two aren't comparable; the sweet spot(s) for Baen may well be higher. Baen also has a free library with the first book or two in a longer series, and creates CDs with dozens of books in them, distributes them in the hardcovers, and permits third parties to copy and redistribute the CDs as long as it isn't for pay.  The former is an obvious thing to try and something I see on amazon's Kindle library; the latter is an interesting approach and it probably does hook people on some serieses which have grown so long that people wouldn't try them otherwise, but would surprise me if it made money.

Personal preference?  Well, I'm a reader, but I want the ebooks written, selected, edited, copy-edited, put into appropriate e-formats, formats checked, and distributed. Electronic books are vastly cheaper copy-by-copy than paper books, but there are significant up-front costs ... and much of those savings comes to the distributor, not the publisher; none of it comes to the author.  So, I'm cool with profit maximization so long as the price point is sane, and $5 to $6 dollars strikes me as perfectly sane.  The $14.99 that Macmillan was talking -- well, I'll pay that for a book I'm eagerly waiting for (I keep checking Webscriptions hoping that an early copy of Mouse and Dragon has come out and I can pay $15 for an unproofread version that I can start now.)  I won't pay it for anything else -- I have a large library of free and already-paid ebooks just waiting to be read.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)

If you're on my Friends list, and any of this comes as news to you, I'm sorry I didn't keep you closer in the loop, but just in case....


  • Was married in mid-October (Brian Kenneth Creegan = Kaz), out of the church I've gone to since I was a kid
  • Expecting (a son, Robert Vincent Creegan) in late July.
  • Major construction on the inside of our house in the Bronx has finished, and the cats and I moved up there last weekend.
    We're abandoning most of my furniture, but the rest of my stuff (minus three carloads) still needs to move. I've been spending occasional nights in Brooklyn packing.

Packing goes slowly, partly because I've reached the point where I hate it, partly because I have to sort out what doesn't move, partly because the easiest stuff (books and clothes) are already packed. Well ... I don't actually hate to pack. I hate to pack more than a box or two. So ... I wind up packing a box or two and stopping. When that's all I have time for, or I have a bunch of errands to run as well, this is efficient. When I'm trying to spend all Saturday packing and running three errands that combine nicely into one trip, it's less so. (Though I did unpack two suitcases before leaving, travel down to the apartment with suitcases, do all the errands, had lunch with Mom, checked Mom's computer, and packed both suitcases, a laundry bag, and four boxes, plus labeled & sealed a box from last Wednesday. Still compares poorly with this morning, where I packed two (smaller) laundry bags and a small bag with spices, plus labeled & sealed two boxes from last Wednesday while showering & writing this post.)

Still, last Wednesday packing finally turned the corner, where I have so much stuff packed that it feels like I'm finishing up. This helps my morale a lot.


(And comments are disabled, as this is ancient and I'm just getting spam.)

ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground turkey
  • 1 (15oz) can of black beans
  • 1 (15oz) can of red kidney beans
  • 1 (15oz) can of chickpeas
  • 1 (28oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 small onions
  • 3/4 medium green bell pepper
  • 3/4 medium red bell pepper
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

Preparation:

Brown turkey to lightly seared. While turkey is cooking, mince garlic and cut onions and bell peppers small. Put ingredients in slow cooker, including all liquids in the cans. Stir. Put slow cooker container in fridge. In the morning, set slow cooker (with a slider) to medium-low, put on timer for ~3 hours before you return from work. Be an hour late.

Results:

Half the chili is dry (not unpleasantly so, just no sauce in it) but with a rich (mild) taste. The other half is thoroughly burnt and stuck to the bottom of the slow cooker (YAY nonstick surfaces!) What's there is wonderful on rice with a little added paprika, but about half of it is wasted.

Tentative adjustments:

  1. Turn slow cooker down to low
  2. Add a cup of water (or broth, but it's got a rich taste, don't know if that's needed)
  3. Increase chili powder to 1 1/2 tablespoons
  4. Increase garlic to 7-8 cloves
  5. Don't be an hour late.

To my cat

Aug. 14th, 2008 02:39 am
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Well, Brunder, I was just about to get up, start heading for bed, and give you your late-night dinner that you and Pilot-of-the-plastic-snacks have been reminding me you're entitled to for the past two hours when you crawled into my lap.  This is not how you acquire dinner.  Off you go!
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Stray thoughts on unclogging my CatGenie so that it can drain into my toilet:
  • Yay! I have triumphed over an animate nonsentient object!
  • I love not emptying litter boxes, but at least they're easy bits of technology and rarely go wrong.
  • The CatGenie is remarkably easy to take apart and put back together.  I'm nervous about the number of moving parts in it - complicated things are more prone to go wrong - but it really is well-designed.
  • This problem had nothing to do with the number of moving parts and little to do with the CatGenie's design, except for the fundamental issue of breaking up solid waste and flushing it into the toilet. It's not Pet Novation's fault that one of my cats likes to eat plastic, or that plastic will clog drains.
  • The Cat Genie really should have a 'cancel cycle' option so that I don't have to wait until it's done before trying it from scratch.
  • I'd've gotten it done in half the time if I hadn't stopped at the first two plastic clogs (plus three pieces of loose plastic) and had kept looking harder, finding the remaining two pieces of plastic in the machinery.
  • Between one thing and another, I put in an actual evening's work.
  • I feel a lot more comfortable about the prospect of needing to unclog the CatGenie again.
  • This could have been so much worse if the CatGenie had run and the clog had been discovered just half an hour later - I never really got to the cranky and brainfried stage.
  • This would have been better if it had happened when the CatGenie support line was on call (9am-10pm ET) but I'm rarely at home then.
  • People have made YouTube videos illustrating how to do various maintenance on the CatGenie -- and the CatGenie has a helpful support line and a PDF manual that's good as such things go.  That's an interesting sociological fact, but I'm realy not sure what it means.
  • I'm a total gadget geek. Actually, the previous paragraph suggests that I'm just a total geek.
  • Well, if I'm going to go buy machinery that's likely to have minor things go wrong while it's doing something disgusting, I'd better be able to do minor repairs without getting too grossed out.
  • It's late and I'm actually tired. Goodnight, all.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
I managed to finally get started on the taxes when I got home! Yay!

Got the taxes absolutely as done as they can get tonight.

                                    - Beth
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
I'm starting to get the hang of Vignette Business Integration Studio, aka VBIS.  Since this is probably going to wind up being the primary tool for my job, that's a very good thing.

I understand why what amounts to s/^[^<>]+</</ fixes the "org.xml.sax.SAXParseException: Content is not allowed in prolog." error, or at least I think it makes sense.  Why this error only occurs when the .jar files VBIS generates is run from the cron job I have no clue.

A little over two hours getting it to run from cron.

Oh well, I had already missed the show my friend was in at that point.

Bleh. I should do my taxes when I get home.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Extensive, but I think without spoilers.

My Friday night game at Intercon H was Mystery at the Faerie Tale Reservation where I played Cinder Elena (Cinderella, of course.) The gist was Russian fairy tales, but we had borrowings from elsewhere. Other characters I remember were:
  • Prince Fyodor (Prince Charming, Elena's husband)
  • Forest Warden Red (Little Red Riding Hood)
  • Baba Yaga
  • Koschei the Deathless
  • Father Grigori
  • Kupek the Merchant
  • His daughter, Svetlana the Fair
  • Her sister, A____
  • A firebird
  • Ivan the Fool
  • Ivanovitch the Unlucky
  • Sergei the horse
  • G___ (Gina?) the fox
  • ___??? The Wolf
  • T____ (Tarnavotch is wrong, but something a little like that) The beast
  • Al El-Din (based on Aladdin, of course)
  • An American graduate student
  • A Russian graduate student
  • A mortal woman who'd half grown up on the reservation
  • the Fairy Godmother (GM character)
There was the big mystery we had to solve, or deal with another way. There were some villains seeking power (or other things.) There were people with problems they needed to resolve. There were characters with interpersonal conflicts. There was a political issue - some fables wanted more contact with mundanes, some wanted less. All fun, but it was a little light -- it could have used another plot or two.

The game had a couple of amazing mechanics, one of which inspires me to use a derivative. It probably won't happen soon, though, because [personal profile] crash_mccormick  has already gotten bids accepted to Intercon I for a game we need to write, plus one we've been meaning to finish boxing for years, and I don't think the mechanic is appropriate there.

The mechanics in question are the Impossible Task and the Favor.

An Impossible Task is pretty much what it sounds like: you're given something impossible, or nearly so, to accomplish -- the classic fairy tale requirement to bring the skin of a salamander, or gather up seeds scattered to the four winds, or rescue the princess from a tower. The Taskmaster - a GM or a player - would give you an Impossible Task with typically two requirements (find the tower the princess is imprisoned in hidden deep in the forest, then enter the high window above the unclimbable wall.) You found ways to accomplish those tasks (I speak with the animals to find out where the tower is, then I use my carpet of flying to get to the top of the tower.) The Taskmaster either buys your story or s/he doesn't. If you succeed you get a bennie; if you fail you get a penalty.

A few characters can assign tasks in return for something -- Koschei the Deathless had magical abilities he could use but typically required an Impossible Task first. If most characters entered the Enchanted Woods they'd have to undertake an Impossible Task before they could leave (they could leave succeed or fail, but they had to try.)

Most Impossible Tasks had their rewards preset, but some characters had items or abilities allowing them to choose a reward: you could select a reward and then get an appropriate Impossible Task.

And then there was the Favor system, building on the Impossible Task system. With some exceptions (e.g. the Beast couldn't court people normally, he had some sort of special system where when he wanted to court someone the other character had to succeed in an Impossible Task to keep him away) if your character wanted to court another character, you would ask for an Impossible Task. Typically the other character (or her guardian, e.g. the merchant assigned quests for his daughter's favors) had to assign a task. If you succeeded, the other character had to give you a favor. If you acquired three favors, you could choose to get married (the other character couldn't say no.)

The favor mechanic absolutely applied to people who were uninterested, happily married, et cetera. You could make up the world's roughest Impossible Task, but you had to assign one, and if your suitor managed this three times, you'd be swept away and marry him/her. You could tell your spouse, though, and your spouse could also assign Impossible Tasks, so it would take two Impossible Tasks per favor. (I find myself thinking Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot.) I don't think it would work at all in most contexts, but it belonged in this one.

I liked way they did magic items, too. Not groundbreaking, but appropriate: there were a whole bunch of assorted items out there which did various things (which you then got to figure out ways to warp into success in an Impossible Task) and after one use returned to the Enchanted Wood. It just worked well.

I had a good time, though I hit my frustration level pretty hard when the GMs had some sort of snafu and thought there was an additional complication to stage 3 of a 3-part Impossible Task - I can't say more without spoilers. Then the important item we were questing for turned out to already be in game; the GM hinted heavily to help us find it, but we couldn't just get it because it was already elsewhere (in the hands of someone who didn't know it was important.)

I got several compliments on my costume, which was SCA garb made by Thorny Rose -- though I couldn't remember the name of Rosamund's company at the time. Did track down the person who seemed to be most interested in buying one and told her later. The costume was amusingly appropriate: Cinder Elena's writeup said she was Undefeated Champion, "Best Dressed."

This post is misleadingly light on role-playing bits because what I want to say about them involves spoilers, where yammering about the mechanics is fairly safe. Good as the mechanics were, they weren't what made the game. Just that couple of things I want to say about the role-playing that happened don't seem as unlikely to ruin the game for other players.

All in all, I had a good time playing the game; thank you to the other players and especially the GMs.

Intercon H

Mar. 4th, 2008 12:41 am
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Well, that's the last time I ever compose a post in livejournal's own system. (I just lost 30+ minutes of writeup to an accidental touch of the control + back keys. Firefox saved my subject line and nothing else. A basic text editor's got to be safer.

Anyway, I'm back from Intercon H (theme: Heaven and Hell) from this weekend. I returned Sunday night and reading other people's livejournals about Intercon inspired me to return (after >2 years) to posting something.

I had a good intercon. I ran Ghost Fu: The Jade Emperor's Celestial Tournament with [personal profile] crash_mccormick , [profile] jlighton , [profile] mnemex , and [personal profile] drcpunk . The Ghost Fu game rocked -- I'm still bubbling. And we've already talking about polishing it, preparing to ask our players what they liked and what we should have done differently (unless [personal profile] drcpunk  has already sent the email, but I think that was just to our list so that someone with a Unix box could use programming fu to do a mass email.)

I think the single thing that really helped this run of Ghost Fu the most was the game blurb we posted to the Intercon H website:

Twelve years ago the great Kung Fu tournament was just starting when the participants were murdered. Some contestants went to the Afterlife, but others found themselves with unfinished business. In the best tradition of Hong Kong movies, the contestants now return to finish the tournament.

You want to move on, but important questions remain unanswered:

  • Who has the mightiest Kung Fu?
  • Who will win the tournament?
  • Who will marry the ghost bride and give her a burial place?
  • How can you help your living relatives?
  • How can one avenge a father after someone poisoned his killer?
  • Who killed you, anyway?

We had a LARP full of enthusiastic players, many of them wonderfully over-the-top, some of them interestingly innovative. Oh - I think we gave them a fairly solid LARP structure to work from, but our players made it into something wonderful. It was great.

Sometime on Sunday (or was it Saturday night?), [personal profile] crash_mccormick  mentioned he had bid both Jamais Vu and Presque Vu for Intercon I (theme: Intergalactic.) This evening over dinner I got an email from him saying that both

We've been meaning to finish boxing Jamais Vu for a while - Foam Brain Productions ran it once and helped us box it by asking us questions. But there are a couple things they had to improvise, and we need to nail those. Running it again should help.

As for Presque Vu -- well, we figured out the game premise on the drive back. (We knew the game had to be at one of two different points in the world timeline; we figured out which one, and fleshed out the situation into the beginnings of a game background.) Interesting game premise. [profile] jlighton  took notes on his Sidekick and emailed them out: I've already added the LARP to our wiki and the notes - with a few additions - to that section.

I'd already done some brainstorming on a different (unnamed) amnesia larp with [profile] jlighton  Saturday afternoon when neither of us scheduled games. Running a successful larp gives an amazing larp-writing charge.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
It was a nice birthday. Various people called and emailed to wish me a happy birthday, which was nice. My sister Katherine was in New York, and Mom took us to Aquagrill, which is a very nice restaurant for dieting, and then she'd baked (upon request) a Splenda Angel Food Cake that I could eat a reasonable quantity of on my diet. She said she wished it had risen more, but it tasted good ... especially with raspberries.

I've completed a week and a bit on Weight Watchers' Flex Plan. The scale said I lost ~3 pounds over the first week.

Assorted thoughts:





  • The Flex Plan goes nicely with my general theory that I'll lose weight if every day I eat no more than 1,200 calories while walking at least 2 miles. The Atkins diet also fit well (it was surprisingly easy to eat light on Atkins as long as I stuck to only eating when I was hungry) but I had to count both carbs and calories. On Weight Watchers Flex, if I count the points I am counting the calories (they're the primary contributor to points.)

  • Having to guess at the point cost of food is frustrating. Eyeballing the carbs for Atkins was easier, and while I had to guess at the calories I didn't have to fret as much about it since I didn't have a specific minimum calorie count to make. (Keeping to a specific diet was easier still, but burns me out on dieting very quickly.)

  • Logging points for all my food and physical activity fits well with the way I tend to obsess about any diet I'm currently on.
  • I'll have to wait and see, but I suspect Weight Watchers Flex addresses both my dieting failure modes: learning technically-okay foods on non-calorie focused diets and eating too many of them, and too many successive days of <1,000 calories leading to exhaustion and burnout.
  • I need a better scale. Buying one will make a nice project for the rest of the week.
  • It's nice being able to eat fruit and (unbuttered) popcorn fairly freely on a diet. Not being able to eat popcorn on Atkins felt very strange -- not that I missed the popcorn particularly, but it feels like it should be a dieting staple. And I did miss the fruit ... though there are advantages to not being allowed fruit on a diet; it sometimes leaves me hungrier.
  • Okay, scale on order. Or would be, if drugstore.com would let me. (The connection's dying. At least they can't bill me multiple times: the virtual credit card number I gave them is limited to a little over the order amount.) Did I mention I obsess about dieting when I'm taking it seriously?
  • Just noticed the time. I should have been in bed half an hour ago, by now, per both side rules on my diet (not to short myself on sleep) and everyday common sense.
Off to sleep.
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Off to Stephen Tihor's apartment to play games and eat food and watch fireworks on his large-screen television.

Diet food in backpack for me: 2 large apples, 1/2 cup lowfat yogurt (with cinnamon and Splenda), 5 pieces crisp bread; plus a Weight Watchers entree, 4 small apples, and cheese (Polly-O 2% individually wrapped and Laughing Cow light) already there.

Food in backpack for group: 4 chicken sausages, 2 (1 slightly used) large cans of canned whipped cream with Splenda, plus Cool Whip, strawberries, and blueberries already there.

(Stephen and [livejournal.com profile] mnemex and [livejournal.com profile] drcpunk and I were working on a LARP at his apartment this weekend, and I left some of the food I brought there, plus drcpunk and I went on a store run.)

If it hasn't gotten too much warmer, I'm going to walk at least as far the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge and catch the subway there. If it has, well, I'll just hop on the trains here.[profile]

(And comments are disabled, as this is ancient and I'm just getting spam.)

Hi all

Jul. 4th, 2005 02:57 pm
ecreegan: glass ball on checkerboard (Default)
Hi, everyone. I've finally decided to use the LiveJournal account I got more than a year ago. Most of my friends use it: I probably should get in the habit of at least checking it.

(And comments are disabled, as this is ancient and I'm just getting spam.)
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