NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 26 – Sofa King Tired

Long day. Work was a drive to SFO. That was easy; getting out of the City was a bear. 101 Southbound was pretty crowded, with stop-and -go traffic. Had to stop in Merced (which means backtracking) before coming home. 99 from Fairmead (just South of the 152 connector to 99) was a crawl. Got off in Madera and made better time on the backroads into town. Started at 7:30, off at 6PM exactly.

D&D was played immediately thereafter, then Afters, and now I’m home.

My neck and shoulders have been achy all day, so now I’m going to take some Tylenol PM and hope the muscles relax and let me sleep.


NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 25 – Life Slaps You Sometimes

Last night, I finally finished The Dragon In The Sword, and was mightily disappointed. I forgot that by the point this book was published (1986), it seems Mr. Moorcock had come to the conclusion that his fans were detached from reality. Both this novel and another I’d read about the same time (The War Hound and the World’s Pain) included a none too subtle message at the end that these characters exist in fantasy worlds and that real life should be embraced. War Hound was particularly blunt with this message.

It seems odd to me that a man who’d made his living off of people buying his fantastic stories should admonish his readers to basically not buy his books. Considering that he wrote more novels of Elric over the years, the warnings seem disingenuous. Admittedly, it seems John Daker (AKA Erekosë) is Michael Moorcock (same birth year, same birth city, etc.), but I still was disappointed that the end of this book contradicts material about the same character (his reunion with his lost love and their demise is detailed in another novel). It more seems he’s dealing with his own issues, especially as Daker is said to be married in the first novel, and then talks about finding his lost love on our Earth, ignoring that marriage even exists. I am aware that Moorcock divorced at some point, so maybe this is a hint of his personal life. Either way, I pretty much hated the end of the series. That won’t stop me from reading others by him, but I’m not happy with this book, and I ready to move on to something else.

While driving today, I was listening to the Satyrsphere, and one of the Mystery Musicals had me sobbing and crying to the point I could hardly see. I was blown away by how many different levels this song hit me, both good and bad. I see myself in this song, although after my reaction today, I think it will be a while before I listen to it again. I hope you enjoy Fight the Dragons from Big Fish the Musical:

That’s it for tonight. I drive again tomorrow. I’m hoping for a LFR tomorrow night, but I’m not holding my breath. Here’s hoping for a good day. Later.


NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 24 – More Research

Worked today and will be working tomorrow. After a few weeks of crappy checks, I’m going to have at least one pretty good one. Probably not full time levels, but not bad.

Mom’s infection was caught pretty early, so it looks like she’ll be home for Thanksgiving. Something to be thankful for.

Dug into some of the Wikipedia research I’d been doing into knighthood and the orders of old. A lot of lists of orders and the pretty minor distinctions between those of eld. Lots of extremely boring stuff. I haven’t quite gotten to the Teutonic Knights yet, but I’m hoping there will be some good stuff there, as they ruled a chunk of territory in Northeastern Europe around Prussia for a while. That will hopefully give me more idea of how the orders of the StarSea will operate.

Well, working tomorrow means bedtime now. Later.

NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 23 – Ugh.

Got home around 3AM after the game, and I’m surprised I wasn’t more tired. It took a while to get to sleep, but once I did, I slept until nearly 1PM. I spent the afternoon trying to get more of The Dragon in the Sword read. I really want it to be done. It’s really dragged along, but now that I’m within the last 50 pages, it’s finally picking up.

By the time I got up, my mother had left for dialysis. The dialysis center needed to change her schedule to accommodate the holiday next week. When she got home, she complained of being cold. Within an hour, we’d figured out she was sick and needed to go to the hospital.

This time it seems likely it’s sourced in her “sidecar.” Neuropathy, a side effect of diabetes, causes muscles to pull incorrectly, which causes bones to shift from their proper alignments. In Mom’s case, the metatarsals of her little toe on her left foot sticks out now, creating a lump on the outside of her left sole. That rubs and can get an ulcer. We noticed this Tuesday, and Thursday she was at the podiatrist, who debrided that day. However, as her left foot was warmer to the touch than the rest of her, it seems likely that’s where the infection is.

Hopefully, we’ll have her back home by Thanksgiving, but I’m not counting on it. They usually have her in the hospital for about a week every time she gets an infection like this. She’s had quite a few in the past couple of years.

That’s all I’ve got. I work tomorrow. I’m supposing since Thanksgiving is the biggest time of travel across the US, the rental company I work for is needing me to be driving again after working two days already this pay period (mine are Fridays to Thursday, with weekly paychecks). More money in my pocket for Christmas, I guess. Anyway…


NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 22 – 200th POST! D&D Night, Finally.

Tonight, we are playing our home game of D&D 4e. Our last game was cancelled, and my weekly LFR has been spotty the past few weeks. It’s good to get a chance to actually play again.

Not that this is anything special to some, but I witnessed something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: A plane flying over the clouds. Work today included a drive up to SFO. While it was rainy on the way up, it was fairly clear near the airport. I heard a plane over head, looked up, and saw a plane climbing through the spotty clouds. It was a very interesting sight.

I need to get back to the game. Later.

NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 21 – No Time!

Started research on knighthood and it’s origins. Seems there was some influence on the concept from the Middle East, and not crusaders, but their Muslim opposition. Very interesting stuff. And not unique to Europe. Will need to boil down for the StarSea.

Had a really cool dream this morning that seemed like a cool game. Groups of outlaw heroes who kidnap those who hunt them, show their oppressors their true colors, then set up a test in which the outlaws are in danger. If the above-board hero is willing to sacrifice himself to save his enemies, he can be trusted and asked to join up. If not, he’s sent on his way. Seemed like a great, if flawed, set up for a game.

Worked all day. Will be working tomorrow. Need to get to bed. Later.

NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 20 – d20s and Cypher

I’m trying to do the “No Shave November.” I’m trimming the chin and moustache to try to match length with the jowls, but I just don’t think it’s going to work out. I have a thin beard on the jowls, as well as some major bald spots, so I’m thinking this beard isn’t going to work out. *Sigh.*

So, my shower thinking was about the d20 post the other day. I have to admit I think the Cypher System is probably the best application of the d20 in any system. However, I took to time to find another d20 system I knew of that I wanted to examine.

After the post, I managed to hunt up my Traveller: The New Era, Game Design Workshop’s attempt to revitalize the Traveller system back in the ’90s, after MegaTraveller didn’t work out. That system runs off the same 2d6-1 rolled stats. Those stats are added straight to a skill rating to determine an “asset.” Assets determine the roll needed to succeed, rolling low being better. The asset is multiplied by 4 or 2 for easier tasks, while harder tasks are handled by division by the same numbers. For example, say I want to pick up an object. My Constitution is 6 (average) and my Climbing is 3, my Climbing Asset is 9. An Easy Climbing task is 36 or less on a d20 (guaranteed success), an Average task is 18 or less (a 90% chance), a Difficult task is 9 or less (45%), a Formidable task is 4 or less (20%), and Impossible tasks being a 2 or less (10%). A raw CON task would be 24/12/6/3/1. The game cautions GMs about how difficult a stat-only could be overwhelming for a party because of these number.

Looking at this, I thought it was a bit too easy for characters to succeed, but it is predictable and the numbers don’t look that crazy to me. The Easy number might make those rolls too easy, but I think it’s tolerable math.

The Cypher System works on a roll high system, but it is admittedly a simple, easy-to-use system. The GM sets a difficulty between 1 and 10. Skill training and other modifiers draw the difficulty down, as well as players using Effort (basically hit points). The final resulting Difficulty is multiplied by three and that’s the number that must be exceeded on a d20, with 18, 19, and 20 getting bonus results, and one on the die creating a “GM Intrusion,” an opportunity for the GM to mess with the characters, within reason. Yes, at Difficulty 10, the players must use Effort or have skill to have a real hope of affecting the target or beating the obstruction. In example videos, Difficulty 3 gets used, a lot (more, in my opinion, than necessary). This will give you pretty predictable results, both for the GM and the players.

I like the system, but I’m now finding the “special numbers” a throwback ruling, and I was simply feeling that creating the StarSea in the Cypher System was going to take more work than I want to put in, and not result in the more freeform feel to the game I think I can achieve by using Fate.

I really don’t have much else going on today, so I’m going to call it a post for tonight. Later.




NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 19 – Blech!

Work was one of those days that my job (all too) frequently gives me: one in which there is a long time spent waiting in the middle of the day expecting to be sent home followed by sufficient work to end up with overtime. We get sent home early with a regularity I don’t care for, and this has been especially so recently. It was like this last year, too. Makes for difficulty budgeting. And all of this was after a trip to Sacramento for work had been cancelled, which would have guaranteed a full day’s pay. As it is, now I’m not working tomorrow (first Thursday off in a while). Only about 15 hours this week, when a couple of weeks ago I had nearly 30. I’m hating the inconsistency.

Then, I basically was the deciding vote towards not gaming tonight. Half our players didn’t show up, or worse, showed up too late for me to be happy. The FLGS we play at is five minutes from work, and I’d sat in the store waiting for over an hour before anyone showed up. One of the players decided not to show only about the time I arrived at the store (5PM) and only gave notice at that point. Others got caught in traffic. But after an hours wait, I felt like I’d waited long enough. My indigestion (related to weight gain from the past year of a fast-food heavy diet related to work) was flaring, I had a headache, and just ended up not feeling like staying for a game in which our spread of characters were not up to the ask of completing the encounter we’d begun last week.

So I came home and started poking around at the Internet, falling asleep sometime around 9PM and sleeping through until about half an hour ago. And I’m ready for more.

What a day. Blech!


NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 18 – Why D20s Suck… Finally

Random item: I saw a young woman today who made me think “Damn, I wish was physically 18 again.” And I reminded myself that my maturity level isn’t in line with my age, so no adjustment there is necessary.

So, I’m starting early in the evening, so I think I’m going to finally write the infamous “Why D20s Suck” post.

I’m going to start with the admission that I suck at math, but I do get the ideas behind probabilities and statistics. So, a lot of this is going to be a little vague, but should get the point across.

Back in the day (c. 1979), we rarely used d20s alone. Old d20s were marked with only single digits on all the faces. I still have a few or those I use regularly for d10s, and it scares the shit out of the kids at the LFR table when I roll out a crit with my new bard character and his piercing songblade (which does a d10 per plus). I’ve always got to remind them I’m rolling d10s, not d20s.

Anyway, in those days, all our dice were precision dice, with sharp edges on the faces. The way we got a “20-sided die” result was often to roll two dice, a d6 and a “d10,” with the d6 acting as a coin flip that determines whether or not you add 10 to the digit on the d10. Usually, we used the results of 1, 2, and 3 for reading the d10 straight, and 4, 5, and 6 for adding 10. For example, if your d6 came up 2, and your d10 came up 7, you got a seven. If your d6 instead came up 5, then the d10 would be read as 17. In this way, the d20 had a bit of a bell curve. Not much of one, but a bell curve all the same.

Sometimes, we would use different colors to label the numbers. Half might be in white, the others in black, and then you’d call which color was high, again adding 10 if the number rolled was the color called high.

And therein lies the problem. Theoretically, each surface of a normal d20 has a 5% chance of coming up. In practice the numbers are a little different, but not significantly so. You can check out this article on Gnome Stew to get more info. It boils down to this, d20s have no bell curve. A d20 is a flat die. Of course, all single-die rolls are, assuming all the surfaces are built correctly and carry the same area.

So, rolling a result of 20 has the same percentage as rolling a 1. Most games assign a significance to those numbers, the higher being a critical hit, the lower being a fumble. The Cypher System adds significance to 18 and 19, too. This is an artifact of imagination. They really aren’t special as they all have the same chance of coming up as any other number.

Monte Cook has mentioned in a couple of places that he thought about using a 2d10 roll for Cypher, but he felt that the d20 was a “visceral” artifact he wanted to maintain. And I get that, but lately, I’ve seen that the reality is that the d20 is a grossly flawed die to base your resolution system on. Any single die system is going to have this problem.

Now that I’ve spent all this time on explaining the basic problem, I’m going to repeat some of the examples of the problems I’ve experienced.

One of the most prominent is what happened with my characters in the LFR game. 4e’s way of creating challenge is by setting difficulty numbers about 15 points above the level of the PCs, at least as far as AC is concerned. Other Defenses work similarly. So, in order to maintain viability, a player needs to 1) focus his character on one stat, to maximize it’s functionality, and 2) purchase the right feats, that improve the character’s accuracy. My previous character was divided between two stats, and a lot of feats had been spent to give the character his multi-class powers, so they couldn’t be spent on accuracy feats. The current character is exactly the opposite: all of his powers key off one stat, and he’s got the feats to improve his accuracy.

Another example of the flaw is my prior campaign, especially towards the end. The ranger in the party could not be surprised without a lot of DM fiat, as the build had such a high Perception skill that even high level sneaks could not roll high enough to surpass the character’s skill, much less his total roll. I came up with similar problems with the bard, whose social skills were off the chain as well. I’m seeing some of that with my current character in LFR: The skills the bard is focused on are based on the same stat his powers are focused on. Some classes have that synergy built into them.

We saw similar results in our 3/3.5e games. Worse, if characters are built the right way, they become invulnerable. We had a character who could stand on the event horizon of a black hole (basically, as that was what we determined a sphere of annihilation was), because the character in question, a fighter, had a high enough Fort Save that she couldn’t be drawn in. I had a fighter that couldn’t be hit, as eventually we arranged for an AC so high monster couldn’t hit my character. In both cases, I’m referring to Epic level characters, but the idea persists throughout the system. My LFR experiences are showing that.

It’s simply a flaw with using a single die, and attempting to fix the system with bonuses to make the flat rolls “balance.”

5e is trying to fix this with a “bounded accuracy” system. I haven’t looked at this as deeply as I should, but this is how I understand it: By limiting the the bonuses, the hope is that challenging the dice can be achieved. Note that I said “challenging the dice.” That’s because the player can only make decisions what his character does, not what the die roll is, or really what the difficulty is (excepting the effort rules in Cypher). 5e difficulties are limited to 5/10/15, and bonuses are limited to 6 at 20th. Even if it’s difficult to get a score above 18, since the 3/3.5/4e attribute bonus math is in place, that means a +10 at 20th level, without other bonuses (and we know that other bonuses are available, just maybe more difficult to acquire). So, at 20th level, a character will still beat a difficult action 80% of the time, assuming a match-or-beat system (a +10 versus a 15 difficulty means a 5 or better on the die wins the challenge). Even a first level character will likely beat a difficult action 45% of the time, provided it’s with his strong stat. At low levels, the die is more important, but eventually that switches and the character’s skill overwhelms the die.

Again, the linearity makes the game flawed.

This is why I want to return to a bell curve based system like Fate. The system is built for the skill of the character to be paramount, and the die roll, being a bell curve, tends to settle towards the middle of the curve, and not swing the game in crazy directions like a d20 does. Like percentile-based games, and others that use multiple, accumulative dice, the Fate system leans to the center and becomes more predictable, not only for the players, it’s also for GM, which d20-based systems fail at.

So, there you go. That’s my problem with the d20 summed up, and maybe beaten to glue. I hope you’ve managed to stick with me here, and get some insight into what I’ve been blogging about for a while.

Working tomorrow, so I need to go. Later.



NaBloPoMo 2014 – Entry 17 – Zzzzzz…

You know, I thought I had something I wanted to cover earlier, but a couple of nod-offs and I’ve now forgotten what they were.

I did update my “About” page since my last post. If you know me, go read it and let me know if there’s anything you think I should add.

Yeah… I can’t keep my eyes open. Later



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