Hospitals and Shower Thoughts

My mother continues to be in the hospital. My sister was saying this morning that of the six weeks of the year 2016, my mother has spent only two weeks at home. Her hemoglobin has been up and down since about Christmas. She’s not in mortal danger, but the hospital is simply not able to figure out the source of one of her less pleasant symptoms. So, they have had her on a liquid diet as they unpleasant symptom would indicate a stomach bleed. Because of the foot issue from one of the last visits, she’s been favoring one leg, which is creating issues walking, so even if they release her soon, she’ll likely need a fair amount of physical therapy to recover proper use of her leg. This is all very stressful, and makes one wonder at the skill of her doctors.

They seem to be questioning that last one themselves, as they want to send her to Stanford for additional testing. However, she’s healthy enough that that would be an outpatient procedure rather than a hospital-to-hospital transfer. That would mean having to take time off work to take her up there. And more stress.

And through all of this, hospitals seem to not understand that the families of the people they serve have bills to pay, and employer goodwill to maintain. While my job is very flexible and I could get the time off easily, my pocketbook would suffer. My sister would have a harder time of it, as she has more difficulty getting time off. This may sound callous, but remember that her condition isn’t life threatening, at least at present. The whole experience is stressful though.

I have been thinking and tinkering with the new Reincarnated setting. I had some shower thoughts that resulted in me reworking and simplifying some of the history of the setting, which I think is a good thing, and probably a first for me. In fact, the writing flowed quite well, even if it was just note-writing. I need to turn some of what I wrote into timelines and other material, but I’m looking at things I like and think I can work with without over-complicating, as is my wont.

Something I think I’d like to do, but I realize creates a much more complex system, is to have multiple magic systems, each with a different feel. I think I discussed this once with the StarSea. Having different rules can create different feels to magic. However, there’s only one game I know of that uses three distinctly different magic systems based off the same base mechanic, and that’s RuneQuest, specifically the third edition, published by Avalon Hill, a wargame company. The three systems include Spirit or Battle Magic, which allows simple, low power effects useful in a fight, but not generally overwhelming, Rune or Divine Magic, which is generally more effective, but more costly, and Sorcery, which is time consuming, but creates large scale effects. All three systems use the BRP percentile system, but all have a very different feel. This is just a thought at this point, as I have no desire to move to RQ. It’s just an idea for differentiating the magic of the evil gods, from that of the good gods and the Fey.

I also started poking around on the Net looking for map ideas. I have some very specific desires for this world (the different environs for the different breeds of humans, arrival points for the Fey, and the focal point of the evil gods’ demesne) that I want to fit in. I’m not looking for a pre-drawn map, but rather for inspiration.

I was talking to a couple of friends, independently each, about game systems. Something I’ve noticed is how enthusiastic I was about Fate (and I still am, and I may use it for the Reincarnated campaign, with the Freeport book, or Mike Shea’s simple Dungeon of Fate rules), but analysis paralysis killed the game for me. On the other hand, I have yet to complete reading of any of the Cypher System games, even though they seem very solid systematically. I just can’t get enthusiastic about the game. Same with 13th Age, although I’ve heard so much good about it. I’ve been reading their SRD, and I’ve just stagnated, and I’m not motivated to continue to read. And as much as I hate the way Dungeon World is written, there’s something about it that is drawing me in. I’m picking up PDF extras and reading those with relish.

I think I’ve done enough for tonight. I need to be up in the morning. Later.


I Hate the New WP Interface

I’ve been avoiding using this new version of the interface for a while now, but they’ve caught up to my trick and now I’m being locked into this crap. Ugh. So, I’ll sally forth.

Last week was no better than the ones before. The file migration got hosed as I moved the laptops last Monday, so I ended up repeating the process. Tuesday morning, I was able to start determining which apps were going to work with the new OS, and that soaked up most of my day. Wednesday after work, I ended up having to go to the hospital again, as they did not determine the source of my mother’s hemoglobin issue. That was after going to see my uncle about a car issue I’m having.

Late Tuesday, I started the migration of the tablet items, but I kept having problems with the save file for one game. That one was a years work that I didn’t want to lose. I worked on that migration again Thursday until I came to the conclusion that I would never be able to get the file migrated, so I have to do something more or less manual, as the game in question (Terraria) allows you to make a cloud world, so Friday, the Boy and I moved all of my stuff from the old worlds I had created to a new world, from which I’ll be making a new base on the cloud world, so my work won’t be lost again.

In the meantime, I worked in a little reading of the Dungeon World rules, and little else. Now that things are stabilized, I’m trying to focus on Reincarnated again. There’s a lot less to do, as I’m not trying to create new elves and other critters. I’m just trying to come up with a suitable mythology and history of the world that makes sense and will tell the story I’m dreaming up.

So, that’s about all I’ve got for tonight. Just getting caught up and keep things together has become quite a hassle the past few weeks. Hopefully, things will now settle down, and I can get something fun done.


Rocky Start to 2016

Like so many other folks, I’ve been stumbling through the month of January. Fortunately, I haven’t really had a bad time, things have just been hectic, moreso than normal.

Just before last time, my mother went into the hospital for a problem with her hemoglobin (which is still not diagnosed). The trip for a transfusion turned into a 12-day stay. So, I ended up visiting her a few times, and babysit her a few others, since she got home.

Alongside that, our cat who had cancer in one eye metastasized to her other eye, which came to a head Friday, when she became blind. We’d spent her last couple of months spoiling her, but had to let her go this weekend.

Along the way, I mentioned to an old friend on Facebook that my MacBook was getting old and likely to fail in the near future, so he sold me his old (but newer than mine) MacBook Pro. Since, I’ve been working on getting the Pro working for me. I needed a bigger hard drive, and I’m planning on making the leap to the newest version of the Mac OS. It’s been a struggle getting the upgrades to work right. The installers I downloaded first were corrupt, it wouldn’t install over the old OS, and now I’m waiting for the migration apps to complete moving nearly 800 GB of files. That will be working overnight. Hopefully by the time I leave for work, things will be done.

I also picked up a newer iPad, but I’m not using it yet as, to transfer my files, I need a computer running the new OS with my files on board. So, the new tablet is on hold until I get the laptop upgraded. And because of the file migration, I’m writing this post on my old tablet. I also have acquired a smart phone, which I’m having to figure out how to use. January has become a month of upgrades.

I feel bad about the delays for more reasons than just not being able to use a better tablet. I’ve promised this older tablet to The Boy, and I almost feel like this weekend I’ve teased him a bit. He’s been having to borrow electronics from his dad and younger sister for a while now, as his devices have been rode hard and are in bad shape. Once I can get things completed, I’ll transfer the AppleCare over to him or his dad (whoever can legally own it) and fulfill my promise to him.

I’m still on hiatus from the StarSea, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’m very afraid of the StarSea becoming another of my many unfinished projects, one of those symptoms of ADHD. However, one of the things I’m hoping to get out of the Reincarnated worldbuilding I’m doing is to simplify my thinking, rather than continuing the analysis paralysis I’ve been suffering from working on the StarSea.

I decided to read all of Dungeon World to get a complete handle on the game. While the system seems solid, using flattened math, I don’t really care for the terminology. It’s fine to focus on the “fiction,” but the fact that everything is a move seems very mechanistic to me, which seems counter to the stated mission of the rules. Having a “make camp” move and a “level up” move rankles me. But there are a lot of really interesting ideas about DMing in there, even if the DM advice is presented again in a very mechanistic manner.

I’ve been working on a timeline for the Reincarnated campaign, but in an example of the simplification idea, I think I need to go from a number system to a set of event titles, as I’m getting hung up on time scale. I’ve started with a 25,000 year span, going into ancient history, but I don’t think I need the detail such a length of time creates. Something I think I’ll be working on tomorrow in my downtime at work.

On that note, it is time for me to wrap things up for tonight. Later.

Fronts and 5×5

So, before last week’s entry, I saw Dave Chalker post up a link to Dragon 429 on D&, which includes what he calls his ultimate 5×5 article. Having had a DDI subscription since 4e started, I had the eMag offline already, and finally read the article. I don’t think it would have been of much use to me back when it came out and I was running my last game, as I had few alternate plotlines (or they weren’t anything I chose to follow, as my players were fairly willing to follow my main plotline where it led). I’d mentioned using a calendar of sorts in past games (mainly World of Darkness games), and those are fine, but they’re not something I want to use again. But with this new game idea, I kind of thinking about how to organize the plotlines.

I’ve also become interested in Dungeon World‘s fronts, another way to organize a campaign. I don’t remember exactly where I got directed towards those, but I think it was The Tome Show. Anyway, I think the two different methods can intersect nicely. I think the 5×5 grid can contain the Fronts as columns, with the Dangers filling the rows. I may have to use 3×5 cards to do this, or set up a custom database like FileMaker or something like that, but I am going to experiment with this as a method of organization.

Otherwise, I’ve been tinkering a little with mythology in this new world. In fact, Monday I got a visit my the Muse at a very Tom Waits moment. To clarify that, I’ve heard a story, I think from Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, about Tom Waits discussing how he was once driving the 405 in the Los Angles Basin when he started getting an inspiration for a melody. In traffic, he couldn’t write down the tunes, and railed at his inspiration, begging his muse to hold off and come back later, when he could write down the melody. I simply got hit with inspiration just before bed, but it left me tossing and turning all night. I had a flurry of creativity the next day.

Most of what I’ve got so far is just sorting out the campaign front (in DW terms) and some of the adventure fronts for the 5×5 grid. I’m still hammering out a few details regarding what is true and what is mythology (“How did humans learn to create art, gods or elves?”) I realized that details like this are probably not necessary to figure out, and in fact the conflict is probably a good thing, as it gives the world a more real feel if different groups “remember” history differently. Although, I think having some myths will make the game more fun. I know in reading stories like Moorcock’s, having the narrative include the origins of some of the strange creatures the heroes met gave flavor to the world. I have an idea about the origins of lycanthropes, in those folk refusing a gift from the god/dess of the moon, who curses them to act like animals as long as the moon’s light is in the night sky.

Well, working tomorrow, and I’ve passed out once already tonight, so it’s off to bed I go. Later.

New Year’s Resolutions

Rather than discuss gaming, I’m going to discuss New Year’s Resolutions. I usually tell people “I resolve not to make any resolutions.” This year, though, I know I need to make one of the traditional resolutions.

I weighed myself a few weeks ago, and I came up 280 lbs. While I’m taller than most (around 6’1″), I’m also of a thinner build. I was happy at 190# back in the early ’90s. While I’d like to get back there, I know that’s a lot of work, and 90 lbs. in a year is doable, but probably unreasonable without medical monitoring.

I know what needs to happen. I need to get out and walk or exercise more. I need to eat a bit better. Both are just things I need to focus on for now. In a few weeks, I’m expecting to switch up from my flip phone to a smart phone (I plan on getting an iPhone, but who knows what will come of that). I plan on getting an app to monitor my movement and remind me to get off my tuchas. An app that will track steps per day would be good. I know my ADHD will work against me, which is why I’m going to need the apps eventually. My iPad is wireless only, or I’d do more with it now.

I never managed to get my friends interested in Habitica, and I even forgot about it myself until tonight as I’m writing this post. Using Habitica might be a way to motivate my day-to-day activities. I might also be able to use it to monitor my fuel intake. I don’t want to say “diet,” although it is a viable word; it’s just a word with a lot of baggage attached.

Food is also an issue. I know a lot of the last 15-20 lbs. I’ve gained has been because of what I eat at work, fast food. I don’t like carrying lunches, as they usually end up pretty nasty by the time we get to wherever we’re eating. So I’ve been eating a lot of fast food. I’ve tried to make better choices, but my batting average has been pretty hit-and-miss. I need to focus on being more hit than miss.

To not get discouraged, I’m not setting a goal. If all I lose in the next 360 days is five pounds, I’ve still succeeded. Every other person I’ve known who has set a specific goal always ends up discouraged when they can’t make it. I’m just looking to be less of me.

Now, contrary to what I mentioned before, a little about gaming. I’ve been focused for now on the Reincarnated campaign. One thing I’ve found myself doing is getting too deep into history and explanations of how the setting works. I don’t want to get into details, but I want to do a story of rebellion against an evil regime. My bad guys can’t be destroying to world wantonly, so they have to maintain some sort of infrastructure. I want the world to be reasonable, but I don’t want to overthink the setting. Again, like the Galactic Empire of Star Wars, the bad guys have to keep the cargo transports running.

Well, it’s that time. I’m tired, and I’m working tomorrow. So…


Special Effects R Us

So, this post was started last weekend, but with laundry, work (10 hour days being regular currently), Star Wars, and the holidays, I never managed to finish the post.

Like most, I have been to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I won’t be offering any spoilers, or much commentary, for a while. I enjoyed it, but I doubt this one will influence my setting. It might influence my storytelling, but not too much more. There’s really nothing new introduced into the setting, so I can’t see my setting growing from it.

This week’s post came from this comic:

Yeah, copyrights not challenged and all that.

Guns in fantasy games seem to really get to people. There were similar reactions to that player’s on the comic’s Facebook page. Some readers (including myself) were okay with the idea, and others freaked out and called foul play. I think I used to be in the “freaked out by guns in fantasy” camp, but I’m not so much any more. I think most folks problems are based on real world history, and how the muzzle velocity of the gun allowed the bullet to penetrate armor, eventually rendering armor impractical.

But not even Chris Perkins (the “DM to the Stars” WotC Creative Director) is in the “no firearms” camp, as in his Valoreign playtest setting he includes elven firearms. If you look at the weapon stats, it’s obvious that he’s treating the firearms as simply special effects for damage-inflicting mechanics. And the reality of the game is, hit points are ill-defined and unrealistic in most systems, much less D&D. That being so, the idea that adding guns to a story-oriented fantasy system is completely misguided, in my mind. More simulationist gaming will definitely want it, but that sort of game will likely have more clearly defined hit points and armor mechanics.

Which brings me back to an idea I discussed early on in the history of this blog, that RPGs are resource management systems with special effects overlaid. The special effects are what make our games and determine and shape our settings.

Related to this, I was listening some examples of Fate settings, particularly on some of The Tome Show episodes, and I was struck by the idea that I might have overcomplicated my thinking about how to deal with magic in the StarSea setting. If all PCs have magic, then outside of an aspect that determines their type of magic, they really shouldn’t need more system. Magic becomes the special effect of their actions as they determine. Little or no need for a lot of extras and other mechanical rulings to create the setting.

I still probably won’t be using Fate, as I don’t think my players will get the hang of the fate point economy. That’s at least partially because I have trouble priming that pump myself. But also I think the kids will have problems with creating and accepting the “bad stuff” that is necessary to keep the flow going. I still like the system, and hope to use it in the future.

On that note, a couple of weeks ago, while reading some of the Age of Sigmar stuff, I got inspired to create more of the Reincarnated Heroes campaign idea I had commented on back in November. (The quick recap: Heroes of Good are defeated by Evil, but are reincarnated because Evil cheated the laws of the cosmos.) One of my players said when I mentioned the idea “That’s a cool idea. I like that. Build that.” I have the beginnings of ideas for the villains (barbarians following some dark god, kinda like the Bloodsworn of AoS, or the madben Denledhyssi followers of Glandyth-a-Krae in the Corum books). I considered using 4e and the defiling rules from Dark Sun, but upon reexamining those rules, I determined they are too weak. That only allies are injured makes no sense, and the amounts of damage for the pay-off is too much. Less damage against all creatures would make more sense. I could probably use another system, but I’d probably want to find a different cheat that Evil used that allows the heroes to come back to fix their past mistakes. Or, I need to go with a different reason for the heroes’ reincarnation.

I haven’t really thought too much about the StarSea lately, and that’s a good thing. When I get back to it, I’ll be refreshed. Or so I hope.

Anyway, it’s late and I need to go. No work tomorrow, but I don’t need to be up much longer. Later.


Motivations and Multitudes

One of the first things that ran through my mind was an expansion of last week’s ideas. That is, if we’re irrational creatures, why aren’t my NPCs? That is, why do so many of my NPCs, and most other DM/GM/ST’s, allow themselves to be swayed by reasonable arguments? Why don’t they have extreme emotional commitments to their point of view? And I’m not talking about the major villains. Most folks do a pretty good job keeping the Bad Guys bad, and a little crazy. But the merchants and kings and barkeeps tend to be convinced by simple, logical arguments.

I think many of us think the average person is a reasonable human being who will be swayed this way. But the reality is that the average person is motivated by their emotions and shouldn’t necessarily be swayed by logic.

I think, in the future, I’ll make notes on NPCs that include some note on what the NPC won’t compromise or negotiate on, or how they’re irrational. I think it’s something DM/GM/STs need to think about, even if you’re doing improv gaming.

Something else I’ve been thinking about the past couple of days is whether or not I’ve way overcomplicated the StarSea. Do I really need five races? Do I really need four factions of sapients, not to mention the demons, undead, dragons, and giants, the Ür, civilians and the Corrupted versions of same?

There are also questions raised by the way the factions interact with Corruption. Why do the Powerless become various creatures (like orcs and goblins), but the Empowered become something else, based on their faction? There’s a certain illogic to that, and while the answer could be “Pure Freakin’ Magic”, that’s a dissatisfying answer.

I don’t have answers to these question yet. They’re just things starting to creep into my head as I look at storytelling and listen to book reviews on podcasts. I know that some of the most popular RPGs have had a large number of factions (World of Darkness, I’m looking at you), but do I need them for my setting. It might be I want to have them there, but in the background for the time being, to be developed later. Or it might be I want to completely eliminate them. It’s something I’ll continue to be thinking on for a while, I’m sure.

Yeah, so much for a break from the StarSea. :-)

Well, it’s nearly bedtime, so I need to go.




Sketches and Agency

So, I said I was going to take a break from the StarSea.

Yeah, that lasted about 10 minutes. My mind drifted into imaging things, like how a dwarf should look, or a troll, and I set about sketching those ideas. Didn’t get much done, but I did start rattling things around in my head. I’ve got an image floating around based on the podcast description of an adventure site that I still need to get out.

While mentioning podcasts, I heard something on an episode of The Tome Show that got me thinking and questioning: “When did DMs/GMs/STs/whatevers become afraid of player agency, and who says there’s a finite pool of agency, so that when one side gains, the other side loses?”

This is something I’ve heard as one of the many criticisms of 4e. Players have more agency because they can point to the rulebook to gainsay some story decisions of the GM. To an extent, that’s true. It forces the DM to either be more creative, know their system better, or both. I never really had a problem with agency in 4e, as a DM, over the story or the rules. I’ve had problems with other DMs and whether or not they have a solid grip on the rules. And I’ve seen some truly terrible adventure writing, including from WotC… especially from WotC, but rarely have the rules themselves been the source of the issue.

More of what I’ve seen hasn’t been a totally broken system (although they’re out there) but rather broken  subsystems, or issues with my own inexperience. I remember an instance, which I ultimately handled poorly, while running Villains and Vigilantes in which one player had that game’s version of the Green Lantern “solid illusions” power. The PC in question was like Dr. Manhattan to the rest of the PCs’ Watchmen. Basically, I couldn’t threaten him without killing the other PCs, or resorting to non-physical attacks (as he could use the illusions as armor), something at that time I didn’t have the creativity and sophistication to accomplish. I eventually stripped him of his power, rather brutally stripping him of a fantasy power to recapture my own.

There was one “campaign” I ran in high school in which a vampire merchant turned one of the PCs before the others killed the merchant. I therefore had a PC vampire taking up the old merchant’s schtick. Things got out of hand quickly, and we closed the “campaign” by the end of the afternoon. It was a couple of years before I ran another game. The PCs had more power (AKA agency) than I knew how to counter and challenge.

That situation had nothing to do with the rules and everything to do with my inexperience. When I started this part of the article, I really wasn’t cognitive of where I was going with the article, but I can see where I am being lead. It seems that the power issues we play out in our games are an extension of those we have in our real lives. They are the power issues we have between one another.

So the real issue isn’t whether you as DM or player have agency. The real issue is are you, the participant, willing to give up your “agency” to further the story of the game? I know the best games I’ve had were the ones where we all gave up some of our agency at some points to be handed by the other players more. Those games in which we all set our egos aside to enjoy the hobby. I’ve gone to the point of trying to actively give up my power to other players, especially younger players, like the Kids.

I wish I could offer more solid conclusions and advice. I can’t. I don’t know what creates another’s power issues, emboldens their ego, and might make them crave more agency than other players at any particular moment. I can only suggest players and GMs be more aware of their own behavior, and question their own motives for pushing for agency. Whatever way you go, it’s not the game; it’s the participants.

That’s all I’ve really got for tonight. It seems like it’s a pretty heavy discussion, and I doubt anything will come of it, but it’s something that’s been on my mind this week, and I felt the need to discuss it. Hope it’s fruitful for someone else out there.


NaBloPoMo 2015 – Entry 30 – And That’s a Wrap!

Again, I’ve managed to put up 30 posts in 30 days. This is important to me, as I often delay posts throughout the year. I try to post on a weekly basis, but I far too frequently find myself distracted or uninspired and delay to the point I skip weeks. And that’s bad as once a week really isn’t that heinous a goal for myself.

I didn’t manage to get shaved as I was called in to work about the time I was getting out of bed. I was sent to Richmond, and those are always full day trips. One of the good things about that is I’m getting caught up on my podcasts. I get three hours to burn through episodes of shows, and right now I’m still working on The Tome Show. His volume is pretty intense (about 200 episodes a year, between about five different streams), and I lost my pod back in 2012, and I had a little bit of a backlog then. I’ve had some crazy number of episodes to dig through, and I’m finally getting to the final 200 left (although I’ve just eliminated about 75, as I don’t care for one of the shows in his network). Yes, I know I’m a little crazy, but that’s just part of my charm. :-)

I think this year, even more than last year, my posts have been personal rather than about gaming. In fact, I think there has been damned little about gaming this year. I’m still slogging through the Cypher System book, mainly because I’m reading the PDF part-time on my iPad, and doing the “jump around and read at random” thing doesn’t work so well in that case. My mind is still wandering through some ideas for the StarSea. But right now, I haven’t been particularly focused on that project. I feel like I’m experiencing a bit of fatigue where the StarSea is concerned. I’ve needed at least a little break. I’m still interested in hammering out a few issues, and refining quite a bit (I can’t include all the cool ideas I have), but I still need a little break from from hammering on the StarSea.

And I don’t mind putting the personal stuff here. It gives me the exercise in writing if nothing else. If something is too personal, I just don’t publish it. I have one draft that I will likely never publish as I feel it’s just too much of a pity-party to be worth publishing, but it’s nothing I want to delete, either. As I’m putting up more personal stuff, I might modify my sub-title for the blog, but that’s the only lasting and permanent change I might make.

So, it’s time to wrap this up. Hopefully, I’ll be back on Sunday.


NaBloPoMo 2015 – Entry 29 – Overall Entry 275, Penultimate NaBloPoMo post

Today was the start of our Christmas decorating. Outside lights were put up, but we’re likely going to add more.

Outside of that, it’s also been laundry day, and I also was chauffeur for my mother for an hour or so.

So, on to that beard…

Beard, viewed from left

Beard, viewed from left


Beard, viewed from right.

With the exception of a couple of trims to try to get the moustache and chin the same length as the rest, and trimming around the mouth so I don’t eat beard with my meals, I haven’t shaved since my birthday, or thereabouts. Somewhere about nine weeks of growth.

It’s way too sparse for my tastes, and the big strips of color amongst the gray that just make my beard look dirty are annoying. I’ve gotten in the habit of combing it regularly, and it still goes where it wants. You can also see empty places where there is no hair, and there has never been hair. Those spots are why I’ve never really let my beard grow out like this before. Folks have said the beard would fill in, and this just proves them wrong. So, I have the day off tomorrow, I’m going to shave it off, as well as trim my hair. I’m getting shaggy, for me.

Tomorrow is also the end of NaBloPoMo. I’m noticing a trend to my posts I want to address when I make that final post this go around. I passed my 250th post early this month, and 25 more as of today. I’ll hit 300 sometime about June 2016, if I can keep up with weekly posting.

That’s it for tonight. Later.


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