Happy day!

Jun. 17th, 2007 12:02 pm
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... to me, and to Mike and Yair and Jeremy and Cdodd and Denmark.

And a very special one to Ed and Harold and Chrisber and Merlin.

And of course to my brothers, and to the most excellent Silkiedad.

And, somewhere out there, to mine, who taught me everything I know about it.

He said, once, to me: "When it's summertime, you can bitch about the heat, or you can appreciate how the pretty girls are dressed." He wasn't, of course, only talking about the heat and the pretty girls.

Happy father's day.
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ok, this was fun, stolen from hzatz. Hugo-winning novels, bolded if I've read them, italics if they're on my shelf but I haven't read them yet. Actually, come to think of it, it's nearly depressing... if nothing else it will keep people from trying to loan me books...Read more... )
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I have the most excellent friends.

Jason had a GeForce 4 just sitting around with no computer to put it in.

He came over last night and helped me install it.

The game is truly inspired, demented, and hilarious; there were loud hoots of laughter coming from the den as all three kids were clustered around the computer till I had to pry them off and insert them into their beds. He was up again this morning at 7 AM -- changed clothes, ate breakfast, brushed teeth, and started playing, all before either of us woke up. Go Robert!
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It occurs to me that I would like to experience more of D&D 3.5e as a player instead of only gamemastering. I don't know how I'd accomplish that, unless someone were to volunteer to run something on Wednesday evenings.
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The scariest thing about the new Harry Potter movie is that it's obvious Ron's twin brothers are both John Hart.
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I took the 'rate my life' test that others have taken.

Not going to post the answers. But it suggests I might benefit from socializing more, and it's probably right. Not sure how to work that, though.

It asked a good question which stumped me -- how many "good friends" do I have?

I have a ton of acquaintances. I have a lot of old friends whom I see occasionally. I see gamers more or less weekly, feed them dinner and torture their alter egos.

But. Other than my wife, I don't have any contemporary confidantes -- friends I see and socialize with regularly, other than in a gaming context. This may partly be because I don't watch sports or drink.

By confidantes, I mean... what do I mean? I have this probably apocryphal notion regarding What Men Do ... men are supposed to go sit at a bar and drink beer, complain about their wives, discuss the local sports teams, and thereby Bond (tm). That seems kinda odd. I seem to have gotten all my spectator sports mojo out when I was a kid -- wasting hours watching sports seems, these days, like playing Dungeons and Dragons probably seems to a lot of former geeks; watching sports is something you did when you were a teen and had time and no life. And as for having people to complain to about my wife? I dunno, I don't think I could ever bring myself to. Not that I have a perfect life -- no one does -- but any complaints I might ever have would seem far too private to discuss with anybody else. Gauche. Rude. Oversharing. You know what I mean.

So I don't know. I suppose I should get out more. But where, how, with whom, and more to the point, why? The job makes it a bit difficult -- I already spend one and a half evenings a week away from Sherilyn, so the idea of spending any other time "out" just feels unfair, and frankly not what I want to do. I was gaming for a while on Wednesday nights, but that just increased my exhaustion. I don't have any interest in getting together with people from the church, the only neighbors I feel I have much in common with are moving away.

This seems to come across as more of a downer than I really feel. I have a great time socializing at lunch at work. I am by and large happy with my job, and my family is absorbing and wonderful. I see my bay friends when they visit, and I am largely content with my life at present. I don't feel like I'm missing something; instead, I feel a little like I ought to feel like I'm missing something.

Britannia!

Sep. 6th, 2005 01:57 pm
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So Carrie and her kids came over on Labor Day, and Carrie and Connor (her eleven-year-old) and [livejournal.com profile] silkiemom and I played Britannia.

If you don't know the game, this will be a bit long and pointless (though possibly entertaining anyway)...Read more... )
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I started to write a response to Tavella's journal and it got too long for a response. So here it is, after the cut...

Read more... )
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This is long. I certainly don't intend to let it become a rant. It's an attempt to discern a logical error on the part of some people who agree with me politically.

Read more... )

Tribes

Feb. 27th, 2004 12:49 am
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The article in the SJMN about all my friends is a fun read. Lots of random burbling about it follows, not so much fun but thoughtful. Read more... )
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I think I should trade actors with Flit, though.


My LiveJournal Sitcom
Life With eyelessgame (FOXFAM, 2:30): eyelessgame (Elizabeth Hurley) wipes yessod (David Schwimmer)'s laptop. On the other side of town, tavella (John Turturro) is allergic to marith (Mickey Rourke)'s yearbook. In the next town over, flit (Denis Leary) draws a picture on czr (Neil Patrick Harris)'s forehead. Later that day, tamago (Julia Roberts) and jimweasel (Erika Christensen) don't believe in Scientology. That same day, tayefeth (Harry Belafonte)'s new shirt bleeds in the wash and stains all of silkblade (George Carlin)'s underwear pink. TV-PG.
What's Your LiveJournal Sitcom? (by rfreebern)
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So we went a little further into The Iron Fortress. Not that much to report, beat up some more bad guys and that's about it. I think I mishandled Symbol spells, though.

Anyway, the more interesting thing was a short discussion on 'what do we do next?', since as I've previously written I expect the D&D campaign to end reasonably soon (about 3-4 more levels). I explained that while I wasn't yet for sure sold on running Traveller, I am considering an SF game, and what did the players want to do? I offered some of the interesting choices for space-operatic interstellar travel: explorers, refugees, empire builders, rebels, merchants, mercenaries. To my not-very-great surprise, they basically want to 'kick butt and make money', i.e. mercenaries, though agreeing that exploration and all the rest are fun things to be hired to do.

But basically it seems they want to be passively hired to do things, as opposed to deciding to do them themselves. I guess that's to be expected, especially in a universe they don't yet know... but I don't think they'd change their minds when they learned the universe. The idea of having character-imposed goals is really not their thing (and part of this is my fault, since I am so overenthusiastic about story-imposed goals).

But also, and this I found interesting, there was general agreement that I should return first to the River of Cradles and run the Cradle megascenario/minicampaign with their Rune-level characters before we started an SF adventure. They appear really to have liked Glorantha, and the River of Cradles -- it serves as another reminder that I must return one day to the River and run the stories there afresh, for players who haven't been there yet.

Also, James is making noise about moving to a cheaper state with better roommates, like Arizona, soon, like the end of 2003. That'd be a shame; he's probably the best-read of my gamers, the most immersive roleplayer, the one least interested in just kicking butt and the one most interested in making gaming a cooperative event -- but after all, gaming isn't real life, and real life must take precedence. Doesn't that suck sometimes?
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I've run, I consider, about six "excellent" RPG campaigns -- excellent from the point of view of both me and my players having loads of fun, telling interesting stories, seeing interesting characters develop, and just generally raising the tone to something that sometimes approaches the mythic.

I'm reminiscing, well, because someday I want to surpass these. I have many more games to run -- I'm starting one next week -- and one day I want to have replaced most of what's on this list with even better stories.

Many of the campaigns I've run don't make it to the list of excellent campaigns (the D&D one I'm running right now, for example, is perfectly adequate, but is unlikely to belong on a list like this).

The top six goes like this. (The number of players listed are the average number I had in the game at any one time; some games cycled through several more during the course of the campaign).

6. Rhodri's Folly [Ars Magica], 1998-2002. Five players. An elderly Tytalus brought young magi into a covenant that he'd arranged to be in the most pressure-laden and inconvenient place possible, then promptly vanished into Twilight, leaving the youngsters to fight off political opponents, make peace between the fey and mundanes, and incidentally realize it was up to them to save the world. An experiment in making a totally absent villain, and it worked very well at that level. A live-action Tribunal that I wrote on my own featuring 15 guest stars was both a high and low point; the Tribunal on its own was wonderful, but it left detritus in the game we had to agree to disregard. Petered out early, but had some very good times first.

5. River of Cradles [Runequest], 1995-2000. Eight players. I ran nearly every published adventure on the River of Cradles, only missing the Cradle scenario itself (we moved on into D&D 3E and didn't reach this natural climactic scenario). While everyone had reached Rune level and exposed the limits of the RQ system, it was still my longest-running and favorite Gloranthan campaign to date.

3. [tie] Caer Glamorghan [Ars Magica], 1992-1996. Six players. My first and by far best Ars Magica campaign. Also Welsh, quieter and more contemplative than Rhodri's Folly, with several long-running story arcs. Walked through many published adventures; I did extensive amounts of adaptation to make the stories flow into one another and involve the characters personally. Very family-oriented, probably partly because Mike and Susan, and Sherilyn and I, were newlyweds at the time. Some of the most memorable characters I've ever had the pleasure to GM -- Sionna the witch with eight-and-a-half children; Meredydd the faerie and her straight-laced German Criamon magus husband; Tristan the shuffling, nearly diabolic Criamon... I was very proud of some closed time loops and regio work throughout this campaign.

3. [tie] Donner Prep [Champions], six players, 1996-2001: Easily the most pure-fun game I've ever run -- I eclectically and shamelessly stole from everywhere. Consciously intended to copy early New Mutants, set at a superhero-training school a few miles from Lake Tahoe, the teen heroes fought a forest fire, traveled dimensions, took a four-stage time travel journey that saved the world (and their school) twice over; visited a Dyson sphere... all while debating philosophy with their Heinlein-inspired professors and dating members of the Sacramento-based paranormal-mercenary group (inspired by Before Breakfast).

2. Toiyabe Caern [Werewolf: the Apocalypse], four players, 1993-1997: An intensely melodramatic game. The best single moment I've ever GMed for came in the White Wolf Vancouver setting... where the pack of werewolves, for the sake of a friend they had no reason to believe could ever be saved, stayed and fought instead of walking away, knowing it would destroy the truce between Kindred and Garou that made Vancouver unique (and peaceful); also a star-crossed Romeo-and-Juliet doomed romance, and an Umbra-spanning search for Native American spirits and elder Garou allies to establish a new caern.

But it's obligatory -- the best RPG I've ever run has to be:

1. Nora's Home For Wayward Youth [Mage: the Ascension], eight players (1992-2001): Jeremy was the one who made me realize how special this was, when he described another game he was in at the same time: "Well, it's fun, and I'll keep showing up, but it's not like it changes my view of what roleplaying is." I am privileged to have guided this story -- I often didn't have to do much but sit back and interject comments into the cacophany of the players debating, in character, the nature of the reality I'd helped them develop. Earl was a tremendous help throughout, since he played a character who seldom left their chantry home; as a story would weave from scene to scene, half the players would be talking with me developing the scene, and the other half -- their scene having ended -- would be gathered around Earl, trying to figure out what had just happened. Some episodes were exquisitely roleplayed: the incomplete rewrite of history that erased Martin; Slade's coat-quest; Scooby Doo In Tyrolia (the discovery of the tomb of Ares); the Love Boat In the Bermuda Triangle (a farcical boat ride with every sort of paranormal imaginable); the introductions of Chryse (walking through the lands of the dead) and Christy (the best job I've ever done at keeping a horror-movie atmosphere); and several more great stories. Not every episode was so magical, but many were, and the way it clicked was at times beyond what I thought roleplaying could be.
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I was just upgraded to a paid account anonymously. Uhm, thanks!
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There's an obligation I have, which I sometimes forget.

I forget that I'm quite good at certain particular things, and that this can make people feel defensive. And (perhaps unconsciously) anxious to demonstrate that they're better at their particular field than I am -- which of course they are -- particularly when I wander into range of their particular quills.

Occasionally it comes up that I'm good at math and good at science and good at game theory and good at software and reasonable at dealing with people and at analyzing literature, and this winds up being combined with the huge turgid throbbing caltech education that somehow I manage to conversationally dangle out of an inadvertently unzipped verbal fly and make it look like it was done on purpose. I can say -- and mean -- "No, that's not true", and people will hear "anyone who disagrees with me is obviously an ignorant and worthless human being with whom I'm barely tolerating sharing this planet of mine".

I know I do it. It's hard to avoid rhetorical overeffectiveness like it's hard to sing out of tune once you have a trained voice. It's like playing pianissimo bagpipes. I type loud.

Part of it, really, is that huge throbbing Tech thing. You spend three or four or five or nine years there, you get arrogant about problems having solutions because you get really good at finding them. And you're surrounded by people just as good at problem-solving, who know they're just as good, and who are terribly awfully blunt with each other and say what they mean and call each other morons for not seeing it, and stay friends. And you get used to thinking and talking and acting and expecting that way.

Two of my uncles are ex-Marines. They really did use expletives like commas. My family reunions were howlingly loud and unpleasant. But they all loved each other. Same kind of thing. I remember Flit saying it -- over a decade ago -- we techers are like ex-marines, in the way we all think the same and act the same and finish each other's sentences and tactlessly insult each other horribly and not even notice, and give the impression of being really scarily good at what we do (which is 99% projecting attitude).

But I've got it worse than most, I think. Part of that is familial destiny. Apart from those marines, there are seven ministers or religious instructors related to me as closely as grandparent or cousin. Most of the rest who aren't engineers are teachers.

Someday perhaps this particular talent will come in handy. If I had thought of it fifteen years ago and didn't want a life or a conscience, I could have gone into law. Or if my stock options lottery numbers had come up, I coulda gone into politics. (Still could, if I hit the jackpot, though I'm sure the concept would rightly horrify Sherilyn.)

Or if only I were of some fire-and-brimstone religion -- man, I'd be good. You'd all be going to hell if you didn't follow me, and you'd know it the second I opened my mouth.

But I'm not. So instead I GM, where rhetoric appears to be a good thing.
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I think that perhaps my hackles raise a bit -- I am, after all, a sports fan, and by confession most of my friends are not. Perhaps I know less about literature than some of us, but I know more about sports than most of you.

Sports fans understand the games they watch. They quickly figure out which bits of the game are important and which bits are irrelevant. They let their attention wander when irrelevant things happen. They cheer for novelty and cleverness and good play, but they watch and care about who wins and their real emotional investment is in the drive toward winning the game. And Quidditch as a spectator sport fails, because it lacks any drive toward winning.

Sports fans, you see, are gaming-system geeks. Virtually all of them are. That neither sports fans nor gamers particularly want to acknowledge the similarity doesn't change the fact that both think the same way.

What isn't believable for me is that none of the students at the school act like true sports fans. The Hogwarts students act like sports fans look from the outside -- but it's as poor a characterization of actual fans as, well, a book written by a non-gamer would characterize gamers. (I'm sure we can all think of examples.)

Rowling isn't a sports fan and she doesn't understand them. Nor do her editors, evidently. It certainly doesn't ruin the books for me, it just makes me fail to be excited by Quidditch.
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How weird.

I really like Harry Potter. The books are great, the movie was competently done, it's engaging, I'm reading it to my son, etc.

I'm also a sports fan. I like watching football, basketball, baseball, soccer, even ice skating. It's fun to watch physical competition. I cheer for good plays, goals, saves, hard hits, everything about the competition.

And knowing something about sports and Harry Potter both, I find Quidditch (the game) to be fatally flawed because of how it's scored.

You get ten points when your side scores a goal. Well and good, and some half dozen to dozen goals are scored in a match; one side might outplay the other and score a few more goals; rarely a team will score five goals more than the opposing team. Very similar to hockey or soccer or basketball or many other sorts of put-the-ball-in-the-goal games. Great, exciting... and utterly pointless.

Because you get 150 points when the Seeker suddenly sees the Snitch and catches it to end the game. Every game in every book has been decided by the Seeker looking in the right direction at the right time. Period.

Now, football may be decided by a single play. But every play in the game is done for the purpose of advancing the ball toward potential scoring drives that could turn the game your way. Any given play could turn out to be crucial, and every play is done with the honest belief that it advances your side.

The same is true of hockey and soccer. Few scores are made, but the intent is to outplay, outmaneuver, and wear down your opponents, putting yourself in situations where you are more likely to score.

But in Quidditch, six of your seven players can suck -- hell, six of your seven players can just fail to show up -- and your Seeker will win or lose the game for you every time.

And the Seeker's actions, up to the point when the Snitch randomly shows itself, are equally useless and pointless; they don't advance their team's side, they don't build toward a 'snitch-finding' conclusion, they don't do anything. You fly around pointlessly, throwing around a ball that doesn't matter, till one of the two people who do matter sees the winning dingus and catches it. Boom.

At one point during a game in one of the books, a player was injured, a timeout wasn't immediately called, and a player on the other team grabbed the ball and scored five goals -- the typical number of goals scored by a team in an entire match. And it didn't affect the outcome.

It ruins my suspension of disbelief that the players play it, that the crowds cheer for goals scored, that the teams bother with any sort of strategy or tactics -- when, thanks to the scoring system, the entire game is *always* decided by a single action of one player, at some random point, who suddenly ends the game in his own team's favor. I can believe some people still liking it. I cannot imagine the absence of a sizeable contingent that just watches Seekers and ignores the rest of the game. I cannot imagine the teams failing to realize that the right strategy is to put everyone on Seeker duty, pointing out the dingus to their Seeker, and ending the game immediately.

What's astonishing to me is the reaction it provokes in some of my friends when I say this -- that Quidditch scoring ruins my suspension of disbelief. I can't speak to their motivations, but somehow my dislike of Quidditch -- something about how I phrase it -- really pisses people off.

I don't get it. I wish I did.

Now I find my friends' reactions far more interesting and curious than Rowling's literary failure in creating the game.
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That weekend certainly seemed longer than a mere forty-nine hours. Sherilyn has capably described the trip, so I don't have to -- but it was indeed a day. She doesn't mention the difficulties I had staying awake driving home, but that's because she was zonked out in the car most of the way.

TooMUSH has a really bad effect. People change aliases just often enough that my already-severe engineer name-mapping disability kicks into overdrive. I had yet again lost the mapping of tara-laura-mony-angie-alice-soula-darkness-tenshi-air into the correct number of humans, and there were one too many of them at the party, and no one else was bothered by this. But the nice part is that I finally got to differentiate Soula, whom I think I've only met ftf once before, if that. She's awfully nice, and very good at sitting there and being abused by my offspring for hours and hours.

Like Sherilyn, I also saw far too many people I love to see, and wish I could have spent hours talking to each one.

Sherilyn pointed out later that taking Bobby out of the party when he was misbehaving might have been a tactical error, since it humiliated him and made him feel far worse; talking him down where he was would have been easier. I agree as far as that goes, but I think it was the right move anyway, since Cera was in the middle of opening presents and he was already disrupting the room by tormenting Soula to the point of causing her to complain at him. When you behave that badly, it's not a bad idea to be made to feel bad about it afterward for a while, even if it also makes the parenting job harder. I think it's a good lesson for him to learn.

On Sunday -- James showed up for gaming an hour and a half early (James lives in Grass Valley but stayed in Marysville and... well, it's complicated), so we gathered the others and tried to get a slightly longer session together. Unfortunately, we didn't play to D&D's strengths much, as it became a long conversation with an NPC and then some fact-finding, and only after a couple hours did we have some gratuitous fighting.

The Ars Magica session was entirely talking-heads, but for that crew talking heads is much more rewarding, because what they want most is answers, and they got some -- though it just raised more questions, of course. I got to play the characters Chrisber and Cera portrayed in the LARP, which was a lot of fun.

This morning I have to get some proposed test plan documents prepared for circulation among the engineers, so I should wrap the journal up and write more.

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