dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy dies at 83.

I never watched Star Trek when I was younger, nor did I really watch it when I got older. I've seen a few of the movies (I, IV, and whatever Nemesis was), a few scattered episodes here and there, and part of the first season of Enterprise back in university before we just mutually decided it wasn't worth watching.

Despite that, I still ended up as a second-order Star Trek fan, mostly through library books when we'd go visit my grandmother. I've read dozens of Star Trek novels in addition to spending hours pouring through Memory Alpha and Beta, and my favorite novels were always those of the original series. And of those, my favorite novel is Spock's World. I've been planning to reread it for a while now, but I think I need to push that up to next on my list.

His last tweet seems even more poignant now, in context:


LLAP indeed. ברוך דיין האמת \\//
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
A week or so ago, I was bored at work and checked in at The Night Land, and I saw a link there to the Night Land blog, which had been updated since in the months since the last time I visited. Curious, I clicked on it, and the first article I saw was this one.

I didn't know Andy Robertson at all. I never spoke with him nor interacted with him in any other fashion, but I found that website in while I was in Japan and I absolutely devoured all the stories on there. Red Giant's Race, The Guild of the Last Migration, The Wreck of the Aetherwing, and An Exhalation of Butterflies caught my imagination and set it on fire with images of the Last Redoubt at the end of history, after the sun has gone out and the powers of Night hold dominion over almost all the earth.

After finding these homages, I read the original story and found it to be incredibly evocative but nearly unreadable with its purposefully archaic language and eschewing of common literary tropes like dialogue (I suggest the rewritten version, which I reviewed here). It's a story about love that survives the ages and endures even in a hostile world, and how love fundamentally has power even against the night, which is an attractive theme even to someone as pessimistic and cynical as me. I can see what Hodgson was trying to do even if I can also recognize that it was a clumsy attempt marred with a bunch of cringe-worthy problems.

But damn, when I scroll down to the bottom of the Night Lands Timeline and see, after the end of history, "All lovers are reunited"...that pulls at my heartstrings. There, love as a force is strong enough to outlast the universe, even with all the perils laid in its way.

The Night Land website is what brought this all to my attention, and it was all started by Andy Robertson, who also wrote two compilations--Eternal Love and Nightmares of the Fall--based on story submissions he received. Some of them are also on the website in full, but others are only in part. I keep being tempted to buy them, but I've been waiting for digital versions to come out. The blog seems to indicate that there's new stuff coming out in the future, and I'd love to actually give some money to the people who contributed so much to my imagination.

Rest in peace, Andy Robertson. Hopefully, your work on Hodgson's legacy will continue for many years to come.

Edit: I almost forgot: I originally heard of this from the Delta Green mailing list, where he was a contributor for many years, early on before I joined. So there's another debt of inspiration I owe to him.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
How are those concepts connected? Well, I'll explain!

One of the problems I frequently run into in the games I like to run and play is how long character generation takes. It's an unavoidable problem with any system that allows a wide variety of player choice--they'll have to figure out what they want to play, figure out what abilities they want to take that fit their concept, spend those leftover points on things that might be useful, go back and forth with the other players on what the proper distribution of character resources should be, etc., etc. I don't want to knock group character generation, or even spending a session doing so, because some of my players really like it. I don't blame them, either. Part of the reason I like more complex systems is that I like the give-and-take of planning out a group and trying to cover for all eventualities in skill and power selection.

The thing is, this directly disincentivizes killing characters. Or, I suppose if you want to have less agency ascribed to it, it disincentivizes running a game with high lethality. If anyone dies, in addition to all the normal headaches of integrating a new person into the group, you now have to wait for the dead person to create a new character, which will take the same length of time as before. Even if they really have a concept nailed down and know the system, they'll still have to spend all their points, make sure everything adds up, and so on, and that's time they're not playing. There isn't really any way to get around this without reducing the number of choices necessary for character generation.

I realized that part of the reason I don't like games with assumed lethality probably has a lot to do with this problem. I like games with a lot of widgets and mechanical crunch to get my teeth around, but I don't want to kill people off because that complexity directly feeds into the annoyance of making new characters. I tend to get around it by adding narrativist mechanics like Luck/Drama Points, but there's another way to reduce the problem: random character generation.

I'm not talking OD&D-style 3d6-in-order character generation, because that leads to characters of widely-varying power level in any system where stats actually matter (admittedly, that's not OD&D). However, something like Reign's One-Roll Character Generator is pretty amazing. The chart's in that link, but you roll a certain amount of dice--eleven, by default--and check the matches on the various categories and adjust your attributes as described, and check any non-matching dice on the events table (there are three in the rules--only one is listed there). The rules specifically give you the option to take some dice and set them aside in a set already, so someone who knows they want to be a mighty sorcerer can set aside five 9s and roll the rest to see what happens. In addition, each die of the set provides 5 points worth of abilities when compared to the point-buy method, so all characters are balanced and it's easy to adjust the power level of characters up or down as desired.

This is amazing. It's probably the best random character generation system I've ever seen and half has me tempted to just throw all this out and use Dragon Reign, the D&D-esque fantasy conversion for Reign, but I've spent a bunch of time on this so far and I don't want to just give it up. So, how can I replicate a system like that?

Reign's One-Roll Character Generation works because everything has a fixed value so it's easy to set things up to map to the dice. That goes directly against the idea that Advantages would have different costs, but then again, Advantages having different costs makes character generation take longer as well so maybe that's a bad idea. As long as I can avoid the problems of Toughness vs Improved Initiative, then I'm not wedded to either cost structure.

Speaking of Advantages, Reign uses them too, but the One-Roll Character Generator doesn't. Only a very few options give you Advantages, so that's something I want to take into account.

Another option that doesn't require everything to be quite so meticulously balanced is a lifepath system, the way Fading Suns or Traveler or Burning Wheel do. So, for example, someone who wants to be a court wizard would take the Raised in the Lap of Luxury Path, that gives +1 Charisma and +1 Intelligence, and then +1 Empathy, +1 Lie, +1 Persuasion, +1 Etiquette, +1 Lore (Nobility), and the "Noble Birth" Advantage. Then they'd move on to the Young Noble Path, then the Apprentice Sorcerer Path, picking up Stats and Advantages and Skills along the way. This lets me tailor things specifically to the setting and tells a lot about one's character before they start, plus it provides a good selection of skills and prevents the kind of direct focusing that you tend to get with pure point-buy if the system isn't set up to discourage it, such as with geometric costs or other balancing factors. The obvious disadvantage here is that I have to write a bunch of lifepaths. Then again, I'm not sure how much of a disadvantage that would be for me...

I could even add an option for random lifepaths, too, if people can't decide. Beyond the Wall, a OSR game about a group of childhood friends who go off and have adventures, designed to emulate YA books like The Chronicles of Prydain or The Earthsea books, has something similar. Because of Beyond the Wall's focus, the lifepaths are designed to determine who lives in the characters' town, what buildings are there, and how the characters know each other. It's extremely well designed.

If I want to run any kind of dungeon bash or hexcrawl game where lethality is assumed, I'll need to do something.
dorchadas: (Death Goth)
Well, okay, I might have just been injured instead.

Anyway, I went out to get a haircut, since it had been over a year since scissor went anywhere near my hair and it definitely needed it. It was sunny out, and a bit windy, but I didn't think anything of it because hey, Chicago. I was about halfway there and just nearing a corner when a sudden gust of wind came out from around the building and a tree almost fell on me.

They say that time slows down in situations like that, but it didn't really happen for me. The wind whipped up to a howl, I heard a loud CRACK, then a crashing sound, and when I looked two feet to my right, just around the corner, there was a pile of branches and pieces of trunk where the upper part of the tree had broken off in the wind and fallen to the ground. If I had needed to turn that corner instead of going straight...

Even now I tend to look back and think, "It wasn't that bad, it was only part of the tree, it had already cracked into pieces," etc., but if I think about it in any depth I know that's just perfectly natural post-disaster delusions. Some of those pieces were as big around as my upper arm. If they had hit me end-on in the head, I would definitely have been seriously injured, and might have died.

There was a woman walking with her baby, so if I had been hit she (hopefully) would have called 911, and as it was she asked me if I was okay--which, oddly, I was. I wasn't bothered by it at all, and I'm still not, even when I think about it. I mean, I guess that's a useful adaptive strategy, because freaking out over the essential randomness of the universe is not really a course that's conductive to long-term mental health, but it seems like it should bother me more than I may have narrowly escaped death. It has made me a lot more worried about something terrible happening to [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou when she's out of contact, though. :p

So, yeah. Don't go to bed angry, don't sweat the small stuff, and make sure you tell your loved ones you love them. You never know what'll happen.

:(

Mar. 13th, 2011 02:29 am
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
I could have gone my whole life without learning the Japanese for "to be buried alive."
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Abby--our oldest sheltie. She was three months shy of 17. She'd been having kidney problems, bladder problems, stomach problems, mouth problems, and all kinds of other problems for over a year, so it's a not a surprise. And I'm really not a pet person, so I didn't even really like her...but I still got a bit teary eyed when I got the news.

I guess that's not too surprising. My family's had her since I was nine. It'll be odd to go back home and have there only be one dog in the house.
dorchadas: (Angst)
RIP E. Gary Gygax.

I no longer play D&D, or particularly like class/level based systems, but D&D is one of the main reasons there even is a role-playing hobby, so indirectly, I have Mr. Gygax to thank for all the hours of fun I've gotten so far pretending to be an elf/embodiment of reality/vampire/whatever.

RPG.net has a black background today. They may have done it to reduce loading times and server errors, but I like to think it's a memorial.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
...in his sleep. Medically, anyway. He was long past the point where he forgot who I was.

Howard Pitt enlisted in the Army during World War II and was assigned to the Army Air Corps. After training, he flew missions in Europe near the tail end of the war, mostly assigned to destroying infrastructure--train tracks, munitions depots, etc. When the war was over, he returned home and married the girl he had met while on leave (Kathryn Evans) and took advantage of the G.I. Bill to go to college and study engineering. After graduating, he worked as a surveyor for an oil company, spending some time in Scotland along the way. He and Kathryn had two children, Randall and David. Despite served in Europe, he refused to buy anything made in Japan until the day he died. When he retired, he divided his time between Long Beach, CA, where he had raised his two children, and Florence, OR. His wife preceeded him in death by a year. He died in Seattle, WA, July 28, 2007.

And that's almost all I know. By the time I was old enough to be interested in his stories, he was no longer capable of telling them. I'm sure my father knows more than I do, and some day I'll ask, but hearing them secondhand won't be the same as hearing them from the man who went through it.

Rest in peace, grandfather.

Breaking?

Apr. 16th, 2007 02:04 pm
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
When the newsroom is full of activity, it's almost always bad news.

We have several TVs. They're usually off--after all, on a normal day the wire provides us with updates--but they get turned on for two things that I've seen before. Tragedies, and sporting events. I could probably write an entire essay just about that, but not now.

It's interesting that, for most of the day, the fax machine has been broken and its warning siren has been going off. At least the sirens I'm hearing aren't from ambulances carrying away the wounded.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Just when you're old enough to appreciate the stories, they can't tell them anymore.

May your next incarnation be as good for you as this one was.

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in."
-Hubb McCann, Secondhand Lions

Blarg

Jul. 18th, 2006 04:18 pm
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
My grandmother has inoperable liver cancer.

It is spreading to her lungs.

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