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Month: July 2003

Indy indies

Patchworky commentary ahoy. Um, I guess I’ll talk about indie gaming at Gen Con now. The Forge folks had a shared booth, which looked very busy every time I dropped by. Yay them! I bought some stuff and talked to some people and generally had a good time there.

I met Scott Knipe (who wrote Wyrd and Charnel Gods), and he is just about the nicest guy in the world. He insisted in pressing a printed copy of Charnel Gods on me, so I made him autograph it. We had a nice chat about fan sites and upcoming stuff and so on, and he was one of the people I met at Gen Con who I’d love to have a beer with sometime. Stupid busy schedule. Maybe next year.

Ron Edwards, ringmaster of the Forge, is gregarious, cheerful, and charismatic. Very nice guy. My favorite metaphor for the Forge is jazz; it’s a very structured discussion space and there are a lot of conversations which don’t fit into that space. However, it’s absolutely perfect for talking about critical theory of roleplaying according to the GNS model, and it’s a valuable resource in that regard. Ron is the orchestra leader. Wish I’d had more time to talk to him, too.

I picked up several games, showing my lack of self-control. My favorite purchase was My Life With Master, which rocks — I wouldn’t mind playing it but it’d require committing for a few sessions. It is funny and sad and eloquent. The players are minons of an evil master, attempting to form human connections while serving his bidding. Probably the best value of the con.

I also got Kill Puppies For Satan. Bwah hah ha.

Um… Universalis, which I have not been able to read while in a proper state to comprehend it. Dust Devils, which I liked quite a bit. I want to try using it as an engine for Hong Kong melodrama at some point.

Oh yeah, and The Riddle of Steel, because Jake Norwood demoed the combat system and it is in fact amazingly easy and slick. In fact, in terms of ease of use it’s up there with Feng Shui. You roll a big fat d10 dice pool, divided into offense and defense pools each round, and you hope that you don’t get hit because getting hit is nasty. There’re some table lookups but they don’t come often, because the average combat will not have more than one or two hits in it. I want to try it out in more depth sometime.

There’s also a cool passion system, which provides you with extra dice when you’re fighting for something you feel strongly about. It’s good flavor and encourages roleplay. Finally, the sorcery system is a functional ad hoc system which allows you to cast random effects on the fly, not entirely unlike Ars Magica in that. I always like those.

I’m not entranced by his world, but I think it would be fairly adaptable to Warhammer Fantasy, which is the ur-gritty fantasy roleplaying world in my book. It’d also make an interesting system for L5R if you wanted to replace one deadly combat system with another; but that would take more adaptation work.

So that was what the indie RPG scene was like at Gencon. Fun.

Indianapolis by

First things first: Indianpolis is not big on the wireless access. The nearest Starbucks to the convention center is in Conseco Fieldhouse, and while it was a pleasure seeing Larry Bird’s arena, they did not have wireless. If you’d been around Saturday morning, you’d have seen me warwalking down the street trying to nail down one of the maddeningly unstable wireless connections emanating from sixth floor apartments. I had no luck.

Next year I’m going to bring an Airport and a hub and try and sneak ‘em into the “check your email” stations. It was irksome — if you’re going to pay for Internet, why not hook up wireless alongside the PCs?

Bitching aside, some comments about the city and the convention center. Indy’s a good place to have a convention. There are about a billion hotels connected to the center via Skywalk, and a mall, and it’d be pretty easy to never go outside the entire con. The facilities were good, with plenty of mediocre food in the center. I liked my hotel fine, although I will be finding a cheaper hotel with Internet access next year.

Who, me, withdrawal? Well, yeah.

More Gencon recaps to follow. See also my photo album.

Draw, varmint

Some reports say that North Korea may carry out a nuclear test on September 9, the anniversary of the country’s founding, if there’s not more progress in the current standoff by then. I’m torn between believing that North Korea is willing to push the boundaries of reasonable behavior and remembering that the North Korean government is not always grounded in reality.

In any case, the Washington Post reports that “Bush may give in on non-aggression.” Bush keeps denying that anything like that is on the table. We’ll see.

I’m just hoping Bush isn’t using John Wayne as his model in this one. When a cowboy doesn’t draw fast enough, or faces down the wrong black hat, the cowboy is the only one who suffers. You don’t see so many movies where the cowboy gingerly talks down a guy with a bomb that can blow up the whole town.

Things I want to remember

Look, it’s the only place I have where I can put the packing list and be constantly reminded of it.

  • iBook

    * charger

    * DVDs?

    * memory card reader

  • Camera

    * Batteries

  • Shadowfist cards
  • Razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair bands
  • Wrestling tapes
  • GBA

    * Games: AW II, AW, Crash, Yoshi’s Island, p’raps Warioware

    * Charger

  • Cell phone charger
  • iPod & headphones

Unique mania

It’s a sign of Red Sox obsession that my first reaction to this trade was “ah, the Yankees just want to rub our noses in 1986.” However, I confidently predict that if the Yankees are foolish enough to put Orosco up against the powerful Red Sox lineup, the mighty Red Sox bats will erase the memory of those awful seven games.

Galway to Gencon

I’m off to Gen Con soon; specifically, I’m leaving Thursday. Blogging may be sporadic during that time, or it may be frequent — it all depends on what kind of wireless access I can find in the convention center. I’ll have my laptop and — hey, why not? — my camera. In fact, I’ll set up a Typepad photo blog for those so they don’t clog things up over here.

If you happen to be planning to attend Gen Con, I will be playing a metric ton load of Shadowfist and will likely be at the Z-Man Games booth off and on. I might also be at the Vivendi Games booth. Or drop me an email.

As far as I know there’s no blogger meet set up, which is a pity. I should stop thinking of these things two days in advance.

I approve

I’m not a Democrat; nor am I a Republican. I fall somewhere more or less on the left side of the spectrum, if you insist on a single axis. I prefer a minimalistic government, but I believe that enlightened self-interest calls for more voluntary intervention than your average libertarian advocates. I’m a capitalist. I think the optimal size of self-governed political units is fairly small.

So how do you get my vote in 2004? Easy. Come out in favor of approval voting.

The current majority vote system tends to reinforce the two major parties. In some ways, voting for a third party reduces the chances that a candidate you can stand will get elected. (That doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do; it just describes the practical effects of voting for a third party.) This disenfranchises those who could tolerate, say, a Democrat in office but who would prefer a Green President.

It’s pretty easy to see the problem here. Flip the situation around; say that we’d always had the Green Party and the Republican Party as our main political parties. You’re a liberal who vehemently disagrees with eliminating nuclear power plants or withdrawing from the WTO — but if you don’t vote Green, you’re helping the Republicans win. You aren’t well-represented, even though the Green platform is closer to your beliefs than the Republicans.

If there were no other way to run an election, maybe it’d be OK to grin and bear it. But there are other ways. I don’t particularly expect either the Democrats or Republicans to adopt them, because the net effect is to create an opening for other parties; however, that’s what it would take.

Approval voting is pretty simple. You vote for each candidate who you wouldn’t mind seeing elected. The candidate with the most votes wins. If you’d be OK with Perot or McCain, you vote yes for both of ‘em. There’s no need to let strategic voting obscure your preferences, and you can send a clearer message.

There are some quirky results possible with this system. If 60% of the voters prefer candidate A to any other candidate, but 70% of the voters find candidate B acceptable and only 65% of the voters find candidate A acceptable, then candidate B will win. It would be reasonable to feel that candidate A was getting a raw deal. However, candidate B is still clearly acceptable — so the maximum number of voters are happy.

Condorcet voting fixes that problem, but it’s a fair bit more difficult to describe, and being a realist I’m willing to take things one step at a time. Some improvement is better than no improvement.

Somehow, I expect that neither of the major party candidates will show any real interest in making it possible for third parties to accurately register the degree of their support. Funny, that.

Monday Mashup #2: Body Snatchers

Let’s take this meme out for another spin. Yep, it’s time for another Monday Mashup.

Ryan made a suggestion which I’m going to take up. He pointed out that a lot of respondants were interested in the idea but didn’t know enough about Greyhawk to take a stab at it. He suggested that I should pick a piece of modern media, and let people choose their own game for the purposes of adaptation. I think he’s right.

Thus, how to participate: pick a roleplaying world and talk about how you’d use the specified book/movie/TV show/whatever as an inspiration for a campaign or one-shot set in that world. You can post on your own blog or LiveJournal or in the comments here, as you see fit.

This week, your mashup subject is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (The 1978 remake is also valid fodder.)

My contribution follows.