Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prior Art in the iPad - from 1968

Okay, here's something cool that I never noticed before.

If you follow the Tablet Wars at all, you might have read that Apple is suing Samsung, claiming that Samsung is violating Apple's Intellectual Property.

What I didn't realize until I read this article, is that of the four patents that Apple is claiming Samsung is stealing from, three of them are DESIGN PATENTS.

What is a design patent?  It's not an invention, like this (I actually have a patent.  I hardly ever get to mention it.  Yes, I'm bragging.  I seldom get a chance to brag.  This is probably my only chance this year.  Forgive me.).  A design patent is a protection for the look of something.  You can get a design patent for a piece of art, or the styling of a jukebox:

Not an iPad.

My jukebox has this design patent.  It shows the styling of the jukebox so that other manufacturers will not copy the design, taking away from the (I hate the term, but) look and feel of the original. 

So what Apple did was to make a design patent for the iPad that shows a thin rectangular pad with a large screen, narrow borders and a flat back.  And they are claiming that Samsung (and anyone else daring to make a tablet without paying them royalties) is stealing those design elements, taking away from the art that is their iPad.

So what is Samsung saying?  Obviously, just about any tablet is like any other tablet.  So it's hard to argue that "Gee, our tablet is entirely different, even though it looks pretty much the same."

What Samsung is arguing is that the iPad design is not original.  They are saying that other people came up with the design elements (rectangular tablet, big screen, narrow borders, flat back) before Apple came up with it.  If Samsung can convince a judge that this prior art is sufficiently similar to what Apple is claiming, they can then argue that this design was not original enough to deserve a patent, and that Samsung can make all the flat big-screened narrow-bordered flat-backed tablets that they want.  In fact anyone who wants to can.

So where did Samsung find this prior art?  In Stanley Kubrik's (and Arthur C. Clarke's) 2001: A Space Odyssey!  And they have submitted this image:

Look!  There's Dave and that other guy (the one who gets killed, and nobody remembers his name because it wasn't Dave as in "Open the pod bay doors HAL" "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that.").  They are both using tablet devices while they eat their astronaut food!  Look! Those devices are rectangular.  They have big screens.  They have narrow borders.  They have flat backs (because they are sitting flat against the table).

Ya.  This just got interesting.  I can't wait to see what Apple argues back, and what the court decides.  A 43 year old design that looks just like my iPad.

Oh, and - Frank.  His name was Frank.  And he was killed by own beloved UIUC alumnus HAL 9000.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Physical Mechanism to cope with stress

I'm not sure why, but when I'm feeling exceptionally stressed, my brain goes into a mode where it simply wants to sleep.

Either it's my subconscious telling me to sleep on whatever is bothering me, and maybe I'll figure it out, or it's my brain saying "Hey man, I don't want to cope right now.  Go to sleep, maybe the problem will go away on it's own."

I can just see me being the caveman sleeping in the back corner while everyone else was fighting the saber-tooth tiger at the front of the cave.  "Yawn.  You guys look like you got this.  I'll be in the back catching up on my z's..."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Blogging Blues

Wow.  It's been like three weeks since I posted.   Life's been happening.

Last week, I went out of town to test my magic machine.  Hey, surprise of surprises - it seems to work!  Now I have to go to Stage 2 - building a real machine to test in a real plant. 

We went to see fireworks on 'Murica Day.  We sat on  bleachers on a soccer field far from anyone else.  It was actually like having our own private display.  Pretty fun.  Of course, it took about 2 hours to get home because there were so many other people trying to get home from their own private displays too.

And I've had two campaigns that I'm in self-destruct.  Which is [sad face].

1) Jared is getting burned out on d20, and is ending Council of Thieves.  There's a general rule that I've found is that when I customize or paint a miniature specifically for a campaign, the campaign dies.  In this case, I found and painted a miniature for my character's new "Life Coach".  I think the death stroke was molding it and casting an invisible version in clear acrylic.

2) Dennis is ending /placing on hiatus his Deadlands:Hell on Earth campaign.  We have about 2 sessions left (provided people show up).  I've really been enjoying this campaign, and it's one of the few I've played in recently where I haven't played some sort of spellcaster.  I've played a sniper with a really big gun. 

I'm not certain why I haven't been posting lately, other than the fact that nothing has stood out as post-worthy in itself. 

Tonight is Character Creation for Jared's new campaign.  He's running something in the Hellfrost campaign for Savage Worlds.  I have no idea what kind of character I will run.  Casters are kind of wierd, in that they continually risk losing their casting ability.  I'll try to post back whatever I decide.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Of Mothers Days and Fathers Days

Mothers Day and Fathers Day are promoted all across this country by businesses.  Restaurants, florists, greeting card manufacturers, and a host of other small and large industries rely on and promote the holiday to drive sales.

And this is not what this post is about.

I think a lot of people have a lot of stress on these two holidays.  Every family has issues, and it seems like no matter what issues you might have, you are expected to set these aside one (or two) days a year and tell your mother and father how great a job they did, and by-the-way, here's some flowers, or a tie, or a lunch.

But there's a lot of people that really would like to skip that holiday altogether.  If you grew up in an abusive home, why would you want to tell the abuser that they are a great parent?  For that matter, it's a reminder of just how crappy you had it growing up.  Let's rub some salt into that wound.

What if you have lost one or both parents.  You get a yearly reminder of that empty spot in your heart, and the phone calls you no longer get to make. 

Even worse.  What if you are a parent, and you don't get that phone call, or card or lunch?  Is it a condemnation of your parenting?  Or is your child simply forgetful, or very busy?  What if you've lost a child?  God, to think that every year, other parents are celebrating a holiday with their kids that you will never ever get to celebrate again.  There's a Lifetime-For-Women movie in there somewhere because it makes me sad just to consider abstractly.

Then there's sibling issues.  What if you have a brother or sister and they celebrate "better" than you do?  Now somehow you have to start competing to show your parent that you love them just as much as your brother who by-the-way also lives in a nicer house and has a wife with a better ass?   As if you didn't have to worry about enough things in your life that you really wanted to add "Do I show my mom I love her enough?"

Or what if your parents are aging, and you start wondering how many holidays they might have left with you.  Do you make them into bigger celebrations in some morbid "prove my love before he/she dies" kind of thing?


All of this seems like a lot of stress. 

I love my parents.  I hope my son loves me.  He texted me "Happy Fathers Day.  Relax and have lemonade!"  Which was nice, but I'm not sure on the whole lemonade thing.  I don't have any strong memories of us ever sitting back and enjoying lemonade together.  And I'm going to puzzle over that one for at least a few days.

Maybe we should get rid of these two holidays, and just tell the people in our lives that we appreciate, that we appreciate them. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Savage Worlds - Old West

KEJR ran a Savage Worlds one-shot last night at the Gopher.  (Best game store in town.) 

We were a group of old-west outlaws with a price on our heads.  The run started with us encountering a set of slightly less outlaw types who wanted to kill/capture us for the bounty.  We took them down fairly quickly, except that the very first round my character took two wounds, that he had for the remainder of the night.

We met some city-slicker guy named Gabe, who gave us directions to a town - Revelation.  In the town, we met up with various people who had been killed by a corrupt Marshall that we knew from our outlaw days.  Except these people were all undead of one sort or another, and we had to take them down.

Eventually we met up with the marshall himself in th church.  A difficult fight ensued, but we won - only to meet some other guy named Lu who wanted us keep going down the dark side, while Gabe encouraged us to be good guys.   We eventually decided that maybe Gabe was a better friend that that Lu guy, and made the choice to try to be better people.

All in all it was a fun one-shot.  KEJR did an awesome job, as always.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Long time, no post...

I've been meaning to post, but I haven't had a reason to write much.

I've been trying to stop bashing Paizo in print (electronic or otherwise), so no matter how high my frustration level is with what's going on with the Paizo messageboards, I haven't commented.  Much.  Lately.  And I can't really go into any details without breaking my own posting fast.  (Though KEJR and I email back and forth a lot.)

My wife and I celebrated our 24th anniversary on Monday.  It was really a weekend of celebration.  We went to Silvercreek restaurant on Friday to see David Howie play.  (Local guitarist/singer/songwriter - he's really talented, and a very nice guy.)  We told him that we were celebrating our anniversary, and he sang "All you need is love" for us.  Very very cool!

On Monday, we went to Boomerangs because my wife wanted to see and possibly play in their open jam.  We had a great time, and she got up on stage to play for the first time in many years.  Awesome fun!

We did Trivia at another bar last night, and teamed with Team Funk.  We won the music round thanks to my wife's awesome song knowledge of 80's music.

But nothing controversial, or particularly interesting.

Tomorrow I have Pathfinder with KEJR's Council of Thieves game.  That should be great fun, and I'll hopefully write up a recap.

Other than that, I'm trying to get a lot of coding and hardware done before the end of the month trip to the Home Office.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Overlooked Sci-Fi Weapon of Coolness

I'm watching old Andromeda reruns, and I'm thinking that if I could only ever have one scifi weapon, this might be the one.

From Wikipedia:

The High Guard Force Lance (from Andromeda)

The Force Lance generally looks like a harmless metal rod approximately 1/3 of a meter in length which fires high energy plasma shots, but can extended to almost 2 meters and be used as a melee weapon. The Lance is keyed to its handlers DNA and can also be reprogrammed, a person will be electrically shocked when trying to use another's programmed Lance. It can also be used as a taser.
The Force Lance can launch a number of self-guided tiny attack drones (called “effectors”) that both target opponents and intercept incoming bullets and missiles.  It has a grappling hook function, it can be placed in a stationary position to be set on auto fire, & finally it can be used as a plasma grenade by setting it to overload.

So let's recap:

  • It's a quarterstaff
  • It fires plasma bolts
  • It's a taser
  • It fires self-guided drones that target either people, or incoming bullets and missiles
  • It has a grappling hook
  • It can work as a sentry gun
  • You can use it as a grenade (but then you don't have one anymore)
  • And...If anyone but you tries to use it, they automagically get tazed!!
Batman probably wishes he had one of these.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Roads less travelled

Okay, the title is cool, but really is only slightly related to topic.

The wife and I went to trivia last night.  We decided to team up with Breyfunk and his Grife (Girlfriend/Wife - long story).  Usually we prefer to just be by ourselves, as it's kind of a date night.  But we actually did two bar trivia's this week.

The first was a small pub called Bentley's.  Older crowd, and the trivia was incredibly difficult.  Questions like "Who is the composer who finished Mozart's last work?" Or something like that.  We got about half of all the questions right, and that put us way down on the list.

So on Tuesday, we went to our usual spot.  This place has a younger crowd, somewhat rowdier, and sometimes more inebriated.  But the questions are a little more our speed.  Breyfunk and his grife stopped by, and we sort of did the should we sit near each other, or farther away thing, and eventually decided to team up.  Usually my wife and I are Team Blue, and they are Team Funk.  (Actually a lot less imaginative than such team names as "Obama has a Small Stimulus Package" and "My Big Fact Hunt")  But together we went with the name Blue Funk.

We didn't win any rounds, though we got 54 out of 55 points for 80's music.  My wife really knows 80's music.  (Except apparently Violent Femmes.  That was the one point we missed.) We did place second overall, as we consistently got good scores that just weren't quite high enough to win any round. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wordcasting Suckage

So, after my last post (probably not related to my last post) KEJR decided to allow Ultimate Magic in the Council of Thieves game.

"Great!", I thought to myself (who else would I think to? anyway...).  Now I can convert my level 8 bard to wordcasting.  The concept held a lot of promise for me, and I was kind of excited to get to use something in this $40 book I have.  Something.  Anything.  

So I asked KEJR, and he okayed a change.  He even gave a thumbs up to retraining Spell Focus (Enchantment) and Greater Spell Focus (Enchantment) (which I've referred to as the bran muffin of a spellcaster.  It's a really good thing to make it harder to save, but it's two whole feats invested.  But at the time, and still, I think/thought that it's a good thing to do.  Bran muffins - not always what you would prefer to eat, but it's better for you.)  

So I sat down to see exactly what I could do with the casting.  And the results were surprising.

As an 8th level human bard, with bard as favored class, I get an extra spell each level (at least one level lower than highest spell I can cast).  So at 8th level, I get:

Spell Level    Spells Known
       0                     9
       1                     8
       2                     6
       3                     3

And I can spend these spells on either effect words or meta words.  So far, so good.  

So I look at what words are available to bards.  

Spell Level    Effect Words   Meta Words
       0                       6                    3    (1 is given free at first level)
       1                      11                   3
       2                      15
       3                      10

Okay, so right off, there's a problem.  I know 9 level-0 words, but there are only 8 available to bards.  Hmm.  Well, there's a wasted bonus.  I guess that would turn into a skill point.  (grumble,grumble).

Then I look at the level 1 meta words.  There's "Careful", "Quiet", and "Simple", which are effectively eschew materials, silent spell, and still spell (not in that order).  But hey, I thought bards couldn't use silent spell?  Look in rules.  Look at Bards.  Hmm.  Nothing in the rules.  I can't believe this isn't an oversight, so I throw that out anyway to limit my own power gaming.  (Yes, it's really me.)

Then I start actually looking at the words.  Okay, what I understood to be the idea behind the wordcaster was that he gave up some power level in exchange for versatility.  For any spell, you specify a target word, one or more effect words, and then one or more meta words.  I can live with that.  I like versatility.

So I'm looking at the target words.  I get things like Selected (one creature), Burst, Line, Cone.  Cool!  But waitasec.  I'm looking at my effect words.  

0-Level Bard Words
Targeting Limitation
Beacon Divination Personal
Cramp Pain None
Decipher Language Personal
Echo Illusion Burst
Lift Gravity Personal
Sense Magic Detection Cone

1st-Level Bard Words

Friendship Command Selected
Simple Order Command Selected
Fade Concealing Selected
Spook Fear Selected
Glide Flight Selected
Lesser Cure Healing Personal, Selected
Radiance Illumination Burst(emanation)
Decipher * Language Personal
Wrack Pain None
Servitor I Summoning Selected
Dash Time Personal

2nd-Level Bard Words

Paralyze Humanoid Binding Selected
Enhance Form Body Personal, Selected
Disappear Concealing Selected
Sense Hidden Detection Cone
Sense Thoughts Detection Cone
Suppress Dispelling Selected
Float Flight Selected
Moderate Cure Healing Personal, Selected
Gloom Illumination Burst(emanation)
Glimmering Illusion Burst(emanation)
Translate Language Selected
Discordant Note Sonic None
Servitor II Summoning Selected
Accelerate Time Selected
Decelerate Time Selected     
  Out of 32 words available to me as an 8th level bard, only six allow any kind of choice in targeting.  And three of those are the choice between Personal and Selected.  Which mean that for just about all of my potential casting, targeting words really do nothing.  Wow.  This is not as good as I thought it might be.  In fact it's less good than I'd probably want to deal with.  

Oh.  But waitasec again!!!  I get Meta words!!  Three times a day, I can apply a meta word to my spells, just as if I had applied a metamagic feat!  That's pretty cool.  So what Metas do I get?

I automatically get Boost.  So I'm looking at my spells, and either the boost is a 1 level bump to the spell level (accounting for the repeats on my available words list, which cut down the actual number of words I get), or they are 3 level bumps to the spell level.  Which put them outside of my ability to cast.  And really just turn "1 Creature" target spells to "1 Creature/Level".  Hmmm.

Okay, so I can sort of see some logic here.  They really didn't want to give wordcasters any brokenness.  They wanted to give them flexibility.  


All the spells I get, are either the same level, or higher level than a straight spellcaster.  All the spells I get (well, basically all) are hardwired as to what I can choose as a target word.  

So what I'm left with is an extremely short spell list, that provides far less power than if I were just a straight caster.

I really really wanted to like this system.  But it's really just 34 pages of unusable dreck.  It's a restatement of basic spells, under the guise of being a new system.  A spontaneous caster should be able to do lots of cool awesome stuff by mixing and matching effects and targets and metas, but really, nothing is mix-and-matchable.


As one of the designers pointed out on the Paizo messageboards, sometimes players make poor choices in building their characters, and Paizo views it as their job to provide those poor choices.  (Or something suspiciously familiar to that.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ultimate Writers Cramp

I've been meaning to post for a few days now, but life seems to conspire against me.  Or maybe I conspire against myself.  I've had few ideas, and the ones I have I'm not sure I want to write about.  But here's the number one on my list.

I stated on Paizo's boards a couple of months ago that I was done buying Paizo material for a while.  But I broke my own (vow? no, not really a vow, more a pronouncement) statement and went ahead and bought Ultimate Magic.  I pre-ordered it from The Gopher because I believe in supporting my FLGS.  By pre-ordering it, I got a nice discount that would just about cover the cost of the PDF, because I've been trying to buy my PDF's lately instead of just bootlegging them all outright.

Ultimate Magic has had some fairly bad pre-press, as most of the content got posted up on a fan site a couple of weeks early.  (Fan site not named as I'm still petty about the fact that they lifted all of their initial content from a site that I created.)  People started going through and finding some of the content as being either unbalanced, or just plain bad.


The feat Antagonize.  This feat has no prerequisites (the fan site misquoted this and said that it required 13 Dex.  There is no actual prerequisite, only making the feat that much more broken.), but allows the character to make an intimidate or diplomacy check against a ridiculously easy DC (Target's HD + WIS modifier.  You get a bonus to the check equal to your CHA mod with an easy to make Sense Motive check).  If successful, the target of the feat is either forced to attack the character in melee (if intimidate was used) or to suffer -2 to any action that isn't on attack on the character (if diplomacy was used). Here's the actual text:


Benefit: You can make Diplomacy and Intimidate checks to make creatures respond to you with hostility. No matter which skill you use, antagonizing a creature takes a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity, and has a DC equal to the target’s Hit Dice + the target’s Wisdom modifier. You cannot make this check against a creature that does not understand you or has an Intelligence score of 3 or lower. Before you make these checks, you may make a Sense Motive check (DC 20) as a swift action to gain an insight bonus on these Diplomacy or [sic] Intimitade checks equal to your Charisma bonus until the end of your next turn. The benefits you gain for this check depend on the skill you use. This is a mind-affecting effect.

Diplomacy: You fluster your enemy. For the next minute, the target takes a –2 penalty on all attacks rolls made against creatures other than you and has a 10% spell failure chance on all spells that do not target you or that have you within their area of effect.

Intimidate: The creature flies into a rage. On its next turn, the target must attempt to make a melee attack against you. The effect ends if the creature is prevented from reaching you or attempting to do so would harm it (for example, if you are on the other side of a chasm or a wall of fire). If it cannot reach you on its turn, you may make the check again as an immediate action to extend the effect for 1 round (but cannot extend it thereafter). The effect ends as soon as the creature makes a melee attack against you. Once you have targeted a creature with this ability, you cannot target it again for 1 day.

What's wrong with this feat?  Hmm.  Several things:

1) It's mind control with no save.
2) The DC is very low.  The check is very easy.  A 10HD enemy with a +3 WIS mod is a DC 13 check.  A 1st level character with Intimidate as a class skill, and a +3 CHA modifier who makes the Sense Motive check, starts with (1 [rank Intimidate] + 3 [class skill bonus] +3 [charisma bonus] + 3[additional charisma bonus from sense motive check]) +10 to the check.  Which means that he needs to roll a 3 on the die to succeed.
3) If successful, the enemy is forced to attack him in melee.  Never mind if the enemy is a ranged combatant, or a pure spellcaster.  The enemy must attack in melee.  Even if this isn't an autokill for an enemy sucking up attacks of opportunity on the way to the feat-user, it still ties him up for at least one turn.
4) If the enemy cannot get to the feat-user, the feat-user can spend an immediate action to extend the effect for one round.  Thus tying up the enemy completely for another round.
5) Petty point, but they even fail to spell "intimidate" correctly.  They spell it "intimitade" in the text of the feat.

There are a few other glaring problems in the book so far, but by far this seems to be the biggest sore spot.

So you might be saying to yourself (or me), "What's the big deal.  There's lots of material in the book, and there's bound to be a few errors that slip through.  Look at the 90+% of the book that isn't screwed up and watch them fix this in an errata sometime. (I've seen this argument on the Paizo messageboards.)

And this argument really pisses me off.  Here's why.

1) The presence of spelling errors indicates a lack of even basic editing.  Every word processing program on the planet at this point has a spell-checker.  Unless you happen to be using Notepad as your text editor.  I think even vi has a spell checker at this point.  {just looked.  Vim does.  Vi may not.)  Aitch E Double Toothpicks, the blogger software I'm writing this on has a spell checker.  To allow spelling errors through is simply unacceptable, and is indicative of a break down in the quality control process somewhere.  (If the spelling mistake is of a homonym that is misused, I can almost forgive as the spell-checker probably won't point it out, but even then, the human editor should notice such things.)

2) This company is a publisher of printed material.  And has been for some time.  I've worked for an employer where part of my job was producing written material for publication.  And every single word that was published went through a sign-off process where the writer would submit his text to an editor.  The editor would review the material and send it back with a markup indicating what needed to be changed for clarity and correctness.  Once the writer and editor had both come to an agreement on the text, it then went to a senior reviewer for his comments or changes.  Once the senior reviewer was satisfied, the material was able to be published.  None of this really took a lot of extra time, and I found, as a writer, that my work got better after I had seen how the editor wanted form to be.  When writing, I would include "Hmm, John is going to want to know how I got this number.  I should include it now.  He'll also not like my use of the passive voice here, and tell me to rewrite it.  I'll just write it how he wants it now." My work would tend to match that form the first time I submitted it, and the amount of suggested changes gradually decreased.

By the time anything was published, it had been signed off on by the writer, the editor, and the senior reviewer.  Project proposals that I would submit to an outside funding agency were also reviewed by our finance department for correctness, and were also reviewed by the head of the department and his head of section.

It's inconceivable to me that Paizo does not have something similar in place to manage their editing.  None of this actually affects the ability to get projects done on time, it simply means that you need to plan the pipeline and make sure that things get done when you need them done.  (My project proposals has something like a six week turn-around time from the date the funding agency announced they were going to accept proposals until they were due in-hand at the agency.  This means I had two to three weeks to figure out what I was going to propose, to write the proposal and develop a budget.  And then I had two to three weeks to get the write up entirely through the editing/approval process.  And I was the lowest of the low on the totem pole when it came to assigning projects priority.  (I was a scientific researcher without a degree competing for state research money with teams of PhD's.)

3) Power Level/Balance - I'm not sure how anyone at Paizo didn't recognize the insane power level of this little feat.  Does this mean that it was a throw-in at the last minute, or that they simply didn't playtest this product?  Similar power level issues occur with at least one spell that breaks the very guidelines for spell construction that are part of the new material in the book.

4) The "lots of stuff, bound to be a few errors" argument doesn't hold water for me.  The idea behind quality control is that if you implement correct QC procedures, you make it impossible for mistakes to get through to the final product.  It's like saying "That car you bought has 7000 parts.  It's inevitable that a couple of percent of those parts are going to be badly designed."  This would amount to something like 140 parts in a car being of poor design.  In fact the opposite is true.  When something is found to be of bad design in a particular car, it's generally a big enough deal that the car company fixes it for free.  And they look at how something like that got through and how they can avoid it in the future.   There's a whole field of Quality Control/Quality Assurance designed around preventing bad design items from slipping through.

So overall, I'm in a quandry with this book.  I've got one DM saying that nothing in it will even be considered until it's posted on Paizo's PRD.  I've got another DM that I'm not sure I want to even approach about using material out of until it's had time to go through errata.  Which leaves me with $40 worth of doorstop for now.  Looking at what Paizo's own campaign allows, it carves out a fairly large chunk of the book as not worthy of being included in their shared-world.  No words-of-power.  None of the alternative options.  But they do allow the above- mentioned Antagonize (I spelled this wrong initially, and my spell-checker caught it.  Hmm.  Spell-checkers in 2011?  Amazing!) feat. So I'm pretty much wishing I hadn't bought the book, or that I had only bought the PDF.

Wow, I sound like I'm bashing Paizo.  Maybe I am on this one.  KEJR made the point that people who only cheer for Paizo do them a disservice, as they give the false impression that everything is fine instead of rightly pointing out where Paizo could do better.   I once worked for a company that had made big money in the early 80's by putting out a product at the exact right time.  No matter how badly they managed the company, they still made money hand-over-fist for years, because of their initial timing.  They got to the point though where they thought the money proved that all their bad decisions were good ones because no matter what they decided they made money.  (They were getting false positive reinforcement on bad decisions which warped their future decision making process.)

I've said before that I really hope Paizo does well as a company.  I still hope so.  But if UM is an indication of where the company is headed, then I'm afraid that they might have some hard lessons ahead.  As for me, I'm going to hold off on any more purchases until I start seeing a change.


Under the heading of "If you know so much, then you fix it", this was my first pass at a fix in an email back and forth to KEJR, trying for something more balanced that still might have similar effect:

Whether with biting remarks or hurtful words, you are adept at making creatures angry with you.

Prerequisites: Skill Focus (Intimidate) or (Diplomacy).

Benefit: You can make creatures respond to you with hostility. Antagonizing a creature takes a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.  You cannot affect a creature that does not understand you or has an Intelligence score of 3 or lower. The result of this action is dependent on which skill you have Skill Focus in.  If you have Skill Focus in both skills, you may select either effect.  In either case, the target may make a will save (DC is equal to 10 + your charisma modifier + 1/2 your hit dice). This is a mind-affecting effect. Once you have targeted a creature with this ability, you cannot target it again for 1 day.

Diplomacy: You fluster your enemy. For the next minute, the target takes a –2 penalty on all attacks rolls made against creatures other than you and has a 10% spell failure chance on all spells that do not target you or that have you within their area of effect.

Intimidate: The creature flies into a rage. On its next turn, the target must attempt to make an attack against you. (The form of the attack is of the target's choice, but will generally be typical of his type or class). The effect ends if the creature is prevented from attacking you, or attempting to do so would cause unavoidable harm to it. If it cannot attack you on its turn, you may make the check again as an immediate action to extend the effect for 1 round (but cannot extend it thereafter). The effect ends as soon as the creature makes an attack against you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Random Quote of the Week

"All you need is love."

- John Lennon, 1967

[I had lots of things to say, but the quote stands on its own.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Episode in Which Things Start to Change

The episode begins when Sagitari decides to come to Team Falcon headquarters to see about switching teams.  It's late at night, because a large centaur is somewhat less conspicuous when it's dark.  (As in "Was that really a half-man-half-horse, or am I still tripping from the LSD I dropped earlier?"  or "Hey, was that a centaur?" "Who cares, we need to pull over some more brown people to ship back to Mexico when they can't produce proof of citizenship on demand!").

As it's dark, Sagitari figures TFHQ is probably locked up for the night, and attempts to break in.  And fails.  Well, he failed in that instead of quietly picking the lock, he broke off the door.  And if he had bothered to check, he would have found the door unlocked.  He encounters a tired and surly James, who calls Mister Sarcastic about a visitor.

Mister Sarcastic conducts a short interview, and then tries to figure out what to do until Agent Randall or Bob Latimore can do something more official.  Somehow the best that Mister S can come up with is to hand him off to Stephanie who is busy working on her secret project.  She gives Centauri a short tour and then leaves him to his own devices.

Centauri decides to set up shop to produce some arrows, and begins scavenging parts to construct a forge.  He apparently breaks into a local liquor store for everclear, and disassembles a mini-fridge.  In order to keep from being disturbed he wires the HQ cameras to feed to the workshop so that he can monitor for visitors.

Eventually morning breaks.  (Not Mister Sarcastic's fault!!!)  Little Max has a vision of weird goings on to occur at 645pm, and relates the information to everyone he can think to tell.  Centauri, working in the shop hears noises that he determines come from an unattached hard drive.  Being the type to jump right onto a task, he sets up a computer and plugs the drive in.  He discovers an AI on the drive that really would like to have a robot body.  He noncommittally attempts to soothe the AI's anxiety and then puts everything back how he found it.

Strobe eventually stops by TFHQ and meets Sagitari.  Agent Randall also comes by and says that he's start some paperwork.  Max continues working on synthesizing some doses of drug that Cerebro (why does that sound like the name of a geeky rapper.  "Yo! I am Cere-bro!") was trying to score.  He manages to produce some of the compound but determines that it won't have a long shelf life.  Something about the process is off.

Eventually Max divines that the 645 event will consist of a rift opening up out on the street, and a pyramid shape falling out.  And then things will become un-predictable.  The team makes limited preparations for the event, and then stands by to watch what happens.

At 645, the predicted rift opens up.  Out drops a pyramid.  And then out drops Dreamcatcher.  He is holding three silver threads (apparently connected to three souls) and wants to talk to Mister Sarcastic.  He said that he is conveying a message from The Astrologer, and that Sarcastic has to choose to either "dispatch" Mister Fantastic, or to "lose those closest to him".  The implication is that the three cords are connected to his sister, and her kids.

Mister Sarcastic tells DreamCatcher that he would like to talk directly with The Astrologer.  DreamCatcher says that S would need to act as interpreter, and that he would require a fee for doing so.  He wants a diamond made from a coal sample that he provides.  Mister S agrees to try to get the diamond made.  DreamCatcher says that he has about two weeks.

After DC departs, the team begins to discuss how they might produce the diamond.  Strobe suggests that Sun Devil, her new "friend" might be able to provide any necessary heat.  Sagitari says that he could devise a machine to produce the necessary pressure.

While the team is working on this problem, someone (Max?) notices the hard drive on Stephanie's work bench buzzing away, and points it out to the group.  The group hooks the hard drive up to a PC and begins to talk to it.  (Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, Stephanie tells the AI not to tell them that it's Beta.)  The machine says that its name is "2" while Steph says that it's "5".  This causes a great deal of excrement to begin to hit the rotating air mover all at once.  But unfortunately, Mister Sarcastic has an appointment to talk to his brother-in-law.

At the meet, S asks F whether anyone would be wanting to kill him, and whether or not he knows DreamCatcher.  Fantastic says that he's been laying low, and has no reason to think anyone would want him dead.  He says that he met DC years ago, but that no particular animosity exists between them.  Sarcastic evades questions about what's going on, but promises to update F when he knows more.  As Mrs. Fantastic comes in the door, S teleports away... 

...to a remote location where he decides to call Usurper, so see if the arrest warrant might be related to all of this.  The ever gregarious Usurper volunteers that he has no such contract out on Mister Fantastic, and that he feels the arrest warrant is sufficient for now.  Not seeming to be the type of villain who would subcontract out a matter of honor, Mister Sarcastic takes this as probably somewhere close to the truth, thanks him for his time and bids him adieu.  And then decides that he needs to tell his boss what's going on.  Unfortunately, Agent Randall is swimming laps, getting back into fighting trim.  The now wet S gives Agent Randall a run down on what's going on, and Agent Randall promises to do some research, while advising S to keep Bob in the loop. 

Sarcastic returns to HURT and talks to Bob.  During the conversation, he mentions the AI and this immediately sends the two two the workshop.  Bob and Stephanie begin to argue, and then come to tazing blows over the fate of the AI.  During the scuffle, S grabs the computer with hard drive, and teleports back to Agent Randall (and into the pool).  The water eventually shorts out enough of the drive to probably kill Beta.  S leaves the pool telling Randall that he's going to grind the drive into powder before returning it to the lab.  He leaves, back to a remote desert location where he buries the drive, and then to a store where he purchases a similar drive which he grinds to said dust, before returning to TFHQ.

Stay tuned for another exciting episode...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Life's Rules of the Week

If you are not having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

I used to think that this only counted in gaming.  I was wrong.  It applies to everything.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Advantage of a Non-Combat Character

Last night was Steve's Shackled City campaign.  I'm playing an old halfling cleric named Nathaniel Pennywhistle.  Technically Nathaniel died in Jared's Rise of the Runelords campaign, but because I was needing a new character in a pinch, I dusted him off, and Jared helped me retcon him into the world.

As an old halfling, Nathaniel has a strength (STR) of 2.  He uses muleback cords and it allows him to carry gear as though he had a much higher strength.  (I'm imagining Larry King's suspenders).  But with a STR of 2, and a DEX of 6, he's not meant to stand in any front line.  He's pretty much a pure caster.

Which brings me to last night.  After spending almost two hours hanging out with Jeff and Jared, it was game time.  And I went to get out my character sheet.  And of course, it was nowhere to be found.  I even searched my jeep, and found nada.  So I set about remaking my character while we were starting combat almost immediately.

I pretty much remembered his stats.  I knew STR 2, Dex 6, taking a 7 in each, and applying racial (+2 Cha, Dex, -2 Str) and age (-3 Str,Dex,Con, +2 Int, Wis, Cha) modifiers.  I also knew that I'd maxed out WIS, and taken 16 int, 14 charisma.  So I fiddled the numbers to bring it up to 20 build points, and I was pretty sure I at least had all of his modifiers down correctly.

Nathaniel was 4th level, and I remembered that I had taken Quick Channeling (actually Quicken Turning from 3.5, pathfinderized to channeling), and Selective Channel as his two feats.  I also remembered his traits (Dangerously Curious to give UMD as a class skill, and Warden which minimizes any ability damage).

I also remembered his domains (Knowledge, Rune(Language), and Magic(Divine)).  This gave me his domain powers (which I ended up relying on later).

All I really needed to run Nathaniel now were spells.  Since clerics simply pick the spells they want each day, and we had just finished resting,  I just went though the core spell list and picked out some spells that seemed appropriate.

I didn't bother with weapon, or armor.  I just figured that if anything swung at me, and didn't roll a 1, it would hit.  That's why I generally stay somewhere in the middle back, out of melee range.

So I was ready to roll!

As it turned out, we faced a vampire and its minions.  I provided some support with healing bursts, but our new paladin in the party had a bless effect in place, so I didn't even need to bless the party.  I thought the combat would be pretty  boring, until the fighter types brought the vampire down low, and it went into gaseous form, and then traveled right to me.

And suddenly I had something to do.  I spent a couple of rounds healing the party with my channel energy, and placing runes in the only real path the vampire would have, and spent action points to boost other party members, and rode my riding dog to chase it down.  And, I was able to help bring a vampire down, with my little non-combat support cleric.

Fun times.

Beaucoup treasure.

We all made level 5.

It was a fun Thursday.

Tonight - Homelands/Fallen Empires Draft at the Gopher!!! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Random Thoughts

While I cannot always control what happens in my life, the one thing that I can control is how I respond.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Episode in which Mister Sarcastic tries to be nice

Team Falcon HQ is looking kind of empty this week, as Rift and Field Effect are still MIA.  Strobe is apparently trying to catch up on coursework, and is not to be seen.  Centaurii, though he has financial incentive to stop by HURT to talk to the team, has yet to show.  (Maybe he threw a shoe, and is having trouble finding a farrier?)

Mister Sarcastic appears anxious to find out why The Astrologer wants the souls of the clones, but nobody seems to be having much luck yet in gathering data.  Agent Randall counsels patience.  Mister S agrees to try.

Doctor Strasser approaches Mister S, and initiates a discussion of Stephanie's actions during the last battle.  He stresses that Stephanie reacts completely differently than he (or most humans) would, and hopes Mister S can help to keep her in line.  Mister S, deciding to volley that ball back to Strassers side of the court, suggests that the doctor meet with Steph, and educate her on the differences between their two worlds, so that each might have appropriate expectations of what the other might do in response to whatever situation might arise.  The good Doctor, having not considered that option, appears to think it a reasonable way to address the issues.

Max appears to still be figuring out how his powers work, and the comm link is behaving somewhat erratic.

Stephanie has been talking to her little hard drive friend, Beta, who desperately wants a new body.  Steph promises to try to get one for him (her? it?).   To that end, when Mister S inquires as to her activities, she professes that the team needs a robot, who can provide fire support, drive the van, etc.  While an odd request, Mister S tries to be helpful, and calls his old teammate Technomancer, so see if he can supply a robot.  Mindful of Techno's previous inventions, he's careful to specify that it not only be AI-free, but that it should actively seek and eradicate any AI that might try to invest the unit.  Technomancer, with typical abruptness agrees and ends the conversation.

Doctor Strasser,  deep in thought contemplating scenarios for approaching his discussion with Stephanie (or perhaps invading Poland), leaves HURT HQ, and is immediately hit with an intense, disabling headache.  Believing it to be a stroke, he calls for help.  Mister Sarcastic arrives, and sees that Strasser is actually under attack by a flying hyper with an oddly shaped head.  Sarcastic calls for backup, and begins his attack, with only moderate effectiveness.

Agent Randall arrives, and quickly identifies the attacker as Cerebro - a foe from days past, but with seemingly updated/enhanced abilities.  The brief fight becomes too one-sided for Cerebro, who flees the scene.

After-combat investigation reveals that Cerebro is actualy Malcolm Shaughnessy,  one of eight brothers and sisters in the Shaughnessy crime family.  Malcom is apparently addicted to a long-named chemical that enhances his powers, but will kill him if he stops taking it.  Apparently he was attacking Dr. Strasser in the hopes of forcing him to provide said pharmaceutical.

Further investigation reveals that two of Malcolm's sisters are currently serving terms in The Mesa.   The gang takes a field trip out to interview them.  With the rest of the team watching from the observation room, Mister Sarcastic enters the interrogation room to meet with the sisters. (Maureen and Meghan?) They are each older than him, and quickly point this out.  Undeterred, Mister S explains that he would like to find a way to help Malcolm out of his addiction, and that the ideal situation would be for Cerebro to leave behind a life of crime.  The sisters don't think it is possible to help their brother, and are very reluctant to become involved, lest he take revenge upon them.  The interview, and the episode ends as amicably as one could hope for with two apparently conscience-free killers.

Friday, April 29, 2011


In our Council of Thieves game last night, our party finally hit 8th level.  This is somewhat of a milestone, because I don't think I've been in a campaign that lasted this long.  I think it's a milestone for GM Jared (KnightErrantJR) Rascher too. 

So I'm trying to pick out what my bard (Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe - the "t" is not silent, but it is diminished.  Pretend you are going to pronounce the "t", but then don't.  It's an affectation.)  is going to do.  At this point, I really can't see him hitting any prestige class.  I briefly thought about harrower, because it looks so durn fun, but the bard is so much a secondary caster that losing all of the bard class advancement and only gaining new spells would really hurt.  (Sometime in the future, I'd love to play a Sorcerer or Wizard slash Harrower.  Maybe even a cleric.  But not my Bard.)

So he's Bard 8.  At 8th level, he gets one stat increase.  He's got a 24 Charisma (including a +2 headband).  All of his other stats are even numbers, so nothing is going to mean an increase to a modifier.  I'm probably just going to put the +1 into Charisma, bringing it to 25.  Either the campaign will last until 12th level when he'll hit 26, or I'll buy a Tome and bring it up magically.

He gets 9 skill points, which I'll used to bump Linguistics, Spellcraft, Use Magical Device, and three different Perform skills to keep them maxed out.  Then I'll distribute the other three points into maybe perception.  At 10th level, he's going to get to use another perform check to substitute for a skill, and I'm thinking Dance will give him Acrobatics and Fly, so it might be good to start putting ranks into Dance.  So I'll go 2 points perception, one point dance.

Spells:  Here's where I'm having trouble deciding.  Chesterfield gets one more 3rd level spell, and one 2nd level spell.  He can also retrain one spell.

Leading candidates for 3rd level spell: Charm MonsterHaste, Major Image, or Slow.

Charm Monster plays into my having Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus (Enchantment).  Haste is a huge party buff (that doesn't help me at all).  Major Image is the big big brother to Silent Image, and Slow is a huge de-buff for all the bad guys.  Chesterfield already has Scrying and Confusion (which did awesome work against a gang of rogues last night!!!).  I'm thinking that I'll take Slow at 8th level, Charm Monster at 9th level, and then Haste/Silent image for my extra spells at later levels.

Candidates for 2nd level spell: Actually, Calm Emotions looks to be really good.  It could potentially end a fight before it begins.  I've seldom used Chesterfield's Enthrall or Ghostbane Dirge spell, so I might trade one out for Gallant Inspiration (+2d4 applied retroactively to a failed attack or skill check!!) 

Other choices?  Hmm.  I think that's it.  I get some hit points.  I get more rounds of bardic performance per day.  I get another +1 to all my knowledge checks (8th level/2=+4 to knowlege checks).  The will save versus my music goes up.

The only problem with this character is that I don't have any idea what he's going to be when he grows up.  I mean he just slowly accumulates these abilities, and spells that he knows.  But there's no goal for him.  No "when he hits 10th level, he's going to have this feat chain, or this combination, or whatever".  Maybe this is a good thing.  As a bard goes, he's top notch in party support.  He can buff party members, screw over the enemy, and make skill checks like nobody's business.  (Other than failing a DC43 Diplomacy roll last night.  He would have succeeded if I had remembered that I had Timely Inspiration that would have retroactively added +2 to his skill check.  Argh!!)

I'm having fun playing this character, and hopefully we'll actually get to finish this campaign.  (Hoping Jared has no immediate family/personal/professional troubles that cause the campaign to end!)


Yep.  It's that time of year.  At least once a year, I get sick with something.  Tuesday, I had a tickle in my throat that I just put down to an maybe having scraped the back of my throat with a popcorn bit.  (You know, those little bits of the covering of the popcorn kernel...).  Wednesday morning, I woke up, and instantly knew that I wasn't that lucky.  Yesterday I was mostly miserable.  Today is about the same.  Following my lovely and brilliant wife's advice, I took Advil, which helped.  (I know that "Take Advil" doesn't seem like particularly brilliant advice, but she knew enough to know that I wouldn't have thought of it myself.) 

Today, I've taken Advil, Aspirin, and my usual daily assortment of blood pressure/heart meds.  I still have this headache that feels like a combination of high stress (muscles around neck and skull pulled tight) and high blood pressure (kind of like my left eyeball wants to pop itself), but it's down to a dull stabbing pain.

I'm hoping that I'll be all better by Monday.

I also found out last night that the meeting that I was traveling to week after next has been moved to next week instead.  And I've already got my plane tickets, and my equipment won't be there nearly in time for me to do anything worthwhile next week.  So I'm keeping my original travel date, and just missing the meeting.  (I need to do experimenting and self-educating, which was the secondary reason for the trip).

Monday, April 25, 2011


Someone suggested that since we don't have a good way to travel together, we should get a Zeppelin.  This is such a cool idea.  (Okay, it would be filled with ordinary air (or even have the whole interior spaces be usable space!), and have anti-grav generators to lift it.  But still!!!!) Oh, and it would need to have a teleport pad in it.

I was thinking about names, and trying to get ideas.

I come up with

The Jimmy Page
Sarcastic's Folly (goes over like a lead baloon...?)
The Fifth Dimension ("up up and away, in my beautiful balloon...")
The 100th Luftballon (Maybe Dr. Strasser would like that name.)
New Cap City (from the show)

Any ideas?

How many build points would a Zeppelin Base be?


Mister Sarcastic takes an Inopportune Nap

The reorganization of Team Falcon is still shaking itself out.  Bureaucracy moves slowly, and even Mister Sarcastic can't seem to speed it up.

As the team takes a couple of days without strife to get back to what they might consider normal, Mister S attempts, but fails to get an approving nod from his newly hired boss Agent Randall to "stir the pot" by giving information about the Dreamcatcher taking the souls of the Auntie Agony clones to either Usurper, or Auntie Agony.

Strobe, while walking between classes witnesses a rather large explosion in the physics lab at her college.  She contacts the team, and Mister Sarcastic attempts to coordinate the response before teleporting himself on scene.  He and Strobe enter the lab, which is filled with smoke, and a very loud banging noise.  Strobe is shot at by a centaur-like creature outside of the lab, and while Mister S offers to assist her, she states that she can handle the shooter while S goes to investigate.

Sarcastic continues into the lab, and calls out through the smoke, attracting the attention of two rather large rather strong goons.  (Later identified as The Hatchet, and Sun Burst).  These guys quickly take Mister S from completely healthy to knocked out.  To add insult to injury, they throw him onto the approaching HURT van, completely taking him out of combat.

The rest of the team arrives, along with a bunch of agents from ACME, intent on stealing a superweapon that was being developed at the lab.

Team Falcon (minus Mister Sarcastic) then proceeds to take apart the acme gang one villain at a time (including a very fun segment where Strobe essentially flirted with Sun Devil into taking out ACME agents for her).  Doctor Strasser used his entropy field to great effect destroying or damaging whatever came in contact with him.  Even Max did some work as a UAV battlefield eye in the sky.

Eventually, once all the enemy were bugging out, Stephanie roused Mister Sarcastic.  The centaur, now found to be named "Sagitarii" had loaded the van, but it was found to have been disabled in its collision with Stephanie.  (Somehow she needs "Weapon Proficiency:Van").  A short negotiation ensued, some cash changed hands, and the weapon was saved.

Thus ended the battle.

Storyline wise - this seemed like a great way to introduce our newest PC, Sagitarii - Mercenary Centaur-Archer with bills to pay.

Random Pointed Question

Why is it that since Josh Frost left Paizo, and his role as OP Campaign Manager was filled by not one, but two people, that the rules of that game have become even less clear, and that every single rule now appears to be up for grabs?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shackled City Photo

We had our bi-weekly Shackled City game tonight.  We've been underground for 3+ sessions now, without any end in sight!

Here's one scene from tonight's festivities:

The party has just barged in on a lovely tiefling woman wielding some ugly axe-type thing.

I thought the photo looked very action-oriented when taken at the very low angle. 

We defeated her handily, but shortly thereafter lost a party member who wandered away to explore on his own.  His brother in the party appeared to take it quite hard, and my character, the old halfling cleric named Nathaniel Pennywhistle has taken it upon himself to counsel the young man back to mental health.

Random Thoughts


I'm very comfortable putting up with all kinds of nuisances as long as I know that I'm not expected to do anything about them.


The key to happiness is low expectations.

and from my son:

I try not to let things bother me.  (If there's an entire philosophy, or way of life that you can sum up in eight words, this is it.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


These are chaos:
This is chaos:

But in the middle of all this chaos, is the some cool stuff.

Top left is my microcontroller board that I went through some labs to build and test and write code for.  The microcontroller is the black slab in the middle.  Below it on the breadboard is the power supply, providing both 5.0 and 3.3 volt outputs.  There's a set of LEDs on the right to provide output, and a series of switches on the left to provide input.

Below the breadboard is a "demo board".  It also has a microcontroller (tiny black chip with lots of feet near the bottom). It has a small breadboard for additional features, and it has ports for video output, mouse and keyboard input, speaker output, microphone input.  It's probably going to hold my completed project.  Either that, or the lit up board just above and to the left of it.

That is another single board microcontroller.  It currently has a single line camera connected to it, and a USB port.  It has a ethernet port that may or may not end up getting used in the project.  The green light simply means that it is getting powered.  It's getting 5 volts from the other lighted device in the photo - the small square just to the right of the demo board.  It's just a power supply, plugged into a "wall-wart" that gives it 9 volts, and that it converts to 5 volts.

There's lots of wire in the photo that is going to get used for hookups.  There's a webcam that I'm not currently using.  There's another breadboard with a couple of resistors.

Anyway, out of all this chaos I'm eventually going to have a microcontroller connected camera that measures sausage casings.  Right now I'm in learning-coding mode.


I was looking at the photo tonight, and it struck me how much it was like those "Can you spot x" drawings from the old Highlights magazines they used to have in doctor's offices.

So in that spirit:

Can you spot:

1) Acrylic glue
2) Targus memory card reader
3) 9 Volt connector
4) Drinking straw from Sonic
5) VGA Cable connector
6) Precision screwdriver
7) Mechanical pencil
8) Rubber mold of Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe
9) Gerber tool sheath
10) Parallax Basic Stamp 2pe
11) Parallax Propeller Demo Board
12) Parallax Spinneret Web Server
13) Parallax Propeller on Breadboard
14) 100 Ohm Resistor
15) Needle Nose Pliers
16) Fortune Cookie fortune 

If you click on the photo, it will give you a much larger version.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe

I'm in Jared's Council of Thieves campaign.  My character is a human, slightly orc (he has tusks!) bard named Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe.  I've been using a miniature that Jared picked out, but I tend to like to have a fig that I've personalized.

I went through some of my D&D Minis, and found this Vampire Aristocrat:
I thought that with a re-paint, it would look like quite the dandy, dashing, yet mature bard.

So, here's the result of my repaint:

 I thought about how to paint his sword, and since he's 7th level, and has never actually used his sword to attack anyone or anything, I figured he would have something that might be non-function, but would look expensive.  Thus, a gold-plated sword.  Clearly masterwork!

Similarly, his cloak is white (either fur, or fine silk - not sure yet), with gold edging. 

I thought about painting the skull pink, but wasn't sure whether he would think it unmanly.  So I went with the traditional off-white.

His coat is lavender, and of course he is blond-haired, blue-eyed.

Now here's the bad part.  Somehow every time I personalize a miniature for a campaign, the campaign somehow either comes to a crashing halt, or the character dies.

The Chesterfield Agincourt Smythe deathwatch begins!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random Question

Why does Coke taste so much better when it's in a cup with ice than it does in a can?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Situational Ethics

Dennis, our Deadlands DM has had a couple of encounters now where the villains have pulled the "what makes your morality better than my morality" card.  And as a player who is attempting to sometime earn enough bounty for a Arcane Background:Blessed, I've been trying to find a good answer to that card.  I know it's horribly wrong, but have been having trouble putting it into words.  My only response has been to simply kill those that try to play it, as though a bullet was the only answer that they deserved.

But there's really a good answer to it, it's just that standing around with everyone with their guns drawn always seems like the worst time in the world to get into a philosophical discussion.  In fact, it always seems to me that it would be a tactic for the bad guy to use to buy time while he surrounds you.  Or a way for him to try to sway others to his side, thereby tipping the scales against you.

What goes through my mind is:

"You are either prevaricating in the hopes of convincing the weak minded that slaughtering innocent men, women, and children is somehow morally equivalent to shooting a dangerous animal that is threatening those same innocents.  You are trying to argue that it is simply self defense to take whatever you want from whomever you want and to slaughter whoever gets in your way.

You and your ilk [always a good word with high negative connotation] are a threat to everyone who has something that you might want, while I am a threat only to those who would seek to do harm to me and mine.  If you walked down the street laden with gold, jewels, medicine and trinkets, you would need have no fear from me, unless and until you were a threat to others.  In fact, I would be more likely to come to your defense at mine own peril than I would be to attempt to take by force that which is yours. 

I have given food and weapons and supplies that I could ill afford to give to others without talk of price or payment for the simple reason that those people were in need, and I was in a position to try to help.  Those same people would be your prey, and would be sacrificed to your convenience. 

The difference between me and thee is that by your actions you have shown yourself to be a threat to me an mine, and the simplest way that I can end that threat is to end you.  And in the time it would have taken me to tell you why you must die, you would have had the opportunity to do harm, time which I will not allow you to have."

This is one of the reasons that in just about every game I've been in, I've argued for a feat or an edge or a perquisite along the lines of:

Interrupt Monologue
Benefit: Once per encounter, you my make a charge or ranged attack or other purely offensive action to interrupt the monologue or diatribe or box text of any evil boss.  This will count as your first action of the encounter, and and will replace the first action you would normally have.  If two characters of equal speed or initiative have this feat, they may make an initiative or quickness check to determine who acts first.  You may not use this feat to make non-attack actions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cat People Suck

Okay, not really.  Just in our Champions game last night.  (This must be a recap!)

When we left our brave group of intrepid heroes, they were investigating the now-demolished Viridian Industries site.  As they approached, they noticed that the government investigative team was apparently all either unconscious, or worse dead. Team Falcon (that's us, the good guys) called for back-up, which arrived in the form of a few helicopters of troops led by Jeff (or Greg, depending on the retcon) Latimore. 

With the help of the soldiers and medics, triage was established and it was found that all but two of the investigators were in what appeared to be deep comas.  The exceptions were two investigators that had apparently choked to death on their own vomit (bringing to mind Bon Scott, Jimi Hendrix, and John Bonham). 

While the unconscious victims were being cared for by Strobe and Dr. Strasser, Mister Sarcastic decided to investigate the remains of the building to see if he could find any cause for the mysterious affliction.  Agent Latimore in true gung-ho fashion decided to accompany him, having convinced Mister S. of his capability.

As soon as the pair entered the remains of the building, something seemed to happen to Jeff.  He saw walls where there were none, and began to see some mysterious enemy that Mister S could not perceive.  Mister S, thinking that Jeff was under some sort of mental attack, attempted to get him to leave the building.  As they made their way to the exit, Agent L was seemingly attacked by an invisible foe, and rendered unconscious.  Mister Sarcastic picked up Jeff, and took him to safety outside the building where Dr. Strasser and Strobe examined him. 

Stobe accompanied Mister Sarcastic back to the building, where she was similarly affected in seeing and perceiving walls, and could not step through them even when desolidified.  She was then similarly attacked by what she saw as a very large, hairless cat.  She was then carried out by Mr. S.  Strobe seemed to recover within a few minutes, and decided to try to only step partially into the perimeter of the building.  When she did so, she remained able to step back out through the non-existent walls. 

Shortly she saw approaching, not a cat but a hooded figure who pointed at her and launched some form of attack.  At the instant of the attack, the leg that was outside of the building was severed cleanly as though sliced through by the outline of the building.  While she felt no pain, she quickly began to bleed out.  While she (calmly) interrogated her attacker, Mister Sarcastic rushed to her aid and called for Dr. Strassers medical expertise.  Placing the severed limb in the proper position, the seriously wounded S attempted to empathically heal Strobe.  The leg fused into place leaving a scar visible at the junction.  And Mister Sarcastic took a very near fatal amount of damage from his healing power.

The hooded figure explained to Strobe that he was working for he who watches the stars (the Astrologer???) and that his attack on Strobe was to give him leverage to leave.  As he and the cat began to leave, Mister Sarcastic, incensed that one of his team mates could be so harmed with impunity decided to take some measure of revenge and provoke a fight.  He taunted the cat into attacking him, and only then remembered how very close to death that he was.  Before the cat could act, he used his invisibility power to completely disappear.

Meanwhile Stephanie and Dr. Strasser had arrived on the scene.  Stephanie, using her new weapon of choice, the HURT van, readied it to bash the cat who had now grown to approximately twelve feet tall.  Dr. Strasser attempted to impose order and to arrest the hooded figure (who had at some point identified himself as The Dream Catcher). 

The van was less effective than hoped for, and the cat simply peeled it open - prompting Stephanie to leave it's vicinity.  Strobe, having her soul tethered to the Dream Catcher was unsure of what to do.  Mister S, sensing that his invisibility might not last very long, dropped in in order to attempt to slow the kitty into inaction.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strasser had caught up with DC and had used his entropy field to attempt to disable him.  Stephanie, deciding that this was a fight the group should not be in, sent a TASER bolt into Dr. Strasser to break up the fight.  She followed this by another, and yet another, completely incapacitating Herr Doctor. 

Mister Sarcastic, having incapacitated the cat, told the Dream Catcher that he would be allowed to leave if he released Strobe, but otherwise, he was prepared to fight.  The DC, having accomplished his mission, and possibly seeing that the fight might not be worth the effort, released Strobe from his power, and was allowed to leave.

Returning to base, the recovering team found that they had some work cut out for them.  Dr. Strasser and Bob Latimore finally cornered Mister Sarcastic and researched a mechanism to turn his regeneration back on - which then allowed him to heal his near fatal wounds in just a few moments.  Stephanie apparently did some independent research that no one thought worth mentioning.  Strobe returned to her busy schedule of student-scholar, bartender, humanitarian.   And Maximilian Vasquez had a proposal that might allow him to join Team Falcon in a limited way,  but busied himself trying to implement a strategy that Mister Sarcastic had presented to get Agent Randall back into HURT offices on an accelerated schedule.

After Mister Sarcastic was healed, a team meeting was called to address concerns that Dr. Strasser had with how Stephanie had unilaterally decided to handle the situation.  It was decided that Stephanie, Mister Sarcastic and even Dr. Strasser all acted more as independents, and less as team members, and that with the long absence of Field Effect, someone needed to be chosen as Team Leader out in the field.  In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Stephanie was briefly considered, under the assumption that she would only ever obey her own directives.  And then she surprised the team by saying that she would in fact obey orders from whomever was selected as Team Leader.  Eventually Mister Sarcastic was chosen as leader, based on what seemed to be the fact that he had nothing better to do, and would possibly act more judiciously if he was responsible for the safety of others.

Max offered to help the team by establishing a mental communications link, which the team eventually accepted, with the consent of his mother.  It was also established that it might be possible for Max, through the mental link to contribute to team field operations, with the assurance to his mother that he would not actually be allowed into the field.  As the meeting was ending, Agent Randall appeared in HURT offices, apparently ready to resume his duties as administrator for Team Falcon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back into the Groove...

I think I might finally be recovering from last week.  Last week was a long, hard week, and it rolled over all the way onto this week.

Tomorrow is Steve's Shackled City game, and I'm looking forward to it.  More on that in a later post.

I'm restarting a paused project at work.  It has the potential to be "really neat".  I get to do work with microcontrollers, and I haven't really had a chance to dig into those yet.  I'm trying to work out a time line, but I have to include self-education into the timeline.  I have to teach myself how to design circuits for, and then to program these things.  And I'm not an electrical engineer.

I do a lot of things that I'm not exactly qualified for.  My job involves computer programming, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, food science, manufacturing design, and just about any other quasi technical job you might think of.  There are times that I really wish that I had gotten a degree.

So anyway.  I'm allocating myself about three weeks to learn how to wire and program these microcontrollers.  I have the "education" manual that Parallax puts out. 

This is a parallax propeller demo board.  The microcontroller has 8 cogs (or cores), that run in parallel.  This board includes the microcontroller (the little black square on the middle-right of the board), but it also includes keyboard and mouse input, vga and composite video output, usb cable interface and a nifty little breadboard on the left hand side to add whatever circuts, gizmos or other doodads (real-life technical term.  Would I lie?) you want.

Right now, I've got no clue how to program it.  And I'm giving myself three weeks to learn.  This should be fun!


I almost forgot.  I ordered a Motorola Xoom today.  I finally decided that I really want to try it out, and Amazon looks like the best deal.  It was $589 (a whole $10 less than MSRP!!!) and comes with free shipping, and no tax!  And it has a 30 day return policy.  I'm really hoping I like it. 

Oh yeah.  I upgraded the free shiping to 2-day so that I'll have it by Friday.

Which means that I've got to try to get all my pdf's someplace other than my iPad, so that I can download them to the new device.  I've had Goodreader on my iPad uploading them to my ftp server for the last 2 hours.  I've uploaded 9GB so far, and I'm pretty sure my old wireless router isn't too happy with the load.  

I probably won't do the whole unboxing thing that everyone does to try to make themselves feel cool.  Nothing I do would ever make me cool, so there's no use fooling myself on that front. 

I'm sure I'll write a whole post on it, once I get it up and running.