September 2003 Archives

More fun!

I need more fun, dammit. I don't have enough right now. Work is not especially fun. Tinkering with this site is sorta fun, but I've got things fairly stable right now. "Dungeon Siege":http://www.dungeonsiege.com/ was fun for a while, but after the first few dungeons, it got kinda tedious. I'm not tempted to pick it back up. Just to say I had, I downloaded the demo for "UT2K3":http://www.macgamer.com/features/?id=1582, and that was as non-fun as I expected it to be. I think I might have more fun on its way through the mail, but I'm probably not allowed to talk about that. Tyler taped "Fear of a Black Hat":http://www.niggazwithhats.com/ for me, which is fun, but I don't have the tape yet. What I'd really dig right now is a quality team-based mod for "Quake":http://planetquake.com/quake3/, and enough people for a really good game. Or maybe a nice game of "WH40K":http://www.games-workshop.com/40kuniverse/40kuniverse.htm with "somebody or another":http://coreytamas.com/warhammer.html.

Alias

The season premiere of "Alias":http://abc.go.com/primetime/alias/index.html was tonight. It didn't suck. Actually, I think it was decently good, but all of the changes are going to take some getting used to. I'm willing to trust Abrams for a while, because the first two seasons were good. But this could easily "jump the shark":http://www.jumptheshark.com/.

Rained out

It was a gray, rainy day today. For Tucson, especially this late in the year, that's a very strange thing. It rained almost constantly from the time I got up until I went to bed, and I'm sure it started much earlier the night before. It was one of those days when I feel like the only thing really worth doing is making a big mug of tea (of maybe café latte) curling up in bed with wife, puppies, and blankets, and tuning into a nice "Raymond Chandler":http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/rchandle.htm or "Dennis Lahane":http://www.dennislehanebooks.com/ novel. Work, especially with the most recent set of crises, is a _distant_ runner-up.

Not so dull

Well, it seems as though the East Coast has managed to piece things back together enough that I don't have to worry about being bored at work.

Full Thrust

Inire, Orion and I had a three-way "Full Thrust":http://www.gtns.net/store1/commerce.cgi?product=RULES&exact_match=on&template=rules free-for-all tonight. I've been wanting to give the game a play for a while now, and I was not disappointed. (Well, okay, maybe a little. Most of my ships got blown up. Heavy cruisers are good.) My biggest complaint, just to get it out of the way, is that the rules are pretty spread-out over all of the books published to date. There's the main rulebook, which has the cinematic movement rules, basic weapons, and an early build system. Then an out of print supplement "More Thrust":http://www.gtns.net/store1/commerce.cgi?page=downloads.html which introduces a number of additional rules. Then _Fleet Book 1_ for a complete overhaul of much of the game -- but not all, so you probably still need the original rules -- including a different classification system for beams, _much_ more powerful fighters, and a vector-based movement system. There's also a _Fleet Book 2_ as well.... But the rules themselves (once you've decided what subset to use) are really quite simple. It's all d6-based. For the basic beam weapons that are the backbone of the original game rules, to-hit and damage rolls are combined, and the rating of the weapon determines how many dice you roll. There are very elegant mechanics for range and for energy shields layered on top of that. Point-defense systems and fighters work in much the same way. Fighters, by the way, are nasty. They have lots and lots of range and mobility, and a bay full of fighters has more short-range firepower than most dreadnoughts -- and are probably harder to kill, to boot. If there's any bad point of the basic game, I think it'd be the critical hit mechanic. Damage is tracked by a series of boxes. At certain points, you reach a threshold, and you must roll 1d6 for each system on your ship to determine whether it blows up. On a big ship, that's a lot of tedious rolling. (I think one of the supplements might have a more streamlined system; but as written, it's a little obnoxious.) I'm definitely planning on taking a closer look at all of the optional rules (torpedos! missiles! the wave motion gun!). Hopefully I can convince the guys that they want another go at me.

Isabel makes life dull

Well, here in Tucson, anyway. I imagine those on the East Coast don't think so. But since that's where my company's clients all are, as well as our office that deals with them, we've been really quiet yesterday and today. Hopefully, power will be back up and people back to work next week, because I don't know how much of this I can handle.

Star Hero thoughts

I used to play in a long-running campaign using the fourth-edition Hero System. Ever since the fifth edition came out, and "Hero Games":http://www.herogames.com/ started publishing supplements like they were going out of style, I've been wanting to check out their work, and maybe throw some cash their way. So after I read some favorable reviews of _Star Hero_, the science-fiction "genre book," I thought I'd check it out. Now, here's the thing about the Hero System. The basic goal of the game is to be a universal system: one set of consistent self-contained rules useable for any game or genre. So the main rulebook has all of these rules (like a basic textbook on cooking might explain knife skills, and techniques like roasting and sauteeing), and then there are genre books that discuss how to use these rules to model different kinds of game worlds (like a Chinese cookbook, or a barbeque cookbook). _Star Hero_, then, is all about how to run a science-fiction (sf) campaign with the Hero System. I'm only about halfway done with the book, and what I've read so far is pretty solid stuff. Lots and lots of discussion about how to apply different Hero "powers" to various sf conventions, talk about different levels of realism, all of the good stuff you'd expect from a book like this. There's even a fair amount of pagecount devoted to guidelines for randomly-generating star systems -- based on modern astrophysics, but with alternate rules for more "space operatic" settings. Hero is a rules-heavy system (maybe "rules-intensive" is a better term), and I'm noticing a lot of this in _Star Hero_. This isn't surprising _per se_; after all, if you're not using the rules, you can just make stuff up, so published material is naturally going to talk about how to do stuff with the rules. That Hero sets out to allow you to model *anything* within its rules framework seems, however, to create some odd behavior in its users. I suspect that some people see this as a challenge, and some as a kind of obligation. If you've got a thing, and a system that can model any thing, then surely it can model your thing, right? And if you mention that thing in a supplement, than you _ought_ to model that thing, right? So, in _Star Hero_, we have rules for blasters, and ships, and space stations, and lightsabers, and aliens, and time travel, and sensors, and all manner of other sf goodness. But then there's the odd stuff. The stuff I can't reliably classify as serious or sly or outright self-parody. Stuff like: * A Hero power simulating the dropping of a comet onto a planet from orbit to improve its atmosphere. (Only 3 Real Points, by the way, so stock up!) * Mention of how much damage is done by the tidal forces close to a neutron star. * How to build a jump gate in Hero. (Really, does this need actual rules? You drive through, you're somewhere else.) * The different layers of the sun, and how much damage you in each. What's almost worse is that they only provide the power ratings; I actually found myself starting to count in my head the point value of the sun. If I'm to be honest, this is actually one of the things that appeals to me about Hero: I like modelling problems, and I enjoy messing around with RPG systems (and computer software) because of that. But more as an intellectual exercise. I find it sort of hard to believe that there would come a time in actual play when that cometary terraforming writeup is actually going to be useful.

Ahoy there!

Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. So all ye lubbers beware! For the speech of a pirate be as dark and mysterious as his motives, and oft just as cruel. Be not surprised to find yerself amidst a chorus of lusty _*arrrrs*_!