A Knitted Skirt

OK, what do you all think of this skirt?  I’m thinking maybe not in off-white, but I’m uncertain.  It totally needs tights or a slip under, but I kinda like it.  It could be fun to be able to say that I had knitted everything I was wearing except my bra…

Yet More Equations

I think I’ve come up with a way to rewrite The Cold Equations so that it makes the point the original author was actually going for, rather than pointing out that bureaucratic stupidity is just as stupid as, and more likely to get people killed than, regular stupidity.  I’m not sure, but I’ll post it if it works out.

Cultural Context

I have just noticed another example of what Liam and I have taken to calling “context jokes”.  They are not all actually jokes; they are statements, images, or whatever that you can’t appreciate without the context.

For example: “A chicken and an egg are in bed.  The egg rolls over and lights a cigarette, and the chicken says, ‘Well, I guess that answers that question.'”

Consider the amount of backstory you have to have to giggle at that.  You’ve got to know that the chicken and the egg were probably having sex, that lighting a cigarette is something you do after sex, the old saw about “Which comes first”, and–last but not least–that “come” can be euphemism for “have an orgasm”.

Now, a lot of things depend on cultural context to get their point across, but in many cases it can be glarked; in the “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch” joke, all you have to know is that Catholics cross themselves, but Jews don’t.  Similarly, in the “Do you think we have time?” joke, it works almost as well no matter who is supposed to be saying the punchline, and while the “Yes, sir, but now their eyes are open” joke communicates nicely that the person telling it considers Baptists to be idiots, nearly any other group the joke-teller dislikes could be substituted without loss of humor.  By contrast, context jokes depend entirely on their backstory.

This comes up because I’ve been reading the Forge again–this is a bunch of people who do rpg design.  One of them developed something called Primetime Adventures, in which the players create a TV show.  Given the way the mechanics work, one player is going to have narrative control at the end of a scene; while he is required to narrate in such a way that the character who “won” that scene achieves her goals, it is possible for his narration to not be satisfying, at least at first.  The example given was “OK, the Stakes are for Buffy to save the world by killing Angel.  While it’s possible for her to do this in a cool way, it’s also possible for it to be narrated as “Tuxedo Mask swoops in and beats Angel up, then holds his limp body in place for Buffy to kill him!””

Yeah, so those of you who’ve watched Sailor Moon are now giggling, and the rest of the world stares in blank confusion.  What’s more, “Tuxedo Mask” has entered Forge terminology as “NPC who steals all the cool stuff even while nominally allowing the PCs to participate”, adding another layer of context…

Serenity, the RPG

Got a look at the Serenity rpg last night.  Overall, it looked pretty cool and I was favorably impressed, but there were some nitpicks.

The system appears to be that you have some target number, which you must equal or exceed in order to do whatver you’re trying to do.   All of your attributes and skills are assigned a value by way of the size of the die you roll when you use them–that is, if you’re Jayne your brawn gets d10 and your smarts get a d4; if you’re Simon it’s vice-versa.  Bonuses and penalties happen by changing the size of the die some number of steps.  I have never encountered this mechanic before, but I rather like it; it makes it so an expert can still fail, but does so less often than a novice, and that this happens with a frequency that’s easy to see.  It’s pretty clear that someone rolling a d4 is only going to beat a 3 half the time, while someone with a d12 will do so 5 times out of 6.  I’d have to see it in play to know how well it works, but on the whole it looks promising.

I must also confess a liking for any game which includes such ads and disads as “Leaky Brainpan”, “Moneyed Individual”, and “Sweet and Cheerful”.  But this leads into one of my problems: the whole book is written in the Ole West Hick dialect, including explainations of mechanics and examples of play.  It gets gratin’ right quick, if you catch my drift.

I didn’t have time to take a thorough look at all the background info they provided, but one bit I did see was the money system.  Turns out a Firefly “credit” has about the buying power of $25, for shades of B5 (though if I recall correctly the disparity there was less).  There’s also coin, which disdains such intuitive systems as “straight decimal” in favor of something that works out to the smallest coin being worth 40 cents–it was along the lines of $25>1 credit>2.5 platinum (1 p=$10)>5 gold (1 g=$5)>62.5 silver (1 s=40 cents).  I may be misremebering, because, well, nonintuituve.  I know that the British Empire got along with a horrendously nonintuitive currency for literally a thousand years–remind me again how many shillings in a guinea?–but still.  This is gaming, I don’t want it to be accountancy too…

Sock One Done

I am done with the first stocking and most of the way done with the other, and I’m going to have enough yarn.  I can tell, though, that I’m going to need some elastic to go through the tops or these things just aren’t going to stay up; the ribbing isn’t strong enough for it, which anyone who works at Colonial Williamsburg could have told the designer.  Ribbing is nice, but this kind of thing needs garters, elastic, and/or suspension from a higher point.

Lightning’s Heart

Having recently purchased Weapons of Legacy (which I shouldn’t have, because I am poor, but that’s not relevant really), I am really liking the idea of an item that gets better as you level.  The base item has to be magic, but can cost no more than 4000 gp; you have to perform a series of rituals to “unlock” the item’s powers, which you can’t do any earlier than 5th level.  These rituals are based on events that took place over the history of the item and cost money but not xp (and you have to use Knowledge (history) checks and/or spells like legend lore to find out how to perform them).   Also there are personal costs, which are in theory balanced by the powers of the item. I think Altariel needs one of these items, and given her projected career (10 levels of electrical elemental savant) it should be something that relates to electricity.

Given that standard D&D uses the 4-element system (Altariel uses a more “oriental” 5-element, in which electricity is linked to metal), I’m going to go with electricity>lightning>air>mind and use a +2 headband of intellect as the base item.  This comes in exactly at the 4000 gp limit.  Clearly, Lightning’s Heart should grant access to the Energy Substitution (electricity) feat, and there are a bunch of powers on the lists in the back of the book that fit the theme nicely: grants castings of lighning bolt, chain lightning and energy resistance some times per day, gives ability bonuses–Int in this case, of course–grants haste for some number of rounds per day, that sort of thing.  Where I’m falling down is the backstory.

Clearly, if I want a powerful item I should be willing to put in some effort for it, but I’m just totally blanking.  I hesitate to say “Can’t I just pay the gold costs and handwave it?”, but it’s awfully tempting.  The job is made more difficult by the fact that the stories in Weapons of Legacy vary between “This event caused this power” and “This character, the original owner, has a cool backstory, and by the way the item can do this nifty thing now”.

Also, neato house rule I heard lately: Epic characters (21st level and up) can’t be raised from the dead because, if they die, the gods on the planes they end up on look at them and say, “Hmmm, you’re useful; you’re sticking around.”

Dead at Work

There are about 4 people in the office today besides me, and you’d think this would be the perfect opportunity to get some hardcore data entry done.  Except for the guy who has decided that Christmas music, just loud enough that no one not at his desk can hear it clearly, is the proper accompaniment for his work experience today.

I do not in general listen to the iPod while working, but I think I might have to make an exception.