Forging Onward

Some of you may know about the Forge, a forum for independent RPG designers.  For several years, the Forge has had some areas in which one could talk about game theory–why is it that some games work and some games don’t, what’s the difference between two die mechanics, that sort of thing.  Those bits of the site have closed, which has led to some discussion in indie-rpg circles, and it helped crystallize something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

The short version is: I don’t like the Forge, and I like its creator Ron Edwards even less.

The long version: I try hard not to look down on people for having “unsophisticated” tastes.  I think, for example, that car racing is possibly the world’s most boring activity, but that doesn’t mean that I think people who enjoy it are somehow inferior.  Ron doesn’t seem to have that circuit–that is, the one that tells him that what he likes is not the same thing as what is good, or what other people can like.

Now, before I get much further, I’d like to point out that I would dearly love to try Dogs in the Vineyard or Primetime Adventures or some of the others.  The Mountain Witch and My Life With Master strike me as unfun, but I think that has a lot to do with their settings (samurai bearding a demon in its lair and Igor And Friends Kill Frankenstein, respectively).

In any case, I can’t say how many times I saw something on the Forge that involved someone posting something they thought was fun, only to be informed that it was dysfunctional and immature (but they were still free to have “fun” with it if they liked, no one was going to stop them, oh no).  Or someone would say, “Gee, all these terribly avant-garde games you guys’re coming up with don’t really work for my group,” and someone else would reply that the first person’s group was either 1) playing the new games wrong, 2) composed of gamers (poor little things) who’d been trained into bad habits by mainstream games, or 3) both.  To which I say, bite me–could it be, instead, that your games are not the One True Way, and that people who don’t like them are, perchance, just in posession of different preferences?

Take, for example, D&D.  It’s hard to dispute that the game at its core is about killing things and taking their stuff.  One wonders why the Forge thinks that you can’t have Story in and around that.  Heck, the lack of discrete mechanisms for such things actually makes it easier, in a way: there’s no allocating of scarce Narrative Power Points or whatever, you just look at the GM and say, “I go to the entrance of the escape tunnel from the palace” and the GM, recognizing that this is cool, replies, “OK, it’s in a storefront a few blocks away.”  And yes, that’s an example from personal experience.

Then there was the Forge’s preference for the practical.  If you weren’t designing your own rpg, or at least playing one that someone one the forum had designed, your opinion, bluntly, didn’t matter.  Because, of course, no one who’s not a designer can have any insight into how games work, no matter how much they have played, right?  This one’s going to get worse now that the theory forum’s closed; if you aren’t a designer, there’s just no reason to go there anymore.  Clearly the collective wisdom of the Forge needs no further enhancement, right?  The stated reason for closing the forums is to cause theory discussion to metastitize (which I know I’ve spelled wrong), spreading out into other places on the net.  Which, yeah, sure, that’ll happen…

I suppose this isn’t very coherent, and can be justly ripped apart for that.  But I think that some of its core points are things that indie rpg designers should keep in mind: some of us like killing things and taking their stuff, at the same time that we like having drama and narrative interest.  That doesn’t make us dysfunctional, it makes us complex.

Meyers-Briggs and Gaming

So someone’s come up with a nifty way of relating the Meyers-Briggs personality test to gaming.  I thought I’d look it over and see how I fit.

I know I’m an INFP in real life, pretty strongly in all cases; I think my lowest percentage, the last time I took the test, was 64%.  (I am not going to link to a MB test–anyone with even elementary Google-fu should be able to find one.)   What about in gaming?

I/E: Introverts are those that approach a game primarily through their character. Extroverts are those who approach the game primarily through the world, setting, or situation. If you want to play in the world of Wheel of Time, you’re going the E road. If you want to play a farmer who grows into a great leader, in whatever setting, you’re going the I road.

I’m gonna say I’m I here.  While I have been known to be drawn into a cool setting, it’s usually because I’m interested in the kinds of characters one can play there, rather than because I want to explore the setting itself.

N/S: Intuitives are basically No-Mythers, and Sensers are big Mythers. If you want the game to focus on tangible, repeatable, discrete elements you’re walking the road of S. If you’re more interested in the concepts, themes, and abstracts of the game then you are embarking on the path of N.

I’m not, honestly, certain what this one means, but I think I’m an N.  Not a very strong preference, though.

T/F: This one changes very little between standard and game. If you think your way through game, want to focus on the logic, an intellectual appreciation, then you are on the Tower of T. If, otoh, you want game to be about feeling you way through, focusing on the emotionality, and having a gut level appreciation of game then you’re on the ship of F.

F, all the way.  I like logic and it’s fun to see how everything fits together, but I like emotion more, and I want to be involved with things.

J/P: Mo and I called this one Pressure (J) and Flow (P). Judging gamers want to hit it and quit it, they want discrete goals, short run games, quick closure, and games full of pressure that they can make statements about and through. Perceiving gamers want more flowing games, stories that flow into each other, long running campaigns, either no closure or closure that flows into a new story, and games that are about enjoying the flow rather than increasing the pressure.

I think I’m J here, but not very strongly.  I like long-running campaigns, but I don’t want to go forever between interesting stuff, either.  If we’re having 6 months of downtime, I want the GM to say, “OK, what do you do in the next six months?  OK.  When you get back together…”

So in gaming, InFj.

What about my characters?  They tend to be a lot more about their interactions with the world, in that they expect to have an effect on it; this leads me to suspect that most of them are usually E.  I’ve got problems enough trying to deal with my own intuition, so my characters are usually S–I don’t go for “immersion” in the sense most people seem to mean it.  The characters are usually F, though, in that they’re more likely to rely on their own sense of right and wrong than on just logic.  And I’m going to say they’re usually P, but not strongly.

Characters: ESfp
Gaming: InFj
Real Life: INFP
I have no idea what this means.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.
Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents by the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me where the love-light gleams.
I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.
I doubt there’s a person in Western civilization who hasn’t heard that song this year, and there are probably a few who are already sick of it, for one very important reason: that’s the whole song.  There isn’t any more; those are all the words.  This means that, to get a decent-length song out of it, people sing the words, play a long musical interlude, and then sing the words again–or some other repetitive trick of similar effect.
This offends me deeply.  On the theory that I shouldn’t bitch unless I’m willing to do something about it, I present two more verses for I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and if I can come up with something I’ll write a bridge too.
I’ll be home for Christmas, plan to see me there.
With holly bright, and candlelight, we’ll sing without a care.
Christmas Eve, you’ll see me and we’ll never part.
I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my heart.
I’ll be home for Christmas, sure as sure can be
The bells will ring and angels sing of joy for you and me.
Christmas Eve I’ll be there, however far it seems.
I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.
Yes, they are schmaltzy.  Deal with it.

God, I Hope You’re Being Ironic

For me, super powers and SfX only screw things up and make the game boring. You can have very fun five hours of gaming just talking about your angst leaving your (in the game…) girlfriend. I promise.

Excuse me while I shudder.  Thanks, but no, I do not wish to play in this game.  5 minutes, sure.  But if all you’re gonna do is wank about how much your life sucks, you might as well talk about real life, because at least that way you might be working out actual issues.

Just read this post, I guess, and marvel at the arrogance and condescension that come off it in waves.  Read the bit by Ron Edwards, who manages to produce good games despite no apparent ability to distinguish between “what I like” and “what is good”:

I’ve had it with games in which the characters are specially-powered in any way whatsoever.

And yeah, I wrote games about sorcerers, magical elfs, and tall babes with horns on their heads. That’s done with.

No more. People in situations, from now on.

Explain again what it is about having extraordinary powers that makes a person any less of a person, or their situation any less of a situation?  Seems to me, from my plebian, low-class, unenlightened position, that having the powers increases the range of people and situations you can talk about–which ought to be only a good thing.  But what do I know?

Fluxx Cards

About six months ago, I signed up for Looney Labs’s Lab Rabbit program–that is, I became one of their official testers and game reps.  I freely admit that I did this purely so I could get a set of Icehouse pieces in a color they don’t offer for normal sale.

However, I am on their mailing list and last night I received three Fluxx cards, special Lab Rabbit promos, in the mail: two new Keepers, Earth and Christmas Tree, and a new Goal, Peace on Earth (Or maybe Christmas Tree wasn’t a Keeper, but I can’t remember what it really was).  I don’t play Fluxx or even own a Fluxx deck.  Does anyone want the cards?  First person to leave a comment with a good reason can have ’em, other Lab Rabbits excepted.

I Think We Did This Last Year Too

Step One – Make a post (public, friendslocked, filtered…whatever you’re comfortable with) to your ^LJ^blog.  

The post should contain your list of 10 holiday wishes. The wishes can be anything at all, from simple and fandom-related (”I’d love a Snape/Hermione icon that’s just for me”) to medium (”I wish for _____ on DVD”) to really big (”All I want for [insert seasonal celebration here] is a new car/computer/house/TV.”) The important thing is, make sure these wishes are things you really, truly want. – If you wish for real life things (not fics or icons), make sure you include some sort of contact info in your post, whether it’s your address or just your email address where [$MYTHICAL HOLIDAY FIGURE] could get in touch with you. – Also, make sure you post some version of these guidelines in your LJ so that the holiday joy will spread.

Step Two – Surf around your friendslist (or friendsfriends, or just random journals) to see who has posted their list.

Step Three (this important part) – If you see a wish you can grant, and it’s in your heart to do so, make someone’s wish come true.

Sometimes someone’s trash is another’s treasure, and if you have a leather jacket you don’t want or a gift certificate you won’t use–or even know where you could get someone’s dream purebred Basset Hound for free–do it. You needn’t spend money on these wishes unless you want to. The point isn’t to put people out, it’s to provide everyone a chance to be someone else’s holiday elf–to spread the joy. Gifts can be made anonymously or not–it’s your call. There are no rules with this project, no guarantees, and no strings attached. Just…wish, and it might come true. Give, and you might receive. And you’ll have the joy of knowing you made someone’s holiday special.

OK, here goes.  I’m not going to be doing any of the “love and peace for all humanity” Miss-America wishes that I’ve seen a bunch of in my surfing, as the whole point is things that could actually happen in a reasonable span of time:

1) A job that requires thought, and pays as such.  I’m also perfectly willing to take one that doesn’t require thought, but pays, say, more than $35k a year.

2) Sock-weight (24-27 st per 4 inch/10 cm) 100% alpaca yarn.  Natural colors are fine but I wouldn’t turn up my nose at dyed, either.

3) The red-leather-bound Lord of the Rings.

4) A whole lot of habutai in any weight.  White is fine, as I have acceptable dyeing-fu.

5) ~12 square yards of the green-purple silk gauze I saw at Pennsic.  Lespedeza…

6) Red henna.  I use two boxes of Light Mountain per application, as I’ve got A Lot Of Hair.

7) Any number of books.  I have an Amazon wishlist, you can check it out.

8) Similarly, any number of movies/TV series on DVD

9) Coupons or gift certificates for Iams catfood

10) Fancy fabrics for the advent calendar project.  Only small bits are needed, in general.

Not Without My Handbag!

Just heard on NPR what may be the dumbest idea ever.

OK, no, it’s not that dumb.  But it’s down there.

For a mere $50 per month (plus shipping fees) you can rent the latest trendy purse.  Gotta stay in style, don’tcha know.

Yeah–because emptying out my purse and transferring all the contents and learning a whole new system of pockets and finding out if everything will fit is something I really want to do every few months, and having to pay for it (plus shipping, don’t forget shipping) is just icing on the cake.

Every time I think I’ve come to terms with the idiocy of the average person, I hear a story like this.

Useful Chart

whole milk: 3.5% butterfat
half-and-half: 11% butterfat
light cream: 18% butterfat, though the rules say between 18 and 30%.
[single cream, UK]: 20% butterfat
light whipping cream: 30-36% butterfat.
heavy cream: 36% butterfat (or more, in theory)
[double cream, UK]: 48% butterfat. Or more.
butter (US): 80% butterfat
butter (European style): 85-90% butterfat

Maybe this is why the heavy cream totally failed to make butter–not enough fat.  Not that I object to whipped cream, but it wasn’t what I was going for…

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Dear drivers resident in the City of Pittsburgh:

Contrary to popular belief, it does indeed snow here–in fact, it does so every winter.  Therefore, there is no need to act as if you’ve never seen frozen water before the instant a flake hits the pavement.  By all means, take appropriate precautions; begin your braking a few feet sooner and moderate your speed if the road conditions appear to warrant it.  Please note, however, that the appropriate precautions rarely include travelling at 5 miles an hour on a road that is merely wet, and that some people inexplicably fail to appreciate your zealous attention to making sure that they cannot endanger themselves by passing you in an area in which it is legal to do so.  If the problem is that your eyesight is so impaired by falling snowflakes that you cannot make out the lines indicating lanes, perhaps you may wish to refrain from driving under such conditions.



Blue Velvet

I have finally gotten started on a new advent calendar–a thingie upon which you put an ornament every day counting down to a holiday.

I want this to be of a higher quality than the felt one I used to have.  That was gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but I’m planning to do this one mainly in embroidery, with some other bits thrown in, and one of the things I want to do is a lace snowflake.  I tried knitting it, but the smallest needles I own produced a snowflake with about twice the diameter I wanted.  C’est la vie; I have bitten the bullet and am working on a needlelace snowflake as we speak.  When it’s done, I want to mount it on some nice deep blue velvet.

Easy, right?  Just get some scraps…yeah.  Except I’ve never worked with blue velvet, and therefore haven’t any.  I certainly don’t have the spare cash to buy a whole bunch of nice velvet in order to make something and use the scraps for the calendar; the smallest strip I am likely to be able to buy, 1/8th of a yard, will leave one of those annoying scraps that’s too big to throw away and too small to do anything with (especially because I know what kind of velvet I want to use, and any scrap larger than a square inch is “too big to throw away” in that stuff…)