Previously, in Trip's Life...

30 September 2011 - Friday

Work: Yay, I made it to another Friday! And I'm not the poor schmoe on call this weekend!

Textual Entertainments: Mr Monster and I Don't Want To Kill You (Dan Wells) are the two sequels to I Am Not A Serial Killer, in which our creepy protagonist mostly continues to avoid killing humans. I finally realized that these books are similar to The Demon's Lexicon etc (Sarah Rees Brennan) in that they explore the inner life of someone who appears cool and badass and heroic to others, but John doesn't have Nick's excuse for not getting along with humans.

Barking Death Squirrels (Douglas A Van Belle) is a random novel that someone was handing out (download coupons for) at Worldcon, and worth about what I paid for it. The human characterization is clunky at best, and the aliens and setting aren't explored enough to be interesting.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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29 September 2011 - Thursday

Work: Check.

Gaming: The Maid RPG (by Ryo Kamiya, additional contributions by Team Maid) is very silly, even sillier than Teenagers From Outer Space. This may be because it is authentic imported Japanese silliness. (I'm not sure if this is the very first RPG brought over from Japan in an official way, but it's the first one I know of. Some of the same people are working on translating/publishing another, more action-oriented, game, but that's years behind schedule.)

The system is kind of generic, in that you can play modern maids, historical maids, fantasy maids, SF maids, horror maids... pretty much anything you want as long as it's anime maids and you're not picky about genre purity! There are lots of tables for all kinds of things: maid background, maid powers, maid uniform colors, facilities in the mansion, random events, random items, master types, etc, etc, etc. Pretty much everything is random based on a table, because that's the sort of game it is, but it's not the sort of game where you can't reroll if the first roll wouldn't be fun. There are also a lot of optional rules, at least compared to the size of the basic rules, including stuff like new character types (head maid, butler, even master), seduction (not necessarily sexual), and costume changes.

The dice mechanic is one I haven't seen much: stats range from 0 to about 5, but instead of adding 1d6, they get multiplied by 1d6, for wild results. Otherwise it's pretty standard: compare result to target number or opponent's roll, more difference equals bigger effect. Like in TFOS, all failure goes into one pool, but when it exceeds the threshhold, the character must do whatever activity was rolled on the Stress Explosion table at character creation time for a number of real world minutes equal to her total Stress. A character can also spend some of her in-game resources to make the GM narrate in a random event (tables by genre), so the streams are pretty thoroughly crossed.

And did I mention it's silly?

Visual Entertainments: No Lucifer. More germs instead.

Cats: Twelve paws!

Maids by Carl (Wed Oct 12 14:57:25 2011)

It's not JUST Maids! You can also play Miko! (As in shrine maidens, not the ones in From Light to Darkness, although the latter would be very nifty maybe.)

Yes, it is indeed very silly.

Also, Big Bad Con last weekend in Oakland had a Teenagers from Outer Space LARP, complete with high school dance with live band. No word on how many of the band members were robots or aliens, but at least one wore a plaid skirt.

Re: Maids by Trip (Wed Oct 12 20:59:42 2011)

Yes! But there is so much silliness that I could not put it all in the review.

Now I will put Maid with the other silly games that will never get played.

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28 September 2011 - Wednesday

Work: More network changes! Back to the old regime until a new system that works even for people who are both remote and non-Windows can be devised.

Customers are being pretty quiet, hopefully not just because they can't figure out how to submit tickets through the new system.

Cats: So fuzzy!

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27 September 2011 - Tuesday

Work: Now level 1 support people can call us with problems. Where by "us" I mean "me", because I'm the only one with a fully-functional phone.

Textual Entertainments: The Scarab Path (Adrian Tchaikovsky) is fifth in the "Shadow of the Apt" series. While the war from the first three books is on hold, characters find out the world is even stranger than they thought. In this installment: ghosts, nomadic doom, excessive magic, and unwise smooches.

Visual Entertainments:

  • Star Driver 11-12: You can tell she's important, she gets two episodes.
  • Clannad After Story 14: For a while, it was really unclear whether that was in fact happening. Also: awwww.
  • Brighter Than The Dawning Blue 7-8: Extra bonus awww.
  • Gosick 3: You'd think the third son of an Imperial soldier would be better at taking orders.

Cats: Sheesh, cats, do not hork in the food dish! So gross!

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26 September 2011 - Monday

Work: Now back at work under the new network regime. Everything is a) monopoly-compliant, b) carefully adapted to Teradata's particular processes, and c) confusing. I'm sure some of my disgruntlement is just resistance to change, but I'm pretty sure some of it is that Microsoft is horrible.

My, the Internet really is full of things: Hey The Only Journal Comics by a Cat.

Sequential Entertainments: I think I have to keep reading Precocious just because of this page.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Zmorcia did a few quests around Mount Hyjal, but sleeping is not much like playing WoW.

Cats: Twelve adorable paws!

Writing: Kinda.

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25 September 2011 - Sunday

Gaming: Even though we switched to quest-based XP awards so that actions other than fighting could be rewarded, the PCs still picked a fight with the lich and his minions. They gave some excuse like "he was blasphemously tampering with the fundamental forces of life and death", but who buys that?

I've been using monsters at party_level to party_level+3, but that makes the monsters almost never miss no matter how high the PCs' defenses are, so this time I used 50% more monsters of p_l-3 to p_l-1, and that seemed to go okay. The ravenous dancing girl's big attack never worked, but it was Fort against a defender so that's probably to be expected. And hey, the defender got to actually keep her from eating the casters, which was probably gratifying.

Playing NPCs is hard.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Zmorcia ran around Mount Hyjal a bit more, but didn't accomplish a whole lot. Doing laundry is not much like playing WoW.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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24 September 2011 - Saturday

Gaming: In Hamlet's Hit Points, Robin D Laws analyzes some well-regarded narratives in terms of "beats". Roughly speaking, these are the moments that move the protagonist either toward their goals ("up") or away from them ("down"), whether those goals are emotional ("dramatic") or practical ("procedural"). It's a little more complicated than that, since beats are aimed directly at the audience (setup for something that will happen later, musical interlude, etc), but dramatic/procedural, up/down, are the major ones that move the story along. Laws's thesis is that a satisfying story must have a good mix of those beats, well-stirred, and that a lot of gaming sessions don't have that.

Theater and cinema are like gaming in that they generally don't try to directly show the inner lives of characters, so the examples are Hamlet, Dr No, and Casablanca. The bulk of the book is a beat-by-beat analysis of the three works, which a summary would not do justice to, so go read it. (Warning: early James Bond was a pretty horrible person.)

Visiting: Marith and Dave and I went over to Monkeycatland to fling Ja Baby in the air repeatedly. There may have been shrieking.

Food: Sushi! And then, more sushi! Ja Baby likes edamame beans.

Visual Entertainments: More Lucifer. The villain has prepared for the techniques the heroes thought were secret!

Cats: Twelve paws!

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23 September 2011 - Friday

Work: Everyone is working from home today because the office is being reconfigured and reIPed and the old mail system is gone and stuff. This is not very productive.

Gaming: Intergalactic Cooking Challenge (Zach Welhouse) is pretty much what it sounds like: IRON... CHEF... IN.... SPAAAAAAACE! The system is pretty rudimentary, and the background is not detailed, but how much do you really need, to cook for the fate of the solar system?

Visual Entertainments: In a probably-futile quest to become able to play Fiasco, I watched Fargo, and learned the important rule of criminal conspiracies: if anyone involved in the plan can be played by Steve Buscemi, just walk away.

Cats: Twelve paws is still the new orange!

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22 September 2011 - Thursday

Work: Tomorrow is the Big Switch, so tonight I spend hours saving my old mail so that I can search it later. This stupid mail reader will only move a few messages at a time to another folder, though, so I can't get all of it without staying up until all hours and having my brain fall out.

Visual Entertainments: No Lucifer. Germs instead.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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21 September 2011 - Wednesday

Work: Look, sudden schedule change! That's okay, I really wanted to stay late at work anyway.

Textual Entertainments: Pock's World (David Duncan) revists some of the ideas from Hero!, but possibly in a more optimistic form. There are several things left unexplained at the end of the book, with no indication as to whether a sequel is planned. I'm not sure there are enough loose ends to really justify one, though, compared to the plot that is resolved.

I was kind of bugged by the modernness of the people thirty thousand years from now, not only in attitude but in specific cultural institutions. Oh well.

Cats: Twelve paws that should probably get more attention.

Writing: Check?!?!

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20 September 2011 - Tuesday

Work: More and more stuff is getting moved over to the new system, in preparation for cut-over on Friday.

Textual Entertainments: 7th Sigma (Steven Gould) is reasonably Heinlein-juvenile-esque, with bonus Kipling references, set in a kind of future Wild West where EM-seeking, metal-eating, robot bugs all over the American Southwest keep the local tech level low but civilization outside bugland can send in non-metallic bits. I would have liked it if the bugs had been explored more, but the book was really about Kim growing up (and being built on more points than everyone else). If you liked Gould's previous coming-of-age stories Jumper and Wildside, you will probably like 7th Sigma.

Visual Entertainments:

  • Brighter Than The Dawning Blue 6: Maybe there is a plot after all. Or at least a conspiracy.
  • Clannad After Story 12-13: Awwww!
  • Star Driver 10: I'm pretty sure this subplot will not end well.
  • Gosick 1-2: This show is not failing us. It will not have to be consigned to the oubliette.

Food: Yay coupons!

Cats: Twelve fuzzy paws!

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19 September 2011 - Monday

Work: Split-shift check.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Tried to do a couple of quests in Mount Hyjal, but brain too small.

Visual Entertainments: Finished up the second disc of Eureka Seven. Meh.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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18 September 2011 - Sunday

Work: Still no word from Customer X.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: The quest chain that Zmorcia is following lead to even more exciting places, and she saved the day several times, only to have a sudden plot twist send the chain into dungeons. Bah!

By that time, she was level 82, so she went to Cataclysmland. The very obvious trail led to Deepholme, which was very scenic but also pretty hard. Eventually someone pointed out that that was because it's the second zone, intended for people who already have the munchkin gear from one of the beginning zones, so she back out and found a trail that lead to Mount Hyjal. The monsters were still tougher than anything she'd been fighting in Northrend, but they mostly couldn't take her one-on-one.

The rewards for random beginning quests in Hyjal are significantly better than the super-shiny purple crafted gear Grainne-sempai made her from Northrend materials. This is sad.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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17 September 2011 - Saturday

Work: Customer X doesn't seem to have done any of the stuff they threatened. Fine by me!

Gaming: No D&D because Marith is too sleepy. Instead, Settlers with the cards and caravan expansion from Traders & Barbarians. The camels were a little confusing, but eventually some people managed to use them to good effect and crush me like an insect despite my fine starting position. People feel causally connected to a die roll in a way that they don't to a draw from a pre-shuffled deck, but we all got used to the cards pretty quickly. The bonus effects encouraged people to buy cards and dragged down the leader(s), so I guess they were a win. (Or maybe I just say that because I got extra resources for having the most ports on three occasions.)

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: The quest chain that started with Amazons kidnapping boy goblins wandered off into cunning plans and polar-bear duels, but didn't have any group quests, so Zmorcia was able to keep following it.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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16 September 2011 - Friday

Work: Most of the engineers are going to Vegas to bond or raise morale or something. Support is theoretically invited, but actually too busy doing work (except Boss G, who has already been busy doing work and totally deserves a break). Horrible Customer X is planning some stuff over the weekend, but I'm not oncall, so maybe I can avoid being dragged in.

Gaming: Bulldogs! (Brennan Taylor, Brian Engard) is another FATE-based SF game, but where Diaspora is roughly in the genre of Traveller, Bulldogs! is in the genre of Star Wars. There is none of that nerdy world-building stuff, just random aliens, exotic scenery, reversing the polarity of the technobabble infuser, and dogfights through asteroid belts. (Not that I have any moral high ground here.) The FATE version is pretty similar to DFRPG, including reducing Refresh for cool powers, with the addition of a subsystem for designing weapons/gadgets/spaceships.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Check.

Cats: Miau miau miau!

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15 September 2011 - Thursday

Work: No, Horrible Customer X, do not do your fail thing at 16:00 in the afternoon and then spend an hour making up your mind what to do!

Gaming: Freemarket (Jared A Sorensen, Luke Crane) was advertised to me as a work of genius. I don't know if that's really true, but it certainly has the highest production values of any RPG I've seen lately. It comes in a nice boxed set with a glossy full-color rulebook, several decks of glossy full-color custom cards, some sheets of heavy cardboard tokens, glossy full-color sample characters, and a pad of (non-glossy but still full-color) character sheets. Shiny is like brilliant, right?

The action is set on a space station orbiting Saturn, which is allegedly a post-death, post-scarcity libertarian utopia but actually a socialist dictatorship. The distributed AI that runs the station only cares that you don't damage the station or interfere with the medical treatment of another resident, so it's a pretty benevolant dictator, but there's not much you can do against it. (Also, the Aggregate totally has no backdoors put in by the founders and totally has never been hacked in several decades. The computer is totally your friend). The PCs form a group with some purpose (generally offering a service to some or all of their fellow Freemers) and try to gain reputation and group standing by fulfilling their purpose, foiling those who oppose them, and getting moderated up.

The skill list is fixed, but everything else (geneline, every piece of implanted widgetry, every object you carry around, your group) has three one-word tags, and when you play cards in a challenge, they give you points if they match something that has an applicable tag. When making something, the better you do, the more of the tags you get to set and the fewer the GM gets to set.

Implants and stuff can be upgraded through the use of technical skills, but to upgrade skills takes memories. You can have up to three short-term memories, which you add to during a session, and if you get to the end of the session withou them being lost to deathing, or being stolen or overwritten by hackers, you can promote one to a long-term memory. If you start a session with long-term memories, you can burn one for a skill point. (Quantum gibberish is invoked to make memories non-copyable, so if someone steals one, they have it and you don't. This is dumb, but probably necessary for humans to play the game.)

Conclusion: may be a work of genius, or may only appear that way because it's so open-ended it's difficult to play.

Textual Entertainments: The horror of The Imago Sequence and Other Stories (Laird Barron) is mostly Lovecraftian: disgusting monsters of unknown but possibly extraterrestial or extradimensional origin, evil and often physically mutated worshippers, descent into sickness and madness with optional social opprobrium. The viewpoint character is always a hapless normal losing San, so there is lots of hallucination, lost time, hallucination, and so forth. This gets a little tedious in the longer pieces, but the shorter ones are satisfactorily horrifying.

Visual Entertainments: Another episode of Lucifer. Now this guy is helping lost children! Is there no end to his perfidy?

Food: In-N-Out seemed very appealing, yet I did not eat it!

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14 September 2011 - Wednesday

Work: I think that's mostly it for the training. But when I am in charge, there will be no meetings between 12 and 14:00.

Gaming: The items in Twenty-Four Game Poems (Mark Majcher) are only arguably RPGs (more arguable in some cases than others), but "poem" is a good analogy. They are short to play and have little or no story, but should evoke a particular mood or emotion (not always positive by any means). I don't know how many of them I personally would want to play, but it's definitely a neat idea and expands the limits of the field.

Sequential Entertainments: Name Removed (Nick Wolfe) (which I got to from Rebecca Clements's KinokoFry) is wacky and surreal, but makes its own kind of strange sense. Or maybe that's just me. Sadly, it seems to have suddenly stopped updating earlier this year.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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13 September 2011 - Tuesday

Work: More training. The software Teradata uses for Support is much more elaborate than ours, but I will probably be able to use it without dying after we switch over. What will kill me is customers who want unending Webexes to try to fix their mismanagement of their clusters.

Visual Entertainments: Huge fail! Marith and I were both stuck at work forever and ever so there was no anime for us.

Cats: Poor cats who have never been fed! Ever! Not even crunchyfoods!

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12 September 2011 - Monday

Work: Unlike the basic model of Monday, this one comes with bonus all-day training at no extra charge! It also comes with extra work after getting home, although really not a huge amount.

Textual Entertainments: The Engine's Child (Holly Phillips) is teh winz0r: non-European fantasy with unexplained magic and a young female protagonist who has agency. Also, hydroelectric power is a significant plot point.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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11 September 2011 - Sunday

Work: I avoided doing work today by claiming to have other plans. Which I did, but possibly shouldn't have.

Random Encounters: Before executing my plans, I went down to Castro Street to see Ken and Ja Baby. There was bagel and also Farmers' Market. And cuteness.

Gaming: I didn't have much prepared, because I suck, but the PCs managed to redefeat the master villains and stop them from dropping the Rock of Doom into the Lake of Doom to cause a Doom Overflow Error. They got XP, loot, and the gratitude of the city! Next, back into the Shadowfell to do the quest they accepted for help in this quest, and then maybe onward to the Lost Tiefling City of Infinite Doom Treasure!

More Gaming: The Laundry RPG (Gareth Hanrahan, Jason Durall, John Snead, based on the books by Charles Stross) uses the CoC system, which I guess accentuates the archaic and paperwork-ridden nature of the Laundry, but is painful to contemplate playing. Those were the days when games had rules, not "systems"! (What is a system but an excuse for the feeble-minded to avoid memorizing so many rules, anyway?)

That aside, it seems like a reasonable adaptation of the setting and has the same sort of humor.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Zmorcia finished the quest chain Marith recommended, because it now dead-ends after the first cut scene. Bah!

Cats: Today, no cats were trapped in my closets!

decapitated quest chains by marith (Thu Sep 15 10:02:35 2011)

Aw man! That's too bad.

There are two other really cool quest chains I remember from Northrend that you would probably enjoy a lot:

- Go to K3 in the Snow peaks and help a goblin lady whose menfolk have all been captured by Amazon ice warriors riding polar bears. I guarantee this questline does not go where you think it's going :)

- Go to Zul'Drak and do a few of the intro quests and you'll come across a necklace. It's a present. For you. Don't put it on :)

Re: decapitated quest chains by Trip (Thu Sep 15 10:49:49 2011)

I am waffling! Zmorcia is already level 81, so maybe I should leave the remaining Northrend quests for a subsequent character. On the other hand, Amazon ice warriors riding polar bears!

quests by marith (Thu Sep 15 21:52:27 2011)

Well, um, um, make another character and nag me to play with her! She can apprentice in turn to each of my alts and learn their l33t skills! We can make it a challenge to seek out and do mostly quests you haven't done before.

Re: quests by Trip (Fri Sep 16 09:35:28 2011)

Play WoW with... other people? I'm not sure that's a good idea.

Re: quests by marith (Fri Sep 16 21:13:50 2011)

Sisters are not the same as other people!

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10 September 2011 - Saturday

Work: Check. It was mostly scripting, which is okay, but I did not know when I would be needed for it, so it really cut into my evening.

Gaming: Today's theme for indie games is "British women violating social norms"!

Courtesans (Ian Warner) is just what it says on the tin: courtesans of the London demimonde (from mid-C17 to late C19), trying to get admirers who will give them wealth and influence, and alternately plotting against and comforting their sisters in the house. Of course the raunchiness level is adjustable, but it's higher than Ace of Hearts — you need to know if your courtesan qualifies to make any pregnancy rolls, at least. There is also a lot more hot girl-on-girl action than I would have expected; no idea if it's at all historically accurate. (I'm sure there is also hot boy-on-boy action, but since all the PCs are female, it's not likely to come up.) As you might expect, it is a very social game and not action-oriented at all, although there are combatish rules as an optional appendix. The writer's voice is weirdly modern and unrefined, which sort of put me off, but maybe other people would be fine with it.

Hellcats and Hockeysticks (Andrew Peregrine) is high school high jinks at an all-girl's school that is apparently a parody of some movies that are well-known in Britain and completely obscure in the US. There's a lot of violence (as well as witchcraft and mad science), but it's pretty cartoonish: you can beat someone up, but you can't kill them. To defeat them, you have to drain their Willpower, which you can do by beating them up, but pranking them, foiling their plans, or otherwise humiliating them is at least as effective. Also, extensive rules for cliques fracturing and reforming. Sadly, I think TFOS did more and better in fewer pages, but that could just be nostalgia.

Textual Entertainments: Wayfinder is the sequel/conclusion to Truthseeker(by Internationally Acclaimed Author C E Murphy), in which villainy is finally averted and there are finally smooches! There is not enough Kelly, but she is still awesome, so it is okay forgivable.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Hardly any!

Cats: While I was putting away laundry, Marmalade snuck into the closet unobserved, so when I tried to go to sleep, I heard mysterious thumping and miauing and could not figure out where it was coming from even when I looked all over the apartment! Fortunately I eventually figured it out and freed him before he became distraught or made me distraught.

kelly by kit (Tue Sep 20 04:01:50 2011)

I'm actually vaguely tempted to write something with Kelly as the main character. Someday. In my copious free time. :)

Re: Kelly by Trip (Tue Sep 20 09:07:15 2011)

<hopeful>When you get 1000 people on the mailing list?</hopeful>

re: kelly by kit (Thu Sep 29 13:45:37 2011)

laughs That doesn't seem likely, really. :)

Re: kelly by Trip (Thu Sep 29 14:03:32 2011)

Curses! I shake my puny tentacle!

re: kelly by kit (Sat Oct 1 07:02:19 2011)

If only I didn't need to sleep, I could get so many more stories written!

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9 September 2011 - Friday

Work: It is Friday, but Big Customer X is on fire, and the person who is on call is out of phase and not useful for this.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Check.

Cats: Miau! Also miau! And mzrfrtzrtz.

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8 September 2011 - Thursday

Work: Is it Friday yet?

Gaming: No Earthdawn for us.

Visual Entertainments: Lucifer is still pretty cool. And ominous!

Cats: Twelve paws!

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7 September 2011 - Wednesday

Work: Check.

Gaming: Although I got it from Indie Press Revolution, Full Light, Full Steam (Joshua BishopRoby) seems more like a mainstream game from the world in which indie games have redefined what RPG systems look like. It has a very simple dice mechanic that it uses for everything, analogs to Fate aspects where current penalties lead to future bonuses, and advice on setting scenes with explicitly narrative underpinnings, but they're matter-of-fact, not new and revolutionary. I think this makes me optimistic about the future of gaming.

(If it wasn't obvious from the title, FLFS is solar-system-spanning steampunk space opera of the heroic British Astronautical Navy vs everyone else.)

Textual Entertainments: The Magician King (Lev Grossman), sequel to the Campbell-winning The Magicians, is also full of wonder but also brutal to the main character's hopes and dreams. Just because you're the hero doesn't mean you don't lose!

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Check.

Cats: Twelve fuzzy paws!

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6 September 2011 - Tuesday

Work: It's like Monday, only it's being held on a Tuesday this week. Now with bonus leftover hosage from the weekend!

Textual Educations: Packing For Mars (Mary Roach) is about the extremely unglamorous mechanics of living in space, and the people who make it possible at all. There are also amusing digressions into other horrifying topics like the experimental animals of the early space program, and entertaining footnotes on almost every page, because Roach is funny like that (see her previous books Stiff, on what happens to corpses, and Bonk, about the scientific study of sex).

Sequential Entertainments: Ever since reading Agatha H and the Airship City, I've been rereading Girl Genius from the start, and I finally caught up to the current page. Wow, that's a lot of stuff. But it's all good!

Visual Entertainments: Look, it really is Tuesday!

  • Star Driver 8: Wow. They didn't even try to be subtle.
  • Star Driver 9: That is indeed the traditional method of making sure an investigation produces sound results. Also, fox recruiting FTW!
  • Clannad After Story 11: Is it just me, or did Tomoya miss a huge cue from Nagisa?
  • Kiddy Girl-And 1-2: ...yah. Well, maybe Ascoeur will be eaten by space penguins and Q-feuille will get a real partner? Maybe? Please?
  • Brighter Than The Dawning Blue 5: It's the beach episode! With unexamined social norms!

Cats: Twelve fuzzy paws!

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5 September 2011 - Monday

Work: Today, I watched the second stage of the project slowly grind its way in the direction of completion, and provided updates to assure the customer that it hadn't ground to a halt. (It did grind to a halt, but only after I went to bed.)

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: The "swift purple gryphon" is not actually purple, but it is actually swift, and its tack is purple, which is close enough.

Zmorcia is doing the quest chain in eastern Dragonblight that begins with swooping down on a borrowed gryphon to save fleeing townsfolk because Marith says it is awesome, even though it is low-level to her now, but I think once that is done she will head for Cataclysmland. I hear they have tentacles writing on the horizon there.

Cats: Aspen has taken to lurking at the other end of the kitchen when I serve gooshyfood, but once I slide a plate over to her, she will let me pass without spazzing out. I'm not sure what her malfunction is.

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4 September 2011 - Sunday

Work: Today, I watched the big project creep along some more, but it eventually got to an end.

Gaming: Trail of Cthulhu (Kenneth Hite) is a game of investigation and the Cthulhu Mythos, with the emphasis on investigation. It's based on the GUMSHOE system by Robin Laws, which takes as a basic principle that all attempts to use an investigation skill to find a clue succeed, as long as a clue exists for that skill and the player thinks to make the attempt. It seems weird, but the idea of "succeed, or fail interestingly" is pretty compelling, and I'm sure it doesn't take many investigation-oriented games to realize that failing to find the clue is never interesting. Non-investigatory skills get a simple system based on rolling 1d6 vs a target number of 2-8 (typically 3-4) with the option to spend some of a very limited number of per-skill points for bonuses. (You can spend points for investigative skills too, but that just gets you more information or scenery-chewing opportunities; the basic clue leading to your eventual doom is guaranteed.)

Sanity is divided into Stability, which can be recovered in the short term, and Sanity, which is only lost when your Stability bottoms out, and removes you from play when it hits zero. In the Purist Lovecraftian mode of play, Sanity never goes up, but in the Pulp mode you might get a few Sanity points if you successfully crush the cult/banish the monster.

I would like to try it sometime, but even when you aren't denied any clues, investigative games still take up a lot of scarce playing time.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: Zmorcia has reached level 81, and accumulated the 5000 gold to train the penultimate level of riding! Now she just needs to find someone who sells the faster mounts, so that she can fly around Wintergrasp digging up the sweet sweet saronite even more efficiently.

Cats: Ghirardelli likes to come sit by me when I am at the computer, probably because the fan is there and he has a lot of fur. He and Marmalade are both very opaque cats.

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3 September 2011 - Saturday

Work: Spent the day monitoring the first stage of the project of Big Customer X, instead of going to Roseville to have fun with my friends. At least there were no huge explosions.

Textual Entertainments: Bitter Seeds (Ian Tregillis) is as bleak as the title suggests, but it's WWII with extra doom (<rot13> Oevgvfu jneybpxf jub oevor Lbt-Fbgubgu jvgu oybbq fnpevsvprf, Trezna rkcrevzragny fhowrpgf jvgu fhcrecbjref sebz orvat gbegherq nf puvyqera naq univat ynetr nzbhagf bs ryrpgevpny pheerag eha guebhtu gurve oenvaf </rot13>), so you can't expect too much happiness. It was interesting but didn't feel like it resolved fully and satisfyingly.

Massively-Multiplayer Online Entertainments: I only had to check the customer periodically, so there was plenty of time to play WoW. Zmorcia did a bunch of quests in western Dragonblight, which is getting pretty empty on the quest map.

Visual Entertainments: Finished the first disc of Eureka Seven. It is undistinguished, but something to watch while nomming chips and salsa.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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2 September 2011 - Friday

Modern Medicine: My eyestalks are not worse, and even look better on the Diagnostotron™, so I have chosen to forgo the treatment that would give me cataracts and might not even help.

Work: Working from home today, with some amount of enthusiasm. No one thinks Big Customer X will get through their big weekend project without disaster.

Gaming: Between the stuff I got at Worldcon and going a little crazy with the power to buy PDFs at Indie Press Revolution, I have a lot of games to read. However, many of them are pretty small, so I was able to read quite a few today.

Remember Tomorrow (Gregor Hutton) is a GMless, or maybe rotating-GM, cyberpunk game. It's a tiny indie game, so there's only minimal setting, but it has a definite feel of early cyberpunk, Neuromancer or HardWired. (I blame the pipes.) Mechanics are minimal: one roll per scene, to see who gets the immediate goal, and whether the active PC can check off any of Ready, Willing, or Able. Check off all three and you accomplish your goal, accomplish three goals and you get written out of the game as a winner, and can introduce a new PC if you like. Organizations can likewise accomplish their goals and get written out.

Ace of Hearts (James "Grim" Desborough) is a silly but only optionally raunchy game about trying to be named the successor to the madam of a brothel in a failing mining town in the Old West. It is unquestionably a role-playing game, but it also has victory points, which you can get by setting scenes at various places in the town or resolving them to the detriment of your rivals.

Hard Boiled Armies (Fred Hicks) is a third-party supplement for doing large-scale combat in D&D4e. The key insight is to write up units as characters/monsters, but with one square and one round being defined as much larger. That's easier conceived of than implemented, which is why I don't mind paying a few bucks for the notes of someone who's already encountered all the problems.

Hard Boiled Cultures (Fred Hicks, Jonathan Walton) is another third-party supplement for D&D4e, this one for making cultural variants of the currently mono-cultural racial packages. The basic idea is to find some norm of the existing race, and figure out how the new culture embodies, twists, breaks, or is changed by it, after which it should be clear what the stat/skill bonuses should be and whether you need to invent a new racial power. They seem to regard all stat bonuses, even Strength, as culturally determined, which seems weird to me but might be right for D&D4e, which only looks simulationist.

Adventures Into Darkness (Kenneth Hite) is the sourcebook for gaming in the setting of the Golden-age comics that an alternate HP Lovecraft wrote back in his timeline's '30s and 40s after failing to die of cancer in 1937. Ah, the Golden Age, when continuity hadn't been invented and would have been a dirty word if it had!

Textual Entertainments: I tried to read Circle of Enemies (third in Harry Connolly's "Twenty Palaces" series) but discovered that I didn't remember enough of the doom from the previous book (Game of Cages), so I went back and reread that, and then read Circle of Enemies. They are still awesome and you should read them (starting with Child of Fire). Even if you have read them, you should reread them.

Circle of Enemies shakes things up for Ray, and shows him that the Society is both even more horrible and even more indispensible that he thought. It ends with his future pretty open, so it could be the last book of the series, but I don't know whether it actually is. Certainly there are many more stories to tell there, and I think Connolly should write them all and people should give him piles of money for them.

Cats: Twelve paws!

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1 September 2011 - Thursday

Work: Looks like I can't escape being on call this weekend.

Sequential Entertainments: The awesomeness continues in volume 3 of Gunnerkrigg Court (Thomas Siddell)!

Visual Entertainments: Because we were more organized this time, we finished the first episode of Lucifer and got all the way through the second before people had to pass out.

Pro bono work? Helping out at a soup kitchen? This guy must be evil!

Cats: Twelve paws!

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