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Journal Journal: This Week at Coffee

I left off two anime from last week's episode*. One's name is Genshiken, which we watched several episodes of. It was funny and enjoyable, but one can only stay awake so long into the early morning. The other was Devil Hunter Yohko, which we watched only long enough to discover it was an H movie.

This is a special episode, as none of us had any other New Years plans, so we met at B's house to watch anime into the new year. Normally, we only do this on Friday nights.

Anyway, this week, we watched a few episodes of The Galaxy Railways, which I found I liked, if only for the screwy time travel in the first couple episodes. But then, I'm a former Trek addict. It's kinda weird getting your head around spacegoing steam engines, but the visuals "explain" it well enough. There are a number of cliches; The plot (in some ways) is predictable.

We followed with two or three episodes of My Hime. It got funnier and funnier, but we stopped watching after tentacles showed up.

Next, we watched Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. Lots of fanservice. Especially after the first episode. It's similar to GetBackers, I suppose, but with a different style of humor.

Following that, we watched another disc of Ranma 1/2. (Disc 3) Still awesome, never seems to get stale.

And now, following that, I'm heading home. :-)

*I've been writing about my weekly anime habits in a group on Multiply. but since Multiply's been up and down all eveninig, I'm writing here for the moment.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Multiply down 2

Multiply has been down all day, on New Years Eve. Did I miss a scheduled downtime announcement?

User Journal

Journal Journal: All that over me trying to reduce PVP...But the Roleplaying! 3

My character Jorge Mordin died again, and I learned a lesson: When two people want to fight, don't get involved.

Last week we had 12 people show up to play D&D as part of the same group. It was insane, but we had to find a way to add six players to the party. Since we were far away from any town, the only way to do it was to have us stumble across each other.

Well, T always plays impulsive characters, and so has Q. (In fact, the two of them have been responsible for 100% of all PVP combat since I started playing in a group with them.) If he senses movement, he shoots an arrow at it without identifying it first. And he builds his characters such that he pretty much has to roll a natural 1 (5% chance of that, BTW) to miss. So T lets fly an arrow, and it hits a member of the other party (the guys who we're trying to merge with us.). The other party gears up to fight our party.

Jorge, not wanting conflict without reason, not liking the odds, and sick of T's and Q's characters' antics (both from an alignment and personal perspective.), cast Command on T's character, and forced him to fall prone for six seconds. Q's character sees this and takes advantage by attacking T's character. So Jorge casts Command on Q's character, forcing him to fall prone for six seconds. By this time, T's character gets up, and attacks Q's character.

Jorge has average intelligence, but even he realizes that both parties won't be stopped by Command. So he stops messing with them and works at diplomacy with the other party and his own party members to try to prevent the fight from spreading.

T and Q's characters mortally wound each other and knock each other out. My entire party, which consists of Jorge, a cleric of Moradin, Redgar, a cleric of Pelor, and a 6-INT orc barbarian, is willing to let them die. A member of the other party, a cleric of St. Cuthbert (patron deity of justice), walks over and stabilizes both with minor cure spells.

Then he makes his case that these two should be tried for acts of brigandry, and my party isn't going to fight it, but could we hold a tribunal here and be done with it now? The two are found guilty, and the cleric of St. Cuthbert executes them.

(This is why D&D isn't just for kids, folks...)

Anyway, T (the player) blames me (the player) for his character dying, and swears that he's going to get his revenge. Up until now, I hadn't gotten involved in the cycle of party fratricide that T and Q have continually induced (both have gone through at least three characters each since August.). While my character's motivations were legit, I (the player) knew that my character was going to get sucked into it.

So it was no surprise to me this week when T came in with a ranger whose favored enemy was dwarves (and, mind you, I'm the only dwarf in the party), and had developed a strong hatred for the dwarven race.

This week, we killed a large fire elemental. In game time, it took 36 seconds. However, it took almost two hours of play time to get through those six rounds with 9 players. Afterward, we were welcomed by a community of wood elves, fed, and given shelter for the night.

In the middle of the night, it was no surprise to me (the player) when T's character crept up on me and performed a coup de gras. (Specifically, he decapitated Jorge while the character was asleep.) Q, who was role playing his new--lawful and honorable knight--character amazingly well, hears a commotion, walks in, and sees T's character standing over my headless body with a bloody axe, puts two and two together, and attacks T.

My character being dead, I (the player) wandered elsewhere while the ensuing combat took place. Suffice it to say that most of the party was drawn into combat against T's character. When T's character died, it was immediately agreed by almost all of the characters that T's character's gold and equipment would be used to fund a full resurrection for Jorge. The remaining two character wanted T's loot for themselves, but were warned by Q's knight character that if they touched T's character's body, he would slay them. Well, they touched T's character's body, and the whole party was drawn into combat again. The two raiding PCs, and one of the elven hosts, was killed in the process. (Though the elven host was killed by one of the raiding PCs.)

Ultimately, the party had lost four characters to PVP combat. My level 7 cleric, a level 5 ranger, a level 5 fighter, and a level five something-or-other.

As a result, some of the loot from the other three dead characters was put towards getting Jorge "True Resurrection", which essentially means he's brought back to life without any non-monetary consequences. (I have to admit that I'm pleased that my character was popular enough that pretty much all of the characters were willing to get true resurrection for him. Although it's more than a little curious that the death of three party members paid for it, considering the party leadership is all good-aligned (or neutral leading towards good).)

But here's the catch...My character is a dwarf, worshiping a dwarven deity. He's one alignment-step away from his deity. He was killed in an elven forst (though not by elves), and has spent the entire campaign as best-buddies with a cleric of Pelor (played by that redgar fellow you might have seen reply) and his Pelor-worshiping orc friend (the 6-INT tank.). And he'd even given the church of Pelor a couple thousand gold (though he'd given his own church far more) for services rendered to the party. Not only that, but he'd met Pelor. (Though he hadn't intended or expected it.)

And he just got resurrected in a church of Pelor.

Well, it was enough of an issue that Pelor (most everyone else's deity) and Moradin (my character's deity) met and discussed the problem. Moradin rebuked my character, and Pelor gave my character the option of serving him. Which my character took.

So now my character's mental state is really screwed up.

First, he spent his entire life worshiping and serving the deity of his race, and was rebuked by that deity for charitable actions taken by my character that happened to benefit Pelor, and was resurrected in a temple of Pelor. And now he's obliged to worship Pelor, which, in D&D terms, is a different religion.

Second, he died again, under similar circumstance to the first two times* he died. The first two times, he was asleep when he was half-swallowed by a giant humanoid crab. Both times were very closely spaced, while he was stuck in the thing's mouth. The third time, he was murdered while he was asleep. He already had developed a phobia of aberrations**, and now he's scared to death(no pun intended) to go to sleep.

So now Jorge's going to be going through severe mental duress as he wrestles with a change in religion and the complications associated with becoming phobic of both aberrations and sleep. Terror of a certain class of monsters isn't debilitating, but not getting enough sleep would prevent him from having access to any memorized spells. (Though he could technically still use scrolls and wands. He might start carrying a lot of those...)

* Remember, my DM has a house rule where if someone casts a Cure spell on you the same round you hit "die" (hit -10 hit points), you didn't really die...But you probably did have a "near-death" spiritual experience.

** That large crab thing's creature type was aberration. Taking a phobia for aberrations turned out to be easier than role playing PTSD; There are already simple rules for phobias. PTSD is a complicated mental illness that I'd have a hard time role playing correctly.


Journal Journal: Multidimensional triangulation software 2

I wrote a PHP script that narrows down the field of a search as you feed it data points, and threw it up on Google Code under the GPLv2. You can try it here.

Here's a description of the algorithm I devised for it:

We determine the region the target lies in by creating the smallest-possible n-sphere guaranteed to contain all of the points contained in the overlapping region between two other n-spheres. While this necessarily returns an n-volume larger than really necessary, we're guaranteed that our target is within the region, and our calculation is simplified.

On each iteration of the algorithm, we intersect the newest data point with the previous estimated region, and the smallest n-sphere containing that intersection becomes our new estimated region.

Unless someone else already has a patent on it, I consider my algorithm to be in the public domain.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal Journal: *That* was memorable roleplaying

So I'm part of a regular Saturday D&D group. One of our players' two-year-old sister had gone through his room in the last week, and his character sheet is nowhere to be found. So he rolled up a changeling ranger as a replacement character.

Now, this guy is normally awful at roleplaying. He constantly metagames, yet manages not to think things through.

Our remaining party (It's assumed that his prior character ran off after last session's major battle), discovers him by way of witnessing his aggressive action against a bunch of pixies. (He saw something fluttering in the air and shot it with his bow. That character has insane bonuses for a level 6 character, regularly getting check results in the low to mid 30s.) The pixies saw us, and pleaded with us to kill the man who was attacking them.

My character casts Bull's Strength on the party tank (Who normally has 22 str; This bumped him up to 26. If he'd gone into rage, he would have gone up to 30...and that's happened before.), who runs over and lays one good solid hit into him after he'd been hit a couple times by the pixie's arrows. The ranger (Who's only wearing traveler's clothing...A fact that was established after the rest of the circumstances...) shouts "They attacked me first", and rolls a 29 on his bluff check.

The party bard and myself, who both understand Common, fail our sense motive checks miserably. The tank, however, only knows orc, and gets ready to deal another blow. My character (Who, after a series of previous events, sat down and learned a few choice words in Orc.) shouts "Hold!" in Orc, which the tank interpreted literally. The tank put the ranger into a very, very good grapple.

So now the ranger's in trouble. He tries shifting into a couple different appearances, to try to gain sympathy. (Hell, all he'd have had to do was ask for another bluff check...) At one point, he shifted to the appearance of an Orc. Our tank, insulted, and aware that the thing in his arms was trying to be sly, tried to knock him out. One problem: He forgot he was wearing gauntlets (failed his wisdom check), critted, and dealt 19 lethal damage points to the back of the ranger's head, putting him at -6 HP. (Which nobody realized until the player asked how to make a stabilization check.)

My character had no sympathy for the ranger, and was going to let him die. The other cleric in the party stabilized him. I argued that the closest thing to law in this area was the pixies, so we should leave him, and let the pixies do what they wanted with him. (The DM figured he had a 50% chance that the pixies would come back. Lucky bastard escaped by a roll of the dice.)

So, some time later, our party is approaching city gates. We look behind us, and see an injured woman limping along with gashes and such, dressed in the clerical vestments of Heironeous. The other cleric and I hurry back to help her. She claims to have been attacked in the woods. (Not a surprising statement; We'd had a random encounter with an owlbear.) In reality, she was that ranger we encountered earlier, who'd changed clothes and appearances.

The players all knew this, but the characters didn't. And had no real reason to suspect. So we had to wander around town all day pretending that we didn't know she'd be snatching at our purse strings.

Everyone was extremely impressed that the player who normally couldn't roleplay for crap managed to grease his way back into the fold.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Macrogame Update 5

I came up with a name for my game: Macrogame. Not particularly creative, but it's at least descriptive.

What I wrote yesterday has been changed slightly. Rather than discerning between citizens and military, you only have citizens, but they may be of a variety of classes. (Spartans? What is your profession?) This is due to a friend's insistence that he be able to use hoards of civilians as shields.

I also began to devise an alternate combat system for cases when there is an insufficient number of people interested in the hack-and-slash side of gameplay:

As it happens, there are four basic combat modifiers: Melee attack and defense, Ranged attack and defense, medic and scouting. Scouting aids offensive actions, while medic resources aid defense. Each class has its own set of each of these modifiers.

The cycle of combat between two sides (A&B) plays as thus: (Side A is whoever has the higher Scouting score)

  1. Side A sums up all of the Ranged Attack Scores for all of its characters, and adds its scouting score sum.
  2. Side B sums up all of the Ranged Defense Scores for all of its characters, and adds its medic score sum.
  3. Side B's sum is subtracted from Side A's sum, and the resulting value (if positive) represents a damage score to be applied to Side B.
  4. Side B loses characters depending on the damage score. (Not yet sure of the exact system, but it will likely pick off characters with low ranged defenses first.)
  5. Side B sums up all of the Ranged Attack Scores for all of its remaining characters, and adds its scouting score sum.
  6. Side A sums up all of the Ranged Defense Scores for all of its characters, and adds its medic score sum.
  7. Side A's sum is subtracted from Side B's sum, and the resulting value (if positive) represents a damage score to be applied to Side A.
  8. Side B loses characters depending on the damage score. (Again, not yet sure of the system, but characters with low ranged scores will likely be picked off first.)
  9. Side A sums up all of the Melee Attack Scores for all of its remaining characters, and adds its scouting score sum.
  10. Side B sums up all of the Melee Defense Scores for all of its remaining characters, and adds its medic score sum.
  11. Side B's sum is subtracted from Side A's sum, and the result (if positive) represents a damage score to be applied to Side B.
  12. Side B sums up all of the Melee Attack Scores for all of its remaining characters, and adds its scouting score sum.
  13. Side A sums up all of the Melee Defense Score for all of its remaining characters, and adds its medic score sum.
  14. Side A's sum is subtracted from Side B's sum, and the result (if positive) represents a damage score to be applied to Side B.
  15. The battle is over for this turn.

Hopefully, that makes sense.

Here's a preliminary list of modifiers: (Needs to be tested, then likely changed.)

All modifiers are positive, and add to a base score of 1.
Class: (Melee Attack/Melee Defense) (Range Attack/Ranged Defense) (Medic) (Scout)
Commoner: (0/0) (0/0) 0 1 -- Not good for much. But nobody notices a commoner, so they might get a small benefit to scouting.
Adept: (1/1) (0/1) 0 2 -- Has access to some minor spells (such as dancing lights, light, flare and ghost sound) that can benefit both combat and scouting.
Expert: (0/0) (0/0) 2 2 -- I'm assuming a trained medic and scout.
Warrior: (2/2) (2/2) 0 2 -- Cheap combat unit.
Barbarian: (5/3) (0/5) 0 0 -- Rage grants a benefit to melee attack, but a detriment to melee defense.
Bard: (2/2) (2/2) 2 5 -- His music inspires everyone to do their job better. Plus, he can go into town ahead of everyone, sing a few songs, and get people to tell him things. So he's something of a scout.
Cleric: (3/5) (0/5) 10 0 -- Traditional healer, with a bit of fighting ability.
Druid: (5/5) (0/2) 0 5 -- Some combat and scouting potential. Not sure how this class fits in to the overall environment, though. May be removed later.
Fighter: (10/10) (5/5) 2 0 -- More powerful combat unit.
Monk: (10/10) (0/5) 5 5 -- Walking death. Knows healing herbs. Not so great at range.
Paladin: (10/10) (5/5) 3 0 -- Kinda like a fighter, but able to perform better healing.
Ranger: (5/5) (15/5) 5 15 -- Good with a bow, and an awesome scout. Also knows how to heal.
Rogue: (5/5) (5/5) 0 20 -- Nobody can ferret out information like a rogue.
Wizard: (0/5) (20/5) 0 0 -- Magic missile, fireball...A wizard with the right spells, at the right distance, is deadly. Scry would be helpful for scouting, but I left it out.

Some final details on macro play:

It's known that land produces food, and that the population consumes it. The population grows by 10% per year if 100% of food demand is met. Population growth drops by 10% per year per 20% below 100% food demand satisfaction. So between 80& and 99% food demand satisfaction, population growth is stagnant. Between 60% and 79% food demand satisfaction, the population shrinks by 10% per year. Between 40% and 59% food demand satisfaction, the population shrinks by 20% per year. And so on. (If you don't feed them at all, don't investigate how the few remaining don't want to know.)

In times of starvation, I give the player the happy choice of deciding which groups begin to die off. Do the commoners die first, the minor military units, or the top brass? Just something to think about.

I haven't given any thought to how much it will cost to train a level 1 unit of each class, but I did decide that any unit that survives a battle automatically gains a level. I haven't decided how that might affect their combat bonuses for the alternate battle mode.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal Journal: Woohoo! I'm writing a game. 3

This is fun. I'm writing a turn-based economic strategy game based on--wait for it--the Open Game Content.

You might be thinking, "Wha?--"

It's essentially a build-off from an old idea I'd had called e-Tale, where each player would be in charge of a competing organization, and the lower members of the organizations would do battle, instead of the the players themselves. The players would be left to roleplaying, and the combat mechanics would be left to someone else.

The game I'm writing (I haven't given it a name yet), is intended to do essentially the same thing, except you now have two classes of players. You have the roleplayers at the upper tier, and you have the hack-and-slash types who handle the combat. (Kinda like how some folks like playing in D&D miniatures tournaments.)

Here's what I've got written down so far:


You have four basic resources:

  1. Land
  2. Citizens
  3. Military
  4. Food
  • Land...
    • produces food
    • holds a fraction of the national civilization
  • Citizens
    • Consume food
    • may be obtained
      • over time
      • by claiming/conquering land
    • may be converted to military units, at the expense of food
  • Military units
    • Consume food (periodic expense)
    • May be created by converting citizens, at the expense of food
    • May be used
      • to claim/conquer land
      • to steal food from another nation
  • Food
    • is produced by land
    • May be stolen/lost in raids
    • Is consumed by
      • citizens (periodic expense)
      • military (periodic expense)
      • training (converting citizens to military units) (incidental expense)

Macro play strategies should be obvious. You can physically conquer an opponent's land, claiming all his citizens, or you can steal his food and force him to choose between feeding his citizens or his military units. Eventually, he'll run out of military units, either by having starved them to death, or by running out of citizens to train.

I still have to work out what it costs to train each kind of unit. Barbarians, bards, clerics, druids, fighters, monks, paladins, rangers, rogues, sorcerers wizards, warriors, experts and adepts. I'll probably cull a few from the list; Some aren't particularly suited to hack-and-slash.

When first-tier players have chosen their activities for the round, there are likely to be military conflicts between the nations. Then second-tier players get to have their fun. They'll be given a battlefield map, rosters of the opposing armies, and be allowed to play out the battle. The results get relayed to the first-tier players, whose resources are adjusted, and they then take their next turn.

Obviously, first-tier play is suitable for high-latency players, while second-tier play would best be done around a table.

One thing I need to do, however, is set up alternate second-tier rules, for when second-tier players are unavailable.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tightening the Circle by Loosening it 5

Tightening the Circle by loosening it.

I've noticed that the Journal Circle is divided between at least three blogging platforms. You have folks who use their Slashdot journals, folks who do most of their writings on Multiply, and at least one guy (bwjones comes to mind) who posts on his own server and links back in both his Slashdot journal and Multiply blog.

It occurred to me that all modern blogging platforms have one thing in common: RSS. Then it occurred to me that I could glue the Circle back together by building a configurable RSS aggregator.

Here's one way it could work. (I have in mind at least one other, but I suspect Praedon would want to jump on that incarnation. ;-) )

  1. An administrator installs the software and sets a group access code.
  2. Jo/e Circle Member creates an account (after providing his group access password)
  3. Jo/e Circle Member enters a list of RSS feeds, and selects whether each one may be added to the group master feed. (The master feed is visible to anyone with the right URL.)
  4. Jo/e Circle Member can then build a personal feed from any of the feeds found in the group master feed, and any private feed he's been given an access code to.

From time to time, I take on a personal programming project as a skill-building exercise. This was supposed to be a relatively simple one. However, I've been asked to help implement one of my other ideas on someone else's site, so I'm not going to have as much time to work on this one.

The question is, if I built this thing, would any of you use it?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Happy Birthday To Me: A Year in Retrospect 9

So I'm now 24 years old. One year ago this minute, I was sitting in a bowl chair in my cousin's bedroom, half asleep, depressed because I couldn't stand staying with my grandparents for any longer for all the maintenance my grandfather required. I'd been working on a d20 character sheet as my introduction to PHP. I was also looking at reviving e-Tale.

I was looking forward to my first classes at a four-year college, where I'd start learning about SQL. I had another year as President of Computer Club coming up, and we'd elected a new VP, Treasurer and Secretary.

It's now a year later. My grandfather died after a long spell in a nursing home. I never did finish that character sheet, though I did upload it to Google Code. I spent ten months living in the slums with a swell gal who became Secretary of Computer Club. I learned to use (and like) public transportation. I grew new friendships through Computer Club, and cultivated certain members to be able to lead the club when I stepped down. For insurance reasons, I dropped out of school and got an awesome full-time job where I get paid to use my brain. I started a small online community that now has over 100 members from dozens of countries. I created a programming website called Rosetta Code that hit the front page of Slashdot. I traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with a "cool guy". I sorta revived e-Tale with an email-based campaign (For which all but one of the players is still subscribed to the mailing list.), but that tanked after someone screwed with my server. My favorite restaurant went out of business due to a shakedown by the local power company. I'm pondering building a social network for roleplayers. And I moved most of my writings to Multiply.

It's been a busy year, bot those are the highlights. I wonder how I'll look at the upcoming year in retrospect.

And there I go, listening to myself sing again.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal Journal: D&D: Character Blog 3

A couple weeks ago, I spontaneously found myself on hand at the start of a D&D campaign with folks I didn't I joined it. My character, Jorge Mordin, has a magical journal. While it doesn't (yet) seem different from a normal journal to him, its one magical property is that it can write back to him. (For those of you who read HP & the Chamber of Secrets, think along the lines of Tom Riddle's diary. Sans the ability to recreate its owner...)

If you'd like to read it (and write to him through it), you can.

It's been a long time since I made a D&D: post. Don't expect it to happen very frequently, at least not on Slashdot. That's kinda the purpose of Jorge's journal.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A brief list of things that are being discussed at the GUF

A brief discussion about possible avenues of colonization.
Some speculation on how Earth politics will expand to space.
A discussion about the direction of Grokked Universe.
A discussion about territory in space.
A mention about aliens and their potential influence. ( I really didn't want to go there...)
A discussion about motivations to colonize Mars.
Some theorization about radiotelepathy.
A bunch of peoples' responses to my question of how the world will be different in 50 years.
A composite thread about FTL and warfare. (Though not how the two relate to each other.)

One of you guys created an account, but I haven't seen any posts from any of you. C'mon, you're missing out on the fun!


Journal Journal: How do you think the world will be different in 50 years? 20

Alright, so I'm working on a writing project with a few other people where we're creating a science-fiction universe with the intention of allowing it to be used in others' fiction projects, such as stories, books, webcomics, etc. (It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license)

I'm doing research to find potential avenues of exploration. To this end, I'm asking people of different backgrounds a complicated question: How do you thing the world will be different in 50 years?

Here are a few points to consider (Feel free to go beyond these, of course.):

  • Who will be the dominant global economic and military powers?
  • How will technology change our lives? What technologies will be responsible for the change?
  • What social changes will we see?
  • Examine your current job. How will your job be done differently in 50 years?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Grokked Universe 3

So I'm at it again, this time I've created a wiki/forum combo for the creation of a brand-new science-fiction universe. My intention is to build a universe that amateur writers can use as a basis for writing stories.

The Grokked Universe wiki is here. Don't expect to create an account on the wiki; I've got it locked down so that I control who gets accounts. (It was easier to limit account creation to Sysop users than to try to give joe user less-than-typical access.)

The Grokked Universe Forum, or GUF, is where discussion will take place, and may be found here.

I created Grokked Universe because I like to think extensively and logically about science-fiction topics, and I needed a way to draw other interested folks into the discussion. That and creating a literverse sounded like a worthwhile effort.

User Journal

Journal Journal: An experiment 1

This is an extremely unpolished experiment. It's a collaborative "choose your own adventure" story, using MediaWiki as a CMS.

The idea is loosely modeled after Addventure, a site a participated in in my youth.

  1. Basically, each page contains a bit of narration. You read the narration, and you look at the choices presented.
  2. Click on one of the choices, and return to step 1. If no narration has been written for that choice, proceed to step 3.
  3. Write a bit of narration, and offer a few choices of your own.
  4. Repeat.

It can be pretty fun. I'm using MediaWiki as a testbed to examine how a story like this develops, so I can design a better collaborative-CYOA software. I always enjoyed this type of game.

Stop by. Click around. Have fun. Add something. Story 1 ("The Opening") is for people who like silly puns and twists. Story 2 ("The Continuance") is for anyone who wants to try the medium as a more serious story development tool.

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FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A cucumber is not a vegetable but a fruit.