Thursday, February 28, 2019

Grapple Throwing

Some real D&D, then. I've never had actual rules for this before. About time I should think.


A grapple is a hook or claw used to catch or hold something. When tied to a rope and thrown to catch a grip, the grapple aids in climbing. A grapple may also be used to drag the bottom of a waterway, catch items floating on the surface of the water and be used to grapple vessels together for convenience or as preliminary to boarding.

Throwing a grapple involves hurling the claw outwards with success, then hooking the claw tightly against resistance by pulling the rope taut. Snagging off the rope to keep it taut is often needed if the rope is then used to retain its hold or to support weight. The process of throwing a grapple is not unlike rolling a d20 to hit. The table shown indicates the armor class that the thrower needs to hit for the grapple to be successfully hooked.

The process requires the full movement rate of the thrower for that melee round. This includes testing the rope if successful, but not snagging the rope off, which requires 2 action points (AP). Failing includes the time needed to hold the rope until the grapple comes to a rest and avoid being hit (automatic) if relevant. It requires 2 rounds to ready a grapple to be used again.

Striking an enemy with a thrown grapple or one that is used in combat will cause 1-4 damage. The table below shows the grapple’s range adjustments.

See Also,
Grappling & Ungrappling Ships

Lovers Gonna Love

It must be a bitch.

There you are, you're Charlie Rose.  Up until not that long ago, you could enjoy your trips to Aspen, to the Kennedy Center, to events a the Met ... and sit beside the likes of Cher, Martin Scorsese or Bill Gates, knowing that each would have to treat you kindly and warmly, because one day they might want to write a book or produce another album or push for funding.  If you stumbled across Dustin Hoffman, he'd treat you with respect.  But now, that's all gone.  If you could push your way into any such place, you'd be snubbed.

Once you had power, ordering people around, having people kowtow to you, sitting in your marvelous throne of power while the world turned about you.  Each little person that approached you did so with the same obsequious look in their eye, the same tremor in their voice, the carefully controlled vocabulary personally designed not to annoy you.  When a stranger entered your castle, they spoke your name in hushed, reverent tones.  But now, that's all gone.  The castle has evaporated.

But the worst, you must realize, as you sit in your expensive Long Island Mansion that you've managed to keep hold of, is that your world used to be populated with these marvelous, dreamy, lightly clad women of delightful odors and appearance, the very cream of the American crop.  And each of them eager, so eager, for your kind word, your attention, you're willingness to promise something for their career or their success.  My, what wide eyes they had, as they listened to your words, waiting and stupidly young and foolishly desperate to take off something that might bring a little more consideration their way ... and now, that's gone.  That's all gone.  What an awful life that has left you.

Still, it has been 15 months.  15 months.  My god, a lifetime.  Surely, they can't still be mad.  Surely, you've paid your debt.  Surely, you're entitled to have something of the career you've had.  You've suffered, haven't you?  You've paid.  Hey, you're the victim here.

After all, your email inbox is positively filled with supporters.  Mr. Rose, we love you.  Mr. Rose, we wish you could come back.  Mr. Rose, you ought to crowdfund your legal suit against your former bosses.  We support you.  We always believed in you.  Don't give up.  We don't believe you did any of those bad things.  We have received so much pleasure from watching your show, while we never got anything from your accusers.

Just as there are always haters, there are always lovers.  Whatever horrible sins that Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein and Brian Grazer committed, I'm sure they have no trouble finding people who still love them.  I'm sure Bill Cosby gets letters of support every day.

But just as the haters don't amount to much, neither do the lovers.  What matters in the end is what you have.  Not what others think you ought to have.

I've spent too much time today watching the Facebook feed of Frank Mentzer spin along.  Frank Mentzer, who has decided that 16 months following the evaporation of his credibility is long enough.  He's the victim here.  He's the one who's been wronged.  It should never have happened.  Can't we just overlook all that awfulness and move on with our lives?

Maybe we ought to.  Maybe we should just give ol' Mentzer another chance at a Kickstarter.  He's not going to force anyone to give him money, is he?  If his lovers want to give him money, we ought to just let them do it.

And Charlie Rose?  Let's give him his show back.  His presentation was warm and kind, he never did anything wrong to us.  He always did right by us, didn't he?  And all those women whose lives he hurt and whose innocence he crushed, well ... they'll get by.  Won't they?  After all, he's the victim.

Why not just let ol' Harvey Weinstein go back to fucking over Hollywood and the Oscars.  We got rid of him and the Oscars certainly didn't look different, did they?  So what difference does it make.  Why do we even bother punishing these people?  Just look at all their fans.

Oh.  Right.  Because what they did is wrong.  Because claims of being hacked or strangers staying at his house and using his computer to target a message board are fairly ridiculous.  Because 16 months ago, a lot of this happened in real time and the witnesses haven't conveniently died off.

Because the internet is proving to be a very difficult thing to process and having people like this around is a problem for everyone.

We don't live in the Information Age.  We live in the Information Management Age.

So no.  No pass.  Not on the basis that any of these people are "sorry."  Or that they feel they've suffered enough.  Or because they have fans.  Or because while others have taken their steps to move on, the perpetrator is feeling persecuted.


I suppose I better never fuck up, huh?  Not after writing something like this.

Be damned funny if someone hacked my computer and wrote a vicious screed to someone.  Be damned funny if a guest in my place used my computer to write same.  Pretty damned funny.

We'll see if that happens.  We'll see if someone pops out of my past and ruins my life.

Can't say I'm worried about it.

Yellow Journalism

It is all drama, all the time.

I suppose it isn't healthy to trade in gossip, or to let myself be distracted by nonsense like this, but I have my old grudges too.

In October 2017, I wrote this unkind post about Frank Mentzer.  I started it with slapping myself on the wrist about spreading gossip, just as I've started this post today.  Gossip is a dirty little vice.

Eric Tenkar at Tenkar's Tavern posted this today: Frank Mentzer shares on Facebook.  It's a carefully presented, reassuring requested for consideration of the man as a reasonable and occasionally flawed person, the sort of letter we might write ourselves if mistakes we had made got us into hot water.  It comes from Mentzer's facebook, which Eric dutifully links; I will as well:

There is an outpouring of support below, leading to where Mentzer explains,
"I erred greatly in not addressing these matters earlier. I was advised in the strongest terms, by friends and Powers, to shut up and sit down -- and that it would all go away. I am still learning about unSocial media, so I took their advice. They were wrong, and I was wrong. Time for sunlight."

As I read that, I nearly jumped in to write that sunlight has a way of revealing a lot more than people who like you.  As I've learned with my blog, there are always going to be people you connect with, who "get" you ... and there are always going to be other people.  This is everywhere on the internet, as we well know.

But as I was scrolling down the page to write the comment, I came across the post's first rebuttal.  Surprised me.  When I across through a comments list where every comment is positive, I've stopped expecting to see the person who dares stick their head up in this crowd.  Paul Stuart Tucker did, however.

And then a link to this screed by Mentzer.  I won't copy it here.

For me, the line isn't the insults, though quite a lot of these are playground name-calling.  I like my screeds to be more on point.  I'm fine with the defense of his work; anyone is entitled to defend his work with as much vigor and passion as they can muster.  However much some might think I'm a sensitive guy, I'll stand in front of a lot of abuse like this and see it as justified.

But there are four direct threats in this post where Frank states he's going to do something.  The first is fairly common: I'll sic my lawyer on you.  The second is light-weight ... except that its coming from someone who is famous.  No famous person should ever state they're going to pollute a person's name with the industry.  That is not what your fame is for.

The third, which Mentzer wrote in bold, is that he's going to write the target's name into the story.  Writers love this.  A writer put it into his Chaucer character's mouth in A Knight's Tale, where it certainly works with Chaucer.  With Mentzer, not so much.

And finally, the promise that if Mentzer finds out the target's real name ...

Now, that is pure troll behaviour itself.

I think my worst action here is in reporting the above at all.  I should have written a nice post about the difference between gnomes and dwarves, or the momentum of ships in combat.  Instead, I chose to jaundice the blog with this.

But should I ever obtain the level of fame that Mentzer has, I should hope that when I'm speaking with everyday people, I won't let myself off the chain to where I'm using my name to threaten relatively harmless and powerless board monitors.  Surely, if I had Mentzer's name, I could start my own board and expect people to participate there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Tieflings & Gnomes

"... and so in writing this up for folks who want tieflings in their B/X game, I have to admit I really don't know how you'd use it. I mean, the idea that there are just small pockets of infernal-descended creatures hanging out in human towns (on the Prime Plane) is just so utterly ridiculous. It's a box of stupid."
~ JB, B/X Blackrazor

I confess, until reading this recent post by JB, I didn't know what a tiefling actually was.  It post dates me.  My first direct encounter was probably this so-so video from 2008, which spoke of the "upcoming" 4th edition.  Just goes to show what a blip on the radar 4e was.

I can't guess how the popularity of this box of stupid accumulated.  Were I to guess, I would say the persons were looking for an excuse to act badly, to embrace the infernality of the tiefling's heritage as a justification for perpetrating acts of evil in a game that has become progressively less tolerant of many human traits in favor of pressing the company's desire to present a clean, virtuous game for parents to look upon and praise.  For me, the tieflings existence should demonstrate the opposite, but ... well, its not like parents are looking closely.

From reading JB's description and eventual frame for the character class (or race as some might play it), I suppose there's a gothic connection.  I don't have a people, no one understands me, I'm depressed because my mother was impregnated by a devil, I don't like to smile, I'm very emo, feel the force of my angst, please don't tell jokes around me because I'm a tiefling ... all that's needed are some hoodies, some skate shoes and some skinny fit jeans for the early 2000s to come alive.

But I'm a very old person with memories of a music scene before rap and grunge, so my opinions about self-harming and self-obsessed children trying to dramatize their lives doesn't really mean much.  I'm too old to get it.  Much too old.

If I step back from myself, I suppose the silliness of gnomes is just as obvious, particularly if we're talking the unfortunate depictions from the outrageously popular books by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet.  While completely legitimate and accurate regarding the culture of the author, we knew in those early days that the books had to be firmly ignored if we were going to use the race in D&D.  I remember we would sternly admonish a player who dared show up at a game with one of these books in hand (which appealed very strongly to teenage girls, my first wife Michelle included). 

A 15-inch tall cherubic gnome in a pointed red hat, such as depicted here, was far too precious for D&D adventurers ... yet this was the "real deal," whereas Gygax's version was made of whole cloth, i.e., a complete unfounded fabrication.  It doesn't surprise me that the appeal of gnomes waned; players were not overly interested in yet one more short character class, between the halfling and the dwarf, particularly with the cultural consciousness of the little creature out there, small enough to hide under a leaf and searched in forests by children still young enough to believe in Santa Claus.

It doesn't help that the gnome is the sole original character race that does not have the Tolkein seal of approval.  Yet I've never gotten rid of it; there's something about it that I still find appealing, washed free of the Rockwellian Huygen image shown.  In my mind, the gnome has no anabaptist-styled cap, his face and the face of his woman are hardened and deepened by the bake-oven he's employing, he's taller, he's fought wars with the humans and on the whole, his people are smarter on average than humans are.  He's a terror with a pole-ax, that compensates for the height of a taller human, yet he's willing to talk and agree to reasonable compromises, so long as his people's welfare is respected.

But I can make no such rationals for the tiefling.  There are no "people," no proscribed reason why they should look similar and no moral grounds I can think of for why isolated, fearful 15th century xenophobes shouldn't kill them at first sight.  We can tolerate a highly individualized personalities in the present, in a soft world rich with technology and opportunities for specialized skill-sets; but a crude, unenlightened, superstitious world full of free-lance brutality seems a ridiculous place for any group of obviously deformed beings who can't even point to their own kind for protection.

Box of Stupid indeed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Turning Rules for Sailing

I just finished this, so there's no reason not to share.  I will post it on the wiki this evening from my notes, making changes if anyone wants to deliberate on the content below.  The link to turning and to ship hexes are blank pages right now, but will be active tonight.  Other links should work; please let me know if they don't.  This was a crazy difficult set of rules to write.

Figure 1 - Before Making a Left Turn
TURNING (sailing ships)
For sail ships, turning describes three possible manoeuvres. A moving ship going forward may turn left or right; a ship may swing its bow away from the wind; and a ship may swing its stern into the wind, which is to say moving the stern so that the ship’s bow points more directly into the wind.

Moving Forward

Figure 2 - Completing the Left Turn
When logging movement, shipmasters give orders to change course in 60-degree increments, in keeping with the hexed battle map. These turns are governed by ship hexes, so that as the ship turns, the bow traces a line across the adjoining hex, pointing at the hex side that fits with its new orientation. This movement is resolved during the movement execution phase of the sequence of play.

In the example shown of a right hand turn, Figure 1 shows the ship before the turn occurs. The front green arrow indicates the swing of the bow in the new direction. The black dotted line indicates the outer compass of the stern as it swings around to follow the bow.

Figure 3 - Turning Left after Right
Figure 2 then shows the ship in its new orientation, the turn having been completed. It’s former position is shown in white. Note that although the ship has made the turn, it has not perfectly lined up with the ship hexes ~ instead, it now occupies part of five adjoining ship hexes instead of three (ignoring the sails). The adjusted orientation of the ship is 45-degrees from its original heading, which would become 60-degrees if it moved forward one more hex.

Contrariwise, if the ship were to make an immediate left hand turn with its next movement factor, the ship would straighten out again to its original heading (see Figure 3), swinging back 45-degrees, moving so that it was displaced one line of hexes from its original path.

Ships turning in this fashion ALWAYS move by the bow. Each individual turn costs one movement factor of a ship’s total movement allowance. A ship may never make more than one turn per ship hex.

Smaller, nimbler ships are able to make more turns per sequence of play than larger, cumbersome ships. This manoeuvrability is part of a ship’s “yare.” See ship types for more information.

As ships turn, they adjust their attitude to the wind, which in turn can limit their total movement (whether or not accounted for in the movement log). As detailed in the wind effects table, adjusting from one attitude to another can sharply reduce the ship’s forward momentum.

For example, a B-type ship that’s reaching to a gentle breeze is moving a factor of 5 hexes. As it moves, it turns to an attitude where it is now close-hauling, which is a factor of 2 hexes. Whatever its movement before the turn, it may now move a maximum of 2 hexes in that direction. If it has a movement factor left after movement, it can then swing back, reaching to the wind, and spend the rest of its factors. It cannot again turn into a close-hauling attitude. It could run against the wind. Take note that after close-hauling for 1 or 2 factors, if it turned its head to the wind, it would stop in place, and its remaining factors would be discarded until the next movement notation phase.

A ship may never make a turn if the attitude would cause the ship to exceed its movement allowance at the time of the logging movement phase. Thus, if the ship above started close-hauling to the wind, so that it began the sequence of play with 2 factors, it could not move further than 2 factors even if it turned to begin reaching. This wind limit rule can restrict movement, but it cannot add movement!

Note also that the wind limit rule does not limit the number of turns the ship may take (that is limited by ship type), only the number of hexes that a ship may move.

Any ship that turns to head into the wind must immediately stop and cease movement until the next movement notation phase.

Swinging the Bow or Stern

Figure 4 - Swinging by the Bow
When a ship’s movement is zero, it is permitted to swing its bow outwards to the left or right in a manoeuvre that changes the ship’s attitude to where it will close-haul (and move with the next movement notation phase). The manoeuvre is simple, as shown in Figure 4. As the bow swings over, the stern does as well.

Figure 5 - Swinging the Stern
When making this manoeuver, the bow swings while the ship turns on its stern, dropping back slightly as it does so.  Following the maneuver, which puts the ship into a close-hauling attitude, the ship must turn either left or right with its next movement factor.  Thereafter, with each forward move, the ship should come in line with the ship hexes.

Likewise, a motionless ship is permitted to swing its stern (Figure 5). The stern may be adjusted each so that it swings away from the wind, moving the bow towards the wind. In the example shown, the ship’s attitude to the wind is unchanged (close-hauling). Following the move, the ship may either turn in the direction of the manoeuvre (which means it could turn left here) or move straight ahead at least one turn. A right turn from this position would be more than 60-degrees and therefore cannot be accomplished without first moving forward.

The manoeuvre is rarely used, but can be helpful after unfouling or ungrappling from other ships.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Flux Capacitor

At last, a real post.

The image above is the flux capacitor, it's what makes this work.  The two-tiered hex map above enables me to put together the rules of D&D with those of the war game Wooden Ships & Iron Men (WSIM)It is the invention of the "ship hex."

The smaller hexes in the image above are standard combat hexes, 5 feet in diameter, just as I've been using for all my combat posts going back well before the start of this blog.  My online characters and those who have read my campaigns are familiar with these.

The larger white hexes are "ship hexes," 20 feet in diameter and juxtaposed with the combat hex.  Most important is this: a ship that is moving 1 knot per hour will cross a ship hex in the space of one combat round, in my game 12 seconds.  This makes the movement of the ship fully compatible with the movement of individual combatants during the naval battle.

1970s Artwork
Compare the image on the right from the original wargame.  The ships depicted here are from the late 18th to early 19th century, much bigger than the ships of my world would be, 150 years earlier.  And I don't have ships with cannon, so picture vessels smaller still.  The ships as shown are moving through game hexes ~ ship hexes for me ~ and on a time frame that WSIM doesn't explain.  But, with the two-tier hex system I'm proposing, the ships can move through the ship hexes just as shown, while at the same time the individual people can move through the standard combat hexes, firing at other ships with bows and ship's weapons, throwing lines to grapple over actual space and fighting boarding battles, while the ships themselves move independently of the characters aboard them.

When the ship turns, it will follow the ships hex, NOT the combat hex ... this will enable the game to be managed without having to figure out the fiddly hell of figuring out the ship's movement using scores of tiny little hexes.  It will make writing out the orders practical.  Orders?

I'm adopting a five-round game-term for the ships's movement called the "sequence of play," which will be staggered and simulataneous, encouraging collisions.  At the beginning of round 1, just as in WSIM, the captains will write out their orders, which will then take place over the next five rounds.  Then the combat rounds will be played out one at a time; there should be room for the players to pick off crew, load and fire weapons, reducing the success of a ship's maneuvering ... while each round the ships will move part of their pre-written movement orders.  Depending on speed, turning, the effectiveness of the crew to follow the orders (which I'm putting in even though it isn't there in WSIM), a ship may move quickly out of range or it may suddenly turn and collide.

PLUS, as I have rules for galley combat that can be fit into the system, I can mesh the systems WSIM and Trireme, since the Turks were still using galleys ~ and in a world without cannon, perhaps a galley is still a terrifically effective sea weapon.

If the reader is familiar with war games, it should be seen how seamlessly this can be made to fit together ... though of course it will need playtesting.  I'm looking forward to getting there.

There's just one little thing about ship movement that is plaguing me.  All the ships in WSIM and Trireme are only two hexes long.  And I have ships that could be potentially nine hexes long.  Here's the question ~ and I expect Sterling can answer it:
If a ship nine hexes long makes a right hand turn at 4 knots, swinging it's bow 20 feet to the right, does the back end of the ship remain "in its lane" or does the back end swing out opposite the bow?  And if it does swing out, by how much?

Any sailors, please weigh in.  I'll listen.  I promise.

Magic Thinking

On the face of it, this is going to sound like another political post about the web; but if you could bear with me, I'd like to discuss an observation I had recently, while reading reddit strings about Captain Marvel.  This isn't going to be about those strings, or Captain Marvel, I promise.

For some time now, we've been hearing about the "filter bubble."  TED started preaching it in the early 2010s with talks like this one.  Since, I continue to hear about the bubble, and how it is bad for us, whenever I listen to left-leaning podcasts.  I don't listen to right-leaning podcasts ever, so there's that bubble in evidence.  Supposedly.

The talk that I've linked builds a fear-mongering argument based on a few simple assumptions: that google choosing your search results based on your previous search results is bad (speculation); that this is worse than when journal editors chose what sort of news you got on television, because those editors had ethics (delusion); and that bias and prejudice in humans ought to cease following old patterns because a technological breakthrough produced the internet (magic thinking).

Ditch these assumptions and what you have is business as usual.

Google is only doing what television, radio, magazines and newspapers have done in their turn: determine what content you like and sell products according to what persons liked that content.  The only difference is that google is more precise ... but the guy in 1949 who only read trade magazines about cars never saw an advertisement for women's dresses.

Journal editors with "ethics" were called "unemployed."  We only have this nonsense belief in editors because of an endless stream of Hollywood films going back to the 1930s that envisioned the hero newspaper editor and reporter who cracked the case and saved the innocent.  I can give you a quality list of such movies if you'd like.  They're fun, but they're not real life.

And finally, the internet.  That magic thing that some folks still think exists to solve all our problems.  Uh huh.  But 2013 was a long, long time ago.  There are less and less people like this now, most of them dyed-in-the-wool liberals who still believe that if we elect the RIGHT politician, all our problems will be solved.  Ahem, *choke.*

Getting to the point.  Of late, the last couple of years or so, I've adjusted my thinking.  It starts with my looking at a page of commentors griping about something or defending something, just like I know all of you have.  We've all watched a sordid, reprehensible video on youtube, the sort that makes us doubt the validity of human intelligence as a theory, only to drop down the comments and find that every single person commenting agrees 100% with the video.

Rabidly agrees.

And there's the comments section, waiting for me to throw my 2 cents in ... and I don't.  I could say something.  I know what to say.  But there's no point in saying it because no one in that bubble will remotely hear it.  It is a waste of my time.

I'd like to believe there's an argument to be made for stemming the tide against the odiious garbage that is everywhere, that it is an Emersonian imperative for the good man to do something ... but in truth making a comment on the internet is not "doing something."  That is also magic thinking.

I'll suspend where I think all of it is going and talk instead about this blog, Dungeons & Dragons and the gaming community in general.  Because this applies as much to all three as it does to the worst toxic garbage on the internet.

Why should you, dear reader, upon wading through the vitriol of my post on Brie Larson (just as acidic as I could dish it out), feel any reason to comment?  If you agree, it's fine; and if you disagree, you and I both know I'm not going to change my opinion just because you tell me to.  We don't know that because we've talked to each other or gotten to know each other, but because we have already been here, thousands of times, with the whole internet.

I'm just a madman.  Watch the madman dance, but don't bother to tell the madman to stop dancing.

I write a deconstruction about 5th Edition; this is like an open comment to every page about 5th Edition simultaneously.  I may change some minds, but I doubt it.  Mostly, I'm clarifying the thinking of people who already know there's a problem with the system.  I'm not making headway against the believers, who are convinced that any problems they're having with the system is the fault of a DM, a player, the internet, their own intelligence or gawd knows what else they've invented to justify that the system is brilliant and ~ if possessed of flaws ~ is ten times better than any other system.  Or 4 times, or 1.1 times, or whatever ratio they pick.

They're not going to comment here about it, because they know I'm not going to change my mind, though I'm clearly wrong and I just don't get it.  So why bother?  Even if they did, they'd frame their comment is such personalized drudge that I'd delete it for failing to make itself comprehensible in English.

We can make this same observation about the whole community and anyone in it.  We've been compelled to embrace the viewpoint that your bubble is made of stone and my energy isn't up to breaking into it, while quietly renovating the walls of our bubble with a moat and inside wall of bricks.

Understand, I'm not offering a solution.  A solution would suggest that any of this behaviour is "wrong."

This behaviour is normal.  In the real world, you don't actually give a shit about your toxic neighbor except where your personal space is violated by loud music, errant pets, overhanging tree branches and late parties on Thursday nights.  People wrote thousands of years ago (Juvenal, Aristotle) that having a positive relationship with your neighbors was a good idea, but no one listened then and no one cares now.  No one is chiding you for keeping inside your "property bubble."

Nor do you care what work Judy or Chris or Tina are doing, except that its not done so you can do your work or that they won't stop talking about it.  You don't care that the guy who sells you food from the food truck has a wife and kids or that the Starbucks kid has graduated from the 11th grade.  Maybe one of these says something that makes them sound like "your kind of person," so you build a relationship where you shoot the shit with them between breaks or on slow rainy days by the truck, but the truth is your life doesn't need that many of your kind.  A few is nice.  When it starts to cost you too much time, you start going to a different food truck.

And no one cares!  No one says, "Hey, you're retreating into a bubble, ignoring that food truck guy."  No one says anything.  They do it too.

I love the wonder of the internet being reduced to the wan
hopefulness of throwing message-bottles into the ocean.  You're
right.  "Someone" might.  Of course, I know the names of
several people who will read this, so it feels less like "sharing"
and more like having something of interest to say.
But it's the internet, screams some shrill voice, magically thinking that because it is big and new and everyone is hooked up that this is automatically a good thing.  Hooking people up in the past has mostly produced war, disease, famine and death ... you know, the four horsemen.  Mongols inventing the stirrup, Gutenberg starting the ideology wars in Europe with the printing press, shipbuilding and navigation setting off the murder of natives with colonization and predation of property.  Great technologies, bringing people together ... close enough to kill each other.

We're lucky we can't reach each other physically through this thing.  Though I'm sure that will be a technology to happen eventually; instead of eugenics, Star Trek should have talked about the Transporter Wars.  Those were the real bad years.

So go easy on the internet.  Flame wars don't solve anything.  Let them think they're right.  It's all going to get sorted out on the streets eventually, with or without the internet.  The real problems began with the decimation of western towns as manufacturing moved to the Third World, in the 1960s.  That's the one that is choking America and much of the world right now, from both ends.  And that happened years and years before the internet did.

I'm sorry.  I lied.  It turned out to be political after all.

You know, I'm not to be trusted.

Brie Larson

As I might have predicted, Brie Larson, aka Captain Marvel, is being raked over the coals prior to the opening of the film on March 7th by a plethora of disgruntled, complaining, angst-driven white men, who see nothing ironic in claiming anger about something that is virtually impossible to find online.

Not seeing the start of this "contraversy," perhaps because I don't have a television or because I watch little entertainment-driven promotional content beyond trailers, I haven't been able to find an exact quote of what Larson actually said.  I was able to find a second hand comment that she, apparently, doesn't care what a 40-year-old white man thinks about her movie or her being the lead in it.

Naturally, this is more than enough reason for thousands of white man-boys to rush forward in a sexist backlash that claims Larson is being racist.  Apparently, I am also racist, since I don't care what a 40-year-old man-boy at his computer also thinks.

Now, to be fair, there are a great many who would classify me as a "man-boy."  I play games, I write games, I'm obsessed with a game, I'm not exactly a "man" in what would be my father's definition of the word, so when I trash man-boys I think it's fair to say I'm on the inside.

But this ridiculous crap disgusts me.

Frankly, I'm looking forward to Captain Marvel.  And I'm not going to pretend here: I'm looking forward to watching a manificently-clad woman kick the living shit out of whatever gets in her way, with (if the trailers can be trusted) both sarcasm and matter-of-fact pragmatism.  I think that is fucking sexy.  I would be happy to help pay for the machine that crushes woman-hating man-boys into pulp so that it can be sold as dog food to raise money to make more movies like this one.  I hope it is good, and not like the filmatic dog-vomit that Black Panther gave us last year.

Yes, the oscars happened last night and sooooo many people thought that Black Panther was going to win ... which baffles me because we've all seen the oscars crabble along like an old man with the gout being eaten from the ankles up by a snake taking it's time.  The oscars love to taunt-bait its audience with popular films that can then be handed out the shit awards of "costume design" and "best achievement in production design," with apparently includes making films where the trains in the distance are model fucking trains and look like they are.  But that is so the oscars can say, "see, we recognized the film; it's inclusion in our bullshit film factory farce was totally justified."

Last night I participated in my yearly ritual of re-grouting the bathroom tiles because I want to look at attractive, productive work, something totally unlike the oscars.

Where was I?  Oh yes, sexually abusive whiny white men and their hurt feelings because a recently successful woman got herself put into the lead role of a picture that's bound to make a shit-ton of money these white men will never see.  Never mind that these white men complaining about Larson's racism are the same white men bitching about football players kneeling or defending cops shooting black kids.  Fuck all that.  A woman has a movie part and ... we ... are ... angry.

And she doesn't care.  Wow, the indifference of attractive women, eh?  That same brutal indifference that makes every attractive woman think that, like, she's a person, and that she owes it to herself not to consort with, say, man-boys.

The sheer GALL of this woman who spent a year preparing physically and mentally for a grueling part, whose life is now quintessentially hinged on whatever the critics and internet write about her efforts come March 7, to not kowtow to every man-boy online in pre-gratitude for their willing approval.  How dare she not do so immediately?  We have computers!  Doesn't she know we could ruin her life  ... just ... like ... that?

I think maybe she's gambling on people with more power to make the final decision.

Assuming she ever said anything at all.  I have no proof of it.  I can't find the original interview where she supposedly said this thing.  And the internet lies, lies, lies all the time when it can't find a reason to hate someone.


I feel better.  This has been bugging me for three days.  If anyone is still around, I'll try to write a real post later today.  Meanwhile, I'll let my 15-year-old teenage self splash up a big goddamn poster, the kind I would have definitely bought amidst my raging puberty.

(see, I'm the real sexist; I like girls, pretty much for the reason I'm biologically supposed to like them)

She can beat the hell out of me anytime.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Ship's Attitude to the Wind

I'll put up this post specifically for Sterling Blake, the sailor, with hopes that he will give his stamp of approval.

The orientation of a ship to the wind is called the ship’s “attitude.” There are four attitudes with which the player needs to be familiar: 1) reaching; 2) running; 3) close-hauling; and 4) heading into the wind. The direction of these winds is indicated by the image shown.

The wind's effect on movement can greatly change the speed of a ship depending on its attitude. A ship heading into the wind will always come to a full stop. That is why ships will tack to the left or right of the direction of the wind, close-hauling their way forward.

The most effective speed is achieved by moving with the wind to the left or right rear (reaching), rather than running directly with the wind. A longer description of each of these is given below:
Reaching indicates the ship is travelling nearly perpendicular to the wind, adjusted to fit the hex grid of the battle map. Because of this limitation, we need not be concerned with close, broad or beam reaches for the purpose of the rules (which would require creating six more compass points). The reach is the fastest pont of sail.
Running indicates the ship is moving in the same direction as the wind, with the mainsail is eased out as far as it will go. Steering can be difficult when running, making the ship less stable, so that it may go off course more easily than on other points of sail. The ship can jibe accidentally (turn its stern through the wind), causing the boom on yachts to swing across the ship quickly. Most sailors prefer to avoid running with the wind, which is inferior to the speed achieved through reaching.
Close-hauling describes when a ship is beating or working to windward, when a ship’s sails are trimmed (set) tightly so that it is sailing as close to the direction of the wind as it can go without losing forward momentum. When close-hauling, a ship is moving at its slowest speed while yet making progress.
Heading to the wind describes a course that is too close to the direction from which the wind is blowing, causing the ship to stop moving forward. For the system’s purposes, a ship that has turned its head into the wind will come to a stop once the ship’s movement of that round has been spent. Ships will rarely come head to the wind except when caught in irons (the ship has stalled).

Ships may, if they wish, trim their sails to reduce their speed to any speed less than their maximum, no matter what the ship’s attitude may be.

See Also,
Naval Combat

I do plan to create a list of simple terms that can be addressed by us lubbers when we're talking about these things.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Carracks & Caravels

Two and a half years ago, I was working on a naval combat system, when I was interrupted by life changes and other things.  At the time, the project was ballooning in size and keeping track of the wiki pages, as well as what content went on which page, was getting out of hand.  I could feel I had bitten off more than I could chew, and that I would have to retreat and reorganize.

This week, between other projects, I've been reviewing my original content and figuring out a better way to manage the complexity of rules and details associated with naval waterborne adventures.  It isn't straight forward stuff; there are so many elements at play.  But I feel I have a management scheme in place and I have tentatively begun making new pages on the wiki.  This Naval Combat page would be the new opening index.

Anything that is tagged "naval warfare" is the old work.  The new work is tagged "naval combat."  For those visiting the wiki, you may find numerous blank pages; that is because, to keep track, I am creating files in word that mirror files in the wiki, so that I can more easily manage the rules as a single concept as well as isolated wiki pages.

It would seem to be slower, but I think I've got that problem licked also.

I hope to have a practical, rational naval combat system built that anyone can use within a few months, if I can keep my focus.  I have built the frame; mostly, at this point, I just need to translate it into a D&D setting.

Somehow, I doubt that anyone would ever use it; or that I will use it.  Though I do plan on figuring out how to run a test playing session on the blog at some point.

Working on stuff like this is therapy.  We've been going over our financial situation, the money we saved over the last six months and the help we're receiving from Patreon, plus book sales, plus isolated donations and another project I'm not ready to unveil, and it looks like we're going to be fine.  So long as nothing goes horribly wrong.

I have you, dear readers, to thank.

Character Class II: Cooler and Meaner

I firmly believe that images like this have seriously fucked
up our capability of seeing these classes as larger than the wooden
depictions that have been shoved down our throats from the
beginning of this game.  While praising them, we've failed to
see how the discourse has been limited by an insistence of
seeing these classes as a bunch of cool mary-sues, with clean
clothes, hairdos, special effects, movie-star looks and with
weapons constantly at the ready. Do you have any idea how
hard it is to find fantasy art that does not depict characters
in this frame of reference?  It is like the way the film
Pleasantville scoffs as the manner of depicting the 50s
and 60s on television.
I don't know what I can say about character classes that hasn't been said.  I'm discovering that the subject is a trigger for me.  I was ready to hack and slash three people who made innocuous comments, because at first read I took their position as anti-class.  I wonder where that came from?

Yet obviously the subject is of great interest to people, grist for the mill as it were ... so I'll try and say something.

Much of the problem seems to be combat.  G.B. Veras' comment about "sneaky fighters" and "burly fighters" for example, or Slick's identification of the fighter as good at wrestling and axes ... but I don't call these out to cut into these guys.  This is how we all tend to talk about the classes.  The mage "throws" spells and the thief backstabs.

While of course the descriptive fits in those moments of direst threat, I don't see any of these classes in the light of what they do when they fight.  They have more character than that.

Take the fighter for instance; we have an ex-fighter, probably someone who's spent time on the brute squad or taking a small part in a battle before reaching 1st level.  This is someone who can talk to soldiers, who can appreciate the life of a guard and who sees the importance of town gates and shaking down citizens.  It isn't just what the fighter does, it's what the fighter sees ~ that peace and order is maintained through force ... a force that may need to be applied gently or not.  Fighters looking at a tower will automatically envision how to take it down or how to defend it; the fighter will gently move the illusionist or druid to the other side of the walk, putting body and responsibility between them and strangers ... and thinking, "Why does the druid never understand they should walk on the inside?"

It's a mindset.  The fighting is a small part of that mindset; something that has to be done but isn't defining of who or what the fighter is.  A dumbass fighter, a kid, a punk, wants to start a fight in a bar; an older fighter calmly steps over to the table with the louts, takes the beer out of the one fellow's hand and puts it down firmly on the table.  "I think it's time for you four to leave.  There are folks here just out for a good night."

That's not "lawful."  That's sensible.  Where's the percentage in tearing apart a bar?  There's no money here, there's a police force outside and it's just dumb for an adventurer who knows where there are fights that will yield a thousand gold.

I don't think players, in their modular perception of movie filler scenes, comprehend the background to each of these classes.  How does the druid become a druid, do you think?  What sorts of troublesome efforts has a cleric endured to encourage a seminary or lamasary to condone their use of clerical magic?  How many times has this mage been humiliated as a child, as Master Igran chose to dump yet another bowl of porridge overtop his student's head as punishment?  The road to class proficiency isn't an easy one.  It changes children in the way it makes adults, forcing perspective, prejudice and most of all patience into the psyche.

Take away the class set-up and we get mongrels, blank slates who are full of skills and cheesy backstories, but nothing to suggest how that individual acquired this hodgepodge of game functions.  I'm not ready to sacrifice the class myself; the class helps organize the larger picture behind the character ... it tempers how this character comes from a family of sailors, while that one came from a family of farmers.  Likewise, it helps paint how this elf thinks as opposed to that elf (because I don't think every elf thinks alike), particularly if this elf then came from a seaside town, while that one was born in a glorious elven city.

Most of all, perhaps this is a deeper reason why I have a problem with classes like barbarian, cavalier, tinker, healer or acrobat.  Let's take them quickly, one by one.

A barbarian is a fighter from a wildland.  That's easily understood, and while I can see why a barbarian might be stronger on average, why does this translate into being better with a weapon?  Surely the heightened training of a civilized fighter is a counterbalance to the barbarian's grit and enthusiasm.  I love Conan; but I don't view him as automatically more deadly than D'Artagnan, Lancelot or Robin Hood.  Any of these could give Conan a run for his money, and do as much damage ... so why make special rules for this kind of fighter?  Isn't Conan just a 22nd level fighter with a 19 strength and the normal number of multiple attacks per round?

Mentioning Lancelot brings us to the cavalier ... but the same arguments apply.  Why should a first level cavalier have any special fighting abilities based on the concept of a horse-soldier?  Aren't we already covering the better horsemaster by running a character with greater dexterity or strength, who chooses to ride a horse well?  Lancelot is clearly covered in the paladin ... so why create a subclass of paladin, which is already a subclass of the fighter?  Besides, all paladins are given horses ... so isn't a cavalier just a paladin that decides to use the horse a lot?  The class adds no unique backstory at all ... it just doesn't work.

The tinker makes things, invents things, specializing in hydraulics, chemistry, kinetics and a whole lot of other things that are so simple in the 14th century that literally anyone who was prepared to screw around with such things could build them.  I have a source here that tells me tinkers are always gnomes.  Why?  Don't humans build things?  Hold on ... I think they do.  How does this nonsense not explode the brain of the designer?  My larger point, however, is that a tinker is a profession, not a class ... and ought to be defined by the class it is a part of, just as a fighter might be a sailor, a farmer or a prospector.  A mage who tinkers would be interested in energy, a fighter who tinkers would be interested in fortification or ballistics, a druid that tinkers would be interested in biology, etcetera.  The very notion suggests the designer doesn't understand that modern "engineering" is not just one profession, but hundreds.  And not interchangeable, not once you've been poisoned by the field you're in.  I just don't think that "tinker" is definitive enough.

"Healer" ... hm.  The less said about this, the better.  This class has spells, so it's not a doctor.  It has no religious responsibility, but it can still "detect evil."  Why?  And why detect magic, haste, invisibility, speak with dead and blade barrier?  What do any of these things have to do with healing?  The concept is so rooted in corporate motivation to distance themselves from religion in an era of satanic accusations from a now-defunct moral majority that I can only shake my head at those who can look at this mishmash with the necessary cognitive dissonance.  If we must separate out the skills from the theology, can we at least: 1) not make the ability based on spells; 2) explain the class in terms of the Knights Hospitaller, which would at least be adventure fuel; 3) create completely new abilities that don't overlap with clerics!  For my money, a Knight Hospitaller is properly a human cleric/paladin, but if we MUST make a class to satisfy Mrs. Grundy, can we please for the love of green fucking apples make a gawddamned effort?

And the acrobat.  This I've saved for last.  This, at least, does suggest a very specific background.  And the 14th century had jugglers, gleemen, fools, jesters, bards and troupes of gymnasts. Such things have existed since the weakest cro-magnon man in the tribe discovered that enough food could be gotten by balancing a club on the end of the nose.  But does the acrobat in the book reflect this?  Nope.  In fact, it plays into the worst racist stereotypes that groups like gypsies, who were prevalent in this profession in the middle ages, were all thieves and cretinous persons.  We don't make the acrobat a sub-class of the bard, where it belongs, but a subclass of the thief.  And that is where it goes wrong.  It strips the camp & nomadic life of the performer (which continued to be more important than the profession itself) out of the class and replaces it with the medieval equivalent of the 20th century catburglar.  Cheese.

Perhaps I've gotten something across here; I doubt it.  This last few days I've gained an insight that many people don't seem to see what the class does for the game, far, far apart from the position a particular class takes on the battlefield.  That's pretty sad, given how many times I've been accused of being a roll-player ~ and here I am making a role-playing argument.

I don't think people seem to have the first understanding of what role-playing is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Class Distinction

Over at B/X Blackrazor, JB makes some solid points about Class Proliferation that you should read.  There are multiple points he makes that I can't agree with, but none of those happen to be about the proliferation part of his post, so they're not important.  There is this little thing he missed, however, and I am inclined to write about it.

Admittedly, I had not been playing with the Little Brown Books very long when I encountered AD&D in 1979; about three months.  I asked for and was given the DMG, PH and MM for Christmas that year, so I moved onto AD&D almost as soon as I started playing.  I can't remember anyone who wasn't thrilled with the expansion; everyone in my circle immediately made the jump without hesitation ... I didn't hear a voice arguing OD&D over AD&D until the internet happened.

We loved the new classes.  All of them.  They brought in new ideas and new concepts, a rush of spells, characters that we all wanted to try and absolutely a rush for the thief, assassin, monk, druid, ranger and paladin.  We argued what was better, but of the ten fully designed classes there was no one in my circle between 1979 and 1983 did not want to try every class, nor one that we considered "didn't belong" or not worth playing.  Our only issue was that the bard was the worst possible design imaginable; we loved the idea of the bard, we wanted the bard, we tried desperately to play the bard ... but the character as written just sucked.

And then, the Unearthed Arcana.

I have it in my hands.  I bought it, of course.  This is the same copy I bought in '83.  The book wasn't bound as well as the original three, so that even though I've hardly used this book compared to the others, it is falling apart.  I remember reading the cavalier, the barbarian and the thief-acrobat and feeling a wave of utter repulsion and disgust for all three.  I talked it over with my players and explained that no, none of those classes would EVER be available in my world ~ and they haven't.

Right off the top, we were given long descriptions of what cavaliers and barbarians believed, or were willing to accept as characters, apart from what they did or what powers they had.  At 19 I could see plainly the dirty double-shuffle at work.  We'll let you have these extra fighting powers, but we're going to fuck you up the ass if you don't use them how we say.  And what powers are we talking about?


Yes, that's right kiddies, if your character wants to thump harder, do more damage, become a one-trick pony, we've got the answer for you ~ right this way to making your character as two-dimensional as it could possibly be.

The cavalier thumped from horseback and the barbarian thumped on foot.  We're not talking any NEW abilities or ideas, just the same ones ... only more so.  We could see clearly the kind of player these were catering to: players who bitched and whined that they couldn't hit harder, or in the case of the acrobat, that they could flip and jump and crawl around behind things better.

In other words, we made specialized classes that would enable these people to do the only things they really, truly wanted to do, better, and in exchange we took away powers they didn't feel like using anyway.  And that they called "balance."

Don't care about picking pockets and finding traps?  No worries!  You don't need to do that shit if you're an Acrobat!  Is all that ranger wilderness stuff boring to you?  Don't be down!  Be an Archer!  Does religion and all the accompanying character that goes along with that worry you?  Don't fret!  You can be a Healer!

With each new incarnation, do we get new ideas?  New character personalities?  No, we get cardboard cutouts that super-specialize in absolutely one skill only, to the point where as a DM you're ready to vomit.  Oh look, the Archer is getting out his arrows again.  The Healer is hanging back and doing fuck all while everyone else fights.  The Acrobat is inventing impossible ways to get out of fights.  Gee, I sure am glad all these classes were allowed to proliferate.

I'm ready to run by 5th level Kitten Tower Guard class.
I said in '83 that this class bullshit was going to be the death of good play, and yeah.  Here it is.  We invented a game concept purely for the purpose of selling out to a particular kind of wooden player and the result was munchkinism, skill lists and buys, wizard schools and ... well, you've seen it.

I'd accept double the classes that I use now, if they were distinct classes.  Not just a lot of one thing that another class also has and does less of.  And not a situation where two different classes do effectively the same thing by different methods, like magical healers and physicians.  I don't care how the character does something; I want the thing they do to be utterly unique, where they are the only class that does this phenomenally important and critical thing that the game desperately needs.

Since 1979, I haven't seen one such class.  Not one.  They're all derivatives of AD&D's 11 ... counting the bard.  And sorry, JB.  That goes for elven, dwarven and halfling "adventurers," too.  It's still just a fighter or a skill derivation of other classes.  I just don't see them as their own thing after you scour away the "we'll tell you how to think like a blank" motif that goes along with painting character classes as races.


Magical, statuesque monsters formed out of stone, these creatures may or may not have wings ~ though most do. They are found in ruins and caves; some are also known to attach themselves to cathedrals as goblins. They are very rarely found outside of Europe.

Created by magical experimentation during the development of the Abbey at Cluny, sometime in the 11th century, the method for sculpting gargoyles became widespread over the next 300 years. During the Papal Schism of 1378 to 1417, gargoyles fought for both sides, producing the consequence that many gargoyles ~ hardly intelligent to begin with ~ became self-aware and began to fight for themselves. The Council of Constance banned gargoyles in 1417 ... and since that time there have been efforts to exterminate the creatures. However, gargoyles are not especially malevolent or aggressive ~ but they have been easily used by malevolent forces, the consequences of which have soured empathy for these creatures.

Gargoyles are highly resistant to weapons and are enormously massive, being made of animated stone (the qualities of which are softer than stone but much, much harder than flesh). Their form can vary considerably, depending upon the sculptor, but draconic, serpentine, lion-like and bat-like features are the most common. The creatures cannot reproduce and are somewhat subject the same effects that would erode, break or shatter rocks. Except for their possible destruction, the length of a gargoyle's lifetime is unknown; they might conceivably survive for ten or twenty thousand years.

Because they are hunted, they will often hide in plain sight among ordinary, inanimate statuary, which they resemble. A gargoyle can remain absolutely still for as long as decades, so that an entire generation may presume that a gargoyle that they have observed since childhood is nothing more than a statue. Often, town fathers or church leaders will deliberately overlook the appearance of a gargoyle, adopting it rather than betraying its presence to gargoyle hunters.

Though indicated that as being found singly, that describes their common occurrence. Packs of gargoyles are sometimes organized by highly intelligent creatures who have made the effort to gather these creatures together. They are highly susceptible to obeying a strong, intelligent creature.


Gargoyles are immune to normal weapons and also to magical weapons that do not bestow a +1 bonus to hit. Most are able to fly (if originally carved to possess wings), but these creatures are not especially agile in the air.

See Bestiary

Old Work

If anyone wants to know how I wrote when I was 27 ... while unpacking today, I stumbled across an old scrap book of mine and found this:

Yes, that really is me.

The text reads,
"Every year at this time, I take a lot of abuse for committing murder.  Soon it will be autumn and I will be hunting.
"There are those who will read the above and immediately categorize me according to some invented stereotype.  This infuriates me, because there are so few people who understand what I'm doing when I'm out traipsing all over the countryside.  Their imaginations conjure up visions of butchered animals and 'poor little birds,' though I would wager that few of these individuals have any real appreciation for these things.
"A hunter knows what he hunts in the same way that a farmer knows his land.  Each year, I pay $45 for the right to harvest my allotted 'crop.'  I pay this money to Alberta Fish and Wildlife, a government institution whose purpose it is to ensure that I (in obeying the law) cannot adversely affect the environment.  For each animal I remove from the pool, my money goes to the care of many more.  How many people do you know who give an equal sum to the eco-system?
What is more, when I am in that environment, I am responsible for reporting any violations, such as trespassing on posted land, burning cover, and so on.  Since, year after year, I hunt the same areas of Alberta, I know these lands well ~ I know what the animal populations are, I know the farmers who live there, and I know what to look for.  I am in effect a caretaker ~ and every fall I do more for the environment that the majority of sofa-bound, self-righteous bleeding hearts who would outlaw me.
"There are two things that damage the animal population.  The first, and certainly the one of lesser importance, is the habit of poaching.  Of course, I look at poachers in the same way that a rancher looks at rustlers.  Fish and Wildlife does, however, when setting their kill limits, take into account the number of animals that will be taken illegally; therefore legal hunters suffer.  What's more, a ban on hunting (something I know many people would like to see) would not eliminate poaching, while it would seriously undercut the economic viability of a provincial wildlife association.
"Far more insidious are the habits of numerous farmers who inhabit the land.  In burning off their fields during the fall, cutting out foreste areas to expand their crops, or filling in slough bottoms, they destroy the water table and make it impossible for many animals to live year-round.  The duck population, for example, was seriously damaged through the early '80s hrough such actions, not through hunting.  Only because of groups like Ducks Unlimited and projects like 'A Buck For Wildlife' are populations just now reaching levels they held 20 years ago.
I do not apologize for killing animals, any more than any other animal tender.  But I will not be accused of being a red-neck, beer-guzzling butcher.  My gun is a tool and not a toy, and because of that I am not interested in 'sport.'  What I crave is an opportunity to enjoy and take advantage of that wilderness which so many desire to protect."

I'm impressed the text holds up this well.  I probably haven't actually read the piece in 20 years, though I remember I did provide this book as a portfolio when I started with BusinessEdge News Magazine in 2004.  At any rate, I'm also pleased to say I stand by those points today as I stood by them then.

Except for the Editor [Nikki something] employing that damndable Oxford comma, which I would normally edit out but which I've left here, for historical accuracy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Players are expected to bitch and moan through the entire game that they'd rather be out exploring a fantasy world.

Get the Fuck off My Lawn

Perhaps this is over-reacting, but it burns me when someone says, "Remember folks; it's just a game."

Let's begin with this often being said on a game blog, often that have more than a thousand posts (JB's has 1,949).  Personally I've spent something like 5,000 hours blogging, judging from my 2,500+ posts, which is a mere fraction of the number of hours I've spent designing and playing the game.  Telling a dyed-in-the-wool blogger that their time has been spent doing anything that's "just something" is equivalent to interrupting High Mass in a cathedral-sized church to tell them God doesn't exist or driving down to an emergency evacuation shelter to tell the people there who have just lost their homes that, "It's only money."

It should be obvious to twits like this that the game matters to us ... and if we want to fight about it, then the twit can just fuck off.  I'm a Canadian.  Fighting over a game is a goddamn national sport ...

And in Canada we know what to do about smug little bastards that say otherwise.

But moving on, it takes a fairly obtuse personality to live in the present and not notice that games have consequentially taken over the public discourse.  Revenue streams the size of countries have gripped the market, mental health workers are seeing games as a means of restoring quality of life to hundreds of thousands of physically challenged persons, national defense and the military are now wholly run by game theory, while game theory and design is redefining economics, politics and statistics.  Without exaggeration, games have started running the world ... and that is a process that is only just beginning.  The very phrase, "It's just a game," is the kind of thing that could only be said by someone who's still living in the 1970s, who thinks that "games" are little board things where people push tiny dogs and cars around.  It's an ignorance in the extreme.

It amazes me when an adult can gush like an infant child over a game find he stumbled across one second, then piss on the passion and interests of others the next, demonstrating a profound failure to be self-aware of their own condescendence.  How such people are allowed to roam free around the internet without handlers baffles me.  Once again, I find myself wanting that superpower that lets me punch people through my computer.

This is not "just" a game.  Not to me.  Not to any of the people I play with.  Why don't these people see how far they get dropping into a bar sometime, during the playoffs, to shout at the fans, "It's just a game."

Hospitalization is the least price such maggots should pay.

Monday, February 18, 2019

5e: Ability Stats & Modifiers

Appears the version of the 5th Edition Player's Handbook I was referencing on line is no longer a thing.  Ah, well, it had an .ru address.  No worries, here's another version.  I suggest for those who wish to ensure being able to keep reading these posts that you rip a copy from the sight.  I did from the Russian site in December, so I have a copy.

Let's get past choosing a class and race and look at the generation of abilities.  We're told,
"You generate your character's six ability scores randomly. Roll four 6-sided dice and record the total of the highest three dice on a piece of scratch paper. Do this five more times, so that you have six numbers. If you want to save time or don’t like the idea of randomly determining ability scores, you can use the following scores instead: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.
"Now take your six numbers and write each number beside one of your character’s six abilities to assign scores to Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Afterward, make any changes to your ability scores as a result of your race choice.
"After assigning your ability scores, determine your ability modifiers using the Ability Scores and Modifiers table. To determine an ability modifier without consulting the table, subtract 10 from the ability score and then divide the result by 2 (round down). Write the modifier next to each of your scores."

Most of this is exactly what I have done for almost 40 years now; it is the method that was explained to me the first night I played, when I rolled dice to make a fighter.  But 5th Edition doesn't remotely leave it there ... they shove this universal system for determining modifiers on us that screams 3rd Edition.  Beyond this starting roll of four dice, I can't see ANY of the supposed "traditional" game.  Frankly, from what I've been reading so far, I'm convinced the company believes that no one alive can possibly have memories reaching back to the 1970s, so it's safe to call the crap spewed out by the company in the mid-nineties as "traditional" and "old school."

Back on page 7, in talking about the d20, we were told, "The abilities ... typically range from 3 to 18 for most adventurers," and that "Monsters may have scores as low as 1 or as high as 30."  Why this isn't under the abilities heading, I can't guess.  On page 13 we are duly given a table that describes all the modifiers for each ability score, thus preventing the players from actually having to do math, as was proposed in the paragraph above.  Thank the stars, they made it possible for the mathites to get their kicks and to save 9 y.o.'s the need to think.

Of course, we don't describe the abilities and their use in the game here.  Those have been bounced to chapter 7.  We're also told that skills and tools can be found in the mysterious chapter 7.  Earlier (also on p.7) we were told that advantage and disadvantage were presented in Chapter 7.  I'm sorry, I just can't wait any more.  I've got to go there and see what all the fuss is about.

Chapter 7 consists of six and a half glorious pages beginning on p.173.  Here is what it has to say directly about Ability Scores and Modifiers:
"Each of a creature’s abilities has a score, a number that defines the magnitude of that ability. An ability score is not just a measure of innate capabilities, but also encompasses a creature’s training and competence in activities related to that ability.
"A score of 10 or 11 is the normal human average, but adventurers and many monsters are a cut above average in most abilities. A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20, and monsters and divine beings can have scores as high as 30.
"Each ability also has a modifier, derived from the score and ranging from 5 (for an ability score of 1) to +10 (for a score of 30). The Ability Scores and Modifiers table notes the ability modifiers for the range of possible ability scores, from 1 to 30.
"To determine an ability modifier without consulting the table, subtract 10 from the ability score and then divide the total by 2 (round down).
"Because ability modifiers affect almost every attack roll, ability check, and saving throw, ability modifiers come up in play more often than their associated scores."

Yep.  Not only are we again treated to the math explanation, but we also find on p.173 a duplicate table to the one on p.13.  Just in case.  We get no explanations for why 30 replaces 25 as the upper end of ability scores (presumedly so the system can end with a +10 modifier) or precisely why the modifier is designed this way.  I point you to this discussion of why this sort of design creates problems.

In fact, we don't learn anything at all.  We're merely told stuff we already know, and specifically not told things that were a mystery before and are now still a mystery.  The Actual information we need is further up the page, and NOT located under "Ability Scores and Modifiers."  So someone flipping through the book looking for explanations is liable not to see it:
"The three main rolls of the game—the ability check, the saving throw, and the attack roll—rely on the six ability scores. The book’s introduction describes the basic rule behind these rolls: roll a d20, add an ability modifier derived from one of the six ability scores, and compare the total to a target number."

Why was this paragraph not included on page 13?  Wouldn't it have made sense to immediately explain the purpose of these modifiers at the moment the modifiers were introduced, or at least underneath the actual headings in the book that purportedly existed to explain the modifiers?  And hell, this was only 53 words.  We would have had plenty of space for them if we had gotten rid of all the useless filler clogging up p.12.

This is part of the reason why new players must be frustrated as they make an attempt to teach themselves how to play.  Not because the language is difficult or because the concepts are absurd (they only seem that way to old grognards like me, who have known better concepts), but because this book appears to have been organized by a pride of cats fleeing a vacuum cleaner.  No one takes the time to pedantically explain one concept from beginning to end without needing to resort to poetry, the concepts themselves are scattered throughout the book and actual content is repeated (!) so that you're not sure if something is written at the beginning or end of the book.  We have derailing crap like Bruenor thrown in to distract the reader from the key points and every section has yet one more pointless game-aggrandizing paragraph thrown in for good measure.  The book constantly assumes you know what it's talking about, so it throws around references like a prude wagging her finger at a porn convention, but nothing is actually defined.

For example, we're told about the dwarves, "... what they lack in humor, sophistication and manners, they make up for in valor."  How?  In what way? And in what way different from another race in the game?  Are there bonuses for this valor?  Or is this just a meaningless, throwaway phrase intended to make me like dwarves without an actual reason?  We're told about the halflings that they are, "... people of simple pleasures ... they care for each other and tend their gardens ..."  That's it?  How does that help me establish my halfling character?  There isn't a lot of gardening in this game, you know.  What other simple pleasures?  Again, are there meaningful features attached to the race that will enable me to be, you know, interesting?  I can't go around every adventure moaning about how I'd rather be home tending my garden.  We're told about the humans, "All that haste ... human endeavors seem so futile sometimes."  What do you mean?  Do you mean endeavors like "valor" and "gardening"? - the only actual reason why these things appear at all on your list, because you're a human ascribing singular human virtues to non-human creatures from a conspicuously HUGE number of possible human endeavors?  What in the fuck are you talking about, and what fucking drugs have you taken?

We're told about the elves, "Elves don't need sleep.  Instead, they meditate deeply, remaining semi-conscious, for four hours a day."  Are there rules for this?  No.  Is there any explanation about the elf's awareness in this state?  The time it takes to come out of this meditation?  No.  We're told it's possible to dream, "after a fashion."   Is there any definition given for the effects on awareness around the elf if you're dreaming or not dreaming?  No.  Is this trance ever mentioned again, throughout the entire book?


So, basically, you have created a bullshit situation that every DM everywhere has to deal with at some point with their players, without any backup from the book, so that each DM is forced to rule upon the condition and effect of the trance in some way that personally applies specifically to that game and no other ... so that if a player used to playing elves ever plays with another DM, the rules are always going to be different, from game to game, from tournament to tournament, forever, for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Why is it here???

Seriously, it is like the people in charge of writing the handbook thought they were writing some sort of poetry book, or perhaps an equivalent to A Teenage Guide to Popularity, the sort of nonsensical but extremely cheesy fluff that appears in Airport kiosks, to be bought by grandmothers on their way across the country, and the backpacks of nine-year-old girls who are young enough not to realize yet that every piece of advice has already been exploded by anyone who's reached the age of 13.  Where nothing is actually expected to be accountable, so it doesn't matter what sort of shit the writer (or writers) make up about popularity ... the goal here is to dupe kids, NOT create something that might be a viable handbook for surviving high school in the next decade.

That's what I think we have here.  This is not a RULE-book.  It's a book.  It has words in it.  Some of it is fun and inspiring, and might eventually find some relevance to a gaming campaign ... but most of it is forgettable nonsense, firmly kicking the ball of what the hell do we do next in the campaign into the independent DM's hands.  There's no wonder that a DM is going to fiat his way through every decision, every die roll, every bit of non-detail drivel the book provides.  What the hell else is the DM going to do?  Look for guidance from the rules???

Okay.  Breathe Alexis.  Just breathe.

We'll do another of these when I'm ready.