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September 30, 2005

Why Don't You Have A LiveJournal?

Well, the simple answer is, "Because I have this web log right here!"

The not-as-simple answer is as follows:

When I was first planning transferring my website from a straight, manually-edited HTML site to a website run by a content management application, I thought about setting one up on blogger.com or the like. I think LiveJournal was something of a minor player at the time instead of the 300lb. gorilla it is nowadays. Foremost in my mind, though, was having complete control over the site, and hosting it on somebody's server somewhere running somebody else's app just didn't sit well with me.

Of course, I've got my own content management app - well, not my app per se, but I have full control over it, which is the point. Still, some fiddles I've done have removed a couple of its functions, and I'm always meaning to upgrade to the latest version but never get around to it, and comment and TrackBack spam are becoming a right pain to manage, and it doesn't seem to generate the volume of general discussion on IMAGinewS or commenting on the site as I'd thought (hoped) it would - sometimes it feels as though I'm standing on Speaker's Corner, and people are just wandering past to the big picnic in the Park.

In the meantime, many friends have set up basic LiveJournals, are posting regularly or semi-regularly, get lots of comments and - well, they have this whole social online thing going on that I do get jealous of from time to time (see above comment re: picnic).

Not so long ago, Boots suggested I actually set my own LiveJournal up - whether it was because he wanted to drag my little innocent self into his LiveJournal social web of evil or just easily link to my posts, I don't know (although I suspect the latter).

I gave the matter some thought, and I still think that I'll leave LiveJournalling alone for the moment.

The social aspect is, as I've said, tempting, but the flip side is that it looks very busy, which might mean I'd spend more time on, if you'll forgive me, shits-and-giggles cross-posting than on generating (what passes for) meaningful posts.

Then there's the fact that quite a few of the LJ posts I've seen are responses to questionnaires, either "memes" or those web-applets that categorise you as being someone/thing cool or uncool based on a series of questions. Sallidar's main squeeze fivefoldkiss even goes as far as categorising the posting of your answers and/or the output of one of those web-thingies as "the cardinal rule of LiveJournal". While I have no problem with that, it's not really what I want out of my web log, and I have the feeling that when it becomes obvious that I'm ignoring others' quizzes and memes, I'll be back at square one as people start ignoring me on LJ as well. (Being ignored in two places at once would be a right bugger, eh?)

Even if I did start a LiveJournal, I wouldn't close my Movable Type web log down, so there'd be a doubling-up of posts - which means that, unless there's some easy way to syndicate an MT weblog on LiveJournal (like an RSS feed or somesuch), I'd have to copy-and-paste all my posts into LJ (and probably applly formatting all over again), and then fix any typos or apply any edits twice - as well as two separate comment chains to each post. And the fact that my web log has some problems at the moment simply indicates that I ought to invest some time and effort in fixing them, probably by implementing an upgrade to 3.2.

As I promised at the beginning, that's the not-so-simple answer. As always, if there's something that you think could sway me either way, please feel free to e-mail or comment.

Game Mastering: Better Than Caffeine

Mental Note: Never GM on a working weeknight. I get so jazzed that I have trouble sleeping.

At eleven PM on Wednesday night, the second Pitch session had wound up and I'd gone to bed, but I was wide awake; all I wanted was to get straight back on the PC and do all those revisions to the Stars On The Move section of the wiki. It got so bad that at around one AM, Vickie kicked me out of bed and told me to have a cup of tea and a Valerian pill. They did the job, thankfully, but I only got five hours of sleep with work on Thursday!

I'm glad the next session is on Saturday night!

September 29, 2005

Thankfully, We All Remembered!

Well, that's not entirely true; I forgot to record House. But we all remembered last night's Pitch session, and this time Salidar (who's freshly linked on this site) had a mike! We got pretty much everythign done, and we've organised the next session - the pilot episode of our freshly-named series, Stars On The Move, for this coming Saturday at 8 PM.

You can find a more extensive write-up of Wednesday's session here.

September 27, 2005

Okay, Who Else Has One?

I only just discovered today that Gav has his own website. He didn't tell me this, of course; I discovered it through his comments on someone else's LiveJournal. I have now linked to it.

So: How many more of you slack buggers out there have a website, LiveJournal or whatever that you didn't bother to tell me about? Come on, own up!

Would you believe - a lung infection?

Vickie just e-mailed me at work to let me know the sad news that Don Adams, best known for playing Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, in the TV series Get Smart, died today. He was 82.

He'll also be fondly remembered as the voice of the bumbling cyborg policeman, Inspector Gadget, in the 1980s cartoon.

We'll miss you, Don.

September 25, 2005

Story Appropriateness vs. Risk and Tension

Once again, it may be that I’ve been hanging out on RPG forums a little too much lately; at least you’re forewarned about the content of this posting. Apologies to any regulars on The Forge to whom a lot of the below will probably seem familiar; I suppose it's my thoughts after seeing some of the stuff you guys, especially Ron Edwards, have discussed actually in action.

I’ve noticed that, among those people who not only play roleplaying games but also discuss their hobby online, there seems to be a conflict in the view often held by the, for want of a better term, “average” gamer.

I remember a few months ago, an RPGnet forum poster started a thread (I’d search for the thread, except RPGnet have disabled searching on their forums, and they’re only archiving as far back as the end of July right now) about how the game group that this person was a member of had decided to play Dungeons & Dragons by rolling all the dice in plain view and applying the results of the rolls.

From memory, said gamer didn’t advertise it as being better or worse than using all the usual GM techniques, just different, and I believe the gamer’s group were enjoying it; at the very least I don’t remember said gamer expressing a negative opinion of the idea. The responses from other gamers, however, mostly followed the same general lines: that following the rules without any “behind the curtain” tinkering by the game master (e.g. ignoring his own rolls or redesigning opponent statistics on the fly) meant player characters could die or otherwise be eliminated from the game arbitrarily. Their contention was that player characters should only die when appropriate to the campaign’s story, etcetera - basically, they were telling this gamer that the group was playing D&D wrong.

I contrast that idea with some reactions to Primetime Adventures, a game that I’ve mentioned quite a bit lately. Its rules are, one would think, geared to address that very situation. Although player characters in the game have defining traits like most other games, they’re very few, very broad and not defined in terms of numbers. The rules also treat “action” the same as any other pivotal character moment in game play; the player defines what his or her character wants to do in the given situation and what that character stands to gain or lose depending on whether things go the character’s way or not.

In other words, the range of things that can happen to a player’s character during any given conflict – including whether the character is really at risk of dying – are defined by the player. This, I thought, would be the panacea to the ills of those gamers who complained that going by the dice didn’t respect the story.

However, I’ve seen several gamers argue their tastes against Primetime Adventures on both The Forge and RPGnet, and the one argument that comes up over and over again is the absence of “tense, well-paced action”. It’s argued that going into an extended conflict with no idea how it will work out, of the thrill of turn-by-turn risk, is preferable to knowing how things end in advance and building toward that end.

This puzzles me. The insistence on character death when dramatically appropriate in many “standard” RPGs like D&D, Shadowrun or Rolemaster (yardstick: the breaking-down of time into defined, discrete chunks for measurement of conflict, and volume of character options that involve the rules, i.e. feats, spells, weapons, etcetera, that the game includes within its text), to me, often sounds more like an attempt to protect the player's investment. I can certainly understand this desire by players and GMs to keep their finely crafted playing pieces in the game as long as possible. A lot of time and effort goes into most player characters, both at character creation and as the campaign progresses.

But as I'm writing about dramatic appropriateness, not protectionism, I'll assume that those gamers are really arguing for just what they say. The only problem is, all those designed and accrued rules options I mentioned above only have meaning in terms of protecting the character from rules-based harm (armour, defensive feats, force fields or magic walls) or by allowing the character to inflict rules-based harm (guns, swords, fireball spells, phasers) or by governing who goes when based on in-game time scale (combat turns and initiative scores) – so to make all those advances worthwhile, a player must put his or her character at risk, regardless of what's dramtically appropriate.

If the focus is on things happening to the character when dramatically appropriate, then stats for action timing, armour, spell components or even hit points aren't needed, and won’t do the job – what’s needed is some way of governing dramatic appropriateness. Games like D&D, Shadowrun or Rolemaster don’t even pretend to be about governing that – or, at least, their rules don’t. It’s that advice in the game master’s section about fudging dice rolls and caring for characters (again, see above comments about protectionism) that I think confuses gamers into arguing against risk on one hand - "don't risk killing player characters on a roll of the dice, only do it when it's dramatically appropriate" - and for it on the other - "all this determining dramatic appropriateness is boring, we want risk".

To me, this is a binary situation; a game’s designer can prioritise one over the other, but if the designer tries to give both priorities equal weight in the game’s rules, the game will only invite arguments within its playgroups about which priority applies when. So, I can’t help but wonder why gamers complain if a GM or group decides to play a game like D&D by-the-book instead of using all the usual “behind the shield” cheats to get it to do what they want. Why argue that a set of rules that doesn’t cater to greater story should bow to its demands, and that a set of rules explicitly aimed at managing a greater story doesn’t give the sort of risk management appropriate for a game like D&D? Is it just because all those game master sections have told gamers that that’s how their roleplaying games meant to work, even when the rules of those very games don’t support that material in the GM section?

Of course, I may be over-arguing a point. Some of the arguments about Primetime Adventures' stem more from the fact that the outcome of a while conflict is determined by a single turn of the cards, with the players expected to build toward that outcome as they see fit without any further guidance. The revised edition of Primetime Adventures has introduced a "multi-flip" rule which allows groups to break down the big conflicts into stages, each of which can tend toward success or failure, but only the total result defines what happens in the end.

Also, my latest gaming purchase, Dogs in the Vineyard, successfully and enjoyably (if those Actual Play threads are any indication) strikes a middle ground between the two extremes. Conflicts are broken down into a series of system of Sees and Raises which actually manage to combine the moment-to-moment drama players seem to crave whilst leaving the choice of risking their characters’ death firmly to them – you can almost always “Give” out of a conflict, even though it means your character won't get what he or she wants.

[UPDATE 26 September 05, 10.15 AM:] Here's a quote that I think illustrates my popint a bit. It's borrowed from this year old Dogs in the Vineyard Actual Play thread.

    I've played in groups where if someone does something in-character and foolish, no matter who much drama and fun it creates the players get pissy.

My thought upon reading that line was, probably because that irresponsible and foolish act has endangered their characters, meaning that either they'll have to risk them dying at an inappropriate time or their poor GM will have to do some fudging and bail them out.

Of course, this is me reading my thoughts into Paka's line, not trying to pass judgment on a bunch of players I've never met.

Yee Ha.

Sydneysiders are probably in shock after the surprise, blitzkrieg win by the North Queensland Cowboys in this evening's rugby league semi-final match against the Parramatta Eels. Vickie and I kept half an ear out last year when the Cowboys made it into the preliminaries - if I remember rightly, they actually got all the way into the semis before some poor refereeing did them out of a final spot - but it's good to see them in the finals this year.

Of course, they're going to be up against Wests Tigers, a.k.a the Balmain Tigers, and having a family affiliation (the Maloney/Serio branch of my family - my Nan, my Mum, my aunt Trish and my grand-uncle Joe - came up in the Balmain area) I'm firmly behind them in their first grand final since, I think, 1989.

Which means my life expectancy can probably be measured in days.

So if anyone has a spare Large-size Tigers tee or jersey, any chance you could bundle it into the mail and send it to me ASAP, please? If I'm gonna die on Sunday, I want to go out wearing the colours.

(By the way: In an interesting irony, the most recent Tigers import Scott Prince is from Mount Isa, about as Far North Queensland as you can get.)

NetRunner Cards on Auction

Back in 1996, Wizards of the Coast, creators and pioneers of the Trading, or Collectable, Card Game, released its second product in the line: a game called NetRunner. It was based on the universe portrayed in the Cyberpunk roleplaying game, and being a fan of said RPG, I was naturally all over NetRunner like a rash. It came out during my first and only year of uni, and as a few of the TCG geeks I'd known from high school went to the same university, I had some opponents.

Unfortunately, NetRunner's popularity waned rather quickly, likely due to the fact that, unlike the almost evergreen Magic: The Gathering (Wizards' first TCG), NetRunner was designed from the ground up with two distinct "sides" which played quite differently. Playing with more than two players was extremely tricky with any odd number, and not quite competitive enough with an even number of players. Within a year or two, NetRunner faded into relative obscurity; players and tournaments became very hard to come by, and resources on the Web devoted to the game closed down.

As a result, I wound up with over 2000 cards sitting on my shelf, mostly un-used. They've remained there for the better part of seven years, and I've been meaning to sell them off for ages. Now, I've finally got around to it. As with my previous auctions, I invite you - nay, encourage you - to take a look, and if you're not interested, please pass the word on to anyone who might be!

September 22, 2005

Slightly Off-Pitch

Yesterday was the date Gav, Seth, vickie and I set for the next part of the Pitch: the pre-play session of Primetime Adventures where we work out what the show - the roleplaying game's campaign - will be all about and who the principal cast - the player characters - are. We were due to get together around eight.

At around ten last night, Vickie asks me whether we had anything planned for the coming weekend. I replied that as far as I knew, we had nothing on, although I vaguely remembered organising something.

Vickie replied, "That's the game."

I responded, "No, we aren't doing that this weekend; the next get together is... oh, shit, that's tonight!" I had clean forgot about it! I'd thought about it earlier in the day, but after that it didn't even cross my mind! After all that agitating and organising I'd done, I was very disappointed with myself!

I rushed to the PC, but couldn't see Gav or Seth online, nor had they sent any messages. I sent an apologetic e-mail, byt as it turned out, Gav wasn't there either - he'd pootled into the city for a Gowings sale.

We're kicking the idea of a hookup sometime this weekend around. I've not heard from Seth yet, though.

[UPDATE 24 Sep 05:] Seth replied a little later on. He'd remembered, and had actually been online waiting for the rest of us to show up. Thankfully, he had some work-related stuff to do in the meantime, so it wasn't a total loss for him. We're going to give it another shot this coming Wednesday.

September 18, 2005

You're The Voice

I have this theory.

A few months ago, I was reading an article by Steve Darlington on Has Been, an album of spoken word performed by William Shatner. Yes, that William Shatner. In the article, Darlington writes: "The reason every comedian thinks he can imitate Captain Kirk... is because that voice is so iconic and so compelling. When Kirk talks, people listen."

Which got me to thinking - the same can be said of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Patrick Stewart. The man's classic theatrical training can't help but come through in that show, especially whever he gets his dander up - "Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life - well there it sits!" Enough comedians have tried to imitate Captain Picard - not as many as Kirk, of course, but Picard's only been floating around the public consciousness for just under twenty years, not the forty that Kirk has.

And then I started thinking about Avery Brooks. Now, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was very divisive amongst Star Trek fans, enough to question its popularity, but it managed to equal The Next Generation's record of seven seasons, and it wasn't subject to the all-round savaging that Voyager received (even though that show also completed seven seasons itself). And I can't help but wonder how much that was due to Commander (then Captain) Sisko's unique voice, deep and definitely commanding.

As for the other two Trek shows produced so far, Voyager and Enterprise - well, while Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula both are definitley good actors with strong voices, they just don't quite come up to that same standard. And I can't help but wonder whether that has anything to do with the lack of popularity of those two shows as compared with the first three. On a military show (or even pseudo-military, as Star Trek's Starfleet was often portrayed as) the ranking character is usually the linchpin of the whole ensemble, and my theory is that the voice of the actor playing that character plays a whole heap into whether the audience buys into the strength of that character. It's also my theory that - after three consecutive captains with such powerful voices setting the bar for Star Trek commanders - audiences just couldn't quite buy into Janeway and Archer in the volumes that bought into Kirk, Picard and Sisko.

September 15, 2005

Partway Through the Pitch

Well, we finally got that first sesion of Primetime Adventures in last night. Boots had decided that he wasn't fond of voice chat, so Vickie, Gav, Seth and myself hooked up to work out the Pitch for our show.

You can see what we have so far here. I've also started up an Actual Play thread over on the Forge detailing what we actually did.

We didn't finish the Pitch off, so we're getting together again this coming Wednesday (same time, same channel) to finish off characters and iron out any issues. Barring accident or inicdent, we've decided our sessions will be at eight PM, every other Saturday.

September 12, 2005

Much Ado Aout Nothing

Folks, if it’s not already toured in your area (which it might not have, given that it’s doing Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory at the moment) I wholeheartedly recommend you catch the Australian Shakespeare Company’s musical production of Much Ado About Nothing. Vickie and I went to see it last night at the Flecker Botanical Gardens up here in Cairns, and it was absolutely hilarious. They’ve turned most of the major soliloquies into musical numbers – specifically, country rock and roll numbers – and they work very well. Not only that, the cast had a great time, with Brendan O’Conner worth particular mention for his scene-stealing performance as the wicked bastard brother Don John (when he did his numbers, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Bon Scott).

It looks as though this production is coming to the end of its run up here in Cairns, but if it or another production makes its way to you, any other way you could use the cost of a ticket or two would only be a waste of money. If nothing else, it’s worth it for the song performed by the two roadies/gig security (formerly constables) Dogberry and Verges, “He Called Me An Ass”.

September 11, 2005

The Escapist

Thanks to Allen Varney and EvilHayama for both pointing me in the direction of this online magazine. Allen mentioned it generally on the Paranoia web log a few weeks ago, but Hayama linked me to it via ICQ this morning. It's an online periodical dedicated to examining the computer and video gaming phenomenon as a whole, rather than the usual news/ reviews sites and magazines available.

Surprisingly, several big names of the RPG industry contribute; the latest issue contains the second half of an article on destroying the computer game retail system as it exists, written by no less than Greg Costikyan, and previous issues include articles by such luminaries as Warren Spector and Allen Varney, as well as an ongoing column by John Tynes. It's well worth a read.

How come all the exciting stuff happens after we leave?

Joss Whedon recently got himself a sign-on over on the Serenity Oz forums, and just this morning made the following announcement:

    So I'm here in Sydney and tomorrow I've a monstrous bunch of yakking to do, press and all that, a screening -- you guys know the drill. But today, being as that I'm footloose and fancy free, I thought it might be fun to sit down with a few peeps over a foamy beer and be a little less structured. I'm staying near the Orient, which is in the Rocks, so around 5:00 pm I figure to wander down there and hoist a few (just a few). If you're free and bored swing by. I'll be the one with the white carnation and a copy of "War and Peace". (That might be not true.) I'll be the one that looks like Joss, only more tired. (Wait, I always look tired. Maybe I better bring "War and Peace" after all.)

I've already phoned Gav and Sim, and ICQed Boots. The rest of you Firefly fans out there - don't say I didn't try.

September 10, 2005

Spring Assault

Winter Assault, the expansion pack for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, is due to hit stores in a few days’ time. Now, whether I actually need it is another question. I was playing Dawn of War fairly often a few months ago, but today is the first time I put the Dawn of War disc back in the hard drive since then.

Still, a few of my friends have been looking forward to Winter Assault for a little while, which might prompt a renewal of interest. I also ran into an ex-Dad’s Army clan member who also likes his Dawn of War, but interestingly enough hadn’t heard about Winter Assault.

For those of you who don’t know, Dad’s Army was a clan established by a pack of Aussies when the original Battlefield 1942 computer game was released. It died off late last year, but looked to be experiencing a resurgence a month or so ago with the release of Battlefield 2. Unfortunately, its home site, BFAustralia.com, was closed due to lack of traffic.

I am almost tempted to ask Marcus whether the IMAGinES web space could support a forum application. I keep thinking of all these things that it could come in handy for – a new home for Dad’s Army, a central point for Cairns gamers, a means of organising online games (roleplaying and otherwise), somewhere IMAGinewSies can hang out and chat – maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Then again, Vickie and I did some budgeting today based on my new salary, and it looks like quite a bit of belt-tightening is in order - plus Vickie's birthday is coming up as well. Besides, spending more time playing online games may actually be fatal. I direct you to this GameSpot news article, which will be of special interest to you game-playing gentlemen out there. Read and fear…

Damn Itch...

Well, as some of you have probably guessed, I'm starting to get the Gaming Itch like nobody's business. I think that's the by product of reading the Actual Play threads on the Forge: all of those testimonials of great times around the gaming table conspire to drive one up the wall when one isn't gaming oneself.

After seven months of Googling, coincidental meetings and the odd e-mail, I've come to the conclusion that there are quite a few Cairns gamers out there; they just don't hang out much on the Internet. I've discovered a few new forums on the web, at least two of which (the Queensland Gamers Guild and Ruby Covenant Roleplaying) encourage Queensland gamers to get involved, but it seems none of the active members are in Cairns; every post I've put up about looking for players or existing groups has been greeted with that wonderful sound of crickets you hear whenever everything stops happening in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

I was thinking about either setting up a forum of my own or re-establishing the Cairns Roleplayers Meetup Group, which Meetup.com closed when I didn't switch over to their fees system. The latter seems like a better approach than the former, as (a) Cairns gamers, as mentioned above, couldn't seem to be bothered with regular forums and (b) the focus of a Meetup group is organization of actual face-to-face meetings. However, Vickie and I have done some budgeting based on my new salary, and we quite literally cannot afford an AU$25 per month subscription right now.

Also, the Cairns gamers that I have met can be rather hard to keep in touch with. Now, let's be honest: I've not been drastically proactive in keeping contact myself, what with all the job juggling I've been doing lately. Still, two illustrations of my point come to mind:

The first happened Monday week ago, when a gent sat down next to me on the bus and caught a glimpse of the printout of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach that I was reading. It turns out he's a gamer himself, and we exchanged e-mail addresses. That night, I sent an e-mail to both of the addresses he provided.

No reply to it or the follow-up message I sent last weekend.

The second happened a few months ago now, when I saw a thread on the FantasySciFi.com forum started by someone else looking for gamers in Cairns. I replied, and so did he; he lives a way up the road on the Atherton Tablelands! I responded again, and let him know I'd be interested in meeting.

Over four months later and still no subsequent response, either to that post or the two private messages I sent.

So, in desperation, I wrote an e-mail last night to all of the gamers I've met since I moved up, saying that I want to game, my wife and I can play and I can also GM, and there are a few things I'm keen on GM-ing at the moment. One of them has already got back to me and let me know that he's very busy right now, but that he's forwarded my e-mail on to some friends of his.

We'll see what happens!

September 03, 2005

You know you've spent too much time at the Forge when...

... you start thinking about all those mini-RPGs they put out, and the thought occurs to you, "Maybe I can do this..."

And then you start thinking about what sort of game it would be, from characters to activities to pre-supplied worlds to resolution mechanics, and you wonder, "When the hell am I going to have time to nut all of this out?"

Okay, let me try and make some sense of all of this for you:

The Forge is one of the big roleplaying game discussion forums on the Web. It's pretty damned cool in that not only are its members polite - they have very few griefers, flamers or trolls - but they're also seriously interested in what makes the activity of a roleplaying game "fun", and how to design games that enable a specific kind of fun with a minimum of interference or confusion. Its forums mightn't have as many posts as, say, RPGnet (the big gorilla on the RPG forum front), but the signal-to-noise ratio tends to favour signal more often.

I stumbled across the Forge at the same time as I discovered InSpectres, mainly because the Forge's online store, the Bookshelf, was the only place InSpectres was available at the time. I've been lurking there - well, pretty much ever since. As I wasn't involved in game design, I usually had little interest in the forums outside of "Actual Play" (which was where I discovered how much fun Primetime Adventures could be). Eventually, though, I got interested enough to find out what this "GNS" idea they kept harping on about was, and read some of the articles written on the subject of identifying fun in gaming and encouraging it through system design.

Most recently, I noticed some "Actual Play" threads regarding a few new games that some of the Forge regulars had playtested whilst at GenCon, probably the biggest roleplaying game convention in the US. The thread that got my attention was about the playing of a game called The Shab-al-Hiri Roach. This game had been created as part of this year's Game Chef event, where contestants, in homage to the Japanese cooking game show Iron Chef, must design a complete roleplaying game within nine days, based on a given theme and incorporating three of five one-word "ingredients"and at least one rules limitation.

This took me to the Game Chef pages, and then on to the page for the 24 Hour RPG event, the roleplaying equivalent of Scott McCloud's 24 Hour Comic contest (an event that Pirotess, EvilHayama's lady, and friends participated in recently). And that's when I started wondering whether I could do something like The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and the other entries.

Of course, I had no real idea what sort of RPG I'd want to do... until, over on the website which hosts the files and forums for both events, I saw an ad for the massively multiplayer computer game EVE Online. This game is in the same general genre as games like Elite, Space Rogue, Wing Commnander: Privateer and Freelancer, where you wander the spacelanes buying and selling goods, using the money to upgrade/repair your spaceship and take on more missions. In case you don't already know, Privateer is one of my Favourite Computer Games Of All Time.

And I started thinking, "Could I make a small roleplaying game about being a starship trader?"

Of course, there have been several RPGs that have, directly or optionally, addressed the idea of a one-ship, interplanetary mercantile enterprise (Traveller and Star Wars both come to mind). Heck, it looks as though someone's already tried something like it for this year's 24 Hour RPG. So if I did something like this, I'd like to make it less about the mechanics of the enterprise - trading goods, managing money, upgrading/trading-in ships - and more about the pilots themselves, who they are, why they're prospecting the Big Black, how much they could take before giving up the trader's life. In a nod to The Shab-al-Hiri Roach, i'd like it to be GM-less if possible, which would mean the game would probably centre around and encourage interesting interaction between player characters.

The best title I've been able to come up with so far is Trader: The Art of the Deal, as I can see the main "group" parts of the game would be at some sort of market event, where the trader PCs come to buy and sell their commodities, whether unrefined minerals, space-junk, foodstuffs, weapons, whatever. That's when they're all trying to outdo each other, not in fights, but with the best sales. I'd also like the rules to be as simple and minimal as necessary.

Anyway, it's all just ideas now, but sometime soon I might just wikify them so that I can toy with - and maybe develop - them.

William McInnes is a nice guy.

The above opinion is based on about fifteen minutes' personal observation. The Post received some complimentary tickets to a local premiere of Look Both Ways, a new Australian film starring Mr. McInnes and penned by his wife, Sarah Watt, who also directed.

The film itself is good. Seriously good. You may be expecting a quirky art house film, and actually that's what you'll get, but only because the actors never compromise on being as "real" as possible - there are no "performances", not even the of the slightly-realer-than-real kind common to a lot of modern mainstream drama. There's a lot of evident discomfort, people almost but not quite saying what they mean all the time. They're quirky, but in the same way the rest of us real people are quirky, if you know what I mean. It's well worth going out of your way to watch.

The good thing about the premiere was that William McInnes was, as you've probably gathered from the above, actually there. He introduced himself and the film before screening commence, and came bachk in and sat with us afterward for a Q and A. He's very friendly and quick-witted, and has some strong opinions about our pollies. Were we not both pretty exhaused by the end of the Q and A, I'm sure we would have stuck around wth the rest of the cinephiles to chat with him.

September 02, 2005

City Beneath the Sea

I've wanted to go to New Orleans for a while now. I'd hoped that after the current turmoil died down - probably after a couple of administration changes - and we had some more money, Vickie and I could make a fairly uncomplicated trip to the States. New Orleans was about the only place I absolutely wanted to visit. (Now, before anyone gets riled up, I'm talking about places here, not people, which is another matter entirely.)

It's all Harry Connick, Jr.'s fault. I borrowed the title of this post from that of the second-last track on his Star Turtle album. Now, I know you might argue (and so could I, frankly) that I'm being too smart-alecky for my own good considering the current state of the city. But it was that tune that enamoured me with the idea of visiting New Orleans. I know muse-os have been waxing lyrical about places they love for centuries, but there was something about Harry's love for his hometown in the song which made me feel like stopping in one day.

So rather than try and slap together some sort of "heartfelt understanding" message to people I don't know for a city I've never been to, I hope Harry won't mind if I quote you his own response to the results of Hurricane Katrina's visitation upon the City of New Orleans:

It is hard to sit in silence, to watch one's youth wash away. New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse, and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory.

I will say this to any reader who is in, or has family or friends in, New Orleans: I hope for the best for you.