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November 29, 2005

That's Pretty Heavy.

All the communication in the world cannot solve a real conflict of interest; it can only reveal it.

- Ron Edwards

November 25, 2005

chopping wood, carrying water

For the first time in a little while, I've established yet another category within the IMAGinES web log: House and Home. I have no doubt that it wouldn't surprise you that I have a lot to learn when it comes to keeping house, but I think there's something worthwhile in discussing my discovery of what it takes to just live every day (instead of parking my arse in front of my PC, typing web log posts and playing games), and the value of the skills therein. Thus, I've jestingly subtitled this category, Embracing the Zen of Domesticity.

Hey, I figure if Greg Dean can go to cookery school, I can renovate a kitchen.

This all started last week, when Vickie and I were talking about the possibility of my getting out of the RPG hobby. (Yes, I was considering it, and if we don't have much luck up here re: gamers in the next twelve months, I may consider it again.) The main question was, if I did decide to give it up, what else could I take up to replace it.

It's a tricky question, especialy as there's not much like it in the way of social activities, and I have the feeling Cairns mightn't have a strong book club scene. (You never know, though.) Ultimately, I wanted to do something that was similarly social, that gets us out to meet people. Vickie suggested landscape gardening, which I don't think is quite my scene - too much sun (which I don't function well in) and hard labour, not to mention little in the way of getting to know people.

The judges are still out on the subject of new hobbies, although I'm wondering whether the Greg Dean avenue of cooking classes might be a good choice - but in the meantime, I'd like to do something to improve our place, and our kitchen seems liek a good place to start. More on that soon.

But to wind this post off, I'd just like to skip back to that jesting title - Embracing the Zen of Domesticity. I remember I read a quote in one of Spider & Jeanne Robinson's Star Dancers trilogy: "Magical power, marvellous action! chopping wood, carrying water..." It's something I've accepted intellectually for a while, but never really understood until recently. I might ahve mentioned that a few weeks ago, we had some tree-loppers over to do cyclone preparation on our yard. Branches were removed from trees, with our lychee tree seeing the heaviest pruning. The cut branches were all mulched, and we kept the mulch - they even gave us an extra pile from a prior place that wanted their mulch taken away. (I'll dig up the photos I took.) We've had family over to help clear them on my ownmyself - and it's been good work, if you know what I mean. It's hard work, but I feel better (although exhausted and sweaty) after I've done it.

I'm actually looking forward to doing a little more tonight!

Bet you never thought you'd read that, eh?

November 22, 2005

Gaming Night

Following on from this post, here's the e-mail I sent out:

    Vickie and I would like to invite all of you over our place on the evening of Saturday, January 14th (after the Christmas / New Year Danger Period) to Play Some Games.

    What games? Anything that can be picked up, learned, played and enjoyed in a short space of time. Now, I know you're thinking board or card games, and those are fine for Gaming Night. If you have one or some you enjoy, please bring 'em along.

    But here's the thing: There are roleplaying games that can be picked up, learned, played and enjoyed in a short space of time. There are roleplaying games DESIGNED to go from blank character sheets and no GM prep to a completed, satisfying first session in four or five hours. (No, no pre-generated PCs.) Even with two players and a GM.

    I have some. And I'd really like to play 'em with you.

    So if you're interested, please get back to me on or before Saturday, January the 7th and let me know whether you're coming. If you have freinds who might be interested, please pass this on to them - better yet, just tell them to keep the night clear and drag them along with you!

    You'll need your dice collection; a deck of playing cards would be a bonus. An item of food (bag of chips, a container of dip, whatever strikes your fancy) and a bottle of drink (alcoholic or otherwise) would be a good idea. Again, please bring along anything you'd like to play. I'd like to get a game going by eight o'clock at the latest, and while you're welcome as early as six, please aim to get here around seven.

So far, I've had one reply. Yes, it was positive, schedules pending.

Dogs from Another Angle

Here's a very interesting and thought-provoking comment from the responses to "You're Soaking In It":

    Dogs [in the Vineyard] breaks for me in interesting ways. As a player, it's fine, if not paradigm-breaking. I like the concept and the questions. What I can't get past (as a player) is that I have so much control over what other people do. Almost any situation I can arrange to get my fellows in, we can argue our opposition into anything, no matter how dumb our arguments are. As a GM, it's the flip side. I have to "lose" to some grossly unconvincing statements. It moves the argument from the game to a meta-argument about stakes.

    In general, I'm not too keen on social stats and mechanisms in games. I think it's useful for a GMs to have a way to resolve social conflicts for NPCs when s/he doesn't care, but I see too much reliance on dice rather than interaction in Dogs or Burning Wheel to make me happy. The story I review at the end of a session is often unsatisfying because someone chose a course of action that was unusually stupid because the dice told them they lost a conflict and had to do so. This is an area where vagueness and winging it are what work for me and getting into explicit detail blows my suspension of disbelief.

I'm interpreting this as another view of The White Gamer's Burden: "What if I'm not socially adept and/or quick-witted, but I want to play a character who is?" It's a question that I think has slowly dragged itself into the gamer consciousness as an item worth addressing ever since Feng Shui started rewarding players for wildly-creative stunts - effectively penalising the poor bastards who aren't quite quick enough or imaginative enough to come up with something better than "I shoot him" when put on the spot.

I'd shrug my shoulders and say hey, roleplying draws in creative and quick-witted folk, so where's the problem?, except Michael (the commenter) mentions examples drawn from experience; not "I can easily imagine this happening" but "this actually happened at a game or games that I was part of".

Dogs in the Vineyard is, I think, a game for the quick-witted and imaginative, and although the encouragement of kibbitzing can help people who are suddenly having brain-farts, "I can easily imagine" some poor bugger out of his or her depth and getting kibbitzed to death.

Then again, Dogs in the Vineyard is quite explicitly about posing moral challenges and discussing the events of play amongst yourselves as players afterward, so it's pretty much aimed at a player willing to confront, explore and discuss hypothetical examples of big ideas - my personal opinion (based on zero play experience) is that such a typical player is unlikely to have the sort of trouble Michael describes.

In two sentences: Michael says, "Dogs [in the Vineyard] breaks for me in interesting ways". I say, "Anything breaks when you try to make it do things it's not intended to do."

Further comment and discussion is most definitely welcomed!

November 21, 2005

He Hit The Nail On The Head.

I'd just like to direct your collective attention to a web log post written a couple of weeks ago. It's called The Campaign Fallacy, and it discusses the common myth of the Campaign (or the longer-than-four-sessions campaign) and some answers to it.

The concept of Stealth Gaming is mentioned here, and it's something that, given my current situation, I think is worthwhile trying.

It may well be worthwhile for you Sydneysiders, too - I've been hearing about how the scene seems to be dying off a bit down there. I remember how there seemed no middle ground between Board Game Night and The [Insert Name Here] Campaign Night (which often turned into Board Game Night when one or two couldn't show). Maybe Stealth Gaming and easy-to-access RPGs are what's needed?

Capital-C Character in Trad Gaming

Over on the 20' by 20' Room, Jonathan Walton is proposing a personal gaming experiment:

    In playing the first session of the Warhammer Fantasy game last night, I found myself floundering a bit without any systematic support that helped me figure out how my character would act or what his central goals and conflicts were.

    I'm trying to provide myself, as a player, with the kinds of tools and structure that I'm going to need to play this game effectively. ... I'm going to define a few beliefs and goals for my character, and then keep track of them in a formal way, noting when they change, using those moments of change as major turning points in my character's life, and making that a record of character development.

    I'm going to try doing this on my own, without formal system support, and see how it goes.


This seems to mirror some thought I've been having lately about having more meaningful character interaction in a traditional RPG (specifically relating to my interest in getting a Starship Troopers campaign going). Many trad RPGs resolve extended social conflicts with a single roll and passing advice on what situations might modify it, saving the dramatic pacing and meaningful tactical choice for the combat rules.

In an extension of the thoughts that prompted my Story Appropriateness vs. Risk and Tension post a couple of months ago, I'm especially curious about whether and how putting some effort toward capital-C Character development might confilct with the Party Mission mindset that RPGA Living campaigns seem to encourage (especially through rewards like Campaign Cards). To me, Accomplishing the Mission and Developing your Character can sometimes result in conflicting objectives (your character not doing its part for the team might be appropriate based on the character's emotional standopint, but when everyone else needs to nail the liche so they can level up, the other players may be less than sympathetic to your pleas for dramatically-relevant story).

Although you might imagine there'd be some separation between con-based Living games and personal campaigns, at least one local gamer has said that his group have a set of standing characters that they not only play socially, but also take to cons for Living play.

So, I'm very interested to see how Jonathan goes.

November 20, 2005

Raiders, Te-en SHUN!

Here they are: the 63rd Riverstone Raiders, my Imperial Guard army paint scheme for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault and some of the hardest bastards to serve the Emperor of Man in the dark and distant future.

Firstly, here are the men of the fighting 63rd. The two gents with swords are, on the left, the Commissar - the squad's morale officer, empowered to shoot his own men to keep the rest fighting - and, on the right, the Sergeant. You'll notice that behind and to the left of the Sergeant is a trooper wielding a big weapon - that's a Grenade Launcher.

Guardsmen with Commissar

One of the things I like about the Guard is that their unit insignia is simple - a stencilled number. No need for fancy insignia that are hard to make out at a distance. So it was a matter of minutes designing, saving and setting up the insignia for the Guard, unlike the days it took me to come up with something decent for the Kara-Thenn. (Of course, I still need a banner for the 63rd, which will take some time...)

Regiment Command

The command centre and primary deployment point for the 63rd. This field command building has actually been upgraded twice; the observation tower and sat-com dish are additions. It can serve as shelter for up to three Guard squads - almost all Imperial Guard buildings serve as bunkers for infantry, and troopers can cross between them without exposing themselves to fire using underground tunnels. Note the reinforced viewports; they allow ensconced troops to shoot from safety. In the background are two generators and an occupied Relic with a Listening Post.

Infantry Command

This is an Infantry Command Bunker. It expands the Guard's zone of command, as well as allowing special units like a Command Squad and Ogryns (more on both later) to be built. Like Field Command, it can serve as shelter for up to three Guard squads

Dropped Building

Another neat thing about the regiment's logo is that, whenever you commence construction on a building, the logo appears on the crates of construction gear that get dropped from orbit. You'll notice the turbines that have fallen to either side of this large crate; these are jets that slow the crate's descent and cushion its impact. (Unlike Space Marine kit, which is rugged enough to hit hard.)

Sentinel

Those crates you saw earlier? They were for a Mechanised Command building. One of the vehicles that can be built at a Mechanised Command is this leggy beast: a Sentinel. It's a light scout and assault unit.

Chimera and Ogryns

As Guardsmen on foot are slow and fairly fragile, tracked APCs called Chimeras can be built to ferry them across the battlefield and deploy them at the front. The back of one (gotta represent) is seen here, along with a squad of Ogryns. Many generations ago, their ancestors were humans who set up a colony on a high-gravity world, and these guys were the result: Not fast, not so bright, but very strong and very tough.

And this is the toughest of them all:

Baneblade

This monstrosity is very, very hard to kill and (as you can see) a veritable hedgehog of huge-bore hurtin'. That's why a Guard regiment can only have one at a time, and it takes a captured Relic, a hefty research project and a specialised building (not the one in the background; that's just a regular Mechanised Command as mentioned above) to get it. But one's enough.

Oh, almost forgot. Here's my alter-ego:

General Farquhar

Bet you didn't think I was so good looking, eh?

November 19, 2005

Smithfield Sprint

Vickie and I finally made a dash out to Smithfield today, to check out the Toyworld store there and its stocks of miniature painting supplies. The first thing I noticed is that it wasnít really a dash as I thought; it was more like a trek. For you Sydneysiders, imagine driving from Normanhurst to Parramatta, thatís about how long it took us. I thought Smithfield was much closer to Cairns proper!

Still, they have a fairly decent line of Warhammer 40,000 books, kits and blisters, pretty much concentrating on the major sides (Marines, Imperial Guard, Chaos and Orks). They also have some Lord of the Rings stuff. No, no Mongoose or any other miniatures. The rest of their hobby range is devoted to model kits.

Now, it looks as though the only water-based paint in town is Citadel Miniaturesí line of paints, a pot of which will set me back $5. (Acrylic and enamel based paints are cheaper, but I learned on and know water-based.) So, letís say I wanted a few pots: black, white, blue, red, yellow, green (for the Mobile Infantry armour), gun metal (for the guns) and flesh-tone (for the MI faces), a selection of brushes, a scalpel and some extra blades. For those, Iíd be paying around $60.

Right at the moment, I think Iíll hold off until after Christmas before spending that much (I might even spend more, as spray-primers are around $20 per can, and ink washes are also a tempting option).

Palm Pilots and Riverstone Raiders

My Palm III is working again, complete with an OS upgrade from 3.0 to 3.3. Itís still way behind the modern units, but frankly I think itíll do what I need it to Ė which isnít much really Ė just fine. (Turns out there was a serial port on my PC, so now I have a dual-serial-port adapter that I donít need. Iíll ask Paul about returning it.) A few Thunderbird plug-ins have allowed me to sync the Palm III with my Mozilla Address Book, so I have names, addresses and phone numbers readily available. Iíve also bought some rechargeable AAAs, so hopefully I shouldnít be spending heaps on new batteries every so often.

The printer, on the other hand, is still eluding me Ė mainly because Iíve done bugger all about it in the last couple of weeks. Paul suggested a solution, which was to turn off all firewalls and antivirus software on both our PCs before I try hooking up to the printer (shared on Vickieís PC) again. I will get around to it. Soon. Ish.

Then again, the manís trying to hook Vickie and I into EVE Online, so Iím not sure how trustworthy he is. You know, ulterior motives and all that.

(Okay, wait a moment Ė if he were trying to hook me in, heíd want to give me reliable advice, so Iíd trust his word about how much fun is. Then again, heís dealing MMO, and we know what that shit does to people. So maybe heís in some sort of skewed, game-induced state where heís pretending to help me but really stabbing me in the back at the same time. I mean, apparently that shit happens in EVE Online all the time.)

In the meantime, Iíve been playing Winter Assault. Having twice the RAM frees up enough system resources that I can crank up the detail levels, and now, all the little men (or Orks, or Eldar or Chaos Demon-Thingies) and all the little vehicles (or lizards or big Chaos Demon-Thingies) look absolutely fantastic as they charge about shooting each other.

Also, playing the Imperial Guard is a blast, so much so that Iím even thinking of switching sides: So long, Kara-Thenn; hello, 63rd Riverstone Raiders. Iíve even worked up a badge (easy, as Imperial Guard units use a stencilled number Ė an actual banner will be tricky, though) and colour scheme (using the colour scheme for my website) for them. Pics will be posted as soon as I do some screen-grabs. Iím hoping to catch some online action soon; I know a few of you already have the Dawn of War expansion, and I think Iím slowly bringing Andy out of his Civilization IV-induced stupor; heís already downloaded the DoW demo.

Iíve even done some tweaking to my other games, including Homeworld2 and Star Wars Republic Commando so that I can see how much better they look. The Sims 2 runs as shit as ever, unfortunately.

November 16, 2005

Closing the Wiki Down?

Speaking of wikis: A little earlier, I went into the IMAGinES Wiki to see whether anyone had made any changes recently. I also wanted to make a couple of updates myself: it's been a few weeks since our last attempt at getting together for Stars on the Move and with Christmas fast upon us I don't think anyone will have time until after New Year's, so I thought I'd adjust the SotM pages accordingly.

I discovered that several updates had been made, but not my myself or any of my friends. An individual or individuals unknown had created four user-IDs and used them to vandalise the site, removing content and substituting it with hidden code, presumably intended for Google-spamming or some other hit-boosting exercise.

About ten minutes' work saw the changes rolled back with little trouble, but it's a bit disheartening to see that in the last few months, the only people to edit the Wiki at all have been myself and the aforementioned vandals. Although I know a few of you were keen on seeing a new IMAGinES Wiki for the commencement and continuance of Lexicon games, none of those people signed up for a topic or suggested one of their own.

I'm also wondering whether the benefit of having the Wiki pages for Stars on the Move is worth the maintenance, especially as things seem to have ground to a halt for the moment (that's no criticism of my players; there's really nothing more we can do unless / until the pilot episode). Most of the use the Wiki has seen since I set it up again has been as my personal, online notepad, and I already have a paper one that I don't use enough.

There is the option of investigating a more secure alternative to MediaWiki, but considering the limited interest that everyone bar myself has taken at the moment, I'm not really sure it's worthwhile.

So, folks, especially those of you who were keen on the whole Wiki/Lexicon Game idea, do you intend to use the Wiki anytime soon? I'll wait a month before making a decision.

Epic Legends of the Hierarchs

For those of my readership who just can't get enough Wiki goodness (you know who you are), I present the latest project by none other than Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade: Epic Legends of the Heirarchs: The Elemenstor Saga! It's a group attempt at cataloguing the history of this epic work of fantasy fiction, all the way from its humble roots as a CCG, through the WizBits animated series to the eleven-novella work of Tycho Brahe himself. ANy fan of this work owes it to him or herself to contribute!

So get yourself a log in and make with the crazy wikifying! The "Begin In An Inn Inn" is just begging to be detailed...

November 15, 2005

National Games Week

I keep neglecting to mention this, but in a scant five days, the United States will be in the grip of National Games Week. From November the Twentieth to the Twenty-Sixth, America will (ideally) be indulging in "... a celebration of non-electronic games, taking the form of events in homes, schools, community center, game stores and many other locations... wherever our members want to hold their event."

Yes, Wizards of the Coast and several other RPG companies are sponsoring the event.

I'll have to follow up with Bruce on that games day he was planning for the Trinity Bay SHS kids...

They'd better make an Xbox port, null unit.

With major thanks to the lads at Penny Arcade for passing the news on - in musical form, no less - I'd just like to let people know that the sequel to the hit PlayStation 2 game Kingdom Hearts (which successfully merged the worlds of the earlier Final Fantasy games and the cartoons of Disney) will feature a jaunt into the Electronic World, including a guest appearance by none other than TRON himself!

Don't believe me? Check out these photos!

I'll probably wind up camped out in front of someone else's PS3...

November 08, 2005

Dust Busting

I was awaiting the arrival of the new parts for my PC last night with not a little trepidation; I knew that in order to perform the upgrade, I'd have to open up my case and view the horrors lurking within. My fears were right: A whole family of midget dust-bunnies had taken up residence inside my case. Not only that but all of the fans - intake, extractors, power supply, CPU cooling, GPU cooling - were caked in dust (the clear extractor fans weren't clear, they were brown), and there was a thin layer of it across the motherboard. The Bruce Highway might only be two lanes, and we're not living right on the corner of it, but we still get a significant amount of dust from it through the place. (Then there's what the cane mill down the road puts into the air...) I cleaned, brushed and vacuumed my case out (not to mention taking several cotton tips to the various fans) before installing the RAM and SoundBlaster.

I'm seriously starting to consider getting a new case. Although I have a filter grille on my intake fan, there are just too many places that air can get in unfiltered: vents on either side of the case, bottom and top; the steel grille in the case frame upon which the intake fan is mounted (making the grille I've put on said fan redundant); an open 3.5" drive bay on the front; several open expansion card slots on the back. I never got around to customising that case as I'd semi-dreamed about, and it's a little too big and heavy to lug around whenever I want to do some maintenance.

I could buy new, but I'm wondering whether any decent cases get chucked on the council tip. That, or maybe the people of FNQGaming.com (formerly FNQGL, the Far North Queensland Gaming League/Lounge) might have some spares they're willing to part with cheaply. If I do spend, though, it'll definitely be a next year thing.

I tell you what, though; I'm dreading what I'll see when I open Vickie's PC. If mine needed a clean, hers will most likely be desperate for one. That 12cm blue-glow fan mounted on Vickie's case alongside her CPU has no filter or grille on it, so it's probably been sucking dust like nobody's business! I'm already browsing PCCaseGear.com for a 12cm grille; I'm also thinking of seeing whether there's some sort of filtration I can stick across some of the vents.

Or maybe I should just give up on air-cooling as a solution and get a couple of water cooling kits. Fewer airflow fans will mean no dust-sucking gale. Of course, water cooling ain't cheap, and there's that whole water inside the PC thing...

November 07, 2005

Christmas Lockdown

In case the last post has you wondering, yes, from here on in I am on Pre-Christmas Lockdown, which means no more spending on myself until after the 25th. At the moment, Vickie and I will be looking at the last round of renovations on our house - specifically, the kitchen splashback and the power points - as well as the panelbeating work on the car.

Not to mention Christmas presents for family and cards for friends.

Interesting, The People You Bump Into...

Vickie and I went shopping on Saturday. Close to the markets we get most of our produce from is a little shop called Imagine, which, of course, caught Vickie's attention. It's a general eclectica store: incense, furniture from around our half of the Pacific rim, clothing. Needless to say, it brought the hippie out in Vickie!

While we were browsing, I couldn't help but notice that the gent behind the counter looked sort of like a gamer - glasses, plain grey t-shirt, grey camo shorts, sneakers. I mentioned it to Vickie, and when we went to the counter to buy something, she asked, "Are you a gamer?" (I can always count on Vickie to have more social guts than I.) He was, although mostly in terms of PC gaming, but he told us he's also a masterclass miniatures painter. He asked whether I was as well, and I had to admit that, while I'm pretty good, the last time I actually painted was well over four years ago! (For those of you wondering, those five Hunter Heavy Gears.)

There is a store just North of Cairns that caters to miniatures (yes, including Games Workshop stuff) and holds painting days every couple of weeks; Taeme (as is his name) is a regular there, preferring painting over actual gaming. (He had some horror stories about the D&D games he's been in in the past!) But he knows a few gamers, so here's hoping for next year - the shop has stopped its painting days for the time being, and it will be moving from North of Cairns to within Cairns over the Christmas break. As Vickie and I are South of Cairns, that's marvellous!

So while that's all quiet, I'm hoping Taeme and I can get in some online gaming, or maybe we'll just invite him over - he seems a very nice bloke.

You may ask what the point of this talk of painting days and miniatures is, given that I sold all my minis and paints and stuff before we left Sydney. Well, remember that last week I mentioned doing an I'm Weak post? And how, a little before that, I mentioned being tempted by Starship Troopers: The Miniatures Game?

Well, I didn't give in to that temptation.

Not that one.

Instead, I gave into the temptation (fueled by that MilSims sale) to buy myself a box of MI Cap Troopers, a box of Warrior Bugs and a box of Hopper Bugs. I also ordered a pair of Female Cap Troopers from the Mongoose website (and they came all the way from the UK in less than a week).

They're just for the RPG! Honest! One of the things I noticed at ReefCon was that the regular D&D players had battlemaps and miniatures, even for Star Wars games. So I figure the best way to get the gamers of Cairns interested in a Starship Troopers campaign is to plonk some minis down in front of them and say, "Here are your fearless Troopers, and - oh, look, there are some Bugs!"

Besides, Taeme reckons there can be good money in painting up here, and I will not complain about a little side income that gets me in with the local geek community.

I'll let you know how I go. In the meantime, my other MilSims order arrived today, the one with the dice, the D&D Core Rulebooks, Generation Gap, Winter Assault and, yes, the Serenity RPG. And the RAM, sound card and serial port have come in as well.

So, yes. I'm weak.

November 04, 2005

Crash Boom Bang

I seem to be having some problems with our brand new printer. Aside from some early arguments with PrintMaster, Vickie's had no problem with it.

However, when I fire up Word 2000, it'll crash within a minute to a minute and a half, generating one of those "Microsoft Word has generated an error and has to close" messages. Adobe Reader 7 does the same whenever I try to print from it, and if I print from Word, the whole application simply disappears without even an error message. Just gone.

I've had no luck searching the Internet for similar problems, so I've gone to Epson's tech support site and filled out their customer service form. Here's hoping they can get back to me soon.

November 01, 2005

evil horse ceremony happened

they gave me thirty dollars

help

don't know how much longer i have

they're evil

the people i work with they're possessed or something

THEY'RE TRYING TO GET ME DRUNK

keep coming up to me with bottles of beer

keep saying it's got something to do with some horses or something

i don't believe them

they want to get me inebriated

then do horrible things to me

they're gathering around big-screen projector in loading dock

evil ceremony sure to start soon

sos

need evac

er... stat

yeah it's light beer so what