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I had an interesting weekend. Went to Intercon and was in four LARPs there. Brought home a cold, but oh well.

In one of the LARPs, I was Sherlock Holmes and spent the evening doing lots and lots of puzzles. Lots. Four hours worth. I didn't really interact with the other characters. There was a Watson who had an English accent (either real or a great fake). The best part of the evening was when he said "Good show, Holmes." after I solved one of the mysteries (the one that directly involved me).

The deductive mechanic (the puzzles and more puzzles) was an interesting idea, but the implementation needed work. I noticed that with a few other LARPs: mechanics often got in the way of plot. One game had a complicated ship repair system that required the full attention of one of the GMs and with the other GM off with a group exploring the lower levels of a derelict ship, I had not one ot ask about my problem: What are the mechanics for treating bioweapon poisoning by a horrible mutagen?

I actually enjoy playing Ultima Online because the game takes care of the mechanics for me. I don't need to keep track of monster HP or combat rules or mapping. However, often event setup seems like setting up for a party in real life. At Christmas, I made 60 gingerbread cookies and 40 mugs of eggnog in Ultima Online, and because of the problematic cooking system, I did a lot of mouse clicks to make them. Make 60 bits of dough, make them into cookie mixes, add the ginger, bake, and repeat. However, slow setup for events/larps/games/etc. isn't that bad since there are no time constraints and no hordes of bored people.
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I'm a big fan of Brian Fuller's shows (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, and Pushing Daisies). Off-beat and funny and very human. It is a pity they keep getting cancelled. I just saw the Dead Like Me direct-to-DVD "movie" that takes place 5 years after the series ends. It reminded me of the problems with the direct-to-DVD B5 though more of a budget - a little too short (87 min for Dead Like Me, 75 min for B5) , the feel was a little off (new sets for both), and both made me really miss the shows. Babylon 5 got its 5-year arc, but it has had 3 failed restarts (Crusade, Legend of the Rangers, Lost Tales). Dead Like Me got two seasons and was apparently cancelled due to low ratings (though the rumors are that it was an internal power struggle that killed the show).

I watched B5 when I was in high school, and I still want more. Dead Like Me was cancelled 5 years ago, and I still want more. Pushing Daisies was cancelled this year, and I'm going to have to buy the DVD set to get the last 3 episodes. Blah.

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About a year ago during the whole "scandal" about a writer's autobiography being pure fiction, I remembered a Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin: Want to help me write a book?
Hobbes: Sure. What's it about?
Calvin: Well, you know what historical fiction is? This is sort of like that. I'm writing a fictional autobiography.
It's the story of my life, but with a lot of parts completely made up.

Hobbes: Why would you make up your own life?
Calvin: Because in my book I have a flamethrower!

Every time I hear about another writer doing this, I remember this Calvin and Hobbes.

I think part of the appeal of Calvin and Hobbes was there was the right balance of slapstick, cynical humor, and sentimentality. I think the comic made a lot of good points that sort of stuck with me growing up.

I think the artist for this comic, Bill Watterson, was probably one of the few comic artists who saw himself as an artist. He did next to no merchandising, unlike the artists behind Garfield who designed the character with merchandising in mind. The rumor is Watterson is trying to be an oil painter and following some odd idea that the first 100 paintings of a painter are crap. He paints a piece and then burns it or something.  

I mention all this because according to my wife, I took a lot of my manerisms and speech patterns from the shows I watched growing up. One of them was Babylon 5 and the other was an anime called Ranma 1/2. I wondering what books and comics and such I got other bits of "me" from over the years. I'd like to believe Calvin and Hobbes was one of them.


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My wife is a big Sims 2 player. She has all the expansions. I gave her the last one she needed for Christmas. However, with the last few expansions, she has bought them to install, but also downloaded the No-CD crack (usually used by software pirates) to avoid the game installing various anti-piracy malware. She mentioned that the Sims community (the people who make the extra items and extras for the game) has been moving toward piracy. Sites where people used to flame when someone asked where to download the game for free will now share the information. Since the Sims community is on average older and more female than other game communities, this is a big change. Grandma is downloading cracks.

Then there is Spore which thanks to its anti-piracy code:

"The game was ranked the most pirated game of 2008, having been downloaded over 1,700,000 times."

The advantages to downloading the game for free are actually pretty hard to argue:

Spore Download:
-Can Be installed on any number of computers.
-Can Have multiple accounts.
-Doesn't infect your computer with malicious crippling software (usually).

Spore Purchase:
-Costs Money.
-Can Be installed 5 times before you have to fight with EA customer service.
-Can have only 1 account.
-Always infects your computer with malicious crippling software that most Virus Programs won't deal with.
-Gives money to EA, the Sith of Computer Games.

I think it would seem like common sense, but for those missing the point:


The game pirates will get around anything. There are more of them then the programmers you've hired insufficient numbers of, worked to death, and fired at Christmas. Pissing off honest purchasers in hopes that maybe somewhere somehow a game pirate will go "Gee, I've learned my lesson. Guess I better just install the malware and play Spore." is bad business and bad game design.

It should never be more fun for a majority of people to trash your game in blogs than to play it.

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I was reading a random article about Magic the Gathering over at Star City Games, and this got me thinking:

"Instant spells and abilities that can be played as instants are faster and more clever because they can be played during nearly all phases of the game no matter who’s turn it is. This is hugely powerful, giving you access to more information and the ability to outplay your opponent on more fields of battle - and, conversely, it allows for you to make more mistakes too."

Two of the things that I really like about Magic as a game are Instants and Engines. Instants are basically spells you can play whenever you want (assuming you have free magical resources) which allows for counter spells, temporary buffs, minor damage spells, and other "responses." They make the game more interactive. Even during your turn, I can respond to your actions. If you attack me, I can turn your brutish elemental into a snake or a sheep. If you fireball me, I can deflect it back into your face. My hand full of cards is a hand full of potential, and you actually care what I'm doing at all times. Interaction is fun.

A lot of games really don't do this well. Other people's turns tend to bore others to tears. I've played a few games of Axis and Allies where I ran out of things to read at the player's house. Sure there were splashes of color when combat happened, but random dice rolls aren't really that interesting after a bit. Some games try to completely kill player interaction or control it to avoid problems. I love Iron Dragon (Rail Empires), but I have as much fun playing an almost solitaire version on my computer (against a sometimes stupid computer opponent) as playing with other players. I can't take extra loads of supplies and dump them. I can't make alliances concerning track use. I can't create track monopolies entering cities. There is no meaningful interaction, so basically it is just a single player resource game where players compare scores at the end.

The standard definition of an "engine" in Magic is a combo that allows for some crazy abuse of resource management. Infinite mana. Infinite life. Infinite creatures. Infinite damage. Infinite card draw. Etc. I tend to go with a more broad definition. The "engine" is the interaction between cards, and combo that is more benificial than its individual parts is an engine. Engines create interaction between individual resources and such. They make the game more fun.

For example, the properties of the same color in monopoly can be seen as "engine" pieces. Owning the two or three properties of a color are much better than owning several disjointed properties. There is an incentive for you to collect them, and an incentive to prevent other players from getting them. Making and breaking engines create conflict and interaction.
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Sexism is one of those difficult issues to discuss as I am male. However, a few tidbits got me thinking on the subject of sexism in games.

The first was a post "UO is sexist" on one of the major boards for the game:

Of course the reason this came up was because female characters get a few minor bonuses over male characters. A quick break down:

-Ride one special type of pet
-Wear male kimono
-Takes extra damage from succubi

-Ride one special type of pet
-Wear female kimono, dresses, and skirts plus most other clothing
-Wear female armor types in addition to other armor types (1)
-Takes no life drain from succubi
-Higher probability of taking off armor around a satyr

The succubi damage is a big deal, but most of the others aren't that big in my opinion. In the old days, characters could cross dress, but the change from a Mature game to a Teen game a few years ago changed that (and also lost us human flesh jerky and carving bodies up into individual bits). I do believe however if these advantages were reversed, there would never have been a large forum thread about it. I consider Ultima Online one of the least sexist games I've seen, at least with the original client (2).

On the flip side, games like Shadowbane completely forbid female avatars of certain "ugly" races (minotaur, dwarves), and they basically had all females where bikini iron (3). The game had a very masculine focus (war, war, and more war) and basically mocked Ultima Online's Cooking skill with the advertisement "I don't play games to bake bread; I play them to crush."

All very good reasons not to play Shadowbane...I spent the weekend raising the cooking skill for a second time for my toolbox account, and I also spent some of the weekend in a roleplay duel. It is possible to both cook and crush. I think MMOs that try to focus on the more masculine side of gaming lose a great deal of depth.

Another interesting tidbit was this:

Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women's Community in Second Life

Second Life has a huge diversity of communities contained in its world, and this conference really stressed some of these. One was a paper on how Ultra-Conservative groups recruit women through the internet. I don't really have time to comment on it right now, but it seemed to connect with the other thread.

I need to think on these things and a few others before I get any kind of synthesis.

(1) The female armor types are mostly metal and leather bikini type things. While this doubles the armor choices, tmost armor types except for 1 minor exception (the very useful Violet Courage) do not spawn and must be made by players.

(2) I'm not a fan of the new client's female avatar. I'm not the only one. Thank goodness that client is dying, and I never had to use it.

(3) I'm not the first person to point out that no warrior would leave the softest bits of his or her anatomy with the least armor protecting them. I once heard a father trying to explain this to his children in a game store.
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A discussion in another journal reminded me that as of this Christmas, I've been playing Ultima Online for 11 years. I've done a lot in game in that time. Because, I'm sentimental, I feel like listing some of it:

1. My main character, Athenat, has been around 11 years. I made her my first day. She has changed over the years, changing skills and clothing and titles. She had tailoring when mongbat leather armor made her a little extra money in dungeons, tracking when it was a helpful tool for avoiding deadly player killers, and even bushido for a short period. She has been a wanderer, a tailor, a knight, an outcast, a bride's maid, a judge, a ghost, an explorer, a tavernkeep, and probably more things that I'm forgetting.

2. Margrave was my first villain character, and she had a good run before Galen Knighthawke finally ended it. For a mortal human, she broke most of Britannia's laws and a few natural ones. It was also amusing the huge number of storylines that came out of her death and division of her estate. A few of her dark dealings were posted on the official game site:

3. Landicine probably should get a mention. She is certainly not one of my most powerful characters, but she has always been fun to play. When the monsters crawl out of the ground along with the treasure chest, she runs away. Completely in-character, always amusing. I love that little guttersnipe.

4. I have trained characters up to 100 or better in every craft skill, sometimes several times over. With my large crafting room. I have the ability to make most roleplay props I need: spellbooks of dead necromancers, coffins holding the relics of some abbot, terrible magic rings, or libraries full of books.

5. The Britannian Rights of Citizens. Athenat, the first time she was a High Judge, helped pass a bill of rights for her Court system. Borrowing heavily from the U.S. bill of rights and sorting them into the Ultima Virtue system, the document actually passed through the High Council, getting the six of the nine votes to be passed.

6. I was part of the player town of Rivendell. The town's life ended with the safety of Trammel and internal schism, but it was pretty neat to be part of a small town like that for a bit. It also lead to...

7. I helped found the guild, Truth Love Courage, when Rivendell fell apart. Based on the primary Ultima virtues, the guild has run so many events over the years, due to the leadership of my good friend Merlynna.

8. I still run the evil roleplayer guild, Vesper Trading Company. Even with Margrave's death, the guild is still breaking laws and getting into trouble. It is fun to play the foil to the player with heroic characters and get to play assassins, pirates, and demonic poisoners.

9. I have owned a castle, and yet, I never loved it as much as my two-story plaster house on Moonglow island. Bluewater has a lot of memories. I interviewed people there for the High Court when I was running it. There have been holiday parties there, and many a dungeon crawl or treasure hunt started and ended there. It still has the guild stone for TLC and many of the player-written books I've collected over the years. I have other houses as well, but Bluewater is my home in Britannia.

Random Bits

Dec. 9th, 2008 12:52 pm
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I've been reading the Lord of the Rings finally, after putting it off 15 to 20 years...My mother read the Hobbit and the first book and a half of the trilogy to me when I was a child, but I never really felt like reading the rest until recently. I have mixed feelings about the experience.

1. It is both really good and really disappointing. It is a good story, but I really feel Tolkien could have used a good editor. I got the same feeling reading David Copperfield (hated) a year or so after Great Expectations (enjoyed). Long dull chapters about characters with no real role to the book do not help either book.

2. I keep seeing places where others have borrowed from it. B5 is a major one. The Grey Company/ Grey Council with both elves and Minbari being in the twilight years of their societies. Kazadum/Zahadum is another one with Gandalf falling at one, Sheridan at the other. The Rangers with their elf and human ties and their special pin, and rangers with their Minbari and human ties and their special pin. 

3. I do like how Tolkien does elves. They are old and beautiful and terrible and tragic without being annoying.  Elves (and vampires) frustrate me in rpgs and stories. When done well, they are interesting characters, but usually, they are pale cliches written or played by people who desperatly want to be cool enough to be an elf or vampire.

Blue Mage

Aug. 4th, 2008 03:26 pm
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Yeah, I'm blue. I like games where I can tinker, explore, and push random buttons. I don't think the deceit part fits me, but it does fit generic blue magic (counterspells, control magic, etc.)

Link to take test
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The war against video games is similar to the war against rap music or comic books. I do hope that the game industry doesn't go the way of comic books, since a few decades of something like the Comics Code Authority would be terrible. However, after reading this article by Richard Bartle, I worry less:

Richard Bartle is one of those game designers who actually looked at playstyles in an academic paper. From my own limited view, video games provide a lot more benefit than detriment. It is easy to connect one particular game or comic to a single crime, but the same is true for books (the bible, Catcher in the Rye, any book written by a dictator that inspires horrific acts). There are usually other forces (mental illness, social pressure, etc.) that are probably to blame more than the specific piece of media, but it is easier to blame a physical object. For example:

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Method Actor
Casual Gamer
Power Gamer

I find the various player taxonomy interesting since I think it shows as much about the observer as the observed. For example, the Magic the Gathering Taxonomy:

1. Timmy - He wants to play big creatures and spells. He will play with visceral cards (dragons, fireballs) even when not efficient.
2. Johnny - He wants to tinker and make things. He will play with off-beat cards and combo cards especially when not efficient.
3. Spike - He wants to WIN by any means. He will play the best with efficiency in mind. 

This system came about because the designers wanted to figure out what cards to make and which direction to take the game. Spikes buy the most cards because they want 4 of the best cards for constructed format, and they tend to draft more for competetive practice. Wizards kept that in mind. For them, they didn't want a complete understanding of the players; they just wanted to understand why cards were bought.

Another example is the Bartle System (Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers):

1. Killers like to act on other players, often to the other players' detriment.
2. Achievers like to act on the world for gain. 
3. Socializers like to interact with other players and build communities. 
4. Explorers like to interact with the world. 

Bartle was trying to explain very distinct playstyles he saw on MUDS. He tried to break it down into two axes: players/world and interact/act on. It makes sense, but he could have probably broken it down in other ways as well (Reputation/Loot, Community/Self, etc.)

My problem with Robin Law's system is I think the system misses certain players. The Johnny/Explorer type for example doesn't always fit. Maybe it fits under specialist, but that seems to marginalize it and lump it in with other groups. Maybe it fits under the tactician some what since interacting with the world is part of that type. However, I'm not really big on combat in many RPGs. I've played a lot of noncombat characters. If I were to overlap this system with Bartle's for example, I'd see a lot of different achievers and socializers and almost nothing of the rest unless I use the various types several times over:

1. Achiever - Power Gamer, Butt-Kicker, Tactician
2. Socializer - Casual Gamer, Storyteller, Method Actor, Specialist
3. Explorer - Specialist, Tactician
4. Killer - Butt-Kicker, Tactician
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They posted this on today, and they are pretty interesting little musings. I do like his article on game politics; it has some interesting points about kingmaking and passive play. Also shows how most political games can reduce to pretty simple mathematical models. 

I tend to disagree with him about kingmaking. I think if the less experienced player has picked up enough skills during the course of the game to actually impact the game, then that is important. Kingmaking only really shows up in games with really inexperienced players vs experienced players or games where random chance has really screwed over another player early on. 

I am on the fence about political games. I enjoy Illuminati, and I've played against good/bad, experienced/newbie, players of it. The game has enough other elements such as resource management that politics alone can't win. I have noticed that against equally skilled players, the game tends to come down to random chance or joint wins. I think the joint win makes it a slightly different political game since it is possible for the two people ahead to just cut out the kingmaker and win together. 

On the other hand, I hate Settlers of Catan mostly because I played the game with an ass. He actually gave me bad advice the first time I played, and in subsequent games, I realized how many details he left out in his explanation of the rules that were actually in the book. It is impossible to play a political game when one does not even know the basic rules which is in part why I give advice to new players when playing Illuminati. I've lost a few games to completely new players because of this, but I'd rather not win because I held back necessary information. I don't see the value in winning a boxing match against a newborn for example, though I'm sure there are people who would say I'm a scrub for that:
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I Am A: Lawful Good Human (4th Level)

Ability Scores:







Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment because it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Monks are versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. Good-aligned monks serve as protectors of the people, while evil monks make ideal spies and assassins. Though they don't cast spells, monks channel a subtle energy, called ki. This energy allows them to perform amazing feats, such as healing themselves, catching arrows in flight, and dodging blows with lightning speed. Their mundane and ki-based abilities grow with experience, granting them more power over themselves and their environment. Monks suffer unique penalties to their abilities if they wear armor, as doing so violates their rigid oath. A monk wearing armor loses their Wisdom and level based armor class bonuses, their movement speed, and their additional unarmed attacks per round.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

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My 10 Favorite Characters that I've Played

10. Virosh, The Dark Runner (Forgotten Realms, D&D) - He was half-drow. He was invisible if he was in total darkness. He hated mindflayers. He was built around a prestige class that specialized in fighting mindflayers and lots of D&D cliches. Of the D&D characters I've played, he is one of the few I remember the name of.

9. Atticus, The Paralegal Vampire (World of Darkness) - He was an experiment gone wrong. I made a surly unethical vampire for a tabletop game because I was sick of making characters. The other characters didn't like him.The other players didn't like him. The GM didn't like him.  After the character was hunted, crucified, burned, drowned, left for dead, shot in the head twice, died, became a ghost, got absorbed by a demon, I finally got the hint.

8. James Cabot, The Mad Scientist (Deadlands) - A Deadlands Mad Scientist is all about exploding dynamite and burning ghost rock, and James made use of both. He raised zombies, accidentally blew up his allies, and brokered deal with Manitou all with a polite smile. I got to be creative with this character's inventions and crazy theories.

7. Dexter Finn, The Prankster (Infinite Worlds) - I spent points on this character to make him from a backwoods alternate reality just for the jokes. He was remarkably competent and focused when there wasn't a mammoth skull fertility charm to prank with. He was outgoing and impulsive and very different from me which was interesting to play.

6. Justin, The Ritemaster (World of Darkness) - After Atticus died, I needed a new character, and Justin was the one. The game ended shortly after, but even the few sessions with him were a lot of fun. I only wish I had had more time playing him.

5. Margrave, The Dark Trader (Ultima Online) - I created Margrave as a foil to my good paladin Athenat, but she ended up more famous than Ath, mostly because she became a foil for a lot of other players' characters. She was mortal, and in the end, Galen killed her after several years of rivalry.

4. Kahler Sarka, The Poet Outcast (Trystell) - My current GM has a great idea of giving points for a weekly character journal, and I had a ton of fun writing the poems for this character's journal. It was fun playing the "monster" who other people were trying to hack apart for his magic.

3. Landicine, The Rogue (Ultima Online) - She wasn't as clear cut as Athenat or Margrave. Closer to good than to evil, she was willing to spy, snoop, borrow, beg, and unlock as long as it kept her friends safe. Because she had barely any combat skill in combat-focused UO, I have to be creative with her all the time.

2. Athenat, The Paladin Judge (Ultima Online) - Athenat was my first UO character. She has been a knight, a paladin, a warrior, an explorer, a judge, a prisoner, a ghost, a tailor, and a leader. She was also a bit cliche, but I ask forgiveness since she was my first character and roleplay experience. I learned a lot about myself playing this character. My wife jokes that she married Ath as much as she married me.

1. Malachi, The Wired (Shadowrun) - I can't think about Shadowrun without thinking about my favorite character. He was competent, charismatic, and a team-player. I actually brought him back when I ran a Shadowrun campaign as an NPC, using his middle name Grimm. 

Favorite of Other People's Characters (in no particular order):

Midnight (Shadowrun)
Spitfire (Shadowrun)
Velvet (Shadowrun)
Nettle (Shadowrun)
The Professor (Shadowrun)
Leaping Coyote (Deadlands)
Hope Adams (Infinite Worlds)
Nicky Palmeretti (Infinite Worlds)
Aesri Adai (Trystell)
Alejandro Moreno (Werewolf)
Grug (Ultima Online)

New B5

Aug. 8th, 2007 11:28 am
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My wife and I watched Babylon 5: The Lost Tales last night. It was fun to watch, but it wasn't without problems. I think the biggest problems was a complete lack of budget; imagine an image of JMS with an empty coffee cup and a sign saying "Begging for B5." The lack of the original cast and extras is the first thing noticed. The DVD was pretty short (barely the length of 2 episodes), and JMS had to cut a Garibaldi storyline for budget reasons. 

One problem with reviewing any B5 is that it is hard not to compare it to the best of B5 from Seasons 2-4. Lochley may have grown in my estimation, but I can't help missing Ivonova. Sheriden alone is sort of like an empty canvas that needs the color from Londo, G'Kar, and Delenn. I'm glad they mentioned G'Kar and Franklin exploring beyond the rim since sadly both characters' actors have passed on. The two mini stories were interesting, and like many B5 stories, the conflict was subtle internal questions, rather than large space explosions.

 Warner Brothers is using this as a litmus test to see whether there is still a demand for B5. It this sells well, they will do other missing stories. One rumor was that they would do the telepath war that takes place after B5 but before Crusade. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would find this interesting.

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I was going to enter this deck in the Auction at, except I failed to see that 10th Edition made Shaharazad a lot less cool since she no longer allows you to deplete the opponent's deck in the subgame. The deck had to be 60 cards/24 lands and beyond basic lands, the deck had to have a card of each letter of the alphabet:

A Ashnod's Cylix x 2

B Beloved Chaplain x 1

C Children of Korlis x 2

D Dark Ritual x 3

E Enlightened Tutor x 1

F Feldon's Cane x 1

G Grindstone x 1

H Hypnotic Specter x 2

I Infernal Tutor x 1

J Jester's Scepter x 2

K King's Assassin x 1

L Leyline of the Void x 2

M Mill Stone x 1

N Neverending Torment x 1

O Order of Yawgmoth x 1

P Phyrexian Furnace x 1

Q Quicksand x 2

R Rhystic Tutor  x 2

S Shaharazad x 4

T Tormod's Crypt x 1

U Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth x 4 

V Void Maw x 1

W Withered Wretch x 2

X Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed x 1

Y Yixlid Jailer x 1

Z Zuran Orb x 1

Plains x 9
Swamps x 9

Oh well, I'll miss this aspect of Shaharazad, but it is still a neat card.

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At the release of Tenth Edition, they had a neat side event called Mini Masters:

"Eight players who register each receive a single Tenth Edition booster and three of each basic land. Players shuffle all cards together. Next, players are randomly paired up against their first opponents. After the first round ends, the losers are out. The four winners each receive one new booster and shuffle recycled land into the new booster. Players are randomly paired up again for Round Two. Repeat the process until there is a single winner. First place wins one booster."

I managed to get to the final round. The games are very random, so this was a fluke of the packs. I've been playing Mini Masters with my wife buying 2 packs every few weeks. It is fun to actually play with all of the cards I get, and the random cards that show up are pretty neat. Today, we had two legends duking it out. Well actually, my legend was taking a nap each round (being tapped down), and my wife's legend was forest-walking past any opposition to hit me. Rather amusing.

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For this post to make sense, I must admit something. I have the computer version for a collectible card game that isn't Magic the Gathering. By elimination, some may know what this game is; for the rest, here is a hint - it is based on a manga/anime. I bought it for next to nothing out of curiousity. A computer version gave me access to a bunch of cards without the hundred of dollars of investment CCGs usually require. The game also has other issues which I could talk about (how minimal resource management makes some basic card archetypes very swinging for example) . However the thing that stands out the most is one glistening example of careless design:

"Toss a coin three times. If 2 out of 3 are heads, destroy 1 monster on your opponent's side of the field."

Now the way this card is implemented if 2 or more of the coins are heads, this really nice effect happens. Now, for those of us keeping track, flips with 2 or 3 heads cause this event to happen. Flips with 1 or 0 heads causes nothing to happen. This means the effect happens 50% of the time which is the probability of a single coin flip. Oops. I guess no one checked that. 

The game has enough similarities to Magic that some basic concepts (CARD ADVANTAGE, Tempo, sideboarding) carry over. One of them is attrition. The dictionary definition used here:

"the act of weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse, or attack "

Rather than winning with a few major offensives, an alpha strike or something like shock and awe, attrition wins come from doing small dribs and drabs of damage and destruction, weakening the enemy while always keeping enough for later attacks. Attrition works. It is slow, but eventually the opponent will take lethal damage, assuming he or she can't kill you first. The control deck works well with attrition since the control part of the deck will provide defenses while the attrition win condition finishes the game.  


Apr. 16th, 2007 03:08 pm
landicine: (Default)
This past weekend Brandeis ran a Festival of the LARPs. While I heard about it too late to sign up for most of the LARPs, I was able to get into two along with my wife. This pretty much doubles my LARP experience. It was a lot of fun. In one, I got to be a thousand-year-old vampire who liked to dress as a pirate. In the other, I was a psionic businessman trying to kill my partner, make millions, and prevent my wife from learning of my affair with a professor from Miskatonic. Of the two, the vampire was the decent person, and the psionic wound up with a brain hemorage from a trio of deep ones. 

My one complaint with LARPing so far is that finishing one's goals can be incredibly problematic. I'll usually finish the easy ones within the first 10-15 minutes of the LARP, and then spend the next few hours trying to figure out one detail that would make the final goals incredibly easy to solve. Usually, the character who has this missing piece has no prior relationship with my character (he or she is not on my starting info sheet), and I have real reason to chat them up. I suppose I could use a "turn over every rock" approach, but that seems pretty weak. In real life, you don't ask every random stranger on the street for information related to random topic X. Is there something I'm missing? I figure it will get easier with experience.


Apr. 12th, 2007 11:26 pm
landicine: (Default)

From Vonnegut's final book "A Man without a Country:"

"I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, 'Isaac is up in heaven now.' It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, 'Kurt is up in heaven now.' That's my favorite joke."

Kurt is up in heaven now.

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