A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On the road

Hello Friends!

Just a quick post to say hi from Montezuma, Indiana (map!)

I'm here all week working on work stuff.

So take care while I'm away!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

D&D timeline

So I'm super late on this, but posting it anyway.

Way back here, I talked about having gotten together with some current and old gaming friends of a session of D&D. Well, it was not a letdown. I can say that, because I expected very little of D&D. Call me jaded.

Mostly to entertain myself, and apparently prove that I'm snotty and snide, I kept up with a timeline during our session. Here it is:

(Note - I'm just being a dick in general, not toward our GM or any of my players, so no offense, anybody)

7:00 todd arrived
7:08 todd reads intro text
7:14 the party asks questions of their employer
7:16 party travels into desert
7:17 find big easter island heads
7:25 john fails to find a big footprint, jason finds it
7:30 the heads start to make alot of noise
7:33 we start running around, and the heads start moving (of course)
7:36 we're fighting the big moving heads
7:44 round two, fighting some big giant heads
7:52 bruce calculates damage, todd asks what spell resistance is, bruce looks stuff up in the DMG
7:54 round three
7:58 we look up tumbling rules
8:05 one of the big heads is grappling bruce
8:11 round 4 perhaps?
8:18 fight is over, hydrate, duck into the statue's mouth
8:26 we pile up on the stairs, fretting about the maiden shaped arch
8:34 we get burned up, and vogel dies
8:39 maddie declines to play, comes to look over my shoulder
8:40 younger sends me gmail messages
8:41 maddie better check her email
8:43 bruce laughs loudly
8:52 bruce whacks away at one of the fire things that have attacked us
8:56 jason picks his way through dog poop
8:58 keith rolls saves for his items, having been handily resurrected back in town. but we don't have time to rest
9:06 we peer into a room full of chains
9:33 we battle some dogs and chains
9:42 todd makes some calculations while we discuss jumping boots

Werewolf gaming

Also as promised: Werewolf.

I am immensely pleased to announce that I recently successfully got a Werewolf the Forsaken game going.

After months of whining about no gaming and no gamers, within a single week I found 3 people interested, and rapidly assembled them and my two other gamers, and got a game going.

I wanted to meet and game first in a neutral location - somewhere that was not-my-house, since inviting people that I've known for 3 days and only via email to my home. But, scheduling did not allow a day when our local library was open, and I didn't want to try it at Starbucks/restaurant, we did it at my place.

Everyone showed up, and after sucking up my stage fright, and rambling through personal introductions and then introduction to the game, we were up and running.

So far so good. We're only a few sessions in, and we're only doing every-other-week, and we're having some scheduling conflicts, but I think I'm handling those particularly well.. We've got two scheduled gaming sessions where we're going to be short - on one we'll be missing Maddie, and on the other we'll be missing Jerry and Andrew. I do not want to run our regularly werewolf pack while anyone is absent - and for a second I seriously considered doing Shadow of Yesterday stuff on those two sessions - but I really do not want to throw any kinks into this excellent bit of gaming. So instead of either not meeting at all, or playing a different game entirely, or leaving players out of the pack's adventures, I'll be running two "one-shot" sessions that revolve around the periphery of our pack's story. More specifically, the players will get to play bad-guys in the story. I don't intend to put them head-to-head with their own characters, but they'll be close enough to smell each other, so to speak.

Again, I've been incredibly lucky finding these other gamers. Maybe I worry more than I should, but in addition to the problem of there being generally very few gamers at all - I'm always concerned that they'll be unsalvageable, or more simply, that I won't be able to put up with them. But that has not been the case at all. The guys who showed up are mildly-hard core D&D players, with a mix of "hey, check out my homebrew game that relies on large pools of d12's", but I'm being negativish. One fellow is seemingly my age, and is clean cut and looks like he does computer or paper-work. The other two are a father and son, the father being older than us, and the son being perhaps 16, both somewhat classic geeks, but super easy to welcome into my house.

So anyway: YAY GAMING!


Thought that might get your attention.

As promised: Porn At Work

The other day I'm sitting at my desk at work fulfilling my role as an IT guy. I'm on the phone with a user at our remote facility, trying to fix his hootielau. I tell him to try X, I tell him to try Y, no dice. So I decide to connect to his desktop and go "hands-on", but I was feeling lazy, and instead of just looking up his IP address, I tried to walk him through finding it. No luck with this either, where Z = finding IP address. So I bring up my desktop connect client, where I type in an IP address to connect to, and I say to myself "I think this is his IP." Hit enter, the window loads with the desktop of a user at our remote facility, and omg porn. Boobs. Dick. Dick fucking boobs. Porn. More porn. Oh look some more porn. And some boobs. So like 6 seconds of real time pass, though it feels like minutes, as hardcore porn plays out across my computer screen. My boss sits at a desk kindof behind mine, where if he were looking, he'd see... hardcore porn on my screen. So I disconnect from the remote session. Aloud (remember: still on the phone with some guy, trying to fix his whatchamagigger), I say "Well that's not your desktop apparently", since he's still mumbling into the phone about how his thingamajig isn't working.

So, I go on to get this problem sorted out and fixed, and get off of the phone with him. Now, curious, I dig around to figure out who's computer that was. So I find the IP I connected to, and figure out which user that is, and tell my boss. He sighs, and recalls that just a few months ago we had to clean this user's computer off, since it was completely overwhelmed with spyware and junk, and how the user swore to him that he didn't go to "those" sites, and if he had, it was by accident, and yada yada yada. I offer that I am not completely certain that the user was actively "using" the porn, since its possible to get nasty spyware that will pop porn onto your machine even if you are not there. I figure'd I'd chance it, and connected to his desktop again. Porn.

Porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn, porn.

Its uncomfortable to stand next to your boss at work, looking at your (my) screen, with porn rapidly playing out across it. After a few moments he offers that it seems unlikely that the user is there, as its all scrolling/refreshing/etc pretty quickly. So I close the explorer windows, as my boss picks up his phone to call that user. It was late in the afternoon, even later at our remote location, and we figured maybe everyone - including this user - had gone home for the day. No. He answered his phone. My boss suggested that the user should "stop using the internet now. Yeah, just go ahead and log off of the computer."

I've since figured out how to block content on IE ;)

The Warrior

So last night we watched Musa. There has been some confusion as to its title. Let me explain why.

A few months ago, the wife and I settled in for a quiet evening and determined to rent a movie on Pay-Per-View. We flipped through the movies, seeing a few things that looked interesting, and saw "The Warrior". We hit the preview thing, and watched this trailer (trailer is from IMDB, and looks to be in WMP format). Anyway, it looked like a cool Wuxia film, in the style of Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon, and had Ziyi Zhang in it, from Crouching Tiger and Hero and so forth. So we decided to give it a shot. The movie started, and we watched. It moved slowly, but was good. About an hour into it, it occurred to us that this was not the movie that we had previewed. We thought this was strange, but we were enjoying this movie.. which was called "The Warrior".

After watching it, we went back and looked at the PPV selections, and saw that there were two movies called The Warrior. The one we'd seen, and another, which must have corresponded to the preview that we watched. So a couple of days later, with some friends over, we told them the funny story that I've just related to you, and then went to PPV and rented the other The Warrior. The one that we wanted to see, with Ziyi Zhang in it. Well, it was QUICKLY evident to us that this was also not the movie that we had previewed. The movie that we were watching was exactly like a live-action japanese cartoon, complete with huge skull-shaped alien clouds, spinning scythe-like computer generated blades that one of the hero's commanded, and um, a bunch of other weird, over the top stuff that left us all thinking "What the hell are we watching?" We were watching Zu Warriors. Oddly, it also had Ziyi Zhang in it, though in a tiny role. We could not even finish watching it. I'm sure it is a fine movie - if you like that genre. We gave it the "no, thanks".

So, we again consulted the internet, and realized that there are the following three movies: The Warrior, an excellent Hindi language film. Musa, also known as The Warriors, a Chinese/Korean film. And Zu Warriors, a strange power-rangers type film. And Time Warner sure was confused, and so, in turn, were we.

Anyway, this sordid tale has a happy ending. Having enjoyed the Hindi language "The Warrior" so much, and having not had any luck in watching Musa, we turned to amazon to see if we could get our hands on it. Somewhat by accident, we ended up getting both on dvd for less than $20.

So, back to the beginning, last night we watched Musa, and it was quite good.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Note to self:

Note to self: do some blogging this weekend.

Few things to catch up on:


Fixing porn at work.


Some links:



Friday, February 9, 2007

money, computers and real-time-strategy

I don't like to talk about money, mostly because I have a proven track record of being a poor manager of it. But I'll mention it here, because my latest craving has been to drop a cool thousand on a desktop computer upgrade.

Its funny how the mind sorts out value. I can think of a jillion things that I would not spend a thousand dollars on. But hardware for a computer? Oh heck yeah. I'm a big computer nerd. I like playing with computers, and I spend alot of time on the computer. So at first glance, this seems perfectly reasonable to me. But then if I consider for a moment all of the things that we're still paying for, and some of the small things that we need to spend money on, but haven't, cause its low priority, or whatever.. that thousand dollars starts to look like less of a golden opportunity, and more like some stuff.

Now, since I'm talking about computers, I'll move right on to computer games. I played a copy of Company of Heroes. Its a realtime strategy game about WWII. It looks really pretty, and plays pretty well - its a fun game. Then I remembered that I both hate, and am no good at (related perhaps?) RTS games. I'm a turn-based strategy guy. Always have been. Yet somehow I'm always suckered into trying the RTS games. They look pretty, and seem fun. So I load em up and start playing, and boy it sure is fun! Then the computer opponent, which is always a much better RTS gamer than I am, starts handing me my ass. And I'm not talking about "late stage" or anything, I'm talking about three minutes into the game. "Hey look! I created an infantry unit. I wonder what buildings I can build. Hrmm - 'need more resources'.. Hey, why is my infantry being attacked? .... Where is my infantry?? Crap!" And that's how these games always go for me. So uh.. I recommend Company of Heroes if you like WWII and RTS games.

Also, I'm going to have to switch to BBC news again, since I'm not interested in the coming 30 days of exclusive coverage of nothing but the death of Anna Nicole.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

sanitizing and decency

Instead of watching the superbowl, I played some Puerto Rico and some Redneck Life. It was good stuff. I did happen to catch a couple of minutes of Prince's performance during the halftime show. During the Prince performance, I commented to someone how it was funny that we're so cautious about halftime shows after The Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction Nipple Sticky Incident, that we're so concerned about making sure that half-time entertainment is family-friendly, and here we are with Prince doing the half-time show. Isn't this the guy who sang Cream? (Get on top/Cream/You will cop/Cream/Don't you stop/Cream/Sh-boogie bop)

Anyway, I'm going to skip my tirade about how prudish we are, how swearing and nudity are a normal and regular part of the life of most people, yet for some reason we/the media likes to pretend that we're all 5 year olds who have never heard the word "shit" before, or seen a woman's nipple. And I'll really skip my rant about how funny it is that the superbowl, seemingly a giant exercise in masculinity (and advertising), has apparently been neutered, because the only people that are watching it are 5 year olds who have never heard the word "shit" before, or see a woman's nipple. Er...

THEN! I saw this article on CNN this morning. "Was Prince's Super performance too revealing?" the headline screams. Who is safe? Is the band "Ok Go" safe? Oh geez, they have guitars too. A guitar has a long neck, which is kinda phallic. Oh its even worse, a person standing upright is phallic too. See, now I'm being silly. But this whole thing is silly.

How thoroughly do we need to sanitize this stuff? What are we accomplishing?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Some people aren't just crazy

No, some people are fucking crazy.

Back in December, our small international sales department was out to hire administrative person to handle things like shipping and invoicing and numbers and so on and so on. Our international Sales Manager, who we'll call Fred, sat down and interviewed some people, then made a decision and hired a guy. So the guy starts, and works Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then calls in sick on Thursday. And on Friday. By Friday evening, Fred had already pulled out all of the applications he'd gotten previously, as he was done with his sickly new hire, who we'll call Andrew. Apparently come Monday, Andrew emailed Fred to let him know that he was quitting, or was not interested in the job. I got this second hand- but I think that Andrew said that he'd found another job or something. Well a week passes, and Andrew contacts Fred and asks him for his job back. Fred told him no, that he'd already hired someone else. Apparently, during Andrew's three days on the job, Fred lent him some books related to the industry, so that Andrew could learn a little about his new job. So here are the emails between Fred and Andrew.


From: Fred
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2006 9:56 AM
To: Andrew
Subject: RE: Need job back

Dear Andrew,

Please return the books you borrowed from me as soon as possible. You can feel free to FedEx them to our office at [our address], or deliver them, but I need them back right away.

Please let me know how you would like to take care of this.

Thank you.


From: Andrew
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2006 1:26 PM
To: Fred
Subject: RE: Request for books

Hi Fred,

Yes I still do have the books. I just accepted a new position as an International Sales Manager starting Monday so I will not be able to run them by.

Since the books were provided to me as training material, [company] will be responsible for shipping costs. Please provide me with your Fed Ex account number and I will be happy to go by a Fed Ex Kinko center and ship them to you.




From: Fred
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2006 4:32 PM
To: Andrew
Subject: RE: Request for books


Considering the amount of inconvenience you have caused me personally and our office over that past two weeks, I figure picking up the tab on the FEDEX shipment would be the least you could do. After all, you didn't even show up on Monday to tell us you were quitting. You should have returned the books at that time.

And by the way, they were my books (not the company's) which I loaned you to help you get acquainted with wood. I would have expected you to return them out of professional courtesy.

I will leave it up to you to you as to how you want to handle the payment. If you insist on not paying the freight charges, then call me on my cell when you get to FEDEX KINKOS and give the phone to the clerk. I will give him or her my credit card information over the phone. I cannot give you our company billing number. Then please forward me the tracking number.

Thank you.



From: Andrew
Sent: Sunday, December 17, 2006 5:01 PM
To: Fred
Subject: RE: Request for books


Thanks for your reply. I didn’t cause anyone an inconvenience because I had a good reason for not showing up. I was sick with a 102 degree fever! What was I supposed to do? Have someone drive me to your workplace. A 1.5 to 2 hour roundtrip from [town] so I could resign and return books in person? That is a very insincere thought.

Regardless, this was a very undiplomatic e-mail you sent. All you had to say were that they were your personal books and I would have mailed them to you.

If you are using the books as training material then it is the responsibility of the company to pay for shipping if they are needed back.

My original offer stands.


Apparently at this point, Fred spoke with Andrew via the phone, and Andrew agree'd to ship them.

From: Fred
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 10:03 AM
To: Andrew
Subject: RE: Request for books

Please send the books to the following address.

[address of company]

Thank you.



From: Andrew
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 10:35 AM
To: Fred
Subject: RE: Request for books

I was going to send them but unfortunately, I can’t find them……it’s funny how an insensitive tone of voice can misplace things. Sorry!


From: Andrew
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 11:58 AM
To: Fred
Subject: FW: Request for books

Oops…I just seen them go into the dumpster….sorry bout that. Guess I wont be able to mail them to you. Have a good life.


From: Andrew
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2007 1:53 PM
To: Fred
Subject: FW: Request for books

Oh darn Fred…I just seen them get shredded…I’m sure they make more of those books. :)


That was the last we heard - today - and I've put Andrew's email on our mail server black-list. What a kook.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Deadly games

Still on the gaming theory kick today.

I've mentioned this before, and other very clever people have discussed it at some length, but I'm providing links to neither, and instead am briefly revisiting it with thoughts regarding my current game.

Firstly, I'm not a big fan of character death. People who come to play an RPG are looking for an enjoyable way to spend their time. If we just wanted to roll dice and get numbers on those dice, we could play Craps. Character death usually results in disappointment and frustration on the part of the player, and disruption to the group as a whole. And, while there is a time and a place for characters to die, an unexpected death can really cause problems for an ongoing game.

There's been discussion about having a Character Death Social Contract - death only when previously agree'd upon, or only at players permission, etc, but this does not work with every gaming group. I now grit my teeth and refer to D&D. Sure, Game Masters fudge dice rolls sometimes to spare a characters life (I have..), or sometimes just let them go, and its time to roll up a new character (I have..), but character death is a mechanism that I think is very important to a game like D&D. But still.

So in a World of Darkness Werewolf game, its a brutal and violent place. I want to convey that to my players, and I want them to run into opponents who are not push-overs, who perhaps might even prove more than a match for them, and send them running with tails-between-legs, but if players adopt the D&D mindset of "There are some ogres here. apparently the DM wants us to kill ogres tonight. Charge!" then we're going to end up with dead characters.

I could go on, but ultimately I think my solution is to be very clear on two occasions. First, before, or at the outset of combat - both through clear descriptions of.. well, making the opposition sound tough, and coming right out and saying to the players "Gang, this guy is dangerous. This is not an ogre that is here solely to be killed. Consider your actions wisely." And secondly, if we end up in a situation where we're in a tough, tough battle, and the system mechanics make it look as though a character might imminently bite the dust, to come right out and explain the stakes.

Also, on a related note, I've decided to try to do some stakes negotiation over dice rolls, instead of the seeming black/white, pass/fail assumed stakes of the core system.

Mooninites in Boston

This is some stupid shit.

I've watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force.. hell, I own the first three seasons on DVD.

So.. since this is front page news, and I have a blog, here's my two cents.

Turner Broadcasting and the City of Boston share responsibility for this being a huge incident cluster-fuck. I am appalled that they are charging the two guys who were hired to put this stuff out, with felonies.

Okay, mostly I'm pissed that we are so scare-minded that not only is it easy to assume that any package that has wires, and is attached to a pixelated neon dude flipping the bird is certainly a bomb, but also that we're going to charge people with placing a hoax device in a way that results in panic. They were not a hoax of any kind! It was a perhaps poorly conceived advertising campaign.

From this article on CNN.com: "Assistant Attorney General John Grossman called the light boards "bomblike" devices and said that if they had been explosive they could have damaged infrastructure and transportation in the city.".


In other news that I just made up, Assistant Attourney General Grossman also described empty cardboard shoe-boxes as being "about the same size as something that could be a bomb", and went on to say that if each shoe-box in the country were in fact filled with explosives, that it could "blow the whole nation to shit".

Edit: There's been an update. This is terrific:

question on heroic sacrifice vs terrible sacrifice

Still trying to get a solid grip on this, but here's trying:

Lets say you're playing Your Favorite Role Playing Game with your buddies. The end of the world is coming, though no one but you and your friends know.

You search and search and discover that there is a way to Save The World!

Now split: A and B, below.

A: In order to save the world, you must make a heroic sacrifice, dive headlong into the jaws of death, screaming your war song.

B: In order to save the world, you must make a terrible sacrifice. The family that you know and love? You must slaughter them, and they cannot know your motivations for doing so.

I'd love to hear anyone's opinion. What I'm looking for specifically is:
Which do you prefer? And why?
Do you think that there is a place for both, perhaps game and group dependent?
Any insight into what one offers or produces that the other does not?