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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:41pm on 23/05/2010 under ,
One of the things I like about Echo Bazaar, the on-line MUD/interactive story game I've been playing is that in some ways it feels a lot like real life.

In Echo Bazaar, every storylet (a challenge that requires a decision from the player) affects attributes associated with your character called "qualities". These qualities can describe traits (e.g., Dangerous), connections with factions (e.g., Criminals), minor characteristics (e.g., Magnanimous), or even the completion of earlier storylets (e.g., Hosting an Inconvenient Aunt).

The four main "qualities" cover most of the types of statistics involved in making a RPG or LARP character. They are labeled as adjectives, not nouns, for the two main qualities with the greatest numbers are used to describe the player to others in the game. The qualities are Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive, and Shadowy.

Dangerous applies to your ability to use physical strength against human and non-human attackers (including vermin, some of which are more dangerous than some of the humans). Watchful is a stand-in for the old AD&D "intelligence" statistic, but in general applies to the character's ability to observe and make deductions. Persuasive is, in part, a stand-in for the old AD&D "charisma," but it generally covers all kinds of techniques one can use to get people to do what you want them to do that do not involve physical coercion. Finally, Shadowy arguably includes the old "dexterity" statistic, but applies generally to physical abilities that are typically used for committing crimes (picking pockets, burglary, deceptions).

At present, my highest statistics are Persuasive and Watchful, so I am described by the game as a "captivating (persuasive) and shrewd (watchful) lady."

You start the game with 1 point in each of the four main statistics. To get to the next point level, you need to earn a number of change points equivalent to the new level. For example, to move from level 1 to level 2 on Persuasive, you need to earn 2 change points from Persuasive challenges. To go from 2 to 3, you need 3 points, and so on as you play the game.

How likely you are to succeed at a storylet that challenges a particular statistic depends on the level of the statistic, though the game takes pains to remind the player that there is never 100% certainty about any challenge. The storylets give you a rough idea how likely you are to succeed by the words they use to describe each challenge. From easiest to hardest, these are: straightforward, low-risk, modest, chancy, high-risk, and almost impossible. A straightforward challenge will generally end in success, and an almost impossible one in failure (though, again, not always).

All of this explanation is so that I can occasionally use the game framework of Echo Bazaar as a metaphor for describing events in my life.

Anyway, last week I was trying to complete a legal brief for one of my bosses. He and I clearly could not see eye-to-eye on how to revise the thing. I last heard that he had passed the project off to a junior attorney for the addition of case law that I didn't think the brief needed.

Clearly, I had muffed a modest challenge for my Persuasive quality!
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:07pm on 14/09/2009 under ,
Yes, I know it's been over a month since WBC ended, but life keeps getting in the way of finishing my account of the event. Unfortunately, it's going to do so again. I'm coming down with something, so I don't quite feel up to finishing my saga tonight. For those of you who were curious, I apologize. For those of you who no longer care, I'll put all of this under an lj-cut.

Read more... )
Mood:: 'satisfied' satisfied
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:58pm on 09/08/2009 under ,
I just returned from a week spent ignoring all of my problems by attending the World Board Gaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. [ profile] esrblog and I first attended WBC last year and loved it, so we decided to avoid the cost and hassle of attending the Montreal Worldcon and went to WBC instead.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, WBC is a gaming convention for people who like to play strategy games of all types. Some of the games played are military strategy games, like one of [ profile] esrblog's favorite, Commands and Colors: Ancients, but lighter "Euro" board games such as Empire Builder, Puerto Rico and Power Grid also abound. It is possible to find people to play a friendly game of just about every board game ever invented, but the main event at WBC are tournaments in a large variety of board games both old and new.

This year, [ profile] esrblog and I took pains to talk WBC up to those of our friends who are interested enough in board gaming to be likely to go, and as a result never had any trouble finding people to game with. We'd invited one of our Michigan sword-fighting buddies to come out to Pennsylvania and crash with us while we were at WBC, and our friends Craig and Carrie were there, as well a number of friends we know from live-action roleplaying, and some of the gang who frequents our favorite game store, The Games Keep, also showed up, as well as Even [ profile] pmat and [ profile] shakati drove out to check out the scene on Friday.

So we had an excellent time overall, even though we did not win any tournaments, and despite the fact that the restaurant food most easily available in the Lancaster area is the kind of heavy, greasy "good ol' American" stuff I've been trying to avoid for the last 15 years. The week is kind of a blur, but moments do stand out. For those people on my friends list who don't want my graphic account of My Week to hog their Friends Pages, I'll put my blow-by-blow account under an lj-cut.

Read more... )
Mood:: 'tired but content' tired but content
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 12:56pm on 26/01/2009 under , ,
This weekend, I attended ConFusion in Troy, MI. I am typing this from a computer in Pinckney, MI, where [ profile] esrblog and I are staying for a few days of socializing before flying home Tuesday night.

One thing I noticed about the con was the surprising prevalence of steampunk costumes. Granted, "Steampunk" was the costuming theme for the Masquerade, but I've been to other cons with official Masquerade themes, and that fact didn't induce even the hall costumers to dress in theme! Some of the costumes were very good, too. There was also a vendor in the dealer's room selling steampunk accessories, including nifty goggles with changeable colored lenses ($90!) and facemasks (I didn't have the nerve to ask the price).

I was on four panels, but the real fun for me at this ConFusion was gaming and socializing. We got to have breakfast with [ profile] metalfatigue0, and a late-night food expedition with [ profile] treebones, [ profile] the1trueheather, and others. The gaming included three sessions of "Betrayal at the House on the Hill", which [ profile] esrblog really likes, but I can do without. Unless I have friends willing to roleplay the betrayal part, of course. :-)

All the same, I'll be happy to come back to my home, and our cat.
location: Pinckney Community Public Library, Pinckney, MI
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 12:34am on 08/03/2008 under , ,
I have been reading, with interest, and more than a little bafflement, various tributes to the late Gary Gygax; some written by my friends, and others written by strangers that I've happened to read on the Internet. Why am I baffled? Because I'm not sure where all the praise in these tributes is coming from.

I was in college when the first wave of D&D's popularity hit. I played weekly, for awhile, in a D&D group with [ profile] esrblog (a frustrating experience, as the group had nearly a dozen members and, because I was a first-level character, I never got to do anything). And I heard people complain. Regularly. About the problems with the system. About the enormous numbers of D&D guides and handbooks he published that weren't much good, just to turn an extra buck. And about how the system needed overhauling long before it received any, and how the overhaulers should have done a better job than they did.

I've heard it said (by [ profile] esrblog, among others) that his real role was in merchandising D&D, that his partners, particularly Dave Arneson, did most of the real creation of the system. I don't know where the truth lies on this front, nor do I care.

I do know that, within a decade or so, other people invented similar types of systems that did what D&D did...better. Chivalry and Sorcery. Empire of the Petal Throne. GURPS. White Wolf. The dungeon crawl concept was translated to the computer as Adventure, Rogue, NetHack, Zork, and probably other variants of which I've never heard. Still later, other people took the concept of D&D, married it to improv theater, and invented Live-Action Role Playing, a type of game I like much better than I ever liked D&D and which I still play when I can.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sorry to hear he's gone. I hate to hear of the deaths of anyone whose works I've grown up with, if only because it reminds me all too painfully that all flesshe is grasse and that someone will be writing my obituary soon enough.

But to me it makes no sense to honor Gygax as fallen geek hero. Even if he had invented D&D alone (which it appears he did not) he did what he did possibly because it was fun, and possibly because he thought it would sell. He certainly did not set out to change the world, or to make life more interesting, even though he ended up spreading memes that have done so. If you believe the Times Online obituary, he found Tolkien boring and didn't give a "hoot" about hobbits.

The tributes bother me, I guess, because they seem pointless, if not exactly hypocritical. Even if he deserved all the praise he is now getting, where was it all when he was alive, and people were bitching because D&D, and later AD&D, was such a mess? Where was the tribute for creating a new type of game while all of TSR's competitors were improving on what D&D did? Why save it all up until now, now that he's finally gone where no human praise can possibly affect him anymore?

Maybe none of that matters. Whatever his faults, and whatever D&D's faults, Gygax spread a new meme, and a good one. D&D, its successors and competitors, are his monument, and they are a much better monument than any belated obituary thoughts could possibly be. They have certainly have had a lot of the kind of positive impacts on geeks, and geekdom, that the tributes to Gygax all cite. Clearly the good Gygax did will not, for once, be buried with his bones.

There is one Gygax tribute that I actually like, because I think it honestly reflects what I know of the man, and what the world saw and said of him during his life. It's Randall Munroe's tribute in today's xkcd comic. "Oh Jesus, he's getting out another rulebook." Indeed. That's a view of Gygax that I can readily believe.
Music:: space music from Eric's office
location: home
Mood:: 'thoughtful' thoughtful
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 08:56pm on 18/11/2007 under , ,
So we are back from Philcon, Philadelphia's regional science-fiction convention, which ran this weekend. I had a great time, but mostly because a lot of people I know whom I don't get to see very often were there to hang out and game with.

The convention itself, unfortunately, is in trouble. Attendance is lower than last year, lower than I've ever seen it. So is volunteering for the convention, which has resulted in short-handedness, and caused too many activities to shut down early, such as the game bank in the gaming room (which was locked away before midnight) and con suite (shut down at 2:00 a.m.)

I didn't make it to any of the panels, though the panel ideas I read descriptions about looked interesting enough. My friend [ profile] dedrell tried to arrange a few panels involving the two of us and other people, to talk about things like how legal issues would affect space exploration and other things, but those ideas (and other panel ideas) got dropped on the floor, apparently because whoever was supposed to be running programming didn't and the actual schedule was pulled together only 8 weeks before the convention. So no panels with me on them ran, and so far as I know [ profile] esrblog wasn't even asked to be on a panel, though he had been on panels for at least the past two or three Philcons now.

As I went to the Green Room to confirm that I was not on any panels (my attempts to do so before the con were met with conflicting information), I saw Catherine Asaro in line ahead of me. It turned out that the Green Room had her schedule, but did not have a badge for her. (Going back to registration, I got in line behind her, where the registration volunteers acknowledged they didn't have her badge either, and had to make her a new badge.) So the disorganization and staffing shortfalls were both in the planning and execution of programming. :-(

I won't go into detail about the small number of room parties or the limited food selection in the Con Suite. Those problems are all too typical of most East Coast cons I've been to recently--they aren't unique to Philcon.

The dealer's room and art show were good, as always, but seemed smaller than usual. The dealers themselves, however, were very unhappy because the reduction in attendance was really hurting their business.

I like Philcon, and it hurts to see my local convention, which was once the jewel of the East Coast con scene (with dozens of activities and over 4,000 people) struggling for attendees. Part of me feels that I'm part of the problem because I didn't volunteer either, but on the other hand I would be happy to do panels! I sure have at other cons! So I'm not completely sure what I can do to help turn things around.
Music:: computer game sounds from our ancient IBook
location: home
Mood:: 'contemplative' contemplative
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 03:29pm on 18/11/2007 under ,
And I'll write more about it when I get home. I'm typing this from an Internet room in the con hotel while [ profile] esrblog plays a board game I don't care for.

Now, one last trip to the Con Suite!
Mood:: 'content' content
Music:: computer keys a-clacking
location: Philadelphia, PA
cathyr19355: Stock photo of myself (Default)
* Went out to dinner with several West Coast friends [ profile] esrblog and I haven't seen for a while;
* Watched the Chaos Machine (yes, Steve Jackson was there, and set it up);
* Ate shabu-shabu at a good Japanese restaurant;
* Took part in a belly-dancing workshop;
* Watched fireworks bursting over Disneyland;
* Played Twister, for the first time in decades;
* Danced to "Time Warp" (from the Rocky Horror Picture Show);
* Beta-tested the next flavor of Munchkin--Munchkin Cthulhu!
* Went to a memorial party for Jim Baen, the publisher;
* Almost got to go to lunch with Naomi Novik (she was too exhausted and cancelled at the last minute);
* Introduced Eric to a book dealer who sold him lots of ACE doubles;
* Spent too much money and got too little sleep.

LAConIV was a lot like the last Worldcon I went to in Anaheim, CA. On the surface, it was slick and well-organized. Some of the details, however, were a bit awry. For example, the person the program book said was to be teaching the belly dancing workshop never showed up--two of the would-be attendees who are also belly dance instructors leapt in to fill the gap at the last minute. The other panel I went to, which [ profile] esrblog was on, was called "Coping with Celebrity." Kevin Drum and Craig Newmark (of Craig's List) were the other two members. However, [ profile] esrblog was the only panelist who had any problems at all in coping with celebrity, since the other two men aren't usually recognized on the street. The rest was an unusually dull, unfocused panel--conducted while Harlan Ellison did his usual larger-than-life tantrum thing in the hallway just outside (as though he didn't know anything about coping with celebrity).

The dealer's room was of a good size, but was kind of hidden by the huge amount of exhibits and fan tables in the front of the room, and didn't get as much traffic as the dealers had hoped. There was an anime room, and there were showings of the films that made the Hugo nomination list for Best Dramatic Presentation (Serenity won, for movie-length DP), but no regular movie room (maybe they are going out of fashion?).

Some of the exhibits, however, were neat. They included a display (which was right at the front of the room, where you walked in) of famous movie robots, including the original Dalek, a life-sized Jessica Rabbit, the original Robby the Robot from Lost in Space, C3PO and R2D2, among others. Less interesting were the cheesy Star Trek bridge and Batmobile mock ups where you could have your picture taken for $10 (the Star Trek one had wax museum figures of the original crew members, that were realistic enough to look very scary without being realistic enough to look real) and the amateurish reproduction of the Apollo 11 lunar lander module.

The con's most annoying default was the way it handled the games room. Unlike most SF conventions, the convention did not provide a games library for people to use; instead, they depended upon potential GMs to run games according to a schedule the con set up, or upon game dealers to provide some of their own games (Steve Jackson did that, which is how we were able to play Munchkin Cthulhu). What this meant in practice is that much less gaming actually got done than you'd expect at a convention the size of Worldcon, as people like me, who like to game but also like to do other things at a convention, looked around frantically for friends of theirs who had had the foresight to bring along some of their games. Fortunately, we found some. [ profile] esrblog and I managed to get into a 5-player Puerto Rico game in which he racked up a record-breaking 78 points!

The shabu-shabu dinner was fun, considering that before we stumbled upon the restaurant, I didn't even know what shabu-shabu was. Shabu-shabu, the waiter told us, means "swish swish" in Japanese, and features meat and other food that you cook in a pot of simmering water. This particular restaurant was willing (for a much larger than average price) to serve you raw slices of Kobe beef to cook in this manner. You were also given a soy sauce mixture and a sesame-flavored mixture, into which you could stir chopped daikon (a type of radish) to thicken them; I had the less expensive beef and some chicken, which was very tasty, especially when dipped into the daikon-and-sesame sauce. (The little strainer paddle they gave you to fish your newly-cooked noodles out of the water was not very effective at that job, however.)

Ironically, we saw the fireworks display from the balcony of the Baen suite during the Jim Baen memorial. There were types of firework I have never seen before. One exploded into a sphere of white stars, with two elliptical rings of dark blue stars around it, in the classic 1950s shape of an atom. Another was a red, square shape.

[ profile] esrblog left on Sunday afternoon, the day before I did, for a business meeting in San Diego. So I finished the con by hanging out at the Dead Pluto Party and locating [ profile] zsero and a bunch of other fen for a gaming debauch that lasted until two o'clock in the morning.

Overall, it was a very satisfying Worldcon.
location: Home
Mood:: 'nostalgic' nostalgic
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 06:05pm on 09/07/2006 under , ,
I never did write another update about our Fourth of July trip to Pittsburgh to visit [ profile] fadethecat and [ profile] landley.

The reason for that is that my brain-dead, job-supplied Windows laptop wouldn't let us supply a IP address so that I could use [ profile] landley's home wireless Internet. I could use the wireless at the 61c Cafe, but we didn't spend a lot of time there. Instead, we did a lot of gaming and spent part of an afternoon meeting [ profile] landley's co-workers for an impromptu "Geeks with Guns" outing.

We had a great time and I hope to do it again after their upcoming move to a better apartment. Thanks, [ profile] fadethecat and [ profile] landley!
Mood:: 'nostalgic' nostalgic
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 01:45pm on 22/04/2006 under , ,
In the few minutes I have before Eric's hot sauce panel, I should comment about the rest of Friday at Penguicon.

I had two panels on Friday, and both went very well. One was the how to throw room parties panel. [ profile] tlatoani was the hit of this one, with his hilarious descriptions of how the traveling Pirates! party came to be, but I managed to stick my oar in the water often enough to get out some practical suggestions about the logistics of party throwing (i.e., trash bags and waste disposal are key to maintaining good ambiance) and to give [ profile] mirell a chance to get in a few words about the Linucon LN2 ice cream party experience. We dragged in [ profile] thatguychuck, which enhanced the general experience as well. The panel finished with our official moderator, Rachel, handing out party lists and party ballots and urging us to rate the parties and hand our ballots to con ops when we were done (since the winning party organizer gets a free membership to Penguicon 5.0, and Penguicon 5.0 will benefit from encouraging fun room parties).

After a hasty dinner consisting of half a Jimmy John's tuna sub, I was off to my second panel, which featured me and GOH Chris DiBona on the status of Linux. This turned into a barely monitored (mostly by me) discussion of where Linux on the Desktop stands, and on whether we OpenSource/Linux lovers really have reason to care if Linux ever makes it big on the desktop at all. Audience participation was lively, and despite the general agreement that Linux apps still leave something to be desired for Joe Average User, the number of related tangents to discuss kept the discussion lively and fun.

Free for the rest of the evening, I cruised the party circuit (including an hour-or-so long sojourn in the Serenity party watching a good documentary feature about the Serenity ship set and a favorite Firefly episode). Finally. I ended up in the gaming area and learned how to play "10 Days in Europe", a fun game about playing travel agent and building a coherent itinerary before your opponents do (I swear, I'm not making this up).

Having spent most of Saturday AM getting brunch and helping Eric complete the hot sauce procurement for his hot sauce panel and tasting session, I prepare to rejoin the con....
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased