Wrenched Monkey

January 4th, 2015

Shannon Prickett,
November 10, 2014

Rating: 3 out of 3
This book is a story of loss. Loss of self, loss of purpose, loss of life and oh yeah, loss of property, the one that is apparently the scariest. It gives us the experience of watching a protagonist with secrets trade the things she knows for access to the one thing she most wants: violent revenge. Hell yes I’m on board for that trip.
The language is fun in this one and the pacing is crisp as we cut between the past where everything went wrong and the present where our protagonist doggedly works to set things right, despite her tendency to make inexplicably sentimental choices. This is a good introduction to a complicated society and the kinds of detritus cluttering the edges of such a system.
People who might like this book
  • People who like revenge stories (my people!)
  • People who want some slippery science fiction ideas presented well

People who might not like this book

  • People who are brittle about gender language

Bug Out Bag

November 18th, 2014

Shannon Prickett,
November 10, 2014

Rating: 2 out of 3

Quick, name three things I like in a story. If you said

  1. Revenge
  2. Loose ends
  3. Bugs lots of bugs lots of bugs lots of bugs

then congratulations, you’re 2 for 3! (I have no particular feelings about insects).

So I read God’s War which starts the trilogy of the same name and it’s about a killer and a war and aliens and shapechangers and treason and lots of other stuff. It’s jam packed with things which matter, happen and fail. So it’s an exciting book, a fast moving book, there’s a lot of fighting and being knocked unconscious. Lots of betrayal, lots of revenge, lots of bugs. There’s also some religion stuff which mostly went over my head but seems to be some sort of allegory about how atheists are the least-loved most-effective members of theocracies; that’s probably just me projecting.

All in all, I’d say the book achieves most of what it sets out to do, which I interpret as ‘tell a story about an antiheroine who everybody wants and no one can have’. I’m curious to see what happens next so it succeeds as the start of a trilogy but I didn’t really feel satisfied by it, if I considered it a stand-alone story.

People who might like this book:

  • Fans of revenge stories. Roger Zelazny fans, I’m looking at you.
  • Fans of lethal women.
  • People who want to read about a religious conflict which isn’t on Earth.

People who might not like this book:

  • People who get squicked by reading about bugs.
  • People who don’t like female characters to have agency.
  • People who aren’t down for sexy, sexy murder.

We Had to Flip the Tape to Finish the Fight

October 6th, 2014

Shannon Prickett,
October 6, 2014

Rating: 1 out of 3
 Suppose you were a person who grew up playing video games and table top RPGs and thought a lot about those things. If that is completely out of your experience, you should stop now and go read something else. Maybe an experiment about evolution in yeast? If that is you, then you are probably like me and you will think this book by Matt Barton is pretty great.
OK, so what is it? It’s a history of computerized role-playing games. It’s that simple, and that complicated. Because there are a lot of roots to the tree, and a lot of branches, many of which have long since withered and fallen from the trunk. So there’s a lot to cover and this work does a pretty decent job of identifying commonalities, innovations, and missteps. The only thing not to like are the part I was most looking forward to: screen shots of the games. For whatever reason they appear to have been converted from brilliant color to muddy gray thumbnails which are illegible. So you’ll have to imagine what is described in words.
People who might like this book
  • tabletop gamers who don’t hate computers
  • computer gamers who don’t hate tabletop games
  • people nostalgic for a childhood wasted on games

People who might not like this book

  • people who hate games
  • people who hate muddy gray-scale images
  • people who have strong differing opinions about the games described in this work

Spice of Decay

June 4th, 2014

Shannon Prickett,
June 4, 2014

Rating: 2 out of 3

Sometimes I read a story with a character and I’m really interested in hearing more about them. I want to see them in different circumstances, from a different angle if possible. I have read a lot of shared world anthologies in the past for that kind of shifting perspective. This is a collection of short stories which achieves much the same thing. It’s a fast read; I finished it in 3 days of being at a convention, reading it in my down moments.

It’s a present day New York City subject to dual overlapping magisteria. The dead inhabit the same spaces as the living and the chords of mutual interference form the song of the book. We meet characters, go elsewhere and then they re-enter, sometimes seen through other eyes. It lends a verisimilitude to the work and it really worked well for me. Lots of sympathetic characters and some menacing peril for them to confront.

Things I liked about this collection

  • The variety of characters and accompanying perspectives.
  • The unified overarching narrative for our initial point of view character.
  • The present day supernatural hooks I can lift for any number of RPGs.

Things I liked less about this collection

  • The point of view characters are very nice.
  • The opponents are very bad.

Who might like this collection

  • Readers who like modern era RPGs with supernatural overtones (Unknown Armies, Night’s Black Agents, Esoterrorists &c)
  • Readers wanting some light horror comedy.
  • Readers who like worlds where there’s more going on than can be seen on the surface.

Who might not like this collection

  • Readers who prefer their fiction involve only white people.
  • Readers who hate NYC.
  • Readers who hate modern settings.
  • Readers who hate ghost stories.

lso, or an octal ls

February 24th, 2014

Ever since I started working with Puppet, I’ve wanted this kind of thing so I finally wrote a bash alias to do it. It displays information about a file, like an ls -l (sort of) but rendering the permission bits as octal, which I can turn around and feed to a puppet file type’s mode argument. It’s nothing more than my favorite arguments to stat but if you’re not already doing something like this, this might save you a touch of pain.

alias lso=”stat -c \”perm: %a %U %G bytes: %s %z %n\””

which renders output like so:
binder@ganesha:~/Documents/Github/puppet$ lso /etc/hosts
perm: 644 root root bytes: 284 2013-06-01 17:07:52.519485323 -0700 /etc/hosts

New hosting (sort of)

November 10th, 2013

Now on a VPS. Let me know if you see anything not right.


October 9th, 2013

Risk Legacy

April 28th, 2013

Risk Legacy

Originally uploaded by Binder Of Daemons

Going West

April 7th, 2013

Archival Characters for Longitudinal Studies

February 20th, 2013

You’ll have heard of the Up Series of documentaries and you’ll have heard of D&D or the rest of this post will be me humming a song you don’t know. May be useful to have thought about subjective timelines (like, the name River Song will be meaningful to you).

The Pitch to Players: ever wondered what your character will be like when they get old or what they were like when they were young?

The Pitch to Characters: volunteering to let the Great Institute for Legacy Longitudinal Studies ‘archive you’ (whatever that means) over the course of your life provided you with crucial early funding, occasionally strange adventures and a sense of purpose. But all of that is now in the past, at least for some yous.

Explain Your Poor Grammar:

GILLS is an organization which can go into a d20 3.x world and provide both episodic and continuity narratives to the campaign. This is done by having players create the same character at different levels and considering those versions as fixed in time.

With 3.x d20, progressing a character is comparatively easy. Figure out what class you want to credit the level to, gain the pertinent class features and character improvements, if your total levels is a multiple of 6 gain a feat, if a multiple of 4 gain an attribute point. If you need to equip the character, there are formulas and random charts to determine appropriate gear.

Which means that if you are a player with a character concept, you can sit down and advance your seed notion to whatever level the GM says is appropriate. Or as a GM you can crank out an NPC. Like turning a knob from 0 to the final state. The GILLS idea adds more clicks on the knob.

Here’s an example: create a character, picking race, background, characteristics, give them a level in wizard. Equip them. Now record that character in indelible ink, just as they are. Decide what would change if you gave them five more levels, perhaps 2 in fighter and 3 in wizard. Advance them to that point, upgrading/replacing equipment. Record the character at six levels in indelible ink.

Now you have two instances of the same character at an earlier and later point in their career.

How Do The Characters Get Used:

The GM announces what level the next scenario requires, the players pull the version of their character of appropriate level out of the archive and duplicate it into a modifiable media, the scenario is played out, and the duplicate is discarded at the end of it.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

This Feels Complicated, Use More Words:

OK. Inside the game world, what’s going on is that a group of psionicists or possible elven sorcerers have found a crystal which can be made to resonate with the memories of a person, capturing a moment in time. Dwarven artificers or Gnome tinkers or possibly just supremely gifted Human master crafters can similar record perfect information about possessions allowing indefinite reproduction of gear. Oh, and there’s probably a deity of the afterlife involved here to make sure the moral component of the character is captured for replay.

The player plays duplicates of their own character in scenarios. The reference character the duplicates derive from has lived a long and full life and gone on to other realms. But the GILLS group deploys duplicates for a variety of reasons: to see what characters will do, in response to request from one entity or another, to defend the organization from threat, out of a sense of fairness to the characters who volunteered to be archived.

It gives the GM the freedom to decide ‘I want this adventure to be for 18th level characters’ followed by ‘I want this adventure to be for 3rd level characters’ without all the players having to make new characters. It means not having to track advancement in the stories, because all of the material advancement has been done in advance, outside of the story. The GM can also give the world continuity which the characters lack by having the things they do persist, even if the next instance of the character doesn’t necessary have any idea what they did.

That is, a character might appear in successive gameworld weeks at 6th level, 6th level, 12th level, 3rd level and the world around them would have moved forward while their sense of self would have refreshed, advanced, and then retreated (respectively).

As a player, it gives you the freedom to treat every story as a one-shot, because this is not your prime time line, this is a fork, a branch, an echo of your Real Character, but with all the familiarity of “ah, 9th level, this is when I have my first talking sword” that having a consistent character brings.

How Many Versions Should We Archive:

Right now, I’m thinking a good distribution is to make a version of the character at 1st level, at 13 levels and at 25 levels. That’s 3 versions, a level range of 24. Which means that it subdivides pretty well. You could go back and make versions with 7 and 19 levels and bisect the timeline and repeat that another time if you like.

But Characters are More Than Their Levels:

So true. I have an idea for a ‘character events’ mechanism where the GM decides how many notable things happened to the character between the snapshots and those are generated and applied to the versions after the event.

An example: “slew their first dragon” might apply to all the characters, might fall somewhere between 3 and 7th versions, so the players would be asked to come up with a way in which slaying the dragon changed their character. Did they gain notable loot? A certain reputation? A scar? An individual event might be “enchanted their first staff” and the GM might ask the player what it was, what the crafting process did to/for the character, and what the final fate of that staff was.

This would be used to give the party shared events which happen “offscreen” to reference and build character story on.

In this way, the characters can develop lives and an existence independent of any given game session, players can foreshadow later advancement by making choices during a session, and the book-keeping for continuity is minimized.

OK, dissect it.

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