Glenn's Junk Chest

An assortment of Glenn's writings, photography, gaming resources, flash movies, and other creative output.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Movies: Sin City

Sorry I haven't posted more. My vacation is going well, but I haven't been doing as much writing as I'd planned/wanted. I've got some photos of snowy Missouri to share, and have done some work on the Skills chapter for Glennworld, which I'm still planning on posting soon.

So I've been vaguely aware that there was a Sin City movie coming out for some time, but it's only during the past few days that I've started to get an inkling of just how cool it might be. Robert Rodriguez has directed it, which I didn't know, and apparently he got Tarantino to direct at least one scene. The cast is pretty amazing too, though I'm really curious how well Elijah Wood is going to do as Kevin, a sociopathic serial killer.

What I like most about it is that Rodriguez is going to great pains to recreate the three stories from the graphic novels in the movie as closely as possible. I've even heard it said that the stuff from the comics that doesn't make it into the theatrical release will be included on the DVD. There's a video clip around which has cuts back and forth between scenes from the comic book, and their recreations, and it's pretty amazing stuff. Apparently the first part of this was something of a demo reel, used to convince Frank Miller (Sin City's creator) that the project would be in good hands. Rodriguez feels quite strongly about the project, insisting that Miller get co-director credit, even going so far as to resign from the Director's Guild over it.

Goldie's Sad Fate
Anyway, what finally got me to do a little digging is the official trailer on Apple's trailers page. Well worth a look.

For those interested in more Sin City stuff (and aren't squeamish about violent comics) I highly recommend you check out the source material. (Amazon will actually let you look at the first ten pages or so of each of the books online.) For those who are already familiar with the originals, check out this site, which not only clears up some questions I had about the timeline of the stories, but also includes a bunch of Dark Champions writeups for the main characters, for your gaming pleasure.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Family: How I Proposed

Note: This is old content that was on my old website, long since abandoned. However, now that I've started a blog, it seemed like I should rescue some of this content before it became forever lost. I've edited it slightly. For those hungry for newer content, I'm busy working on the draft of the chapter on skills for Glennworld, and may have some thoughts on this and that to share in the next few days while I'm on vacation.

Liana and I had been dating for about a year, and I'd been meaning to pop the question for some time, but hadn't quite decided how. When Liana went out of town to New Orleans for a business trip, however, I thought my moment was at hand. I went to a convienent jeweler's (Ausman's, next to Pegasus Games), and discovered that I was too picky.

It turns out that if you have any sort of taste at all, you can't get an engagement ring without waiting for them to make it to your specifications, and my specifications were just odd enough that they told me it would be two weeks before the ring was ready. Ouch! Liana got back from her trip, and all I had was flowers and a kiss. The big day would have to wait.

Two weeks later or so, I had her ring (1/2 carat, white gold, sized to fit her by snitching a ring she liked from her jewelery box) in pocket, and felt sufficiently antsy to give this a try.

I made arrangements to pick her up from work, showered, shaved, dressed nicely, but not too nicely. She had figured (read "knew") that something was up, and was also dressed nicely. I picked her up, and we went out to dinner at a pleasant corporate steak place, the Timber Lodge Steakhouse. We dined, chatted, and generally had a good time.

Earlier in the day, I'd offered her the choice of movie, either The Little Mermaid which had returned for a limited engagment during the holiday season, or Mortal Kombat 2. I was happy with either choice, (I thought seeing MK2 on the day I proposed had humor value) but Liana, perhaps wisely, perfered to see my then favorite Disney animated feature. We had a good time there too, and we snuck a quick kiss during the "Kiss the Girl" musical number.

By this point I was feeling kind of nervous.

So, we went home, she slipped into the bathroom, and while she was there, I turned down the lights, and put my CD of the Little Mermaid soundtrack on the stereo, and track-skipped it forward to "Kiss the Girl".

When she returned, I sat down with her on the couch, kissed her passionately, and then got down on one knee, saying "Well, this is it." I then proceded to get the ring out of my pocket, in it's little white box, opened it towards her and said "Liana, will you marry me?"

Liana burst into tears, and I gave her a big hug. We made a lot of emotional noises, kissed each other a few times, at which point, she said "When are you going to stop holding that thing behind my back and put it on my finger?". I sheepishly complied, and we were thus engaged.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Gaming: Spike's Journal Updated

I've written two new entries for Spike's Journal. I've got my vacation coming up, and I hope to be able to catch up with our progress in the game during it. Right now, I'm about two sessions behind, and since we game tonight, I'm probably about to be three sessions back.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Fun: 20 Questions

I'm sure this has been posted elsewhere, but here's a website which you can challenge to guess something in 20 questions. It's actually pretty good at it, especially if you pick a concrete physical object. If you go with an abstract, like "my blog", it doesn't always do so well. (courtesy of a random blog hit on k2h.)

Sometimes the questions it asks are pretty funny, too:

26. Can it cheer you up? No.
27. Does it help accomplish tasks? Yes.
28. Does it have anything to do with salad? No.
29. I guess that it is a lumberjack? Close.

I was actually thinking "coworker".

Fun: TinyURL Fishing

For those of you not familiar with TinyURL, it's a web-based service that takes a long URL and produces a short, redirecting URL that goes to that location.

For instance, the URL for this blog entry is:
But after a quick pass throught TinyURL, you can get to it with:

This is typically used by someone who has a long URL that won't work well in email or posting, and wants to send a shorter, more portable version. I myself use it for Yahoo maps, a lot. (Take this map to my new office, for instance. The original URL was 354 characters long.)

Anyway, I haven't figured out the exact scheme by which TinyURL assigns numbers, but it turns out that you can guess at them, and effectively produce a random hit on something that someone, somewhere, thought was worth e-mailing to someone else. (Obviously, trying such random links is not a work-safe activity.)

Most interesting (to me) finds so far:
        a Chinese dance music video.
        The Universal Music Machine. I need to play with this more.
        a take on the recent election with an amusing sci-fi twist.
        Spy photos from the street shoots of Fantastic Four. I remain concerned. (I'm not sure the lovely Jessica Alba makes sense as a Blonde, and the Thing costume looks a little silly. Maybe they're going to CGI it up.)

If anyone else decides to mess around with this, let me know what you find. This is obviously not a productive use of one's time, especially with all the e-store links people mail back and forth, but I do find it interesting to survey what kinds of things are being emailed around out there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Humor: World's Largest Dungeon

As many of you know, I have a character making his way through the World's Largest Dungeon. Anyway, we've been travelling through the an area that's been full of shadows, an undead monster that exists as a pale shade that leeches away a victim's strength until they too become one. They're tricky to fight, but, interestingly, they always seem to be coming at the party in groups of four. In fact, we've run into many groups of four.

I observe that this is strong evidence of the high quality of the writing of the World's Largest Dungeon. After all, lots of four shadowing is one of the hallmarks of a good narrative.

Fun: Liked and Disliked Words

Claudia Jane posted a list of liked and disliked words, and I felt the need to comment with my own list, which I replicate here, for your elucidation or disdain. (If this intrigues, Jon spoke about something similar a few weeks back on Nothing Good.)

gazebo: A freestanding, roofed, usually open-sided structure providing a shady resting place.
eschew: To avoid; shun.
genre: A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content.
characterize: To be a distinctive trait or mark of.
勉強する: (benkyou suru) to study. [japanese]

laparoscopy: An operation in which a laparoscope is used, as in an examination of the liver or the surgical treatment of endometriosis.
employe: optional spelling; person who works for another in return for financial or other compensation.
anaranjado: the color orange. [spanish]

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Blog: New Image Link Format

Sample Photo of Ivy & Rose
I've been a little disappointed with how I've been linking to photographs from images in blog. Partially this is because I often want the photos to have captions, which was tricky, and partially it's because I've wanted the images to have drop shadows, which was even more tricky. Most of all, however, it's because I think that people have been missing that the images are usually clickable to bring up a larger version of the photo or image in a popup window.

So, with a little effort and testing, I've put together an image-posting format that accommodates all of my desires except alt tags. (Since it allows for captions, I can live without the alt tags.) For those who are HTML minded, it's a small borderless table, with the main image as a background of a table cell so I can put the "click for larger image" violator on it. I also had to change my Blogger template a bit in order to make it work.

It seems to work well in most things I've tested that don't have trouble with the Blog's style sheets as a whole. However, if it doesn't work for you, please post a comment to let me know, along with what OS and browser you're using.

Update: Well, it didn't seem to be working properly in my copy of Internet Explorer running under Windows 98. I've had to learn more about style sheets in order to fix it, but I think it's working now. One quirk, in other browsers, the whole table is clickable, but in IE, you can only click the little "click for larger image" violator. I'd still welcome feedback from anyone who's seeing it as broken. (12/13/04)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Blog: Creative Commons

I've been meaning to properly license my two blogs since their inceptions, but hadn't yet, leaving them to flounder along under the standard copyright protections. However, between Spike's Journal's continuing popularity and increasing length, and my posting of my gaming system here, Seth reminded me that it was past time I took care of it.

So, I've taken the obvious step of assigning both Creative Commons licenses, which I rather approve of. I strongly considered putting Spike's Journal (which is more of a unified work) out under Founders' Copyright, which I approve of even more, but it turns out that's something of a hassle, especially for a work-in-progress. Perhaps I will do it when Spike's Journal concludes, or if I ever commercialize any of my content.

Video Games: Intense Focus

It's no secret that people can become very absorbed in their video games, tuning out the housework, their need to exercise, their schoolwork, possibly even their friends and family, and maybe even other things. Video games play a very important role in my life, but even I'm reluctantly forced to admit that these observations have more than a grain of truth to them.

But, then again, everything has its upside, as this CNN article relates. (Link provided by my lovely wife.)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Glennworld: Potentials

Note: These are rules for my RPG system. They are still very much in development and playtesting, so take what you find here with an expectation of future change. For those curious about the system's philosophy and goals, I refer you to this post. Because this is still in development, this post will occassionaly be updated with changes. If the changes are major, the update will be noted at the top of the blog.

The Six Potentials

Once a background and race are selected for a new character, it's time to figure out her potentials. Potentials are each tied to a physical trait, and measure how much aptitude the character has for related fields of endeavor. Each Potential is measured on a scale from -7 to +7, where 0 is human average, and -6 and +6 are human minimum and maximum. The Potentials are Body, Strength, Dexterity, Perception, Intelligence, and Determination.

Body is an measure of how physically tough a character is, and whether she can easily learn the occasional skills that rely on that, such as endurance or running. Even without learning these skills, a character with high body is more likely to shrug off injury or hardship, and is substantially harder to put down even when injury is suffered.

Strength is a measure of how physically strong a character is, and how quick she is to learn new highly physical skills, like fighting with a simple weapon, sailing, or smithing. Even if she learns no related skills, a strong character can lift more, fight better with makeshift weaponry, and will probably be larger and more imposing.

Dexterity is an indication of how quick and agile a character is, and how quickly she can learn new skills that rely on speed and coordination, like fencing, lockpicking, and acrobatics. Even without learning these skills, a dextrous character can move more surely, avoid sudden trouble better, and will be more graceful.

Together, Strength, Dexterity and Body measure a character's physical aptitude, and a character with high potentials here will more easily learn the skills of fighting hand-to-hand, and dealing with the physical world in a straightfowardly physical way. In addition, most non-scholarly professional skills are more easily mastered with high physical potentials.

Perception is a measure of how acute a character's senses are, and how easily she will learn new skills that rely on observation or snap judgement, such as archery, tracking, and cooking. Without learning skills, a perceptive character is still better at noticing things, has better distance vision, and will probably be a better judge of things about which full information is not yet known.

Intelligence is a measure of how smart a character is, and how quick she is to learn new primarily mental skills, like book-learning, the mechanics of trade, or alchemy. Without acquiring these skills, she still knows more languages, and is quicker to understand things that need to be thought through.

Determination is an indication of how driven or stubborn a character is, and how easily she will master new abilities that rely on perserverance and refusal to give up, such as resisting magical effects, healing the sick or wounded, or surviving in hostile environments. Even without these skills, a determined character is more likely to resist magical compulsion, stay on track when the going gets tough, and have less trouble dealing with fear.

Together, Perception, Intelligence, and Determination measure a character's mental aptitude, and a character with high potentials here will more easily learn the skills of fighting at range, and dealing with the world by understanding and influencing it. In addition, Intelligence and Determination both play very important roles in the mastery of magic.

The six potentials can also be thought of as existing in a circle, with the physical potentials on one side and the mental on the other. Each potential is somewhat complementary to its two neighbors, (for example, Body complements both Determination and Strength) and skills that rely on multiple potentials will more often rely on adjacent Potentials than non-adjecent ones. Additionally, there is an opposition between each Potential and the the Potential that lies directly across the circle, so Strength and Intelligence are opposed, as are Dexterity and Determination, and Perception and Body.

The Potential Ratings

A character with a positive rating in a potential is more apt than average. At levels like +1 or +2, this is useful, but not exceptional. She will find related skills easy to learn at first, but may find that they become more difficult to pursue before they are truly mastered, which may dissuade her from ever excelling. Such a character will probably still be thought of as fairly average in this Potential by most observers, however. Only someone who is training the character in a related skill is likely to notice the character's aptitude.

At levels like +3 or +4, the character has a substantial advantage in related skills, and may find even skilled proficiency easy to achieve. She has a proficiency that would allow her to excel in almost any related profession, and woud probably be highly desirable as a student for those who seek to recruit. A character with this kind of Potential will be easily noticed by others as being smarter or stronger, and it may be that more is expected of her as a result.

At +5, she is better than 99% of all humans at related fields of endeavor, and may become a highly skilled professional in a related skill without ever even touching the limits of her natural ability. No one who regularly associates with the character can fail to notice her strengths in this area, and people may assume she is capable of things that she has not actually studied, merelly by dint of her clear natural advantages.

At +6, she is 1 in a thousand, better than 99.9% of all humans at picking up related skills. She can become a master of a related field, and highly respected, without ever running into her own limitations. Anyone seriously considering her abilities in this area will realize that she is a prodigy.

Finally, at +7, the character is better than any unaltered human, with a supernatural aptitude for learning related skills that is likely to breed resentment among those of more normal capability who must struggle to learn alongside her.

A character with a 0 in a potential is not crippled in any way, rather, they are average. Related skills can be learned, but they won't come especially easily, and unless the character dedicates a lot of skill points to these skills, they will probably never rise to the highest levels in them.

A character with a negative in a potential is less apt than average. At levels like -1 or -2, this is no big deal, it will keep the character from progressing beyond a certain point in related skills, but she can, by dint of effort, still become quite proficient, if not a master. Such a character will probably still be thought of as fairly average in this Potential by most observers, however. Only someone who is training the character in a related skill is likely to notice the character's difficulties with the subject.

At levels like -3 or -4, the character is substantially handicapped in related skills, and even basic proficiency may be an elusive goal. She has effectively no aptitude for them, and can't even attempt to use them without significant practice. (For example, a character with a -3 Strength simply cannot make effective hand-to-hand combat unless she's actually spent some skill points to learn a combat skill.) Such a character will be noticed as being a poor functioner in this area by others, a character with a low Dexterity potential will probably be regarded as clumsy, for instance.

At -5, 99% of humans have more aptitude than her, and she will never be better than a novice at any related skill. No one who associates regularly with the character can fail to notice that she has trouble in this area, and people may assume that she's not capable of any level of function here, whether or not it's true.

At -6, 99.9% of humans are better, and the character is the one person in a thousand who is effectively barred from participation in related fields of endeavor. This represents someone who is unfortunate enough that she is too weak to lift a sword, or too stupid to learn to read, for instance. Someone with a -6 Dexterity cannot attempt acrobatic feats, and no matter how much she tries, cannot become even a novice fencer.

At -7, the character is worse than any unimpaired human, and is not only inept at related skills, but will have difficulty learning skills of the two complementary Potentials as well. A character with a -7 Intelligence, for instance, will not only be completely unable to learn a new language, but will also have greater difficulty learning Perception-related skills (they'll be too stupid to realize the importance of what they percieve), and Determination-related skills (the focused determination required will too often be replaced by ill-considered stubbornness).

Generating Potentials New Characters

There are three ways to generate a new character's Potentials.

Random Realistic Potentials are generated by rolling 6dF, and assigning each result in order. Using this method, a completely random set of potentials is generated. About a quarter of characters generated this way will have nothing better than a +2, and nothing worse than a -2, 60% will be in the -3 to +3 range, and 90% within the -4 to +4 range for all Potentials. This is an ideal method for generating NPCs, as they are not required to be exceptional individuals, but is usually a poor method for generating player characters, since it leaves too much to chance.

Random Targeted Potentials are generated by rolling 6dF for each value, but the person creating the character assigns the values as desired. This allows randomness to play a role while still allowing the creator to target a specific character goal. If better stats than average are desired, 1, 2 or 3 adjustment points can be applied to each roll. This is an ideal method for generating NPCs, and a good method to use for PCs if random Potentials are a goal.

Purchased Potentials are generated by giving the person who is developing the character a certain number of points to work with. When all the potentials are added together, the result must equal this number of points. Using this system, a character's creator can slight one Potential to favor another. If given zero points to work with, the only way to get one Potential up will be to put another down. The more points the creator is given, the less slighting she'll need to do in order to have high Potentials for the Character.

Keep in mind when using this system that characters with positive scores in all Potentials can have very diverse capabilities, because they can buy skills in all areas without penalty. As a result, if you want characters to be more specialized, it's a good idea to keep a tighter rein on the points, so that people feel compelled to take some zero or negative Potential values. Here are some recommendations for different kinds of campaigns.

Suggested Point Totals
Realistic3 points
Adventurous6 points
Heroic9 points
Legendary12 points

This is an ideal method for most role-playing oriented campaigns, as it allows the character's creator to adjust points to suit the desired character conception. Six points makes a good point value for most campaigns.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Family: Multitasking with Rose

Rose Multitasks
So today when I got home from work so that Liana could go to work, Rose and I made a pizza together. (Medium frozen Home Run Inn four cheese pizza, we put canadian bacon, oregano, smoked sausage, and onions on it, then sprinkled sharp cheddar cheese on top.) While the pizza was baking, I suggested that we play with blocks, and Rose wanted to build the Teen Titan's Tower. I obliged, and other than being short a block that I thought would've helped the aesthetic, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Then the pizza was done. I wanted Rose to eat, but she wanted to play with toys on the blocks. I would tell her to take a bite, and then she would return immediately to the game. I'd tell her to take another bite, she'd oblige, and then go right back to the game. Suddenly, she announced, "Playing with toys at the same time as eating is called Muls-pi-tass-king." You could have knocked me down with a feather.

I asked her where she picked that up, and she said "from Vicki". Thanks Vicki, that was pretty cool!

(Of course, not 5 minutes later, she waited too long to go to the bathroom and didn't quite make it. Ah well, you win some, you lose some, I guess.)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Comics: Open Letter to Scott Kurtz

Mr. Kurtz,

I've been looking at the PVP strip for Sunday. It bothers me, and it took me a little bit of thinking to clearly articulate why.

You often have Francis saying "gay" in response to things he doesn't like. I can live with it because he's a teenager in the gaming community and it can be construed to be fairly accurate representation of what this community can be like. I think it's a bad idea to include such a highly offensive characterization in a newspaper-targeted strip, but I can stand it.

Yesterday's strip wasn't like that.

This is a strip format you've used before. A convoluted organizational name that shortens to a funny acronym, which another character then points out. The problem is that this kind of convtrivance isn't produced by the characterization, it's produced by the strip's author. The hand of Scott Kurtz, if you will, is very apparently shining through the characters whenever this technique is used.

Put another way, when you have Francis say "gay", it's believable that the speech comes from Francis, and that Scott Kurtz doesn't really think it's OK to backhandedly insult a whole group of people just because he needs another synonym for "stupid". Because this strip is so contrived, it's clear that it's not Francis saying "homo", it's not Brent saying it, it's Scott Kurtz saying it.

If this were in a newspaper I read, I'd probably be demanding an apology, and possibly asking the newspaper to consider removing the strip. Since that isn't the case, I'm asking you directly. Please change or remove this strip, it's offensive, and it reflects badly on you.


Glenn Loos-Austin

Gaming: Foundations and Fudge Dice

So, in the near future, I'm going to begin posting (and then revising) the Second Edition of my home rules roleplaying system. But before I get started, I thought I'd lay out some of the history and thinking that went into how it's designed, and talk a little bit about the new core mechanic of the system and its impact.

Unofficially, my system is known as Glennworld. It's intended to be useful for conducting a fairly standard fantasy roleplaying game, and has been revised many times over the years. The oldest version dates back to somewhere around 1988. Originally, the game was heavily inspired by Rolemaster, and reactive to the flaws I perceived in AD&D. I saw in Rolemaster an overly-complicated mechanic that had some basically good ideas behind it, and I tried to capture them.

Since then, there have been two (arguably three) versions of D&D released, and the 3.0 and 3.5 editions have made some pretty radical improvements. Indeed, the system was so improved over the D&D I'd played before that for a while, my gaming groups did little else. At this time I'm playing in one D&D game and running another three (off-and-on), so its impact on my gaming life continues. However, after about a year of play, it was starting to become apparent that several of the problems I'd always had with D&D remained in there. They were just wrapped in such a fuzzy layer of fun and polish that it took a while for the pokey bits to start being noticable.

The main thing that I've always perceived as problematic in D&D (any version) is that it's structured so that power level is fairly linear. In other words, a 1st level character is about 1/2 as powerful as a 2nd level character, and about 1/10 as powerful as a 10th level character. It's not that simple of course, but there's no question that in a typical D&D game, power levels start fairly low and skyrocket rapidly. While 3rd edition has solved many problems with D&D, it explicitly doesn't tackle this one, and this always makes a long-running D&D campaign, while fun, seem a little "power-gamey" to me. It's not uncommon for a player character to encounter an NPC, find them too tough to handle, encounter them again a few sessions later, and find them trivially easy to defeat. Theoretically, I suppose, the GM could have every NPC's power skyrocketing along similar lines to the PCS, but this is both mechanically challenging (recordkeeping!) and makes the already somewhat stilted D&D universe even more so. It seems to me that it pretty much needs to be a baseline assumption that most NPC's "levels" change very slowly over the course of years.

While Rolemaster hardly solves this problem, it did allieviate it somewhat in two ways, only one of which was, I think, intentional. Firstly, because they based everything on percentiles, they could afford to be more granular than D&D when it came to assignment of abilities. As a result, they were able to have the system "taper off" more easily as characters hit higher levels. Secondly (and legendarily) it was so difficult to level a character in the system that GMs did it much more rarely, which certainly put the brakes on the skyrocket. (For instance, I recently played in a Rolemaster campaign for about 2 years, and my character succesfully advanced from 1st to 4th level.)

Informed by Champions, (a super-hero roleplaying game) where characters often start out at 250pts and end up at 280pts after months and months of play, I decided that I wanted to combine that sort of point-based character development system with the percentiles-based rolling of Rolemaster.

The results were good. Anyone who's curious can talk to me and I'll provide you with charts, rules, and sample characters from this 10 year period. However, before you rush to do so, know that they didn't offer anything substantially better than what was available elsewhere. In fact, at the end of this period, I had become convinced that the increased complexity approach I'd been adopting was probably a wrong turn, and found myself gravitating toward the extremly simple mechanics of Feng Shui.

It was at this point that 3rd edition D&D came out, to be honest, it was so sweeping, and fixed so many of the problems with the old D&D systems, that my gaming groups played pretty much nothing else for a year and half. Finally, however, it became clear that fixing all the problems that they had fixed had sort of distilled D&D down to its essence, making a very enjoyable system that had a few clear stumbling blocks.

So about a year ago, I began rewriting the Glennworld rules from scratch. Here's the things I'm trying to incorporate.

No Linear Power Progression.
Like Champions, characters start with a certain number of development points, and as they progress, they get more at the rate of 1-3 a session. The GM can accelerate development by handing out more points, or retard it by handing out fewer, but it doesn't have "level increments" where characters get suddenly sharply better. For low-point characters, progression is fairly quick, as a percentage of their total skill points, for high-point characters, it's fairly slow, for the same reason.

Bell Curve on Random Scheme
Just as I don't want characters to advance in a linear way, I don't really want their abilities, as expressed by die-rolls, to do so either. In D&D, a character that picks up a weapon that's +1 better than their old weapon gets a significant boost across the board. If they had a +7 attack with their old weapon, they could get attack rolls ranging from 8-27 (avg. 17.5) on a d20, and can now get a 9-28 (avg. 18.5). Almost no matter what scheme is used to evaulate the success condition of such a mechanic, there were things they could fail before (something requiring an 8 or better) that they now cannot fail. There are also things that they couldn't possibly do before (something requiring a 28 or better) that they now can do about 5% of the time.

D&D attempts to address this problem with the concept of automatic success and failure on "natural" die rolls of 20 and 1, respectively, but I see this as sort of a band-aid over the problem, because what has happened is that all results, best possible, average, and worst possible, have shifted equally. The larger the differential, the more significant the problem, especially when multiple characters are involved, and their plusses are highly divergent. How do you deal with a fighter who has a +18 attack in the same party as a rogue who has a +8 attack? Any opponent that the rogue can realistically (25%) attack will be hit by the fighter more than 75% of the time.

Results for 6dF
Glennworld is addressing this by using fudge dice. These are 6-sided dice with two "+" symbols, two "-" symbols, and two blank faces. When you roll a group of six fudge dice, you add up the plusses, subtract the minuses, and you get a result from -6 to +6. What I like about this is that it's on a bell curve. You're extremely likely (78.5%) to get an "average" result between -2 and +2. Even better, you can assign +6 and -6 to ludicrously difficult targets, like running along a stream of enemy arrow fire, because they are so dramatically unlikely (0.1%) that it's almost impossible to game the system to make these activities commonplace.

But best of all, I've devised a way to adjust the results of the roll that has a minimum of impact on the extremes of the curve, while moving the "sweet spot" of the curve up or down. Here is the basis of this Glennworld mechanic. The dice are divided into two groups, an adjustable group (light dice) and a non-adjustable group (dark dice), by default, three of each. A player is given a certain number of adjustment points, which they can apply to the light dice on their roll. With one adjustment point, they can convert a blank to a plus, with two, they can convert a minus to a blank. (Therefore with three, they can convert a minus to a plus.) A magic sword that improves a user's skill, for example, might grant an adjustment point, While a spell that calls upon the favor of a deity might increase the user's ratio of light dice to dark dice, thus potentially allowing them to adjust more of their roll. These adjustments can as easily be negative (and applied to the dark dice) as positive.

The result is that a character who is unsuited to a task may actually have a few negative adjustments, be capable of achieving results ranging from about -6 to +5, and likely to get results in the range of -3 to +1 or so, while character with some training or aptitude is capable of results from -6 to +6, and is likely to get results in the range of -2 to +2. Finally a character operating in a speciality with a lot of positive adjustments is capable of getting results from -4 to +6, and is likely to get results in the range of 0 to +4. But very few of these characters are barred from getting any reasonable result, and a magic sword doesn't ever change the outlying parameters of what a sword is or isn't capable of, unless that is the intended focus of the sword's magic.

Fewer Mechanics that Encourage Power Gaming.
In D&D, there are many mechanics specifically included to encourage power-gaming. (For those not in the know, this is the practice of trying to extract maximum mechanical advantage from the rules, regardless of other factors.) I regard RPGs as a story-telling and roleplaying medium, and hate when players feel compelled to compromise these aspects in order to "succeed" under the rules. A good example of this is that in D&D, there are several monsters that require special kinds of weapons, even magical weapons, to be effectively fought. As a result, it's not uncommon for players to feel the need for their characters to tote around several different weapons, and for every member of a gaming group to feel that it's important for their character to have a magic weapon. I don't care for any system that encourages my player with a high elven ranger to feel like he'd better carry around a +2 pike "just in case". The fudge dice system above supports this by allowing magic weapons (and the like) to play a role without having them change the basic parameters of what a character is capable of.

Not Tied to own Game-World or Specific Genre Expectation.
D&D has a lot of history behind it, and a lot of it doesn't fit into my personal takes on the fantasy genre. I don't like having lots of common-place magic weapons, I don't want elves to constitute 20% of the population of most major cities, and I'm not fond of having everyone know exactly what halflings are because they've met several. In many ways, D&D represents the ultimate extension of Syndrome's quote from the Incredibles. "And then, when everyone's special, no one will be." As a result, Glennworld attempts, as much as possible, to free itself from world-building. It's a "naked" gaming system, providing mechanics, and the expectation that GMs will use those mechanics to build their own worlds. As part of this, Glennworld also does away with classes, to extend some of the same genre freedom to the players.

Less Emphasis on Characteristics.
In Glennworld, the basic statistics (Strength, Intelligence, Perception, Determination, Dexterity, and Body) are more measures of potential than they are absolutes. While each statistic does come with specific advantages, they are not generally heavily weighted into how the character conducts other activities within the system, but rather into how many skill points the character requires to gain each new ability. This is done so that one can balance statistics for role-playing and characterization purposes without needing to adjust them in favor of certain mechanical requirements. This is not absolutely true, but it is more true than in many other systems.

I have a lot more to say about this, but this is a pretty good overview of my goals, which you can keep in mind (presuming you're still interested) as I begin to lay out the rest of the system in the coming months.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Dining: Coming Restaurants

According to this article in the Capital Times, the Vientiane Inn, which closed recently to be replaced with a Cousin's, is going to reopen not far from its previous location. Since they've always been one of my favorite Thai Restaurants, I look forward eagerly to their return, and I'll put up a review when they reopen.

In other Madison dining news, the open space on Williamson street, kitty-corner across from Mother Fool's coffee, is going to be a pizza place that sells pizza by the slice. I'm reliably informed that they are going to have duck confit available as a topping, and that anchovies will be available. I can't wait. I drive by the location every morning on my way to work, so you can look forward to my impressions of that as well.