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July 2008 Archives

July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch recently gave a presentation titled, "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."  What makes the presentation amazing (aside from how entertaining it is) is that this is a man who was staring down cancer.  He knew it when he gave the presentation.  Yet it is amazingly hopeful.

He was a geek, like me.  He loved video games and learning through fun.  He loved his family.  He has a thousand stories about the people he's met.  And he passed away today, July 25th, 2008.  You should watch the video.

"I mean, the metaphor I've used is... somebody's going to push my family off a cliff pretty soon, and I won't be there to catch them.  And that breaks my heart.  But I have some time to sew some nets to cushion the fall.  So, I can curl up in a ball and cry, or I can get to work on the nets."

Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008)

July 24, 2008

Dungeons & Dragons 3.t, critical hits streamlined

As in my previous entry about the 3.t system, I'm trying to make D&D 3.5 play faster.  Today's rule revision has to do with critical hits.  Right now in 3.5, each weapon has a "threat range" such as 19-20, which means that if you roll a 19 or 20 on a 20-sided die, you are maybe going to do critical damage.  To determine if you actually do get critical damage, you roll again.  That's a bit convoluted.

The problem?  To fix this, we cannot just drop the confirmation roll and say "all critical threats are automatically confirmed."  If we do that, then crits will happen much more often and low-level characters will die more often.  But if we reduce the damage of the weapons, then we can keep all those crits.  That should speed up gameplay without changing the numbers (much), because there is no more rolling to confirm crits.  They just happen.  It should be more enjoyable for the players, too -- their weapons might do a tiny bit less damage each hit, but they will do critical hits often.  So what we're about to do will keep damage roughly the same, but remove an extra dice roll.  Ready?

Critical hits

  1. Drop every weapon's damage to the next smaller die.  1d12 becomes 1d10, 1d10 becomes 1d8, 1d8 becomes 1d6, 1d6 becomes 1d4, 1d4 becomes 1d3, and 1d3 becomes 1d2.  Now, there is a tricky part here, for weapons that do two dice worth of damage per hit: 2d6 becomes 1d10, and 2d4 becomes 1d6.
  2. All critical threats are automatically confirmed.  Done.

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Dungeons & Dragons 3.t, turning rules streamlined

For a while now, I've been mulling over what I would do to make D&D 3.5 play faster, like 4th edition promised.  Of course, the joke is that 4th edition can be even slower than 3.5, due to all the new movement rules.  But I don't have to worry about that.  I just want to take the best elements, and graft them onto the 3.5 rules with a minimum of fuss.

I'm calling my revisions 3.t, as in 3.tony, because I'm the one to blame if the revisions suck or work well.  The criteria for "sucks" would be if a rule change requires large rewrites, or breaks lots of other rules.  The criteria for "works well" would be if a rule change speeds up gameplay but has little effect otherwise.  So if a typical combat takes 90 minutes to resolve normally, with my rules I hope that you can resolve combat in an hour or less.

Turning

First up for revision is the cleric system for turning undead.  We merely drop the turn check roll, and replace it with cleric level + charisma bonus + knowledge religion synergy (if the character has it).  The turn damage roll would remain.  So the steps are as follows:

  1. Roll the turn damage as usual (2d6 + cleric level + charisma).
  2. Cap the highest hit die undead that can be turned at: cleric level + charisma modifier + knowledge religion synergy (if any).

Let's consider the example of a 2nd level cleric with 14 charisma and no points in the knowledge religion skill.  If the cleric rolled a 4, he'd have an 8 for step 1 (4 + 2 for level, +2 for charisma).  Then for step 2 the cap would be set at 2 + 2 + 0 (no synergy bonus), or 4 total.  Therefore, the cleric could turn two 4 HD undead (8 total, capped at 4 HD).  But he/she could not turn one 8 HD undead, due to the per-monster cap.

This is almost exactly the same as turn undead following RAW, but removes one roll and replaces it with a reasonably fair, typically unchanging number.  Should be easier for players to follow and execute quickly.

I'll group all my articles about rules revision under the 3.t tag, should you wish to see what else I have for it.

July 20, 2008

Reggie to the Wii: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!"

There's a discussion happening over at the RPG Codex about the Nintendo Wii and the terrible, terrible showing that Reggie Fils-Aimé (Nintendo's president) gave at this year's E3 gaming conference.  Reggie has gone from revolutionary to nanny in just four years.

I've owned a Wii since day one.  I've put probably a thousand dollars into the console, games, and controllers.  But I'm thinking hard about things, and so I want to share with you what I posted over at the RPG Codex.

Read more...

July 11, 2008

Pan's Labyrinth

Image of Ofelia embracing the fawn.

I just finished watching Pan's Labyrinth, by director Guillermo del Toro.  I understand now why he received a 20-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

I decided to watch the movie because I had heard that Guillermo del Toro will be directing the new Lord of the Rings movies (The Hobbit, and an in-between movie to bridge the 50 year gap between The Hobbit & The Fellowship of the Ring).  The only other movie I had seen from this director was the movie Hellboy, which I hated.  So to be honest, I've been nervous that my favorite movie trilogy was about to be ruined with cheesy add-ons.

Having seen Pan's Labyrinth, I'm no longer worried.  I may do a full review of the movie later, or I may not.  But I know this is a man who can tell a story, and do a spellbinding job of it.  I wish him all the luck in the world.

July 6, 2008

Who is dangerous to America?

Below is a quote from a post at Slashdot.  The discussion had veered into a debate about terrorism and the responsibility of Congress & the President versus the voting public.  What do you think?  Is he right?  Is he wrong?  Have we come to the point in our politics where placing blame on voters, even if difficult, is necessary?

Anyone who would vote for Bush Jr. twice is wilfully ignorant.

Anyone who supports perpetual budget defecits we're going to leave to our grandkids to pay back is wilfully ignorant.

Anyone who supports tax cuts and rebate cheques while we're 500 billion overdrawn every year is wilfully ignorant.

Anyone who supports war against relatively innocent nations, first on the basis of dishonest 9/11 rhetoric, then on dishonest WMD rhetoric, then on dishonest "He's a very bad man. Aren't you glad he's dead?" rhetoric, is wilfully ignorant.

Anyone who supports demolishing our freedoms in order to attack terrorists who supposedly hate us for our freedom is wilfully ignorant.

These wilfully ignorant people, they are supporting policies which are having a massive negative impact on the entire world and her people. Tens of thousands, maybe millions of people are dead because of the actions brought about by their wilful ignorance. More Americans are dead because of these ignorant policies than were killed on 9/11.

These people are my enemies.

July 2, 2008

Diablo: new saved game, druid

I was excited about the new Diablo 3, and I found myself playing a round of Diablo 2 for nostalgia's sake.  I played a druid, got him up to level 9 and finished the "find Cain" quest.  Importantly, I never allocated any skill points.  Would you like to load him up and allocate the skill points as you wish?  Feel free.  His name is Mogrin, and he's available for download on my Diablo 2 saved games page.

This page contains all entries posted to Outshine in July 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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