Gary Gygax

Mar. 5th, 2008 08:34 pm
Gary Gygax is dead.

I heard about it yesterday, but didn't know what to write. And I'm still not entirely sure. Without Gary Gygax, there's no D&D, and without D&D, I wouldn't be here. I'd probably be somewhere, but not here.

Most of the people reading this I've met through one RP or another, online. I wouldn't have met most of you without the influence of D&D and thereby gaming in general. Most of my friends through school I met because we were gamers, though there were few enough times we actually played D&D, and I never went to cons.

I have the old AD&D books at home, picked up over years of visits to used bookstores through my childhood. There's a milk crate full of D&D adventures I found one happy time at a thrift shop. I think that was where I first ran into D&D. There was this box full of booklets with maps, traps, monsters, treasure, and other things that set my mind racing. I couldn't even have been ten at the time. And one day, treasure of treasures, my dad found an old copy of the first box set three book original Dungeons & Dragons in the basement, one he'd had himself. Including those crappy plastic dice with unpainted numbers. Who'd known my dad had been cool once?

As kids, my brother and I played D&D with my aunt watching over us, when we couldn't stand staying in the hospital room where our grandmother lay dying.

It's really an inextricable part of my childhood, even when I didn't have anybody to play with. But I had the books. The treasures. The heroes. The monsters. The illustrations of monsters with (gasp) boobs.

That's all because of something Gary Gygax started. And then the other games that came forth from that. He gave all of that to all of us. Yes, even the Johnny-come-lately computer gamers. No D&D, no WoW.

I had only one encounter with Gary Gygax, directly. Last millenium, 1997 or 1998, there was an online convention. I don't remember the name, but the PWL (PlanesWalker's League, an old magic online league) had a virtual booth there, and I was an op by then, so I was at the con. And the star guest was one Mr. Gary Gygax. ANd I made an ass of myself, or at least thought I did. I don't remember the question, but I asked something about original D&D and LotR, and what other inspirations he'd had, or something like that. I don't even remember his answer, because a little later on, one of the other PWL folks messaged me saying my question had hurt Mr. Gygax.

In retrospect, I don't think she knew that. And I'm sure he got that kind of question all the time, but I was still young then, and I felt awful. I didn't stick around to see the rest of the interview. That was my closest brush with him. I guess I'll never find out if he got offended, or even cared or remembered that encounter now. But I never got to give him the kind of fanboy thanks that today's Order of the Stick did. And that's too bad.

Goodbye, Gary. So long and thanks for all the dice.
Even moreso than the tightass paladin, the stereotypical character type that pisses me off in D&D? The "Chaotic Neutral" person who uses it as an excuse to be all "WHEE I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT WITHOUT CARING." Or the people who think Chaotic Neutral = Psychopath. And the worse part is how so many of the official D&D books give that exact kind of stereotype in the descriptions of the alignments.

No. Just, no people. Come on. Chaotic Neutral is made up of two parts. The first is Chaotic, which means they don't care about laws. That DOESN'T mean they don't have at least some kind of their own code, or morals, or anything. It means they don't really care what society thinks. But it doesn't mean they're like Bizarro versions of lawful, who always have to break the laws, just because that was the law. They might flout the law when it suits them, and probably would, but they're not going to go running around and being crazy and breaking every law just because they can. Chaotic people have reasons, they're just reasons like "He looked at me funny" or "I was bored" or "I thought it'd be funny, did you see the Baron's face?" They don't have to be a jerk to everybody, or try and rip people off because only lawful tools pay for stuff. They just don't care what the regular law says, and do things because they want to.

Neutral's the other part. They're not good, but they're not really evil, either. Most of the time that gets used as an excuse like "Well you guys can't hate me, I'm not REALLY evil." Seriously, come on. Neutral means the person cares more about themself, but it doesn't mean they're completely selfish. They can have compassion, and friends they care about, but they can also be big jerks too. Like...most people, really.

So somebody who's Chaotic Neutral is going to put what they want before society and (most) other people, but they're still people and can put off doing things because of the consequences or because they'd feel bad about it or because it's too much work. They don't have to be crazy like the Joker or loony like a Toon. At least, not all the time. Because if you're always crazy, that gets predictable, and that's not really chaotic, now is it?
The game system I have the most books for I've never used is probably GURPS. Mainly because GURPS takes so damn long to make characters, I always lose patience, so I've never tried to run anything with any of my groups. But I have them more because a lot of the books are good reference for other things, and I've used them for that. And I used to work at a hobby shop, so I could get RPG books at a good discount.

No, my favorite RPG I've never played has to be Mage: The Ascension, by White Wolf. I've barely skimmed through the new WoD Mage book, I got kinda turned off by all the talk at the beginning about Atlantis. So I haven't really given it a fair shot, but I don't have $50 to blow on RPG books these days.

If I'm being honest, probably one of the biggest reasons I like Mage is it's as if Cyberpunk, Magic, and Superheroes had a kid, and it shared some of the awesomest parts from each. (1) It was the Matrix before the Matrix. It hits all kinds of fanboy buttons. I am nothing if not a nerd. Plus two of the Traditions are steampunky mad scientists and nerd mages who work their magic through computers. How could I resist?

But aside from my fanboy-isms, part of it was the timing. I started picking Mage books up shortly after I actually read the Principia Discordia through and my mind was Aflame With Possibilities. And Mage has plenty of possibilities. And a dozen or so different ways of looking at the universe, too. Most of the game that wasn't about flipping out and doing crazy stuff was philosophy. An RPG might seem a weird place to learn philosophy from, which it might be. But they also had a really cool section of bibliography showing books they'd gotten ideas from. Some of them were gobbledygook and bullshit, and some were interesting, like Finite and Infinite Games, which I actually found at the library a while before I picked one of the Mage books that referenced it.

The two things from Mage that've stuck with me the most are these. The first is part of the Virtual Adepts, the computer nerd mages. Who I always identified with, naturally enough, since they were made of writers, computer programmers, and so on. Their specialty in magic is/was Correspondence, which is looking at the connections between things. And for the longest time, I thought "lame," because it wasn't as flashy or obviously powerful as the other schools, even if it did have cool things like teleportation. It wasn't as obviously powerful or flashy or neat as the other schools got. But since I never played it, it never really came up.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was driving to work, and thinking about utterly random stuff. I don't remember the train of thought, but I realized, basically, things only exist because they interact. If they don't interact with anything else, they might as well not exist. How do we know what color something is? By how light interacts with it and our eyes. How do we know how hard something is? By how it interacts with our hands. How do we know what properties oxygen has. By how it interacts with other chemicals. If something doesn't interact with anything, it doesn't exist. And that's when I realized that's what they were getting at with Correspondence, and I felt dumb for not realizing it all that long ago.

The other is in Mage, one of the signs of advancement for your character was they'd stop needing to use a focus or special preparations to do things. Partly I just think it's a really cool effect, since as you get better, you don't really need the tools, though they may make things easier. And it also works the same kind of way as the witches in Discworld, where Granny Weatherwax could use a dented kitchen spoon as the Sacred Steel Knife, as long as she convinced the universe it was. And parts of life work that way too, as you get better, you don't need the tools and tricks nearly as much. They might make it easier, sometimes, but you can learn more by doing it without them, and sometimes they hold you back. A good artist can do as much or more with just a pencil as a newbie or a decent artist, even with all the best computer tricks.

And philosophically, it appeals, because it leaves open all sorts of different ways to end up the same general place. The tricks and tools are there to help you, and make you feel like you know what you're doing, the universe doesn't care.

My Mage books are still sitting up on the shelf, I haven't really looked through them in months. Writing this made me want to again. I wonder now if they'll live up to the awesomeness I remember and have projected on them, or not. And I wonder if I'll ever actually get the chance to run (or play in) a cool Mage campaign, and if it'd live up to the awesomeness I'd expect. Probably not, but letting things sit around as abstract ideals that never get implemented is way too Platonic and stupid. An idea of something isn't nearly as awesome as that actual something doing things. Even if it is more perfect.

So what're you people's favorite RPGs you've never played? And maybe I should look for a group for Mage.

1: There's a theory out there that all of White Wolf's games are about superheroes, really. When characters in most of them can shrug off bullets or just dodge them, and throw cars, I tend to agree.
Playing D&D last night, the other mage in our party got hit by a specifically targeted version of the Silence spell. Which I then dubbed "Power Word: STFU."

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, gas prices? Now, I know the almost $4 prices right after Katrina were just price gouging (whatever happened to government investigations into that sort of thing?) but gas was down to $2.199 (repeating) today. Of course, US gas prices have always been below the actual cost, once you include all the environmental effects from burning gasoline. But the oil companies have been extremely successful at shifting those onto the public.

Why is it so bloody hard to get 8 people who're willing to pay $3 to play in a Magic tournament? Haven't had one in the past two weeks. Part of it I'm sure is the poor scheduling at the store, and how things have gone downhill since I quit, but still. I'd be tempted to so somewhere else, but anywhere else would require a lot more driving and screw with scheduling for D&D. At least I got to trade for stuff for my decks, now if only I had more chance to, y'know, play them. But trading in Magic gives a perfect example of economics, including supply and demand, different relative values, marginal values, and so on. Well, at least if you're nerdy enough to think about it that way, which I definitely am.

If there's one thing I'm sort of learning it's that I'm never a representative sample of anything except me. And not always even then.

Also, by being out of the house from Thursday till today, I spoiled my unbroken streak of posting something, no matter how random, to LJ every day. Ohnoes!
I bought a pair of video games today, the first I've bought in months, at least. And I only got these because they were $10 each at Target. I got Longest Journey and Starship Tycoon. And... That's all there really is to say there, I guess.

Though I've noticed my life is almost completely about entertainment, either for me or selling other people crappy CDs to entertain them, which really isn't very much point to a life at all, I think.
Um, yeah. Wizards of the Coast says they found the lost third set of the Ice Age block. In all the time I've played Magic, I've never heard of this before. But they're going to print it, and make it T2 legal. Um.

It's not April 1st, so I imagine it's true, it's just BIZARRE. I don't know if I think it's a good thing or a bad thing or what yet. It's just a thing. A strange one.

Though watching the mix of whining and "OMG KEWLZORZ!" on the WotC fora is amusing.
So, I've been playing FF7 off and on a bit. And in thinking on it, I've come to approve of the limited upgrade stuff for people, there's really no reason I should have to worry about micromanaging armor and weapons and all that crap. Sometimes, detail gets in the way. "Hey, better sword!" works fine.

But there's a fundamental problem with it and most other console RPGs, from a dramatic and gameplay standpoint. To get all the characters and nifty stuff, you have to spend far too much time wandering around and beating up the local wildlife for money. That's not epic. That's not heroic. I'm wandering around fighting weird plant things that spit fire, or robotic motorcycles that drive themselves. Over and over.

Obviously, combat is one of the main elements of the game, and much of the fun. But it's fun when it's a challenge, or to show off spiffy new skills. Fighting purple birds for the fourteenth time is old. At least for me. It's another reason for me to stay away from MMORPGs, because most of those involve hunting and slaying the local wildlife and taking their money, so you can get to the meat of the game, leveling up and getting the nifty new toys.

The random combats only act to draw out the game. Afterwards, what do you remember? The storyline and the boss fights, not beating up rats. The random fights are just filler. And it'd be nice to have an RPG experience without all the filler.
So I've been playing FF7 a bit. And I haven't bothered to rename the characters when they show up, even though they give me the option. There's not really much point. Naming the character something different doesn't change what happens, their personality, or their interactions. That's all pre-scripted. I might as well just leave their names alone too, that way I know which character everybody is talking about when they talk about stuff. If I name Cloud "Smith", he's still spiky-haired, has an impossibly huge sword, and does exactly the same things. There's very little room for identification with the characters, as a consequence of the more developed plot.

As opposed to FF1, where the characters had... well, no development. And their names were 4 characters long. But because of that, their name was much more important. My most common party member names were Rune, Xana (White Mage), Lore (Black Mage), Myst (also Black Mage), and... I forget. I could go boot up the cartridge to check my last save. But since the characters had no pre-scripted development, they were pretty much blank slates for you to project onto. Their names and your actions and imagination told you who they were, not cutscenes. Which gives the freedom to produce things like 8-Bit Theater. Something like that would NEVER work with FF7 characters.

Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. But the experience in something like FF7 is much more movie-like because there's fewer options. With more options and customization, the game becomes much more personal.

And I am WAY overthinking this when it's 1am and I haven't finished my homework or studied for my quiz for Arabic tomorrow.
Today was the Ravnica release event at the local hobby store.

Details inside, so as not to bore the non-Magic people )

And I went on IRC for Magic because I was geeking, and heard the best use for the Pro Tour Player cards. Nobody wanted them at the store, so I ended up with a bunch. Use them for tokens. I should snagged them all. "I attack with Kai, Dave, and Terry." Heh.
Yes, I realize the game's been out like ten years. I hadn't played it, and still haven't much. One of my friends loaned me it and his playstation 1 to play it, since we were doing an RPG set in an FF-like universe. Which seems to have died, but.

Blocky chibis!

The enemies in the beginning have the CRAPPIEST guns and missile launchers ever. "Machine gun! 4 damage!" "... Dude, that's not even a scratch."

Also, I find it amusing that there's a dating sim subplot to it.

Also also, there's a bunch of cursing. I didn't remember that from the brief bit I played before.
In some ways, I hate all the little extras in games like FF7. (Which I'm playing because a friend loaned it to me with his Playstation, because he figured I should play it, since we're playing a quasi-FF7 Exalted game.) The problem with all the little extras is they turn on my nerdish collecting instincts, and I don't want to miss any of the options, even when the options require you to pick one over the other. So I end up using the vast powers of the interweb to find all the secrets to make sure I don't miss them, which means I really don't get the joy of finding them. Though sometimes, the "joy" of spending hours poking at almost identical pixels is overrated.

Or maybe I'm just indecisive.
Just go read this old article from the Duelist. Mind Over Magic It's got a lot of ideas in it that are similar to ones I've been poking at. A good chunk of everything is decided by the "inner game" like if you bother to even try in the first place. Which I must admit I'm not the best at, but it's another of those life lessons I've picked up from that silly game.

And I think I have that issue of the Duelist around somewhere still.


Sep. 10th, 2005 02:31 am
This was a nice evening. Well, aside from the fact nobody showed up for Magic. But one of my friends had baked me a cake for my birthday, and then we all got together for Vampire, which we spent spending the experience from the 400 years between the end of the first episode and now. We're moderately uber. It's going to be absolutely stupid when we get to the modern era.

Then, when we were done with points and history making, we watched Sahara, which was really good. It'd been a long while since I'd read the book, so I didn't even remember most of the plot, but it was a fun, pulpy, goofy action movie. And funny. Especially Al. It was really good. I do hope if they make a sequel it doesn't suck.

So, all in all, a pretty good night.
If you don't play Magic, don't worry about this, it won't matter much to you.

But apparently, there's a book coming out about Jon Finkel. I never met Finkel, even on IRC, and I'm sure there's plenty of moments that'll make anybody who's played Magic wince, but still.

Though I have to admit the marketoid-speak on that page makes me not want to. But that's not the author's fault, marketoids do that. To everything. Marketoids can make anything sound as unappealing as "Thrilling, edgy, and ferociously feel-good, the odyssey of these underdogs-turned-overlords is the stuff of pop-culture legend. And David Kushner, acclaimed author of Masters of Doom, masterfully deals out the outrageous details while bringing to life a cast of characters rife with aces, kings, knaves . . . and more than a few jokers. If you secretly believe every player has his day, you’re right. Here’s the proof. "

[EDIT: There's a review over at Star City.]

Technorati Tags: Books, Gaming, Nifty Stuff, Magic, Nifty Stuff, Geekery
Because I can.


Now those are NICE Plains and Islands.

Also, SHINY!

Dual lands. W00t!

I don't know about how well it'll play, but the new set looks PRETTY!

Technorati Tags: SHINY!, Nifty Stuff, Gaming, Magic
This is the first part of something that's been poking at my brain for a while. A mad science musical, starring my "villain" over on the Gaming Guardians Fora. Dr. Shiney, the mad scientist. (If you want to read his profile, click here.)

Does a Text-based musical even work? )
Well, it's not an outage that kept me offline. It's the spectacular incompetence of Verizon, which I had only heard about before. Yes, I'd love to be able to switch to another company, but there isn't one. There's no competition in DSL, the only ones who can offer it are the local phone companies. They're supposed to let other companies use their lines, but they consistently engaged in illegal manipulative practices to wreck the other companies' connection speed, repair time, setup time, and so on, until they were all driven out of business. Isn't it great when part of our basic infrastructure's owned by amoral profit-hungry companies?

Anyway, other electronics have been pissing me off, like Viewtiful Joe, because for some reason, the programmers were on something and decided that one of the bosses should have an attack that you can't block, is almost impossible to dodge, and deals between one and five levels of health to you. Also, he has like ten times your health to start with. No, see, guys, that's not fun. At all. Spending two hours trying to replay the same boss fight over and over is not enjoyable. At least they don't make me slog through the whole rest of the level again before the fight, so that's one good point.

So many basic functions of my computer rely on the net, it's hard to find things to do. At least on the computer, I doubt it'd hurt me at all to be offline, go outside or something. Or write, or something. Such as this. But right now, I'm just frustrated over the stupid game. And Verizion. And I can't even get online to find hints for the game, either.

(Edit: I did finally beat him, but guys, seriously, attacks you can't see to dodge, can't block, and can deal stupid amounts of damage? No fun.)

Technorati Tags: Mindscribbles, Me, Computers, The Internets, Gaming
My computer is still crippled. We're looking into getting the power supply replaced, but I don't know how that's working out. I'll find out this evening. So what have I been doing without the Internet? Besides writing more to LJ than I usually do when I have it?

Well, I've been playing a lot of Alpha Centauri, for one. It's such a good game, many parts of it are better than Civ3. Especially the interface. I like the idea Civ3 had of "no interface", but it didn't work out well. Having the windows showing unit stats, area stats, minimap, and the one (or two, at my resolution) scrolling different data are useful. And I like the complexity of the government setup, and the diplomacy feels a little better. I do like the resources and luxuries system in Civ3, and the graphics are obviously better, but graphics are less important in this kind of game. But they're still limited by having X civilizations, and no new ones popping up, or revolutions tossing the old leader out, or areas revolting for independence, or so on. And diplomacy's still pretty limited. And I find myself wishing for one of the little things, the city view, that you have in Civilization. Though in Civ3, it really doesn't reflect the city that well, especially at higher tech levels and city sizes. There's all these improvements, and like 3 skyscrapers, and that's it. I'd just like to be able to look at my colonies and bask in their thrivingness.

What else have I been doing? Well, obviously, writing stuff to post on LJ, including the 2000 word thingie on government and taxes that I posted earlier. I went biking up to the pool, but they switched over to swim lessons and swim team practice like five minutes before I got there, so I just biked home. Had some friends over for fireworks last night, and I've written some on a Fors story, which is still very first draft. I don't notice the lack of net quite so much, because I have other things I'm doing, which I'd been noticing anyway, kinda. I think I need to set a timer, or a "No goofing on the net until you do X" list, to actually get things done. I've been reading, and I've also got a tree to go plant, and some noodles that should be done by now. I did forget to call and check on the stuff for DSL today, though, like I was going to. That's okay though. For now, I go eat.

Technorati Tags: Mindscribbles, Journal, Gaming, Me, Life, The Universe, and Everything, The Internets



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