SkyNet inches closer. . .no batteries required to piggyback on your WiFi.

Despite assurances from Elon and all the other usual suspects that “everything’s fine” in AI-land, and despite how nifty I think these no-electricity WiFi connected options are, I’m still not convinced that connecting my detergent bottle to the internet (by way of my WiFi network) is the way to go.

Researchers have come up with another reason for me to want a 3D printer. I can see several ways that connecting these types of sensors to a drone and use other people’s WiFi could be used for “fun and profit.” So many opportunities for using other people’s reflected WiFi. . .beyond counting humans, their movements and heartbeats, and sending love notes to the President (from someone else’s IP address), of course.

Now we have a possible vector for inserting cybernetic components into people that don’t require solving the human-body-heat-to-electricity problem in order to interact with wireless networks.

What do you think we could do with such sensors? Certainly evil. Good maybe?

Modeling the anguish and despair of game production?

Rob writes about my life in his post, The Development Diamond: Modelling the Anguish and Despair of Game Production!

Seriously, though, it’s a fascinating look at expectation setting. Also, I believe that this modeling exercise can be extended to any creative endeavor. I see novelists (myself included) stuck in #3, the Mutant of Eternal Despair.

I’m going to re-read this one on a regular basis to see if I’m doing better at flattening out the curve of despair.

What’s in a [character’s] name?

Names are a big deal in RPGs and other fiction. (They’re a big deal in real life, too.) In fiction, names should really mean something. They should add to the character or explain the character or give them some sort of gravitas (a.k.a. street cred, if you’re writing or playing contemporary).

In my opinion, for kids, a name should give them something to aspire to, big shoes to fill, or dreams to share.

As a novelist, I suppose choosing a common name could make your character could make the character more relatable but also perhaps date your work, if you’re not careful. Names carry lots of connotations for people.

As a parent (and a game master), I’m always amused to see who’s naming their kids (and characters) what. When I’m naming my own characters (and my own kids), I try to find unique or unusual names. Most people seem follow the herd when choosing names. . .I don’t get why, but hey, whatever makes you happy.

Here’s what parents in the U.S. named their kids this year: BabyCenter® Reveals Top Baby Names Of 2017:

Girls

  1. Sophia
  2. Olivia
  3. Emma
  4. Ava
  5. Isabella
  6. Mia
  7. Aria
  8. Riley
  9. Zoe
  10. Amelia (NEW)

Boys

  1. Jackson
  2. Liam
  3. Noah
  4. Aiden
  5. Lucas
  6. Caden
  7. Grayson (NEW)
  8. Mason
  9. Elijah
  10. Logan (NEW)

Clickbait headlines make your study seem stupid.

I’m happy that somebody is exposing the poseur “literary fiction” readers as the frauds that they are, but. . . Science Fiction Makes You Stupid as a blog post title doesn’t accurately describe the results of the study. Sad.

I am glad that the study authors dove into this research to debunk the bullshit spewed in Science in 2013 about how reading literary fiction makes you a better reader and a better person. Nonsense. My criticism is only about how the authors’ promoted their study with their inflammatory blog title. It set the stage for how their good research will be portrayed by the rest of the media.

Proper Study Translation: People who already don’t like a genre will not give genre fiction the same level of attention and careful reading that they would of an identical piece so-called “literary” fiction. If you already disrespect science fiction, your reading comprehension of science fiction will be lower.

The study language is suitably academic and opaque to muggles, so read at your own risk. I guess my bachelors degree in unemployment (political science) and incomplete masters degree in unemployment (public administration) did give me some sort of skill to translate pseudo-intellectual babble. Chris Gavaler and Dan Johnson and probably perfectly nice fellows, and I’m sure that their fiction is much more readable than the paper, “The Genre Effect: A Science Fiction (vs. Realism) Manipulation Decreases Inference Effort, Reading Comprehension, and Perceptions of Literary Merit”, that they had to write for submission to the journal Scientific Study of Literature. You’ve got to meet audience expectations, after all.

The sample size was small (150), but I’ll reserve judgment until I read that whole study. It seems like a solid methodology based on the description they blogged, but I’m skeptical until I read it. I’m lookin’ forward to it.

What does the lootbox backlash mean for booster packs?

Personally, as an protein unit with undiagnosed but powerful obsessive tendencies, I’ve always had to avoid games with collectible anythings. I especially loathe random “booster packs” or “loot boxes” because I’d rather just pay for exactly what I want than place my bet and hope for the best.

Apparently, legislators in the U.S., Australia, and Belgium already agree (when legislators agree, watch out!) and are planning to drop the hammer on video games that take advantage of players like me.

Lee (congressman from Hawaii) says his office is looking into legislation this year to prohibit the sale of games with these mechanics to people under the legal gambling age. Legislators in other states, he claims, share his concerns.

What I want to know is where these same outraged persons were all these years with Magic the Gathering and other egregious purveyors of Random Wacky Crap®?

Guess I’m going to give Hexagon a try this week. . .

I’ve got a couple months before my Autodesk licenses are up for renewal, but that’s ~$1,000 that I could spend on other things. Especially now that Hexagon is free. Hrm. Mathing. . . Free >= Money.

Assuming that I can do everything I need to model in Hexagon, I’ll have to consider the rest of what’s in the Autodesk suite that I use (Motion Builder, Mudbox, Recap, etc.) and decide if it’s worth it to continue paying Autodesk.

#AdventureSeed: Unanticipated Road Trip

I’m totally not using my current situation as blog fodder. Honest!

(Except that I totally am. These events are happening in real time. Yes, I started writing this in SFO. I still hate ORD more, but not by much. Now I’m 30,000-feet in the air. /sigh)

This is designed to be used in a Fate-based game, but feel free to hack it into BRP for CoC/Delta Green, Ultra Modern, or any other contemporary system you like.

Setup

Imagine that your heroes have an Important Deadline. Create an aspect that describes it. They need to be somewhere TOMORROW. That’s non-negotiable. BUT they have to travel to get there. By commercial air carrier. (It doesn’t matter which one. They all suck.) Make sure that there’s a bonus on the line or some other equally pressing matter. There always is.

Special Rules: They have a Short Timeline stress track with four stress boxes (one stress per box). All stress delivered during Scenes #1 and #2 hit the Short Timeline stress track. If they suffer more than 4 stress, they fail to obtain whatever the deadline represents or start the next thing at a disadvantage because they’re late to the party as follows:

  • Success means that you’ve got a set of connecting flights to a nearby airport (60-mile drive) where you’ll have to find transport.
  • Failure (i.e. being taken out on the Short Timeline stress track) means that they’ve got a pre-broken itinerary, but they won’t know it until you land late at a connecting flight and then have a much longer drive to your destination (300+ miles) and the commensurate challenges associated with that.

Teamwork: Only one primary hero can take the requisite action at any time. However, if anyone else has the same Approach or Skill used by the primary above Mediocre +0, then allow each to support the attempt with a static +1.

It doesn’t really matter where they’re flying to. This has happened to me flying to Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, Dublin, Budapest. . .you get the picture. The most annoying was probably being diverted to Tacoma after sunset (with three small children and a partner who can’t safely drive in the dark), having to rent a vehicle big enough for five people plus two-weeks’ worth of luggage, and then drive over the Cascade Mountains in the dark during a blizzard. But I digress. Hooray for adventure!

Scene #1

  1. Compel a the convenient Important Deadline aspect to delay their flight, which breaks their connecting flights.
  2. Goal: Interacting with a genuinely helpful but totally incompetent airline employee, have them engage in a social conflict in which they have to A) keep the airline employee on task despite her easily randomized, squirrel-chasing nature and B) minimize the impact to their schedule, which is challenging, because her competence level with the arcane software the airline uses very low and she’s easily distracted. Her name starts with B, and it really doesn’t matter what B stands for.
  3. Create Advantage: Allow one of the heroes to establish rapport with the airline employee in some way. Choose a skill or approach. Your opposition is +2 for the CA attempt as usual. Failure results in a complication a.k.a. new aspect Lost Luggage (the team will arrive without their checked bags, weapons, and other gear). Hint: Do not piss off airline employees–no matter their level of competence.
  4. Defend (Round 1): The first thing that they need to do is help the poor woman understand their predicament. Attack at +0. The heroes can choose how to respond to the attack. Adjust the difficulty as appropriate based on their choice of Approach or Skill. Success means that further steps will be at the standard difficulty. Failure means that all subsequent attacks on their Short Timeline have elevated opposition by +2. Stress hits Short Timeline.
  5. Defend (Round 2): The easily distracted woman is having difficulty not leaving her workstation to help other people when she should be searching for connecting flights for the heroes, especially the cute crying baby at the next counter over. Attack at +4. Stress hits Short Timeline.
  6. Outcome: Either way, the heroes are NOT going to be able to fly into the nearest airport to their destination. Do not allow them to declare facts that bypass the following scene. If they offer a concession early, give them the short drive. If necessary, compel some more aspects and make it worse and worse until they get the memo. They arrive at a connection in Scene #2.

Scene #2

When they land at the nearest airport that they can get to, the fun begins. It helps that this a remote connection for “reasons” and there is no Lyft or Uber service in the area, because it is a low population backwater.

  1. Compel: Whatever Important Deadline aspect is driving the party to need to be there TOMORROW, because there are no cars for rent. None. All of the usual suspects have completely sold out their inventory and the local cab companies are closed for the night.
  2. Goal: Find a suitable vehicle to transport ALL of them to their destination in a timely fashion.
  3. Overcome: They are free to come up with whatever wacky scenario they like, including grand theft auto (not recommended by my law enforcement experience, but guaranteed to produce fantastic roleplay opportunities AND a chase scene with the local sheriff–whee!). Set the opposition intentionally high (at least +4 higher than the group’s peak Approach or Skill). Stress hits Short Timeline, if they have any left.
  4. Outcome: Make the resulting transportation as easily identifiable and attention getting as possible, especially if the heroes need to be stealthy. The heroes arrive in Scene #3 driving their acquired jalopy.

Scene #3

This is where it goes badly. Whatever looming threat you have in your game will meddle with the heroes at this point. Probably in some sort of physical conflict in an ambush. Drop in the French cafe ninjas or the cybernetic orangutan pirates or whatever.

  1. Compel an available aspect that results in the conflict you wanted to setup so the heroes will have a fate point waiting for them at the end of the scene. Heh. It could be a hero’s trouble, a game aspect, or something new–whatever seems like the most entertaining.
  2. . . .
  3. Enjoy the conflict!

That’s what I expect to happen when I land and try to drive several hours toward home because the useless airline couldn’t get me a flight to my home airport after all the cancellations and delays. Dammit. Wish me luck!