mneme: (Default)
There's earlier version of this song earlier in my feed, but since made a few changes prior to singing this as an argument at the Business Meeting, after being recognized, as an argument at the World Science Fiction Society at the 73rd Worldcon, on the motion of the same name.

The Five Percent Solution )
mneme: (Default)
Ok, so, this was a weekend:

Friday, we danced )

Saturday, we gamed, and then danced some more )

Sunday, we got classes )

...And I helped reconstruct the ragtime camel step )

And I got some useful feedback )

Why traditional (lead/follow) Partner Dance is like a RPG

So, the thing about comparing partner dancing to RPGs is that a naive approach would be that the lead is the GM, and the follow is the player. This is, it turns out, exactly wrong.

The follow in partner dance is the GM, with a role that encompasses pretty much everything a GM does in an RPG except for scene-setting (which is handled by whoever chooses the music). The lead's role, by contrast, is pretty much exactly like that of a player in an RPG.

The follow's job is to maintain the physics model of the dance, to add styling, and to respond to what the lead does -- but not to make directional choices in the dance itself -- just like the GM's job is to maintain the physics mode of the game, to add flavor text, and to respond to what the players do, but not, generally to set narrative direction (except by picking the scenario, which as I mentioned, is much like picking the music in that it sets the scenes, but doesn't determine character choices). A good follow will maintain a consistent physics model (momentum, etc) commensurate with the style of the dance, except when they choose to creatively depart from it or when safety becomes a factor -- just like a good GM will keep the narrative and physical logic of the game world consistent unless they have a good reason to depart from them.

The lead's job is to make clear creative choices, and to communicate them clearly and directly--just like a player's job is to make clear narrative and strategic choices for their character. In both cases, the rule is "have a plan, but be prepared to improvise."

The reason it's possible (or even likely) that people will reverse these is the assumption that both the GM and the lead are "in charge". But, of course, neither the GM nor the lead are really in charge; what people do in a group or paired activity for pleasure is a matter of consensus, however roles are divided up.

In which the post is wrapped, and we get home at a reasonable hour )
mneme: (Default)
A few months ago, someone ran a "Groundhog Day" scenario at a local con as a pickup game using Monsterhearts. [personal profile] drcpunk played in it.

Now, first, it seems clear to me that people had fun at this game. It was -not- a failure, by any means.

However, it also seems clear, both based on [personal profile] drcpunk's description of play, and in what I've heard elsewhere, that the game was not ideal -- both in that it violated the implicit contract of play of Monsterhearts, and that it didn't really fulfill the promise that one -could- have in a Monsterhearts/Groundhog Day scenario.

FWIW, my purpose isn't to trash the original game. It seems to have been fun! But I want to sketch out how I'd do something similar that would fit my aesthetic better.

This is yet another very geeky RPG methods post. Be warned! )
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I'm well aware that this has been done before, but I wasn't satisfied with how, so having had an idea of doing a thing, I feel compelled to finish.

I'd be sorry, except I'm really not.

Click here to read the thing )

Dexcon 2015

Jul. 7th, 2015 02:12 pm
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Another Dexcon come and gone. This time with less stupid sleep deprivation and more late mornings, due to not wanting to put my brain on the fritz.

I came down late Wednesday, somewhat against my original plans, as something came up at work I couldn't easily skip out on--but due to trains being fast, still made it to Morristown well before 9 (games start at 10), doing an Ingress mission on the way and catching up with [personal profile] drcpunk for dinner.

A longish con report with included song follows )

When your friendship's on rails 
To be much more than pals,
That's amore.

When you cook up a dish,
Of an 'eel' of a fish,
that's a moray.

With a pattern that fades
Smoothly between two shades,
that's a moire,

With two letters that come
As a version of "mom"
That's 'M' or 'A'


more con report! )
mneme: (Default)
I've never been a Trek fan, particularly, but that hasn't stopped me from picking up bits of it, given fannish immersion (and a Next Gen watching weekly gathering before we switched to B5).

But it occurs to me that there's a set of Star Trek races that are inherently a conversation about emotion.


VULCAN: I AM SUPERIOR BECAUSE I HAVE NO EMOTIONS. JUST LOGIC.
ROMULAN: NO, I AM SUPERIOR BECAUSE I EMBRACE MY EMOTIONS, AND THEY EMPOWER ME.
BETAZOID: UM. YOU ARE BOTH LYING TO YOURSELVES, BUT YOU'RE PROBABLY HAPPIER THAT WAY.
ANDROID: DO I HAVE EMOTIONS?
BETAZOID: I CAN'T SENSE ANY, BUT MAYBE THAT'S JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE AN ANDROID.
ANDROID: NOPE. I MUST NOT HAVE ANY. THAT MAKES ME SAD.
BETAZOID: UM....
ANDROID: YUP. NO EMOTIONS AT ALL; THE BETAZOID SAYS SO, AND MY ANDROID LOGIC INTERPRETS PERFECTLY.
BETAZOID: GRRR
ANDROID: ANYWAY, ANYONE HAVE EMOTIONS I CAN BORROW?
VULCAN: YOU CAN HAVE MINE. I DON'T NEED THEM.
ROMULAN: THAT IS ILLOGICAL!a
mneme: (Default)
So apparently there's a measure that's been submitted to amend or remove the "5% rule" for the Hugo awards. This is a good idea -- that rule was put in place to avoid the case where you have, say, three works that get 50%, 25%, and 20% of the ballots -- and then the next work has 4% or less of the ballots, thus not really in the running for competing with the more important works. But in fact, when a category is saturated enough, the field gets large enough and we no longer have central places where everyone is reading the same things, we end up with situations like Best Short Story -- where for most of the last 5 years we've had fewer than 5 things on the ballot (sometimes as few as 3) with even the successful nominees not getting much more than 5% (or mabye even that; the 5% rule has an exception that you still have to have 3 nominees even if you need to bend it to do so) of the ballot, and thus no significant difference between what made the cut and what didn't -- but a much thinner field than there really should be.

They call it "The 5%" solution.

The reason for the following one verse filk, therefore, should be obvious.

(Also, thank you, [personal profile] drcpunk for remembering to write down my brainstormed chorus couplet so it was still around when I finished the verse and got around to writing the chorus).

"The Five Percent Solution"
TTTO: "I Never Do Anything Twice/The Madam's Song", by Stephen Sondheim
By Joshua Kronengold

Before I was a neo,
I don't recall the date,
We made a rule for our premier award,
Even if it made the cut, a nomination met its fate,
If one in twenty didn't think it scored

At first it proved a good rule,
Avoided the long tails,
But later, when the field ballooned in size,
If our population fails,
To all read the same tales,
Where the ballot's concerned there's too much for the prize,

Then, yes, the genre was small,
Now, though, you can't read it all,
Then, tastes were more concentrated,
The best stories rated,
And found themselves slated

We must this rule amend,
At this point, it's hard to defend,
I think that it makes no sense,
To limit works by five percent.
mneme: (oldharp)
Gwen Knighton Raftery wrote me a poem!

Josh Kronengold
In three-quarter time
Breathlessly rhyme
A drum, a hand
A harp, a man
Throw them at the light
Throw them at the light
Throw them three times
At the light
And you will find him laughing
And you will find the ladies laughing
And you will find them each with the other
Throw them at the light.
mneme: (Default)
A Sonnet to Serenity

First quatrain and last couplet by Joshua Kronengold, second quatrain and following couplet by [personal profile] batyatoon, first couplet (5-6) and editing by [personal profile] thnidu.


Deny me answer to my heart's behest,
Deprive me of my property and lot,
Remove my person, force me by duress,
To where the land shan't bear me, I care not.
For I am unencumbered by oppression,
Nor canst thou wrest the sky from my possession.

Though I be exiled to the endless dark,
And though they tell the world I'll not return;
Though thou may'st fan the flame or set the spark
That seas may boil and that the land may burn;
My will's my own, and so the skies shall be --
And neither wilt thou ever take from me.

Now nowhere can I be, since Peace I found,
But mine is that which lies above the ground.
mneme: (oldharp)
Reposting this here, since I'd somehow only put it into facebook, where it is -trivial- for it to get lost (whoops).

I should come up with a title for this at some point.
(to the tune of Santa Monica Pier, of course). And maybe a second verse (or two).

I've got half a dozen apples in my pocket, rolling round and getting bruised,
I should cut them up into pieces, and soak them up before they're stewed,
The nutmeg smells a little bit like home, like mulled cider on New Year's Eve,
I've got a cup of oatmeal measured out, and the flour is sieved.

I am a baker here, setting up all my kitchen gear,
Greased up pans and cooking shears, planning food like a brigadeer,
Oh, there's a baking pan, covered up in a spray of pam,
I have dreamed of sweets like these, all of my life.
mneme: (Default)
Anyone want to playtest this?

Dreidel-to-go (name is a work in progress).

This is a push your luck game played with dreidels.

Setup: For each round, either ante up 5 gelt per player (if playing as a gambling game) or seed the pot with 5 gelt per player. The game is played in turns, with the youngest player going first (or choose a start player randomly).

On your turn:
1. Spin the dreidel exactly three times. If you spin a Gimmel, double your winnings (or gain a single gelt in your winnings if you have none) (not including gelt that have been put aside). If you spin Hey, add a gelt to your winnings. If you spin Nun, nothing happens. Finally, if you spin Shin, put one of your winnings aside (if there are no winnings to put aside, take a gelt and immediately put it aside); if you have three gelt put aside, then your turn immediately ends and your winnings are forfeited (as are gelt that have been put aside) and returned to the pot. If you roll gimmel or hey and the pot is empty, you can put into your winnings gelt from your "put aside" pile.

2. You can choose: either take another turn (go back to 1, but do -not- take your winnings), or take your winnings (but -not- any gelt that have been put aside with Shin; those are returned to the pot).

Play until the pot runs out; players can then play another game/round. (a game may be defined as a certain number of rounds, in which case players who do not play subsequent rounds forfeit the game).

(inspired by [personal profile] nancylebov)
mneme: (Default)
[personal profile] drcpunk and I will be at Chessiecon. I'm running music, so I'm not sure how much attention I'll have to spare, but still, it should be fun.

Also, we could use lifts. We're arriving at the train station (Baltimore Penn, natch) at 10:37pm on Thanksgiving, and the light rail isn't running by then. We can take a cab, but a lift would be better, if available.

And going back, we're on a lovely 4AM (almost) train, Which is a minor, if soluble problem, as there's no light rail that late and Penn Station closes for an hour between 2AM and 3AM [for cleaning]. We can finesse this if we need to; there's a walkable Korean restaurant that's open until 4AM that we used last year for this purpose; however, if anyone has a better plan, I'd love to hear it [one where we get to sleep? Even better!)]
mneme: (Default)
The music schedule for Chessiecon is pretty solid at this point. I'm taking some risks, but I think it will be fun, and that the con will be awesome.

Some hilights:

Tom Smith. Because.

Batya. In, and out of the Funny Things (with Merav).

-Five- sometime members of Clam Chowder, doing their thing in, and out of the music room. Including Don Stallone, who hasn't been seen for...quite some time.

Familiar. Who I've never heard in person(that I know of), but sound -damned- good.

Glen Raphael, Gary Ehrlich and Roberta Rogow (because I do actually want filk on the menu).

The Usual stuff (filk circles, including a moderated 2pm Friday one; the Halelujah Chorus, caroling, Moggy, Ellen James, Sarah Pinkster, and, of course, an insturmental jam).

More lobby performance than you can shake a stick at. Because it's always good to have a choice about where to go.

There -may- end up being too much music. (is there such a thing?) There won't be too little.

If you don't have anything else you're doing on Thanksgiving Weekend this year, it's worth doing.
mneme: (Default)
I went to Dexcon this past weekend. It was a lot of fun, and I tried 3+1/2 new games (at least), 2+1/2 at least I really liked (I enjoyed Automobile and would play it again, but economic games are hardly novel to me at this point).

Scoundrels of Skullport: I like Lords of Waterdeep, though it's hardly a serious worker placement game (due to the high variance on the Intrigue and Quest cards, there's a lot of randomness there). But Scoundrels makes it a much better game, IMO -- the new buildings generally give more to everyone, so everyone can do a bit more (which makes extra actions slightly less critical, and also makes the expensive plot quests from the original game more worthwhile overall). It also dilutes the obligatory mandatory quests with more "help everyone" Intrigue cards--and provides more ways to play Intrigue cards than the very limited Waterdeep. (it also provides more ways for people to dig themselves into a very deep hole, but then that's the nature of in-game decisions). The addition of 40 point quests makes quest and resource depth a lot more interesting, overall, and I liked the game a fair bit running on a "wealth" model rather than a "scarcity" one (for various reasons, I ended up spending most of the game with far more Thieves and Warriors than I could use, which was a refreshing change).

Thebes came out in 2007, but was new to me. It uses a lovely time track mechanic (plus a great theme; love the archeology); the same one used in Village, but the game itself is very different, as you run around Europe learning about the old world, lecturing, and picking up extras like shovels, research assistants, and cars, then head for the old world and decide how much time you want to waste spend digging up dirt (and the occasional artifact). Then head back to Europe for more lecturing (if you're lucky), and if you found the good stuff and people are still interested, putting on shows of what you've found. The classic approach seems to be to max out your knowledge, then put in time on a few good digs so you get lots of artifacts, but I managed to more than squeak out a win by doing a lot of lecuring (lectures use trianular numbers, so 6 lectures got me 21 points), developing a really good shovel, and randomly digging for a week or three each at every single site to see what appeared when I pulled 3 or four tiles.

Bora Bora I actually learned back in Feburary, but I liked it then, and just ordered it; it's a worker placement+action economy game (more or less) with some interesting action mechanics, as you can take multiple men and women into your village, but only one type of male action and one type of female action can be used (in addition to your workers) in any given turn.

Also, there's Trajan. Trajan isn't worker placement, exactly -- it's an action economy game where the central mechanic is mancala, as you make moves on your personal mancala circle that determine determine what action you take, move the global time track forward (so a big pit can let you control the pace of the game -- or force you to end the turn when you'd rather let it continue for a while), as well as letting you qualify for bonus tiles.

Finally, there's Andromeda, which I tried out after Lisa's game last Saturday in June). I'd seen this a few times, but never tried it; it's good! It's a meld-making game where you build up material on various planets and use it to try to take stations near those planets by earning a certain number of pulls via a lotery system -- all your pieces pulled get to occupy one of the three stations near the planet, while all opponent's pieces pulled result in them being sent back to earth (so no station for you, but less competition next time). It was really fun, and choosing to save special cards for endgame vs spending them, and making early points vs using melds to develop, all felt like real choices.
mneme: (Default)
Adam Stewart is running a fictional tournament in his Facebook, where the current round is Indy vs Bond. For understandable reasons, Indy's been getting the worst of it.

Which I think is utterly wrong, but I could hardly sway opinion by just stating it. So instead, I wrote the way I think this would go down.




Despite Bond being a badass heartless combatant, and Indy being a two-fisted archeologist who is -not- a trained assassin, I have to go with Indy here at a walk. It comes down to what kind of story it is. Sure, yeah, Indy would be out of his depth in Bond's world of high stakes gadgets and assassination, but Indy would never be -in- that story.

Instead, it makes much more sense that Bond and Indy have clashed over an artifact which Indy wants for its historical importance, while Bond has been ordered to retrieve it for the British government to use in the Cold War. Naturally, Bond at first gets the upper hand.

"Bond, don't do this," Indy says, hanging precariously off the edge of a cliff. "That belongs in a museum."

"And so it will be," 007 replies, "or at least a copy will be. This is an immense power source, and would be deadly in the wrong hands. You've been a great help; I'm sorry it has to end this way, but I can't have you telling tales." Bond stomps down and breaks the branch Indy is holding on to.

"No, you idiot, you don't understand!" Indy says, but then he's gone.

"Now that that's settled, time to see why this is so important." *The artifact eats him*

Indy pulls himself up from the cliffside where he is fortitously still clinging. "I kept trying to tell him, but he woudln't listen. The artifact was still alive! But I think I can decode a key to keeping it safe for at least a little while if I can just remember ancient Sumerian."
mneme: (Default)
Every once in a while, Dani Colman's long post about why she doesn't like the reason other people like Frozen comes around. And I keep linking to a long post explaining why she's wrong.

That said, that long post is kinda flawed. For starters, it's really long--and as such, it can be almost as much a slog as the original post.

So I wrote my own.
mneme: (Default)
I wrote this for Alarums and Excursions a few months ago but it seems appropriate to post it tonight.

The good player asks, "what are the rules and customs at this table?" To them, you must explain how the game works, both that which is written down and the rules of gaming etiquette and give them all the responsibilities they can handle and your game supports.

The simple player asks "what do I do next?" To them, you must explain only that which is necessary to plan their next move and begin roleplaying in earnest—If you confuse them with too many options, they might cease playing and/or think the rules are the game, rather than the platform for the game.

The wicked player asks,"what can I get away with?" By framing the game as a source of loopholes to abuse they subvert the purpose of the game and attempt to hurt everyone else's play in favor of their own fun, and you should teach them their error—or even exile them from the table—as soon as possible.

As for the player too shy to ask questions, you must treat them gently, but try to draw them into the game, asking them "what are you doing now?" and "what would you like to do next?" In so doing, you can allow them to develop into a productive player whether or not they give up their shell..
mneme: (Default)
I wrote a comment in [personal profile] nancylebov's journal which was pretty substantial, so I'm adjusting it here as a quasi-review. Spoilers be here, be warned! )
mneme: (Default)
Where to find me at Lunacon (unless it changes), next weekend:

Saturday:
10 AM: Lost in Fanslation (Moderator) (Discussion of where/why/why not/pitfalls, etc of watching anime (and if I have anything to say about it, reading manga) in fan translations).

11 AM: History Repeats: Revisiting Old Skool Games (Tabletop RPG focused--older systems worth playing, older worlds worth revisiting using newer systems)

1 PM: Adapted Songs Circle (this category is so open it hurts, but it'll be pretty easy to follow, at least)

3 PM: If I Ran the Hugos (No smofs here, no sir :)

Should be an interesting day.
mneme: (Default)
I've been playing D&D Next recently, and every once in a while am struct by the issue of mental vs physical.

The problem, when you get down to it, is the mental dump stat.

Basically? Everyone dumps something mental. Worse, you're penalized for -not- dumping mental stats.

The core problem is that you don't get that much from mental stats, compared to physical.

I mean, all stats in Next are effective defenses, which does help. But the physical stats all provide secondary benefits, (and thus weaknesses if you dump them), while the mental stats never do, so each build point you spend on a mental stat that isn't part of one of your core abilities is something you could spend on a physical stat that would help you more, if not in the way you want your character to act.

Strength is the least bad -- but strength protects you from grappling, and affects your carrying capacity. Of course, it also determines melee to-hit and damage (and thus whether monsters run past you whenever they want), but that's less of an issue given Dex melee weapons.

Con is the uber-stat. No experienced player ever dumps Con unless they're willing to take on extreme risk, since your Con has a massive effect on your hit points, and thus survivability. At least they've acknowleged it by having no skills based on Con. (but I believe that concentration checks are still Con-based if you have to make them)

And Dex is rather superb, as it determines Inititative (which can win or lose combats almost by itself), Armor Class (the defense of defenses), ranged to-hit/damage, and melee to-hit/damage for light melee weapons.

But of the mental stats, only Int has a secondary benefit beyond defenses and skills: bonus languages. Charisma is great if you want to talk to people, and Wis is great if you want perception and to understand people--but every skill is useful, so that's not really that much help.

The biggest problem there isn't, of course, casters; casters are reasonably balanced with big power sources, assuming you're spending lots of points on mental stats and not so many on physical ones (although casters -do- have a strong incentive to push piles of points into physicals rather than the mental ones they're not gaining casting from). But physical types are -really- penalized if they want to be smart, or perceptive, or charismatic, since they're giving up stuff extremely useful for their core competency for what amounts to fringe benefits. And casters end up being one-not mental characters, either smart -or- perceptive, -or- charismatic (or at best two out of three), since if you invest in all three you end up not having enough Dex and Con to survive.

Thinking about it, I think they either need to make the mental stats more valuable (have Charisma provide a bonus to aiding your comerades, and/or a bonus to whatever "helper" cohorts you pick up whether they be familiars, mounts, or 3rd edition-style followers; have Wisdom provide some kind of reaction or something--although the current approach of having Wisdom provide hidden benefits of surprise avoidance, defending against the worst attacks, etc isn't awful, and maybe improving the Int benefits to be any kind of non-skill proficiency, for instance), or make mental stats cheaper (going to a (1/2,1/2, 1/2, 1/2, 1, 2, 2 curve to buy up from the starting stat of 8, perhaps, rather than the current curve of 1,1,1,1,1,2,3), saving casters 3 points, but also making it much cheaper to not dumb mental stats relative to physical ones.

The former possiblity is more complex, but means having a simpler, single stat curve. The latter is simpler, but does mean that mental-focused characters would be a little more well rounded than they are now.

But the current curve shapes the game in ways that I, at least, am not fond of. 3rd edition had similar problems, but at least had hidden benefits (the Leadership feat, particularly) to taking off-stat bonsues. 4th edition at least had different classes favor different stats, so if you wanted to make a high-Wisdom fighter-type you could play an Avenger, etc, plus ways to move your basic attack around for -some- variety. But Next is very thin here, so and it would be nice to not have the system shape the characters so consistently and directly; I'd rather make "do I make my Fighter a better talker? Or more perceptive or smarter?" More of a choice, and not just for counter-optimizers.

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Joshua Kronengold

August 2015

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