Friday, September 30, 2011


Tutoring has been one of the most personally frustrating things I've ever done. Especially tutoring where I have been tutoring. There have been so many times where the student just doesn't care (especially with older students). I just want to tell these kids to stop wasting their parent's money and get to work. I want to get mad at them, set them straight. I want to tell their parents that they just aren't trying and they would be better off withdrawing their child.

Imagine that you're teaching an ACT mathematics course and one of the (or several) students don't even bring a calculator. They can afford the tutoring, so you know they have one. They just don't care. They bring the minimum, their book, don't do the homework you assign them and don't ask questions when you know they don't understand. If they just cared, they'd do so much better.

Then there are the little kids, who are so nice and happy, but because they're so happy they're energetic, talkative and can't focus. You ask them to calm down and do their work, but they can't. They're so cute and you don't want to make them sad. You just want to find some way to teach them about when it's appropriate to be talkative and energetic and when it's time to calm down and follow instructions.

Then there are the kids who you can tell have a bad home life. I had this one child who I could tell had an unhappy time at home. He told me as such. His tutoring was paid for by his grandmother. He expressed much anger about his father. From what I could tell of what he told me, it seemed like his grandmother cared more about him than his parents did.

You get children who you just wonder how things would be different if one of their parents just spent a half hour a day working with them on math, or reading, or spelling. You wonder how much better it would be if their parents just spent some time working with them. Sometimes I wonder if some of these kids parents ever read to them. Education isn't just the school's problem. No school can do everything that's needed to ensure that your child grows up intelligent. You have to take some responsibility yourself. You have to put more effort into your child's education than just dropping them off, picking them up, and going to parent/teacher conferences. I don't get how some of these parents can drive over an hour to get there and to get back, spend a great deal of money, and yet can't just save their time and money by helping their own child.

When it comes to the programs, you're hamstrung. I sit there for hours with the kids and I know exactly what we should be doing and what these kids need the most to get better, but I have to follow the lessons that have been laid out for me because that has been what's prescribed. Because that's their proven method. Because that's my job.

I love these kids, even the assholes. I want nothing more for them than to get over their educational problems and succeed as students and eventually as adults and I get so frustrated. I get frustrated because some of them don't care. I get frustrated because I can't do enough to help them. I get frustrated because some of them are so nice and I just want the best for them.

It's exhausting.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Initiative Revision: Turns Out There Were Problems, Adventures in Amateur Game Design, Part 14

It turns out there was a significant problem with the initiative system that I had devised. I know, I'm disappointed too. The original system had every player with a speed attribute. Every turn their speed would be added to their initiative and the player (or NPC) with the highest initiative takes their turn and their initiative is set to zero.

When I coded up an implementation to work this system, things didn't work out the way I wanted them to. I'll illustrate the problem with an example. Say you have to players with speeds 5 and 9. You would think the player with 9 speed to go almost twice as often as the player with 5, right? Nope.

Player 1: 5. Player 2: 9. Player 2 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 10. Player 2: 9. Player 1 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 5. Player 2: 18. Player 2 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 10. Player 2: 9. Player 1 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 5. Player 2: 18. Player 2 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 10. Player 2: 9. Player 1 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 5. Player 2: 18. Player 2 goes, and is set to zero.
Player 1: 10. Player 2: 9. Player 1 goes, and is set to zero.

So they actually get the same number of turns. In a multiple player situation, the system better approximates the expected number of turns, but there are still some very serious inconsistencies. So I had to revise the system. It is now an old-type Final Fantasy system. Everyone's speed still adds to their initiative, but now a player gets a turn whenever their initiative reaches 100. After they take their turn, 100 is subtracted from their initiative. Naturally, if nobody had an initiative over 100, their speeds are added again.

I modified my code to use this system and the actual results produced were consistent with my expectations and desires for how it should work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pretentious Ass Art Installation

Last week, while on my break at work, I tweeted "Is there public domain pornography? #NaggingQuestions". After that, I realized that the word 'pornography' just flew through all of my coworkers. This gave me the thought, "Is digitized pornography in non-video form still pornography?"

The installation would have a speaker, a screen and a wireless transmitter of some sort. Each source would be projecting a pornography file in different ways. The screen would flood a series of '1's and '0's across the screen. The speaker would interpret the file as audio static and play it. The transmitter would broadcast the file's contents out into the open air.

Then, towards the exit would be a small booth, something like one of those curtained off voting booths. Inside would be a monitor with a cover over it and a trash can next to it. You could then see what was being shown to you, just not in the proper format. The trash can is if you can't handle it. I have a particular video in mind.

You see, all the mediums are reflecting the same information. The difference between the others and the video is that when viewed as a video, our brain recognizes certain patterns that it can piece together as being pornographic. It's all the same information, but only one is pornography.

While discussing this idea with Sarah I realized that art installations are basically culturally accepted trolling. I think I may have found my calling. What will be my masterpiece, my Mona Lisa? How will the world remember me?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


This October I'm starting a yearly blogging initiative NatOctoBlogMo, for National October Blogging Month. The name is a variant on NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month), and the idea is similar. The goal of NatOctoBlogMo is to promote small blogs and get more people to write them. The requirements of NatOctoBlogMo are simple.
  1. Participants should post at least 1 blog post per day.
  2. Participants should post a constructive, conversation-contributing comment on at least 1 blog post per day.
The first requirement is all about setting a goal for yourself and meeting it. The second requirement is about encouraging and participating in the blogging community. Receiving comments on your blog is one of the greatest motivations to write more. The goal isn't to get people to just write for a month and then fall off the map. The goal of NatOctoBlogMo is to start them on something they can enjoy for a long time. It's for them to make new friends and build the blogging community. Commenting on other people's blogs will do exactly that.

Do you have a blog that you haven't updated in ages? Do you have a great blog idea that you always wanted to get started? Get started again. What constitutes a blog post doesn't have any requirement. If you like to draw, you can post a drawing a day. If you like to write fiction, work on short stories. If you write music, post a small clip each day. You can do whatever you want.

If you don't already have a blog there are tons of places where you could make one:
If you have a twitter, then use the #NatOctoBlogMo hashtag whenever you make a post and use it to keep track of what other people are doing. Let's make this a great Blogtober!

I'll be blogging about gaming, math, my life, and amateur game design.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 13: Josh's Castle

This is a short campaign idea. In The Magician King (spoilers coming) there is a character who ends the book as a King of Fillory. Josh is very into pop culture, D&D and all sorts of other nerdy things. I imagine that as a King of Fillory, he would design a castle filled with all sorts of pop culture reference monsters and scenarios to test its invaders. Making your way through to the end you fight him in a battle where he spouts of trite lines from action and fantasy movies and eventually teleports away, leaving some treasure behind to reward you. Being a benevolent king and videogame lover, those who are defeated are not killed. They would merely be captured or returned to the front of the castle to try again.

This scenario idea would be great because the players would get to laugh about the references, metagame using their pop culture knowledge and have a fun time collectively enjoying the things they all love. All of this could happen in a way that would be consistent with the world's design. It could serve as a one-off sidequest, as a location that is frequently returned to to delve deeper into, or as the launching point into a very deep story where things are not all that they seem to be. It's a fun, fill as you want, idea that I really like.

Imagine fighting off Weeping Angels, Daleks, Cave Trolls, Nazgul, a Balrog, Storm Troopers, Death Eaters, Beholders and anything else you can dream off that you've maybe always wanted to fight. I think it'd be awesome.

It's your fantasy's fantasy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Presidential Election

My change for the presidential election (and for any elections for a single entity body). First, abolish the Electoral College, these days it just leads to situations where we have unintuitive results such as the 2000 election, where Al Gore had a larger popular vote yet George W. Bush still won. The president represents the nation as a whole and should be elected as such.

The other problem with the presidential election comes from its voting. A normal popular vote system is very simple to implement and explain but it leads to unintuitive situations. Many people can't vote for who they'd really like to vote for because they'd feel their vote would be wasted. This has historically been a problem for Independents and the Green Party. Coming into our next election, it may be a problem for conservatives given the split between standard Republicans and the Tea Party may cause a fragmentation of their voter base that will work in the Democrats favor.

I advocate the use of the single transferable vote system. Using this vote for our system, each voter ranks as many candidates they want to support in the order they want to support them. So their first choice would be #1, second would be #2, third would be #3 and so on. They can rank as many candidates as they want.

When the votes are tallied, each vote initially goes to their first choice candidate. Then, it is decided if it's impossible for any candidates to win. For example, if the total number of people who picked a candidate (at any ranking) is less than the current number of votes for the current highest candidate, then that person could not possibly win. Any impossible winners are then removed from the running and their votes are redistributed to whatever the second choice on the ballot is. If there are no impossible winners, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is dropped and the ballots redistributed. Redistribution continues until one candidate has more than half of the remaining votes.

This system would give independents and third parties greater support since people can vote for them without 'wasting' their vote. Our current, simple voting system only works perfectly when there are two candidates. There is no perfect voting system for multiple candidates but there are certainly better ones than ours. Ours, because it works perfectly in a two-candidate system, has forced our politics into a two-party system, making it very hard for anyone who doesn't fit into one of those categories (or isn't willing to change their beliefs to fit into them) to be elected.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Donkey Kong Country Returns Impressions

I bought Donkey Kong Country Returns recently because it was on discount at and you are lucky if you can find a Nintendo game for less than $40. I've played through the first two areas (being a group of stages) and I'm very conflicted about it.

I've had very good experiences with Donkey Kong games in the past, having just avoided Donkey Kong 64. Most recently, I played all the way through everything in Donkey Kong Country 2 and before that I've played through all of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Both of those games are very different from Returns.

Unlike in DKC2, you can't use your partner as a weapon or a platforming tool. When you get Diddy from a Barrel, your life is extended and his jetpacks help you stay aloft longer, but you don't jump higher. If DK takes too much damage, Diddy goes away. In single player mode, you never get to play as Diddy.

The movement is slower, the mid-air readjusting is slower. It doesn't feel like it's in the same series as DKC or DKC2. It feels like it's a different game that's just aping the style of Donkey Kong Country. But, I've started the third area recently and it's definitely growing on me. I've give my full impressions of it when I finish it and have played the co-op. I'm enjoying it, I just with it had more of that Donkey Kong feel. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Stories from the Past: The Nintendo Website at Summer Camp

Why did you forsake me!?
It was the summer between 5th and 6th grade. I was at a summer camp at UCA called Summer Discovery. It was the kind of summer camp where you take classes. One of the classes I took was on computers and the internet. We had a project we had to do where we had to pick and present a website to everyone else in the class. 

For my website, I had chosen the Nintendo website. So I spent the few class periods before getting ready, navigating around and making sure that I knew where everything was. Except I was really anxious about presenting the Nintendo website. 

Why was I anxious?

I didn't want people to think I was a geek/nerd/dork. Yes, I was very self-conscious about my video game playing habits, especially around girls. And, seeing as the girl-that-I-liked-at-summer-camp was also in the class with me, this gave me great anxiety. I remember trying to think of or find a different website that I could do, but nothing seemed good and it was too late.

Then the day of the presentations came, and I remember going up to the computer that was having its contents projected onto the screen and typing in the url. 


Oh no. What? This is wrong. This is all wrong.

They had redesigned their website so that it was different that day! Now, not only would I seem like a terrible NERD, but I'd seem like a terribly unprepared NERD. I fumbled around the site for a while, having trouble with it's newer, sleeker design. Fortunately, the words that showed different categories still meant the same thing. 

Then I wanted to die. I just wanted to die. I went to the back of the classroom and just tried to not be noticed. Honestly, nobody probably realized that I had no idea what was going on. Nobody probably thought I was a dork either. My self-esteem was pretty low back then, and I was really self-conscious. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 12: Mage Abilities

100% not the aesthetic I'm going for, but just so cool. I love the Black Mage image search results.

The mage abilities was probably the easiest to come up with. It turns out that the limitless possibilities of magic make it easier to design. I decided to change the general philosophy of the trees a bit to open up more design options. The pet tree became the summoning tree. Enhancement is going to have a melee mage type spin to it also. I've also had some recent revelations that will allow me to squeeze those cool support spells into the trees without making them feel like they're taking the place of a good combat spell.

Main Spec Ability: Explosion - a damaging AOE explosion that occurs at range.
In no particular order:
  • Blinding Light
  • Dazzling Wall
  • Magic Missile
  • Illusion
  • Slow - slows a target
  • Teleport - a personal teleport
  • Telekinesis - a sustained telekinesis (not fast)
  • Exploding Bead - a time delay damage spell 
  • Cut - a magical slice through the air
  • Mage Hand - an instant telekinesis (upgradable to be an attack)
Main Spec Ability: Summon Companion - a permanent, magically enhanced companion. Can be dismissed and resummoned if killed.
  • Summon Demon - temporary demon assistant
  • Summon Golem - temporary golem (tanky)
  • Summon Minor Architecture
  • Floating Disc - a floating disc, usable for transport
  • Conjure Food and Water
  • Mend Ally - heals a summoned ally
  • Dancing Sword - a sword appears to attack on behalf of the caster
  • Spike - fires spikes
  • Summon Clothes - upgradable to bind enemies
  • 10th ability
Enhancement - Many of the abilities start as personal buffs but can be upgraded to be castable on others. Some start as castable on others.
Main Spec Ability: Buff - quite literally. Extra dice added to all actions and a speed increase.
  • Change Self - alter your appearance
  • 2-Ton Hammer - your weapon strikes as if it weighed more. Upgradable to knockback or deal massive damage to fixed structures.
  • Resist - An aura that absorbs damage from certain elements
  • Mage Armor - A deflection shield that increases your defensive capabilities
  • Quick Feet - you move faster
  • Close Wounds - heal
  • Alacrity - increased turn speed
  • Beam Attacks - Your weapon fires deadly beams at your enemies when you swing it.
  • 9th ability
  • 10th ability
There's always stuff left to come up with...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weird Dream

I had a very strange dream Monday night. I've been told that to ensure the maintenance of my...reputation?...I should leave part of it out, which I will. It wasn't bad, but let's just say that part was the weirdest part and I was confused about it even in the dream.

Sarah and I were leaving our old apartment complex (except it didn't look like our old apartment complex) and were remarking how shitty the place was and how much shittier it had gotten since we left. She still wanted to stop at the diner there. I didn't want to stay because I didn't want to get recognized for being the best player on the darts (or lazertag or some other weird sport) team. I had apparently acquired some fans.

The next thing I remember, Sarah and I are trying to get rid of this miniature clothes washer that we had. Our plan was to sneak into people's houses and try to install it without them knowing. We were currently attempting to do so at a frat house when one of the guys came up.

"Are you Doug?" he asked.

"Yeah....I'm Doug."

"Cool, Brad said you'd come and install our washer. I'm glad to see you came."

At this point, Brad came in.

"Who's this?" Brad said.

"Isn't this Doug?"


At this point, I yell for Sarah and I to run. We grabbed the clothes washer (because we could only apparently get rid of it if the people didn't notice) and ran.

Wake up to the sound of a cat making noise at five o'clock in the morning.

I just found an old shell of a blog post that I had apparently meant to fill in the details but never did. It was titled "Weird Dreams Volume 2" and all it contained was:

Neil Patrick Harris

Joel McHale
 I don't remember anymore.

Monday, September 19, 2011


An elderly friend of mine died yesterday. She fell in her kitchen, where she laid for seven hours before she could reach her lifealert button (which she kept in her pocket, instead of around her neck) and the paramedics could come. She received great emergency care and surgery to fix the broken bones, but succumbed to infection a couple days later. We had time to see the inevitable end coming, which dampened the effect that it had on us.

This is the first personal death that's happened to me as an adult. The last one was my maternal grandfather when I was 12 or 13 (I think) and before that my paternal grandfather before I can remember. It's certainly been a unique event. It hasn't really been sad for me yet, but I suspect that will come.

The experience so far has been more contemplative really, causing me to think about my own future death, as well as other things.

I don't have a good conclusion for this. It's just going to end.

Voting Methods

It turns out that there is no perfect voting method. This is mathematically shown with Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. I won't thoroughly describe it, but the gist is that if you want a voting system to have certain properties, they can't all be satisfied.

There are many different voting systems, each with their ups and downs. Here are some of them.

Popular Vote:
Everybody picks one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins. This is the only type of vote we see in America. The problem with it is that it only works perfectly in a two option vote.  I think that because this system works best in two-option systems, it forces us towards a two-party system. In multi-option votes, you often run into the situation where people don't vote for who they really want, but instead for the 'potential winner' who most accurately represents their views.

Approval Voting: 
Each person gets to vote for as many candidates, and the one with the most votes wins. This is type of voting allows people to vote for their preferred candidate without 'wasting' their vote on a loser. There are complaints that this system tends to elect the least hated as opposed to the most liked, if you will, since voters cannot weigh their votes differently.

Point-Based Systems:
Voters are given a number of points to distribute among the candidates; the candidate with the most points wins. This system has the problem that a person cannot support multiple candidates without giving up support for their favored candidate.

Ranked Voting:
There are many versions of this system, the most basic of which asks the voters to rank the candidates and order and each ranking bestows a number of points. The candidate with the most points is the winner. The problem with this most basic version is that you have to decide how many points a certain ranking is worth, and it's a somewhat complicated system that can force people to make hard decisions about their exact rankings.

Single-Transferable Vote:
This is a system that Australia uses. Each person ranks any number of candidates to their liking. The vote goes to the number 1 ranked candidate on each ballot initially. Then, any ballot where the number 1 ranked candidate is a sure loser is reassigned to that ballot's number two candidate. Losing parties are eliminated and their ballots redistributed again until a winner is clear.

There are two important factors when it comes to voting systems. How they work needs to be clear to the votes. They also need to accurately represent the desires of the voters. Striking this balance is difficult, especially since there is no perfect voting method. Soon, I'll talk about the ways that I would change our American electoral system.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Elections, voting, and the Problems Contained Therein

I have this problem. I get these 'obsessions' from time to time. Something will get in my head and it will consume a large portion of my thought. It distracts me from the other things in my life, spanning both work and my free time. Part of the reason that I started blogging more prolifically was so that I could work my way through these obsessions (see Adventures in Amateur Game Design), because that seems like the most effective way to stop them from consuming me.

It's not secret that there are problems with politics. I think that everybody has problems with politics. My problems with it I believe stem from our 2 party dominant system. Because there are only two real parties, they are bitterly opposed. It seems to me like they have to split every issue halfway and instead of promoting their position, they attack the other position/party. Right now, when people to negative campaigning, anyone who is convinced can only really switch over to the negative campaigning party.

I would make changes to our voting/electoral systems to promote a wider distribution of parties. I feel that having multiple parties would reduce negative campaigning because when people decide to leave the attacked party/individual, they aren't necessarily going to change over to the attacking party. I feel that if we had multiple parties, they'd be more able to cooperate to get important legislation passed, since it wouldn't be as much about pride.

I have particular ideas for what to do about the presidential election and about the elections for congressional positions. This will comprise a series of posts, because it's a very broad issue and I have obsessed about it. So expect more of this in the future (I'm sorry).

Saturday, September 17, 2011


One day, a about two weeks ago, I saw a post it note on the handrail in the stairwell. The note read "1:44." I have no idea what it was about, who put it there, or what happened/happens at 1:44. What I do know, is that every day, for at least a week the note would be in a different position. 

At first it seemed like it was slowly moving up the rail. Then one day it was on the wall. I kept thinking that I should go to the stairs at 1:44, just to see if anything would happen. I could never remember to, thought; I'd always get wrapped up in my work.

Then one day last week, it was gone. I looked far and wide for it. After all, maybe it had just gone somewhere hard to see. Every day I look for it as I ascend the stairs to the fourth floor, and every day I don't see it. What was it? What happened at 1:44? Now I'll never now. What did I miss? Was it somehow my chance to be transported to a magical world? Did I miss the portal to Narnia, Fillory, or Hogwarts?

Now I feel a sort of emptiness when I walk up the stairs, their barrenness a reminder of what I missed. I ponder placing my own sticky note there to see if anyone comes to meet me. I wonder who, if anyone, will.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The New House: An Update, with cool wall art!

We been sleeping here for about a week and a half now. We have all the furniture and stuff in the house now, but it hasn't all been put away. We've bought several new pieces of furniture to replace the crappy stuff we still has leftover from college. We still have several pieces of furniture that we have left to buy.

The cats had lot of trouble adjusting to this place at first. They were very nervous when we were transferring them in the car and they freaked out quite a bit. George spent the majority of the first couple of days just hiding under our bed. It's taken him another to not be afraid when we open the front door. We also need to buy a screen for the fireplace so they don't get themselves sooty.

We managed to move my desk again, and now I have hesitation about moving it again. Each time we move it, something else bad happens to it. The leg where the two sides meet is a little messed up from me trying to adjust the desk's position after I had already set it up last time.  It's still 100% sturdy though. I don't plan on using my desk as much since the move so me put it in the guest bedroom, which is a little out of the way. I don't really plan on using it as much, I'm thinking about getting a chromebook.

We've set our eyes on some great art to adorn our walls. Specifically, we're looking at these pieces: a Harry Potter spin on a theme, a couple Doctor Who ones, and I just found this cool Metroid one. It should be noted that we aren't necessarily going to get those ones as their super-expensive canvas form. Possibly a print.

As we unpack, we're throwing away, recycling, or donating tons of stuff that we don't need. We had tons of stuff that was simply superfluous that doesn't fit into this smaller (yet infinitely more awesome) house. That's most of what's been going on. Slowly unpacking. Working. Normal stuff going on here. Once things are unpacked completely and we get some wall art up I'll take some nice pictures of the place.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adventures in Game Design, part 11: Rogue Abilities

Internet is back on and I'm ready to blog again. I came up with tons of ideas while I was under the internet blackout, and not all of them pertain to this game. But this does. I came up with an incomplete list of abilities for the rogue class. Abilities are listed in no particular order, may have a limited number of uses, and will likely require a roll to succeed.

Main Spec Ability: Sneak Attack - When an opponent can't defend themselves properly, the rogue deals extra damage. 
  • Running Slice - The rogue can take an attack while moving past an enemy
  • Blind - The rogue uses a powder to blind the target temporarily, lowering their vision, attack and defense
  • Quick Attack - The rogue takes a single attack very quickly (uses one of the rogues main actions, but grants initiative speed as if the rogue hadn't used the action)
  • Disarm - The rogue deftly removes the opponent's weapon.
  • Deflect - The rogue (makes a roll to) use his daggers and skill not to parry an attack, but to actually cause that attack to hit a target adjacent to the rogue and within the range of the attacker.
Main Spec Ability: Multishot - The rogue fires multiple arrows at once, each attacking a different target.
  • Moving Shot - The rogue takes a less accurate shot during a move
  • Ricochet - The rogue causes the arrow to bounce off a wall to hit an otherwise unreachable target or to catch a target off guard.
  • Aimed Shot - The rogue takes a full turn to fire a longer flying, more accurate, more damaging shot.
  • Arrow Stab - The rogue uses an arrow to stab an opponent (when stuck in melee range). Allows the rogue to attack in melee without using an action to switch weapons. If the enemy dies, the rogue is granted a shot as a free action.
  • Undecided.
Main Spec Ability: Grenade - The rogue throws a grenade which explodes, dealing AOE damage. May have an explosion delay.
  • Flamethrower Trap - A stationary turret that spouts flames at nearby targets.
  • Bear Trap - If stepped on the target sustains direct damage, bleed damage, and a movement penalty until the trap is removed.
  • Grappling Hook - I'm still thinking about the combat uses of it. Tie up opponents? Disarm weapons at range?
  • Smoke Bomb - obscure vision while in the cloud and for a certain number of turns after. Provides a block of line of sight for a safe getaway.
  • Trip Wire - pretty obvious
A suspension of disbelief or "it's magic" may be required with regard to how the rogue stores all these tools. I worry about the trap rogue. I want to make sure they feel viable. I think it may really come alive with whatever magical abilities it gets to choose.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

No Internet :-(

We won't be able to get our internet hooked up until the 28th at the new place. For a small time, we are still able to check it at the old place, because we have plenty of time to finish moving out. Until then, things will be infrequent/nonexistent. I'll just be using my phone in the meantime.

I know, you're going to hate not having my weird twitter messages and blog spam. I'm sorry...........

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 10: Initiative and Action Systems

A shirt from Penny Arcade
There is this mantra that seems to exist in the RPG community. It is "Move Minor Standard" meaning that on your turn you get a move action, a minor action and a standard action. I've always had a problem with that system, particularly that your move and standard actions can't be mixed. In D&D, you can use your standard action as a move action but you can't substitute a move action for a standard action.

My plan:
My plan for my game (which needs a proper name) is to have two standard actions and a minor action on a turn. A standard action can be either a move or another action. This means that you can take two attacks on a turn, an attack and a move, or two moves. Because of this choice, I don't plan on having a D&D style attack system where you get multiple attacks on a turn as you level up. An attack is 1 attack if you have one weapon, and 2 attacks if you dual wield (but weaker of course).

A problem with this system is that moving feels like a penalty, because in moving you give up an action. And movement doesn't kill monsters. So how do you ameliorate this? I approached this from a class specific viewpoint.

Fixing the problems with this system:
For the warrior, they get the charge ability. If they move at least 10 feet (2 squares) and it is in a straight line, then if their next action is an attack, it is more likely to succeed and will do more damage when it does succeed. For the rogue, there are two different situations. For a dagger rogue (which is a dual wield type), once during any move, if they more past an opponent, they get a single free attack (only one weapon) on that opponent. For a bow-wielding rogue, they can take a running shot, which is a less accurate attack that can be done while moving. I haven't decided what my opinion is on attacks of opportunity yet, I may not have them. For the casters, some of their spell will be cantrips, more simple/less effective/more minor spells that can be cast while they are moving. This opens up the possibility for some of the spell upgrades that can be invested in to change a spell to a cantrip.

As a side note, for casters, some spell will take the full turn, most will take just one action, and some will be cantrips. Cantrips can also be done as a standard action, they don't have to be done while moving.

Another shirt form Penny Arcade
Tying into this is the initiative system. In all the systems that I've seen, initiative breaks down into turn order. What I want is for everybody to have a speed which determines how often they get to have a turn. Essentially, each person has a number for their combat speed.

At the beginning of combat, everybody rolls for an initial initiative. The person with the highest initiative goes first. After each person takes their turn, their initiative is set to zero and everybody adds their speed to their initiative and the highest person is chosen to go again. In the event of a tie for who is highest, both people go in a random order and then only after both have gone are their initiatives set to zero and the speed are added.

How do these tie in together?
In my system, there may be times where you choose not to take one of your actions or you may not use either of your actions. Choosing to not take an action should make your next turn come faster. If you only use one of your actions, your speed in increased by 50% until your next turn, meaning that is should come in about 66% as much time as normal. If you choose to forego both of your actions, your speed in increased by 100% so your next turn only takes 50% as long to happen.

All of this comes from my own dissatisfaction with how standard RPGs function and ways that I think they could improve. One flaw with this initiative system is that it's complicated, there are lots of numbers to keep track of. Perhaps and iPhone/Android app or computer program is in order to help keep track of this. Or DMs can have their players keep track of their own initiative and the DM keeps track of the monsters.

What needs to be decided:

  1. How is initiative speed determined? I kinda want rogues to be slightly faster than other players
  2. How is initial initiative determined? 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Health Concerns

Seeing as I've been saying 'house' frequently lately, I figured I'd talk about a different 'house'.

Have you seen the episode of House with Laura Prepon? In it she plays an obsessive blogger and Dr. House can't figure out what's wrong with her. They even dig through her old blog entries looking for clues.

Then Dr. House realizes that the key to her illness is something that nobody would blog about, their poop. She gets better and happy ending, or whatever. Although, it was probably an unhappy ending, given that it was House.

Anyway, to all my future doctors out there, I would just like to say that my poops have been regular and have been of normal quality. I'll keep you posted of any changes. You're welcome.


That is a picture of the front of the house we're moving to. We started to move stuff in there today and we'll continue to do so over the weekend. There are more pictures here. Some rooms didn't get pictures uploaded because they were unremarkable, fyi.

There is a hot tub in the back yard (EXCITE). It needs a professional cleaning and inspection, but it's there. Many of the baseboards need to be touched up with paint (which is in the garage) and the front door hardware could stand to be changed, especially since the door cannot be opened from the outside since the outside handle doesn't work (we weren't made aware of that feature).

We also got a new bookcase and an office organizer thing that was WAY heavier than it seems like it should be. Seriously, I hurt my wrist trying to lift it. I'm worried that when we open it up to build it there will just be a bunch of rocks and a note that says, "HAHAHA, try explaining THIS to Target customer service!"

The floorplan makes a circle, in which out bedroom is kitchen-adjacent. So now instead of running up and down the hall, our cats can just run circles around the house.

I'm infinitely sad that there isn't a webpage where I can upload images and superimpose the crack in time from Dr. Who Season 5. I would have made a funny joke for the internet. I would have posted a bunch of pictures but the last one would have a crack in the wall and I would have been like, "OH NO!", BUT I GUESS I DON'T GET TO DO THAT.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Turning Points and New Beginnings

Today begins a new chapter in our lives. Today, Sarah and I start to move to the new house. So many things will be different now. I have a full-time job. We won't be living somewhere that is owned by my parents. We can start planning our wedding. We'll be living there when we get married. It's where we'll come home to. Although we won't live there forever, it certainly represents a new beginning.

A new beginning, that just struck me. I need to remember to do something.

Sarah and I finished season 5 of Dr. Who. That was pretty dang crazy, you know. Big Stuff. We're still very much enjoying the show and can't wait to catch up on season 6.

Work has been pretty crazy lately. Between the 45 minutes SQL code runs (which would have taken longer if I hadn't had the foresight to create an index) and the projects that were due quite suddenly there's been simultaneously much and not much to do. Since tomorrow begins a new month, there will be plenty of things for me to do. I've been finding myself dressing up and creating documentation for all the code that my predecessors left me. Just like a good Boy Scout (which I was, briefly).

I feel like I had more to say here, but I guess I don't. Sleep time is now (since I composed this last night and scheduled it for today). I'll make sure and post pictures of the new place later.