Thursday, 30 October 2014

Scheming Dice: Dungeon World

Dungeon World is one of those games you love in concept, want for roleplay, and hate when the dice need be thrown. This game is Powered by the Apocalypse. What that means, is that much of the focus and attention is given to actual narration of the story, and not so much to presenting the players with the combat simulator. (Just remembering the escapades of our party in the 4E of Dungeons and Dragons shivers me to the bones. The cold wind might be at fault as well.)

Most of the time spent playing Dungeon World, will be like playing Apocalypse World. You will create the setting together with your GM, and then spend time adventuring through the setting you created. The game is actually a strange mix. Some would say a compromise between the extremes that are on one side Apocalypse World, and on the other side Dungeons and Dragons, at least fourth edition. Two totally different approaches to tabletop roleplaying taking the best out of both systems. There is not as much rolling of the dice in Dungeon World as there can be in D&D, but effectively more than there is in Apocalypse World. This is in my opinion still the right amount of rolling the dice. It is a mechanic, and an effective one. At the same time not the one that takes away from the very game by distracting the players.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Apelles, Cobbler, Censorship & Artistic Freedom

Apelles put a picture on display,
for truth he loved far more than praise,
behind it hidden, he listened to all what
both fools, and experts had to say.

Before it, a cobbler with his irons stops,
wretched man looks at the sandals,
straps he tells, are few to call them any,
what man says, immediately Apelles's mending.

When the second day comes the man of hooves,
instead of going on to where he'd been going,
he stops, since shoes are fine, comments on calves;

Rejects him painter proudly,
and you with him, who are complainer over nought

Thursday, 23 October 2014

WoW: Minor Visual Alternatives

Awhile ago, Chris G. Robinson, Senior Art Director at Blizzard mentioned on twitter how orcs will be getting straight backs as the alternative to the hunch they currently have, some time in the future. In the language Blizzard speaks, that probably means something like Soon™. And therefore closer to never than ever. Personally I am thrilled about this piece of information. But what I am wondering these days, is why stop at orcs? While being able to choose if your orc will walk around the globe all hunched or straight as an arrow is nice, there are other races that would probably welcome a visual alternative in regard to their current state as well.

What needs to be clear, is that the changes I suggest here are based upon my own personal preference. The changes I suggest as alternatives to what we currently have are the changes I feel would help the immersion and the game overall. They are all simple visual changes that would not bring any significant amount of work to the development team, but then again, paradox of the heap is built on grains of sand if you know what I mean.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Rowan Blaze's Delusions on #Gamergate

I really love when people make demands for a consumer revolt, such as #Gamergate to stop, because people are not playing nice. I'm lying. It actually saddens me, because it shows how deeply in their own cocoon shielded from the outside world such individuals really are. It saddens me to see long posts with no actual content beside appeals to emotions full of logical inconsistencies, half-truths, and plethora of logical fallacies. But I do not think people who make these kind of arguments actually realise it. And thus they show their lack of perception about the world. Wilful ignorance truly is a sin worth of all contempt.

If you are able to mark the whole movement as terrorist, just because it demands of you to act as a moral being, or it demands you show proof for your claims, then you are already a lost cause, and I am already speaking to the quire. If you are able to mark a couple of internet trolls, and mark them as terrorists, I seriously question your judgement. While I agree that all threats should be taken seriously, that is not an act of terrorism as we know it. Not when you have beheadings, bombings, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers and other methods like these to contrast with. All of a sudden I am able to understand how you get to the absurd claims, such as patriarchy oppressing the world and other silly notions like that. Doesn't that sound like a "theoretical conspiracy", Blaze?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Scheming Dice: Driving Force of Alignments

Last time we talked about the alignments and what kind of influence a perception can have on them. Today, we will examine what I consider the prime motivators of each of the five alignments, and consequentially even the combined alignments. I have come to conclusion that each of the alignments has its prime mover behind it. And by paying attention to this motivator, you get to follow a certain moral alignment. Of course, Neutral alignment is the exception that proves the rule in this case. I have come to conclusion as the original meaning of Neutral means Neither one nor the other, Neutral alignment is not powered by any motivator at all. If we had to find one, we would define Neutral alignment with the lack of internal motivator. There is a word for that, indifference.

Good alignment is tied to the concept of altruism. While others may walk through the thing called life not paying any attention to it, those that are in any way good are usually driven by their sense of altruism. Maybe that is for the best. While others are willing to sacrifice things, people and everything else good individuals are not. They know their conscience would haunt them, and this is one hassle they don't want. This gives them the opportunity to always do the right thing, to be altruistic, in a way no other character could really be.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

My Thoughts on Future Wildstar Business Model

It is that day. The day, when I act as hypocrite. We all have our sins, so I do not ask for forgiveness, just for acceptance. Maybe even that is too much. I refuse to ask for anything. It is better that way. In any case,  you probably wonder what all this is about. Well, Syp was wondering where exactly do we stand on the whole issue of Wildstar's business model. And as someone who really loves the game, but did not buy it ever since it came out of beta, I am a hypocrite. With that said, let us examine what one outsider wishes for the game he never played outside of the open beta.

I have always said I love and wish all best to Wildstar. Mostly because I see competition as a healthy thing, that keeps things interesting. I honestly hoped, quite ludicrously I might add, that Wildstar might even threaten a bit World of Warcraft, and make the behemoth that is Blizzard at least move, and do something instead of just empty campaigns outside of the game that mean nothing to any of us. Well, nothing happened, and it seems the only thing that moves Blizzard at this point, is like always only Blizzard itself. So I was wrong on that front, I can live with that.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

LoL: Coming Back Only to Go Away

I have been a long time LoL player. It was MOBA of my choice, fairly easy, and quite entertaining. Of course, as all these games go, they are far more entertaining when you play with friends, than when you play with complete strangers. The constant race to call your position in the game preparation window, the defeatist attitude of my fellow players, perpetual bad attitude of my teammates, constant stream of insults, bad language and stupidity, combined with the fact that Heroes of the Storm entered the Alpha finally drove me away.

But then, couple of weeks ago I read the patch notes and saw Garen was getting buffed. I thought that was unneeded, as Garen was always competent champion if you know how to play to his strengths, but I am not the on to look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially, when the horse being given is my favourite, and apparently even stronger than I remember. It was enough incentive to pull me back into the game, and give it another try after more than half a year of hiatus.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Nature of Gamer

We all know the story about the ancient "trickster" called Sisyphus. How he played the gods one against the other and ended up in Tartarus pushing a boulder to the top of the hill, only to start from the bottom as the boulder would roll down. This was the eternal punishment gods came up with for an enterprising man like Sisyphus. To just grind his days away in meaningless task that would drive everyone else insane. As Camus puts it, Sisyphus continues to defy gods even while pushing the heavy boulder on top of the hill with his smile. Gods already punished him with the worst they could come up with, and Sisyphus still smiles, as he knows this is the worst gods can do. And his smile is defiance against which even gods can do nothing. In the end, even in punishment Sisyphus wins.

Some of you probably wonder why open this article with a story about Sisyphus, a man who wronged gods, and ended paying dearly for it. To answer that, I would like to draw your attention to the perseverance and stubbornness Sisyphus displays even when enduring this cruel and unjust punishment. I would like to draw your attention to the inquisitive mind, and ingenuity Sisyphus displays while trying to trick Death (successfully I might add). I would like to draw your attention to the willingness to cooperate with others that Sisyphus displays while trying to ensure people of his city get water.

Now let's translate these characteristics to the modern gamer. Since the dawn of gaming, we knew that there are few things we can do alone. Those older than me probably still remember weird conversations they had with their friends, trying to put together the order of things they had to do in order to progress in any of the old point-and-click games. Others probably experienced a game where they were incapable of making a certain jump and had to put the controller in the hands of their sibling or a friend.

We have known how to cooperate with others from the very start. We knew we couldn't give up, so we often looked for alternatives, this is how guides even came to be. Some people knew how to progress in the game, others did not. One thing that probably defines the gamer more than anything else in my opinion, is the perseverance and willingness to never give up. To try and try again until that wall standing in your way finally cracks and you are able to continue playing the game. Looking for next challenge to crack, new puzzle to solve.

Even in today's age where games are made for every taste, we are still the same. We still like solving problems, puzzles, and progress in the game. If we get stuck, we don't just give up. We know how to find information we need in order to dig ourselves out of the rut. And while some might see that as cheating, I see it as making use of all options that are available. If you started a game of chess and did not know how to move your knight, wouldn't you welcome someone telling you? You would take the advice in good will, and be thankful for it, as this helpful stranger taught you how to play the game, not how to win it. After all asking for help is not a sin, but gamers love to win on their own merits more than anything else.

#Gamer #Sisyphus

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Hypocrisy of anti-#Gamergate

Imagine you were writing for an automobile magazine. Imagine now that for some reason known only to you, you decide that enough is enough, and write an openly hostile article declaring your target audience obsolete, your readers dead, and the beginning of the new era right at the doorstep, where car enthusiasts are not needed, because the boat lovers will do just fine. Now imagine the reaction of your readership. As this was certainly not a joke, they will first want an explanation. When you insult them further, block all their means of protest, you should not be surprised when your car enthusiasts give in, and give up on you.

You should not be surprised when your former readership contacts various car and tire companies, and informs them that your automobile magazine decided to shift markets onto boats, decrying and insulting all the car enthusiasts in the meanwhile. We would probably all agree that it is in the best interest of the car and tire manufacturers, your magazine, and the future readership if the unnecessary ads are gone. And by unnecessary, I mean the ads that do not target your readers. It is pointless to have a baking dishes ads in a specialised magazine focused on cars. So it is as pointless to have car ads in a magazine that wants to write for boat lovers instead.

After all, one hand takes care of the other, and in this day and age, in this world you have to earn your money. Nothing is free. Thus everyone is looking to make good use of their money, and if your magazine will not write for car enthusiasts any longer, then it is a waste of money on the tire manufacturer's part to finance the ads in your magazine. Better to give a chance to some boat companies, and cruise ship voyages. They might find your new direction more favourable, than the tire manufacturers. After all, boats don't have tires, but ships do float on water.

And to come out, all outraged and furious, claiming tire manufacturers that stopped doing business with your magazine because of the new direction your magazine has taken, hate women is absurd. It is ad hominem, strawman, and probably couple of other logical fallacies as well. And that is a disgrace to you and your magazine as "supposed" professionals. This is the current predicament of Gamasutra. They published the article of Leigh Alexander decrying gamers, insulting them, and marking them as unneeded. Gamers said fuck off, and went to the advertisers, telling them what kind of stuff are they saying over at Gamasutra, and that there is no point in advertising for gamers, as they are not the target audience of that website any longer.

Reasonable stance all things considered. And then, comes the gall of these people, the nerve to try and change a perfectly reasonable business decision into something personal, something toxic. Intel did not remove ads from Gamasutra because they would hate women. They removed ads from Gamasutra because its editor-at-large insulted their core audience. And they realised any further connection with Gamasutra would reflect bad on them, and unlike Alexander, Intel understands who are they selling their hardware to. Nothing personal, just business.

As you probably know, Intel later on issued an apology in regard to the whole matter. But as you will notice, they apologised for any misunderstanding. They do not hate women (common sense from a business perspective), but they will not be doing business with Gamasutra either in near future.

That said, I find appeals to emotions a disgusting thing. And to see this happen in front of my own eyes is rather revolting. I saw people asking for solidarity toward Gamasutra, to support the site because Intel "dared" to pull their ad campaign. I saw people asking for mercy. I don't know in what utopia those people live in, but in my world, and I would like to believe that is the world of all sensible people, there is no mercy for the corrupt, no pardon for the wicked, and no solidarity towards unethical. These are the things where we should never compromise. You are either ethical, or you aren't. You are moral or you are not moral. There is no middle way. Only absolutes.

What I find the most interesting of all, is the smear piece they wrote about #Gamergate in past couple of days over at Mirror, and wanted to determine what #Gamergate is all about through a poll. Well, they have singlehandedly helped legitimise the movement, if that was ever required, as the option about fighting the corruption is in major lead over all other options in the poll combined, misogyny included.

Boycott is a valid means of protest. It is in my personal opinion the best form of protest in this day and age. Nobody will cave in to you for free, nobody will change their stance just because you say their stance is wrong. But reasonable people, once they see money is not coming in will notice and reconsider. Reasonable people might come to conclusion that what they are doing is wrong, and they need to change their ways.

Unfortunately gamers are not dealing with reasonable people here. They appear to be greater narcissists than me myself and I, and that is telling a lot. It does not seem any critique comes to them, and they appear to be living in their own little world isolated from any different opinion. Unfortunately for them, gamers play to win, not to have fun. For gamers fun comes form winning. And destroying their opponents is nectar of gods for gamers. Gamasutra and its likes changed this into Rule or Ruin scenario with their hostile rhetoric. What they did not realise is that gamers already rule, and they are not afraid to ruin anyone pretentious enough to question their existence. Not with the violence, but by simply not giving them any money.

So let the hypocrites burn. I look forward to seeing Gamasutra and other sites like it, who attack their core audience instead of facing the accusations raised against them fall apart and to the oblivion. It is survival of the fittest on the internet, and if you lack the common sense, then it is a good thing when you become obsolete.

#Hypocrisy #Intel

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Scheming Dice: Perception & Alignments

With the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons released, eyeing the 2nd edition of Dark Heresy, and making final preparations for the campaign we started for the Dungeon World there is a lot on my plate when it comes to the tabletop RPGs these days. But one of the perennial problems that haunt, I could probably say most of us, is the alignment system. With my friends, this is like a festering wound of sorts. We all seem to have our own vision of how it works, and we always interpret the thing our own way. The stricter the definition the worse, the looser the definition even worse. It is like a little scab constantly itching that we love to revisit and scratch every so often only to end up agreeing we are in disagreement.

My personal opinion on the alignment grid, is that the damned thing is too rigid. That is why I love one-dimensional alignment system of the Dungeon World, where you choose only one alignment ever. There is no lawful good, chaotic neutral, or neutral evil. You choose between good, lawful, chaotic, evil, and neutral. You only ever choose one of the five alignments, and then get to experience all the nuances, joys and pains of it. Depends on the individual.

Alignments are not assigned by us, the individuals who are labelled with that alignment, but from other people, the society. Yes, you do choose your own alignment, humour me. For example, you are not chaotic because you support radical freedom. You are chaotic because other people that surround you, think of you as the one who breaks the rules. You are not good because you help people, but because other people think of you as a good Samaritan for helping those in need. You are not evil because you burnt the village to the ground, but because the villagers who lost their village think of you as devil's spawn. And you are not lawful because you follow the law, but because others can see, you adhere to the laws of society.

We could probably say that it is all about the appearance, and in consideration of role-playing, we would not be far from truth. You can tell yourself you are evil, and only deceive people with your good deeds, but if your deception is actually helping those in need, than in the eyes of the system you will be considered a good person. Alignment is not so much about how you act in the world, as it is how others perceive you. You might have best intentions in the world, but if you burnt down that village, you will still be considered evil by those villagers. On other hand, local group of orcs might consider you their hero. It all depends on the perspective.

We could say that this whole debate is rather redundant as the alignment system is there only to help the players in their roleplay, not to hinder the game itself. It is to be said that in reality, and whatever game you play, alignments will rarely come in play. If ever. In the end this is more a philosophical debate for the sake of clear lines and simple terms than for the sake of better roleplay. We could again argue about this, as many, myself included, will claim that by clearly defining what alignments do or do not do will in the end help the players in their roleplay.

If you find that the alignment is more of a hindrance than of use to the players, then the alignment has to go. The worst that can happen, is that your players will act as they would normally, while the best-case scenario brings better role-play to the table. I personally find a good incentive is an excellent motivator for players to role-play "according" to their alignment.

Next time, we will take a look at what are the prime motivators behind each of the alignments.

#Alignments #Tabletop #SchemingDice