Aaron Hernandez Not Guilty?

Dec. 21st, 2014 03:00 pm
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed
Was former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez found not guilty of murder in December 2014.

D&D Hack: Initiative Damage

Dec. 22nd, 2014 01:52 am
[syndicated profile] deeperinthegame_feed

Posted by bankuei

This is a simple hack from a game mod I was working on a couple of years ago.  It’s designed to give people a simple way to give combat damage more effect while avoiding the complications of hit locations, wound damage, etc.

Initiative, slightly bent

Instead of a D20, use a D12.  D12 + Dex mods etc. has two effects – it means the initiative totals are lower and the attribute mods play a bigger part.


For characters and creatures, they each get two ratings:

Shaken: 1/4 their total Hitpoints (round up)

Reeling: 1/2 their total Hitpoints (round up)

Initiative Damage

Whenever a creature takes hitpoint damage from a single attack equal or greater than their Shaken threshold, they lose 4 Initiative from their total.   When a creature takes damage from a single attack equal or greater than their Reeling threshold, they lose 8 Initiative.

A) If the creature hasn’t acted this round – it will act on it’s new initiative total.

B) If the creature has already acted this round – it will act on it’s new, lower initiative total NEXT round. It does not get to act again this round.

Stunned – Initiatve Zero or Negative Initiative

If a creature is reduced to zero or negative initiative, it cannot functionally act.  It is rolling around in pain, stunned, or otherwise unable to functionally do much.  At the end of the following round, it regains 1D6 initiative.  If it is still zero or negative, it will need to continue to spend rounds regaining it’s senses (+1D6 initiative) until it has an Initiative of 1 or higher.

For the sake of gameplay, creatures at 0 or negative Initiative cannot be take further initiative damage until they have a positive score.

Managing this in Play

My suggestion is to take index cards, put the characters’ names on them, along with their Shaken/Reeling ratings and you can write the initiative in pencil.  As they take damage/recover, you can line up the cards in order.


A useful thing to consider is whether certain actions or attacks do greater initiative damage as part of play.  Some attacks may do relatively low hitpoint damage but pretty big initiative damage (“I shoot down the beehive with my sling.  Let the enemies play with that…”).  You can easily suggest saving throws or attacks against alternate defense ratings that may result in a -4 or -8 initiative.  Monsters that typically suffer saving throw penalties from certain types of attacks may suffer initiative damage whether they succeed or fail the roll.

Magic vs. Magic Users

The basic rule listed above naturally favors tough, high hitpoint characters from getting stunned this way.  You might want to rule that spellcasters are less likely to be stunned by magic, being more accustomed to dealing with such things.   Spellcasters might be only be Shaken at 1/2 hp and Reeling at 3/4 hp from spells.  Or, if they make a save, maybe they suffer no initiative damage whatsoever from magic.

You can customize this accordingly – this might be true of clerics vs. life drain or evil spells, or of druids vs. poisons, elementally based creatures vs. that type of element, and so on.  Obviously consider this with care, the point is to keep this relatively simple.


This system works really well if you want to make certain types of monsters immune or resistant to some types of damage.  For example, arrows are not going to bother a zombie, really.  Or a stone golem.  Or a treant.  Once players become accustomed to dishing out damage to stun creatures and taking advantage of it (and also, having to cover their own team mates who are stunned), finding something that simply, won’t, stop, is a great way to highlight why they’re scary.

Consequences in Play

This rule can make combat more lethal in all directions – getting stunned opens the door for followup attacks that simply mob someone.  Smart play with stunting can swing things in the player’s favor.  You can also set up monsters or events that do mostly or solely intiative damage (“The dragon’s wings cause gusts of wind to knock you down, take 1D6 initiative damage.”)

Heavier damage attacks are favored over lighter attacks, so you might have to find some balance if your game is supposed to do the usual “light damage several attacks vs. heavy damage few attacks” setup that shows up.


The math here assumes you’re playing a D&D or D&D like game that is 3rd edition or later where the attribute modifiers tend to sit in the -5/-4 to +4/+5 range.   If you are using a game that has a smaller range (such as -2 to +2) you’ll want to both use a smaller initiative die (D6 for example) and do correspondingly less initiative damage (-1/-3, for example).

If you’re using a game that relies heavily on multiple actions/attacks per round, you might want the stun status to only cost 2 or 3 attack/actions rather than fully leaving the creature unable to do anything.

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Filed under: Gamehack

Zero-G Day

Dec. 21st, 2014 03:00 pm
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed
Will an unusual planetary alignment on 4 January 2015 make people on Earth weigh less?

Schedule for Next Week

Dec. 21st, 2014 05:00 pm
[syndicated profile] grand_master_puzzles_feed

Posted by drsudoku

All the variety puzzles from last week can be found in this PDF.

This next week will feature a set of Pentomino puzzles, specifically Pentominous and Pentopia puzzles.

The bonus puzzle for our Expert and above patrons will also be a Yajilin by Grant Fikes.

The post Schedule for Next Week appeared first on The Art of Puzzles.

Beautiful White Horses

Dec. 21st, 2014 10:21 am
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[personal profile] rachelmanija
Sherwood and I are at Judy Tarr's horse ranch writing retreat in Arizona, writing and riding.

Judy has ten hours left in a Kickstarter to fund a novella (or two novellas if it hits the bonus threshold) about horses and magic in Arizona. Go fund the second novella!

Some images from the retreat are on LJ.
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

  • How user research woke me up to harassment in the design community | Medium (December 19): “But then I get a bad response, and then 2 more. My heart sank. […] My immediate reaction was to play down the comments in my head, after all it was only 2 people. But then I thought back to all the stories I’d read and the endless blog posts about sexism and harassment in the digital industry. Suddenly I was faced with the realisation that a huge group of my target market think it’s a good idea and want to use my product, but don’t feel safe enough to. It’s not just a business problem I’m facing, it’s a moral one.”
  • MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters | Wired (December 19): “The AMA became, to borrow one Reddit commenter’s phrase, “a parody of what it’s actually like to be a woman working in a STEM field.””
  • Why it’s so hard to stop online harassment | The Verge (December 8): “In her column last week, Jessica Valenti wrote, “If Twitter, Facebook or Google wanted to stop their users from receiving online harassment, they could do it tomorrow.” […] Valenti assumes here that Content ID works. But Content ID and other blunt, algorithmic tools in the service of copyright enforcement are documented trainwrecks with questionable efficacy and serious free speech ramifications. In other words, Content ID and its ilk are simultaneously too weak and too strong. Their suitability in addressing copyright infringement is already deeply suspect; their suitability in potentially addressing harassment should be questioned all the more.”
  • 2015 wall calendar of women in science | SmartyWomyn on Etsy (December 17)
  • [Warning for discussion of sexual assault] Defending the indefensible: gaming’s fondness for ‘rape’ | ABC Technology and Games (December 3): “It’s  true that adolescents around the world have co-opted [the word] as a term of comprehensive dominance for their online prowess. And yet despite the incredibly broad and increasingly diverse demographic that gaming has come to represent, […] there remains a staunch obsession to hold onto the uses of words like [these].”
  • Codecracker | CastillejaDPW on Youtube (December 15): [Video] “The Dance Production Workshop Class in collaboration with the 8th grade choreography class created Codecracker. This dance was created at the all girls school Castilleja in Palo Alto, CA. This dance combines coding, technology, art, and education. Enjoy!”
  • Hilarious Christmas Song Is the Feminist Rally Cry You’ve Been Waiting For | Identities.Mic (December 17): [Video] “the Doubleclicks, a musical duo made up of sisters Angela and Aubrey Webber. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the sisters write songs “that are all at once snarky, geeky and sweet.” This holiday season, they’ve gifted all of us with their version of a Christmas carol, only instead of sleigh bells and Santa coming down the chimney, they sing about a magic weapon for ridding the world of sexists and a fervent hope that slut-shaming dudes will be long gone this holiday season.”



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[syndicated profile] toasty_feed

Posted by J. Parish

We didn’t get Gradius II for NES here in America, but in my opinion we got something better: Life Force, the oddball reworking of Salamander. It wasn’t a true Gradius game, but that made it all the better. Although I am endlessly jealous of the sweet translucent blue cartridge it shipped on for Famicom.


I mean, day-amn. Even when we got the same stuff as Japan, they still got better stuff.

But, OK, whatever. I played Life Force to the point of exhaustion, which is to say I progressively worked my way from being able to beat it just barely with the 30-lives code, to being able to beat it on one credit with 30 lives, to being able to beat it on one credit, to being able to beat it on one life. Which I did exactly once and never again, because that escape sequence at the end never ceases to be some hardcore B.S.

The real Christmas miracle of Life Force is that it proves my mother was (is!?) a ninja. When I unwrapped this on Christmas morning, she was amused to see the surprise in my face; I honestly didn’t expect to ever own the game, which pained me slightly because the box art filled my soul with aesthetic desire. (Something about that silver-trimmed Konami house style combined with a phenomenal painting of a massive space serpent enwreathed by flame really appealed to the budding artist in me.) I expressed my gratitude for the game, and she laughed at my surprise, because it turned out she had bought the game on a shopping excursion for which I had been taken along. She somehow managed to buy a game which my finely tuned adolescent eye, always on the search for anything video game-related, should have been on high alert for while I was walking right beside her, inches away from the shopping cart in which it had been secreted.

I suppose it helped that this was in the last days before retailers began to put video games in class cases and behind the camera counter, the end of games being left out on open shelf hangers. But still. Good work, Mom.


Life Force may not have been the technical, visual marvel that Gradius II was, but it traded slightly (slightly!) downgraded visuals for more varied game design and the audacious decision to allow for two-player simultaneous action. I say “audacious” because, really, how else would you describe it when someone designs a largely horizontal shooter in which each player can potentially acquire long, beam-like weapons and multiple secondary guns to triple their firepower… on a system notorious for the strict limits on the number of sprites that could appear simultaneously on a single horizontal line? Life Force practically dared players to grab Options and Lasers and spam the screen with beams, and even so it managed to juggle NES hardware priorities in such a way that it never became unplayable. Sure, there was flicker and even some slowdown, but never enough to interfere with the action. Kind of amazing.

Konami even added a couple of new stages specifically for the NES version just to show off. “Cartridge space limitations?” they sneered. “Whatever, have some Space Tut.”


But perhaps best of all, they worked in a Gradius-like power-up system, a huge improvement over the arcade game’s more restrictive approach. While they hadn’t quite yet arrived at the weapon customization system that would appear with Gradius III, it was still a huge boost to player control. Who knows why Life Force/Salamander didn’t use the Gradius mechanic to begin with, since it was obviously patterned closely after Gradius. Maybe the designers wanted to make their own mark. But still, there’s no shame in admitting someone else’s way is better, and the designers of Life Force on NES sucked down their pride for the betterment of the game.

Between its simultaneous cooperative play, alternating vertical and horizontal level formats, excellent visuals and music, and fun and interesting themes, Life Force remains my favorite member of the Gradius family. (Even if it’s not.) You see, it ninja’d its way into my heart one Christmas.

Episode 1134: Insensed

Dec. 21st, 2014 10:11 am
[syndicated profile] darths_and_droids_feed

Episode 1134: Insensed

Be careful when saying you'll take something to your grave. It might be a short trip.

In a game you could potentially have some sort of Death by Dramatic Irony rule. If a character says something that typically foreshadows their own tragic demise in works of fiction, they get a penalty to defence and saving throws for the next few turns or something. (If nothing else, this is a good way to get players to avoid spouting clichés during combat.)

December Daily Meme - Day 21

Dec. 21st, 2014 04:08 am
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[personal profile] sineala
If you could custom-order a fandom, what would it be like? Source material, characters, anything you like. ([personal profile] resonant)

The canon would be mediocre.

I don't mean bad. I don't actually want a bad canon. But I don't want something that's perfectly, untouchably good. I want something with inconsistencies and plot holes and room left in the backstories for a thousand different pieces of fanon. There will be profound emotional moments of caring and closeness and sadness and then there will be places where there ought to have been profound emotional moments but they happened in between scenes, leaving us to imagine them. It has to be good enough to love, but it has to be bad enough, in just the right way, that fandom will look at it and say yes, like this, only better, watch us make it better.

Ideally it would also be a book and a movie, or at any rate something with adaptations in multiple media, so that fandom could be fannish over all the different types of it and there would be bookfic and moviefic and that way you could have vids. Because I like vids. And then fandom could write bunches of meta about the way the characters differ.

I like things that are either SF/fantasy or historical, so that would be good. It seems like most of the rest of fandom does too, so that would probably be easy.

As for characters, um. I would like interestingly flawed characters who are ideally very very very slashable (though probably not together in actual canon because I am invariably disappointed when couples I ship actually get together because usually one of them dies or something, but I would not like TPTB to queerbait either), and while I'm dreaming I'd also like a fandom with no shipwars about it. Yeah.

Also all the writers I have ever liked would be in this fandom and they would write giant epics featuring all my favorite plots. Every day there would be a story where my BSOs had to get fake-married for the good of the kingdom/country/world/galaxy! Aliens would make them have sex! They would have wings! And so on.

"Day is done, gone the sun"

Dec. 21st, 2014 12:20 am
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[personal profile] rosefox

That's about all I've got in me for solstice vigil and ceremony. Are the dark days always so very very dark? It seems really awful this year. (Emotionally and psychologically, I mean. The weather's actually not been too bad.)

But we made it through to the turning of the year. January will be no worse than December, and then February will be terrible but short, with improbable frost-defying buds on the trees--I always fear for the magnolias, and they always come through just fine--and then spring spring spring.

and one for the road

Dec. 20th, 2014 11:21 pm
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[personal profile] yhlee


(The Little Schemer is a very fast read after having done Structure and Interpretation of Computer Program in Dylan, Yet Another Computer Language No One Has Heard Of. Especially with the LISP-style syntax. God, I remember how buggy NOODLLE was.)
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[personal profile] sanguinity
Two thoughts on Mockingjay Part I:

1.) Why the hell you'd engineer your fire sprinklers to go off that casually and copiously in an evacuation stairwell, I have no idea. Also, the emergency lighting on those stairs was a travesty, far, far worse than no lighting at all. Someone in that organization should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves.

2.) Turning the oxygen down to fourteen percent is the kind of excellent decision that you can expect of people who... are operating in a fourteen percent atmosphere. That is, if that's the kind of decision that they make in a 21% atmosphere, I shudder to think what their judgement looks like at fourteen.

(no subject)

Dec. 20th, 2014 06:17 pm
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[personal profile] jhameia
Alive! Slightly awake.

Watched four movies on the plane: The Hundred-Foot Journey (loved it!), Guardians of the Galaxy (liked it all right), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (better than I expected), and Hercules (it was okay, but I agree with all the critics that it was hella white).

When I got into Incheon I made a cot out of two chairs and passed out for three hours. Still waking up. Need a shower quite desperately. Then I'll go get some food. There's a transit hotel lounge here which does a mean buffet spread that has never disappointed me. And I'll read. See you on the other side, internet!
jadelennox: Lilly Of the Purple Plastic Purse: "I'm Lilly! I am the queen! I like EVERYTHING!" (chlit: lilly)
[personal profile] jadelennox
In the words of aspartaimee: "It wasn't good, but it was awesome."

Can there really be spoilers for Annie? Cut just in case. )

"What if when you go to the moon there's an asteroid or something?"

Hatoful Boyfriend

Dec. 20th, 2014 11:07 pm
[syndicated profile] emilyshort_if_feed

Posted by Emily Short

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 10.32.14 PM

Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel of the dating sim genre(ish), in which all of the possible romantic leads are birds. You are a female human attending an otherwise all-bird school, and you have your choice of pigeons, quails, and doves, each possessing a characteristic personality. What initially seems like a whimsical premise gradually develops a bit more depth; there’s even a website devoted to the writings of a prominent in-world pigeon blogger.

Quite a lot has already been written about Hatoful Boyfriend, often by people more familiar than I am with visual novel conventions — though the visual novel community, like the gamebook community, often seems so relevant to interactive fiction that it’s a little mystifying that there isn’t more communication. As with many other dating sims, the game is designed to be replayed to unlock new content: you begin by romancing different suitors and finding out their secrets, which then allows you to access a different ending to the story. In contrast with a lot of “ultimate ending” finales, though, the unlockable content in Hatoful Boyfriend is both much longer than the per-suitor stories, and of a different genre: a horrific mystery, rather than a romance, and one that does a lot to explain how a world of sentient pigeons has come about.

I couldn’t help thinking as I played about some of the arguments in Creatures Such as We, especially the idea that it’s hard to explore consent in a game in which all NPCs are prizes for the protagonist. With Hatoful Boyfriend, I felt that I was experiencing the opposite effect of this: the game expects you to play many times, and each time you must mold the protagonist in order to suit the tastes of the bird she’s pursuing. There are only a few characteristics of hers that remain absolute, such as her vitality and love of running (and that proves to have an important plot relevance, eventually). Otherwise, a lot of the potentially freighted moral choices dissolve with repetition and the fact that she has to take different sides of each issue depending on whom she wants to impress. The cumulative effect, at least for me, was that the protagonist came to seem less and less important, even as my playerly understanding of the other characters increased.

But then — well, let’s give this a spoiler jump first.

It takes at least four or five playthroughs to unlock enough to get at the mystery storyline, codenamed Bad Boys Love. This version of the game runs through the same initial choices and experiences as before, but then abruptly partway through the year the protagonist is brutally murdered, and the player takes on the viewpoint of other characters in order to investigate her death. Doing so elicits a lot of further information about the world, the past relations of the characters, and everyone’s motives: the mystery arc is much, much longer than any of the dating sim bits (though also, as far as I could tell, impossible to lose). And it felt fine to me to erase the protagonist because, as mentioned, her personality had already been so thoroughly whited out.

Visual novels often felt a bit slow and a bit overlinear to me: plot development happens almost entirely through dialogue, which is presented one gradually-printed sentence at a time, and though you can click to speed that up, it’s inevitably a slower process than clicking through almost any Twine story. (Clearly this is a thing that visual novel aficionados are used to and barely even notice, the same way that parser players are used to dealing with error messages, so I’m trying to get to the point where I don’t react badly to this.) Meanwhile, for reasons of genre convention, characters often talk in hints and ellipses, sometimes having an entire conversation play out in which one character hints at having an important secret but not revealing anything about it. In consequence, I sometimes find VN stories a bit watery: not enough salient information happening quickly enough, too little progression.

Hatoful Boyfriend does not exactly avoid these issues, but it gains energy from the fact that almost all of the characters have important relationships with one another, as well as with the protagonist; and those relationships are complicated and keep revealing more subtlety. This is a story about a community of people, in other words. A few runs through the dating sim lets us meet all the characters and learn something about what they want from the world and who they are individually, but then the mystery story allows us to explore how they change when confronted with extreme stress and the destruction of a lot of things they thought they knew about themselves. The mystery also includes some viewpoint swapping, as well — and viewpoint swapping that isn’t signposted very strongly in the UI. It works precisely because, by the time it happens, we know all the characters well enough to understand whose head we’re in.

Now that I’ve played that longer arc, the first few dating stories feel like alternate universe fanfic, or daydreams on the part of the characters: (mostly) happy might-have-beens that were revealing about what people wanted, but which did not pan out in reality. It’s a curious reversal of the usual play-multiple-times-to-win structure in which the player first experiences a bunch of failures and then gets to the “good” story with enough effort.

I don’t want to oversell this: the mystery is really very linear, and is solved by the characters rather than by the player. Most of the player choices exist mostly to determine which of two mandatory segments you’re going to read first. The tone shifts from goofy to gross with very little warning. Despite the world-building, there are a lot of issues that still don’t make a lot of sense (not least why sentient birds keep using machinery and buildings designed for humans even when the humans are largely out of the picture).

Nonetheless, as a piece of CYOA structural design, it’s pretty interesting, and it’s also a standout for handling a big set of characters who all have different attitudes to one another.

(Disclaimer: I received a copy of Hatoful Boyfriend as part of the judging process for Wordplay 2014, the Toronto-based festival for text games.)


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