2016-07-15 05:46 pm

(no subject)

I had a read of this article about brexit, and it was funny and depressing. So... handy.
2015-11-12 09:09 pm

Voting!

Don't forget to register, if you haven't already.
https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
2015-09-11 04:23 pm

Vampire, the By Night Studios larp edition review

I've been trying to write a review of the new vampire book for about six months now, and I haven't been able to do so without it turning into a really long list of changes, which isn't what I want to do. But I think I've got it now.

On first examination, the game seems pretty similar to the last live version, which was itself based on the OWoD tabletop. However, this is quite deceptive - the changes are major. Again, not wanting to do a list, the main thing to understand is the thrust of the design.

Simulationism has not been a consideration at all. The mechanics don't reflect the game world as described.
Storyism has always been a WoD pretention, but as with (and even moreso than) previous WoD games the mechanics are not designed to support it - in fact, the nature of the Humanity mechanics works to *reduce* drama and story points.
Gamism, then, is the thrust of the mechanics. And that's okay - a balanced gamist game to make a PvP arena is actually a good idea! But note, if you wanted to tell stories about characters struggling with their internal demons, this ruleset will hinder you. And if you wanted to run a campaign about the tyranny of elders, this ruleset will probably be a bad choice, because it made elders playable which means only the same power as non-elders.

Okay. But supposing you wanted to run a somewhat-more-egalitarian-than-setting-indicates salon larp chronicle, featuring PvP as its primary attraction? Well then, this is the best official WoD ruleset for it. Probably. However, even in that context, it's big and clunky, the book is too big, the Storytelling advice doesn't fit rules, and overall it's a mess.

Actually, "overall it's a mess" is probably the summary of the review. Main source of mess: mechanics like these don't belong in a game with a "storyteller". They belong in a game with a "referee".

Still, a better love story than twilight.
2015-07-23 10:15 pm
Entry tags:

Toy sword review

I bought a larp sword from calimacil. It's... interesting. It's a "pirate" model, I think. So the form is a falchion/cutlass - pointed single edged blade with the top third being double edged, and a simple but effective knuckle guard.

The total price including shipping was just over fifty quid. So this isn't the cheapest of the cheap, but it's not expensive for a larp sword.

Construction:
It seems to be moulded rubber or rubber-like substance, over a barely-flexible core. The rubber is in two grades of hardness - the blade is softer silver stuff, handle and knuckle guard are harder black stuff. The knuckle guard is actually sturdy enough that it probably won't buckle when hit with a larp sword, so that's nice.
This construction method should be pretty durable, and should retain its current appearance well too - there's no paint to come off.

Appearance:
The handle and guard are all black, and the blade is a uniform shade of silver. There are visible mould lines, and a couple of air bubbles in the back of the blade. So it's uglier than most larp swords. The shaping and lines are nice, though, and the blade cross-section is pretty. So if I removed or covered the mould lines and repainted it, it would be very pretty. On the other hand, that would involve quite a lot of work on something I bought new, so this is a point against.

Competitiveness:
It's about 32" long, so even if it was the lightest and flickiest it could be, it would still not be a terribly competitive toy. It compounds this by being rather heavy. I mean, it's nowhere near the weight of the re-enactment swords I use, but it's obviously heavier than all the other larp single-handers I have, and indeed it's heavy enough that flicky wrist actions are going to be a considerable strain. So this is not a competitive toy at all. The bright side here is that if you want to roleplay big heavy cutting actions, the toy will help you do that.

Safety:
It's not dangerous per se - I mean, it deforms when hit and it's lighter than metal. But, if you're used to lighter larp toys this one will need using in a different way. Slower and more cautiously. In itself that is no bad thing, but if you're getting one of these you should absolutely get it ahead of time and practice with it, rather than going straight on the field with it. Obviously that's generally good advice, but here it's more important than usual.
Also, the grip is the wrong shape. It's fairly standard - wider at the top, narrows a bit as it goes down - but then at the bottom it widens again but only on the finger side. This means if your hand slips down the toy slides by default into a point-forward more fencing grip. This would be fine if it were a thrusting weapon. But it isn't, and I mention this in the safety section because as I put cuts in, this grip configuration is altering my hold on it toward the end of the swing. This means I'm losing track of where the toy is, right as I'm about to hit something! Obviously this is a problem.
I'm trying to work out a fix. The grip is slippy enough that this is going to keep happening. I could wrap the grip and that would help, but it's already pretty wide so that might not be comfortable. I could wrap just the bottom part I suppose. Or I could hold it toward the pommel to start with, so that at least my grip won't be changing. But none of these are good options.

Overall conclusion:
For a HEMA or re-enactor type, this would actually be pretty good as a safe waster. For a larper - well, I think a few people would love it. But for most people I can't recommend it. It doesn't look great and you'll probably hurt someone.
2015-05-21 12:12 am

(no subject)

It's hard to be patriotic when it seems like someone somewhere is making a fucking mess of things.

Also, I've been in poverty all my adult life.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/third-fall-below-poverty-line-uk-095815515.html#ThzEsOP
2015-05-19 07:17 pm

Weird politics

No mention of benefits or death today, only weird points that are interesting:

For one, a whistleblower on a nuclear sub. The summary is "Oh fuck our subs are knackered and the security is terrible":
https://wikileaks.org/trident-safety/

For two, an open letter by a former police officer. It's interesting (to me) because traditionally the tories have been keen to fund the police well in order to buy their loyalty. I suspect I would disagree with the ex-officer in question on many things, but still:
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-hobbs/theresa-may-police-confederation_b_7300462.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

And finally, a story about how royals are still being asked whetehr they wish to veto laws. Weird! I remember being told that was a Thing That Did Not Happen Because They're Just Decorative, but here it is. No mention yet on which if any laws have actually been vetoed, or which have been altered to avoid the veto, because that information still hasn't been released.
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/14/secret-papers-royals-veto-bills
2015-05-16 01:55 am

(no subject)

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/03/dwp-benefits-electrician-work-placement-labour

It would be funny if it was fiction. Tragically, it's not. I think my favourite part is:
"Giving evidence, senior civil servant Jennifer Bradley confirmed that numerous charities and businesses were receiving cash payments as an incentive to take on the unemployed."

So it's not even free labour for companies. The government are paying them to be given free work! And the only people who are losing out are everyone on benefits, everyone who might have wanted to volunteer outside of the programme, and everyone whose job is low enough down the hierarchy that it can be replaced with forced labour instead.
2015-05-12 04:59 pm

(no subject)

The new Equalities minister is someone opposed to equal marriage:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/david-cameron-appoints-second-antigay-marriage-mp-caroline-dinenage-as-equalities-minister-10244478.html

It's not even a deep and abiding commitment to religion - she's previously left her own marriage basically because she met someone she preferred:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/caroline-dinenage-mark-lancaster-cameron-2011834

---

Meanwhile, on housing benefits, there's the bedroom tax, and the overall benefit cap. The bedroom tax is designed to fuck over people in social housing. The OBC is designed to fuck over families. It won't affect me, but it will affect a family of two people claiming two lots of JSA, housing benefit, and two lots of child benefit. Apparently feeding children is a bad thing.

---

Then there's the human rights act. Apparently not being allowed to commit torture is bad, as is having to take care of people, so they want to pull out of it. Doesn't matter that they probably can't, they want to.

---

Edited to add: Aaaand now striking is going to be even more restricted. Because why wouldn't it be? The voting system used to put governments in power isn't good enough to allow strikes!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32702585

---

All told, this is less of a government than it is a class war. Yet the words class war are dirty and no-one is allowed to say them. Weird - it's almost like the media have an agenda.
2015-04-02 01:45 pm

Day time

I've remembered why I don't go out in the daytime much. In the daytime, the people you encounter are generally either 1) retired, 2) with children, or 3) children. As a working-age woman without children, I stick out like a sore thumb.
2014-12-21 05:57 pm

Censorship vs no-platform

This has come up recently. But apparently it needs saying again.

"Not giving someone a platform" is not the same as censoring them. Censoring someone involves shutting them up. Giving someone a platform - by inviting them to write an article or make a speech, say - is encouraging them to speak. Not giving them a platform doesn't shut them up, it just doesn't encourage them to speak in a particular environment.

Many organisations or collective entities offer platforms to speak. They might be literal, like a chance to speak at a conference. Or they could be virtual, like this site I'm writing on right now. This one is not a very big platform, because the only people who observe it are people who who watch my writings and people who follow other people's "loves" and comments. Another site with more traffic directed to this article would be a bigger platform. A column near the front of a national newspaper would be a pretty big platform.

No-one is obliged to offer their platform to anyone else. A collective entity doesn't have to allow anyone a speech. A newspaper doesn't have to print your letter rebutting their article the week before. I can delete any comments you might leave. That's not the same as censorship. You aren't being denied every platform in the world. You just aren't being allowed access to the one in question.

The owner of the platform can lay down acceptable content rules. This site has rules. Sometimes these rules will be entirely to do with the rules the owners operate under. They need to obey the law where they are based. They might need to obey certain rules to gain funding for their platform.

Sometimes the owner of a platform will lay down politically-motivated content rules. For example, an internet-based queer community is not likely to want their community filled with threads about how heterosexuality is the only way to live. As such, they will probably take steps to remove such threads and the user profiles used to post them. Similarly, if Friends of the Earth are having some kind of conference, they are not likely to invite a spokesperson from BP to give a speech.

Note that in these examples, nothing stops BP or the proselytising heterosexuals from speaking. BP can afford to have their own conference with speeches. They have a website where they can publish what they like. They can create posters and flyers expounding on whatever the subject is. They can buy advertising space. They can, in short, buy an incredible amount of platform space with their incredibly large stacks of cash. The proselytising heterosexuals are probably less well backed, but nobody is stopping them from having their say. They could get a website. Or a blog on some free website. They can form a local group and have long chats about it in person. They could probably afford to print out some flyers and flyer some part of a busy street, if they think this message so important.

Whereas, if they were being censored, the police would track them down, arrest them, and throw them in prison. I expect readers can observe a difference between those two outcomes.

So when, for example, a journalist who has a platform in a national newspaper, and a platform on the internet, and could publish a book if they felt like it because they know people in the publishing business and are a recognised name, finds themselves being no-platformed on ethical grounds by groups who disagree with the things said journalist says and stands for... well then, said journalist should just get over it. If people aren't inviting you to speak because they don't like what you'll say, then clearly you shouldn't be going to their events.

For those wondering, the specific trigger for this writing is Julie Bindel. But it applies to quite a few people, and the frequent cries of "freedom of speech".
2014-06-13 12:17 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

Last night while up rather late, I had one of those thoughts that drives me to fits of giggling (in this case, stifled by my own pillow). I was thinking about D&D tropes, and game systems I prefer mechanically, and then it hit me- Dungeon: the Dragoning. An nWoD mod (probably GMC).

In the rather warm light of sleep-deprived day, I genuinely can't tell if this is a terrible idea or a hilarious one or both. But two things are obvious, first that it needs to be called Adventurer: the Hackening instead, and second, that treating "adventurers" as a type of supernatural (in a similar vein to Japanese treatment of Shinobi or Chinese film treatments of Shaolin monks) makes vastly more sense of most D&D worlds. Most of them treat "adventurer" as a meaningful word, not just a job description for "mercenary with a side order of thieving".

So I think I'm going to actually write this.

PS... and obviously, the Power Stat is called "Level".
2014-05-31 02:44 pm
Entry tags:

politics

I understand there's worry about UKIP. But I don't feel it. I mean, they're a bunch of complete arseholes and I hope they all die painfully, but I don't believe they're a serious political force. Right now they're picking up a lot of protest votes from people who feel disenfranchised and people who want a serious discussion of Europe, but that's not enough to get them any serious power. And their general loathsomeness is obvious enough that people are picking up on it and turning away from them.
It's like this person says:
"The really clear indicator that this was no UKIP earthquake was the fact that their share of the vote actually declined dramatically from the local council elections last year (from 22% down to 17%), and this decline happened despite the council elections coinciding with the Euro elections, which should have brought out lots of extra UKIP voters."
http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/local-election-results-2014-aav.html?spref=fb

It's unfortunate that the serious issue of Europe is associated with UKIP. As a question, it merits national discussion and serious examination of our options and the consequences of various choices. But the major parties are scared to touch it in case it makes them implode. If UKIPs astonishing column-inch success (assuming that no publicity is bad, of course) leads to serious questions being discussed, then some good might actually come out of them.
2014-05-06 06:44 pm

In-character sexism

This is another roleplaying post, so, you were warned.

Fantasy roleplaying is, well, fantastical. There are usually other humanoid species, magic, dragons, whatnot. It's quite pointedly not the real world, and sometimes it's even self-consistent. Yay.

But there's this thing that irks me: the majority of settings are sexist. It's an assumed default, there's no other way to put it. If the writers haven't decided specifically to do something different (which is remarkably rare) the monarch will be a king, inheritance will be patrilineal, and hence sexism will be built into everything.

I hate IC sexism as "just part of the setting". It's not fair. I have to deal with sexism in real life, and I do not want to deal with it in my fun game times. I have no problem with IC prejudices that I've opted-in to. Like, if there's a non-human race that are at odds with humans? Then I can choose to play them or not. But the dividing line, the part where it starts being a problem, is when I can't play a self-insert character without experiencing prejudice. Because I don't mind playing "me but an elf", but "me but male" is a character I don't want to play.

IC sexism means I have to choose between playing a male character or meeting the same irritating problems IC that I do OOC, and I don't want to do either. And why should I? A) this is supposed to be my happy fun times, and B) if I were male, this wouldn't be a problem.

B is a clue here. IC sexism is sexism OOC, because it puts female players in an unpleasant bind that male players are not in.
2014-01-12 05:40 pm

(no subject)

I don't really keep up with video games. But I am gradually working my way through the archives of Unskippable (which is two people trying to be funny over the intro to games) and so today I saw the intro to Star Wars: the old republic. The token female character is a slender, conventionally attractive humanoid. She's also a Jedi. She's less good at violence than the other (male) Jedi in the intro, but better at sensing stuff. Oh, and she needs rescuing by male characters, twice (or maybe three times, depending on what counts) in one intro.
So it's made of tropes and sexism. It would be nice if something wasn't, for once.
2014-01-06 07:04 pm
Entry tags:

Larp (again

I have two things I want to write down:

First, most Larps are badly designed.
I'll elaborate: I played a game called Fiasco recently. It's a role-playing "game", in what seems the purest sense of "role-playing" and quite possibly a misapplication of the word "game". You don't have stats, skills, or even win conditions that you can work towards. Your character is in the first instance defined by relationships with other characters, where you only have 50% of the input into those relationships, and that 50% is itself constrained in selection. There are good and bad outcomes available for the character, but you can't choose to work towards a good outcome - the will of other players combines with the whims of the dice to give you the ending. And each game is an intrinsically one-off scenario, so your character doesn't develop, except within the context of the immediate story, which is a heist that goes wrong (that's not a spoiler, it's built into the game).
So... you're roleplaying. In the sense that you're creating a character within limits, and you're playing that character. But you don't get to choose outcomes - or a least, not enough to have a meaningful impact on the final result. They just happen to you.
I've played it once, and it was a lot of fun. It was really engaging and hilarious. In fact, it was a lot more engaging than most larps, which is where this point comes from. Because larps contain within them all of the things that make fiasco fun, and then a bunch of other stuff as well, where the other stuff is supposed to be "features", like growth, exploration, numbers, soft skills, etc etc. If all that other stuff, which (I think) can be summarised as "system and setting of the larp" added to the stuff that's in Fiasco comes out as less engaging than Fiasco alone, then "system and setting" must be overall negative. Which means the larp is badly designed.

Second: game balance.
Some people don't care about game balance, and that's fine. But... I usually do! And if I'm going to play a game where "in character success" is any kind of motivating factor (which is most larps), then I care a lot about game balance.
So as a designer, first you need to work out whether you want people like me in your game. Don't worry, I won't be offended if you exclude me because I'm somewhat gamist in approach! In fact, I'd rather you did that than lie to me in order to get me into a game I will then hate. So, work out whether gamism is a concern in your game. If it is, then try to make your game balanced, in power terms. That's somewhat difficult, but you can make things easier for yourself with two important steps:
First, publically acknowledge that balance is a consideration, that you're not perfect, and that therefore the rules are subject to revision if something becomes a problem. Just saying that will make people like me more likely to play.
Second, publish all the rules. And I do mean, all of them. Publish the rules for the magic that not everyone gets. Publish the tech tree that other systems would have kept secret. Publish the list of possible powers for monsters. Doing this will reassure gamists that they aren't going to get their arses handed to them by something they couldn't have planned for. It will also reassure us that you aren't hiding all the unbalanced bullshit behind a "find out in play" excuse. In character "find out in play" is okay. Out of character "find out in play" is "you lied to me and I'm not coming back". Don't expect us to trust you with the game balance issues (which are hard to get right, and which can break the game for us) while refusing to trust us to roleplay our in-character ignorance.
As an addendum to this last point, experienced players generally have an advantage within games even when playing new characters, becase they understand the meta, both the state of the game and the hidden things in the rules. That's actually a bad thing, because it puts new players off. You can't help the meta state-of-game knowledge from happening, but if you publish all the rules you can remove that part of an experienced player's advantage.
2013-09-01 10:23 pm

(no subject)

Yesterday I finished watching Ashes to Ashes, and now I wish I'd never started. It ruined Life on Mars for me.
2013-07-10 11:08 pm

chemical warfare

Two weeks ago I thought I owned a woolen medieval dress that needed a little altering.

One week ago I discovered I actually owned a combination buffet/living space for a large number of tiny golden moths. A little research changed my perceptions of other things rather rapidly. Suddenly all my clothes (and stocks of cloth) made of wool, felt, cotton, silk, fur, etc etc were no longer assets - they were liabilities and potential re-infection vectors.

Obviously, since this includes all of my historical kit and a lot of my nicer modern clothes, this is a serious problem.

Today the poison arrived. Since that I've spent a lot of time wearing a gas mask (that I bought as a roleplaying prop) and spraying obscene amounts of sweet-smelling death liquid around. I've moth-proofed one room and a lot of liabilities, I think. We have five bedrooms, five common rooms, two landings and a hall, so there's more to do.
I've also left the smell of poison running through most of the house, worried one of my housemates, and got quite a lot of death-liquid on my skin. This last would be less worrying if it didn't say "avoid contact with skin" on it in several places, but it was too hot to wear waterproofs all over.

Now I've showered the stench off me and am sat feeling tired, trying to write a parody of a stupid thing someone wrote on the internet. It's hard because of Poe's law.

On the bright side, at least I know my gasmask works. Good thing I got the one with the filter.
2013-06-29 12:01 am

legal matters

How good is this? Apparently if I have sex without outing myself as trans I can go to prison for it! Cool, huh? Also, even if I do out myself before having sex I have to do it in a way that's provable, because otherwise it's just my word. Yay!

I'm going to need a new desk if my head hits it any harder.
2013-04-22 02:25 am

World of Darkness grappling rules

So... new WoD has crappy grappling rules. And I'm running a changeling game. So I've rewritten them. Anyone have any thoughts? I haven't finished the bit with multiple people grappling one.

cut for length )