rockwood: (Smile)
TED talks are awesome in general, but this one is spectacular! (URL below just in case link doesn't work)

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.html

Wearable computing and the 'sixth sense' technologies are definitely something I'd be interested in trying out someday.
Blessed be,
~Nathan

rockwood: (Tome)
Well, I probably can't elaborate on what's actually in it, but I'm happy to say the Serenity RPG supplement, Big Damn Heroes Handbook, is pretty much done with the writing phase and is moving into development. Doesn't mean it's about to hit the shelves or anything, but it's moving! And I've gotta say that I'm really happy with the way it's looking. I liked the recent Serenity Adventures and Six-Shooters & Spaceships, but this one is gonna have all manner of new Traits, optional/updated rules, and so forth. Perhaps I'm biased because I wrote chunks of this one, but it really does move the game along nicely, while the other two supplements mostly provided new content.

Also, this video is amazing (but unrelated); be sure to watch til the end, especially if you're not a fan of Windows:


Video link in case the embed doesn't work.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

rockwood: (Smile)
Though it's been available for a little while in 'prerelease' format, yesterday the Cortex Role Playing Game PDF was updated to the full version. Anyone who bought the prerelease PDF gets this one for free as an updated download.

The differences are significant, but not mind-bendingly so: Slightly more art, substantially revised Traits in some cases, lots of typos fixed, a second version of the character sheet, an index (short, but fairly complete).

There are still a few typos to be fixed before printing---and, of course, anything that gets fixed will become a free update to those with the PDF---but otherwise the game is looking amazingly solid. I can't wait to play something with it!

....and publish my own sourcebook, too :-)

Blessed be,
~Nathan

rockwood: (Smile)
Well, with my midterm for one class fully completed, I spent some time poking around online and stumbled across an hilarious holiday carol by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society

The lyrics are behind the cut, to save space.  )


Incidentally, the HPLHS seem to have a new Mythoscope movie coming out, The Whisperer in Darkness; unlike their Mythoscope version of the The Call of Cthulhu, this one is a Fully Speaking Film! The trailer looks excellent. I'll have to read that story next.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

Fallout II

Sep. 30th, 2008 02:19 pm
rockwood: (Default)
I spent most of the morning dinking around playing Fallout II. I've never actually beaten it, and I may not be in for the long haul this time either, but it's been too long since I spent some time in one of Black Isle's worlds.

I resisted the urge to stack my character solely for Luck and Charisma, since Perception and Intelligence are also so useful in conversations; though I did go with a set of stats I know will let me get all four of those up to 10, eventually. Strength and Endurance are each only 4, but that's what Power Armor is for :-)

So far, his only combat ability is Unarmed; we'll have to see how far that can carry him.

The first two Fallouts (like most of Black Isle's games) are among the few RPGs to actually emphasize the player's ability to make choices that alter the course of the plot; similarly, Black Isle games were always heavier on the text and dialogue than their counterparts from other developers. I just hope that they don't fade from the memory of gamers until some development team actually manages to bring back that focus.

Unfortunately...I should probably do my homework now....

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Default)
One of my friends linked me to these photos this morning; they're a bunch of shots to do with Russia's space program and the city of Baikonur in Kazakhstan, which is "an entire Kazakh city, rented and administered by Russia."

Some of them (especially picture 1) have a cool steampunk look, which increases if you pretend the thing is meant to stay on the railroad tracks :-)

However, 21-23 make me think: Fallout! It's like the old saying goes. "Live in Russia instead of playing post-apocalyptic RPGs."

Also, there's one great comment in reference to picture 22, which shows cows on the launchpad. There's a bunch of jokes in the comments, of course, but...a picture of cows in a spacesport? "the herd shot 'round the world!" (thanks to the commenter identified as Ellen).

And now...to go coordinate a group project at the university library...hooboy.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

rockwood: (Smile)
When the computer network goes down, any class called "Internet for Teachers" pretty much HAS to call it quits.

Hopefully I'd saved my powerpoint before the actual death of the network, but if not...meh, I couldn't have lost much, since I didn't actually add a whole ton.

So overall, a pretty good evening. I wasn't really counting on getting a lot of surprise early dismissals in grad school, but I'll take 'em when they come!

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Default)
Because this was a long and awesome-filled week, I'm splitting this up into the general report on the con (this post) and a real-life-friends-related post.

GenCon '08 was a blast, as expected. I spent most of my time at the con itself touring the dealer's hall, but that was plenty. There were even a few surprises, both good and bad.

The Good
First and foremost, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (or The Gamers II) finally made it to DVD release! It was a lot of fun to preview it two years ago at GenCon '06, and I've been waiting impatiently ever since to get my hands on my copy. I got it signed by some of the Dead Gentlemen Productions crew, but was unfortunately unable to collect the whole set. Fortunately, I did manage to talk to most of them individually and catch up on old times and future plans, however briefly; I'm very much hoping to continue working on Demon Hunters RPG projects, since they're just an awesome group of people to work with.

On the text front, the Cortex System RPG (Con Preview Edition) and the Serenity Adventures books both made it to the convention, which I was glad to see. They both look good (barring some internal artwork I'm not too fond of), though I haven't had time to read through either of them yet in order to evaluate production quality.

Oh, and White Wolf's Hunter: The Vigil also premiered recently, though it hit some stores and cons slightly before GenCon itself. I picked up a copy for my brother, but I'm not sure if we'll wind up using it or not.

And one computer game event managed to catch my attention: the demonstration booth of Bioware's upcoming RPG, Dragon Age: Origins, the 'spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate,' as the demo guy called it.

The demo booth itself was eyecatching, being a plaster faux-stone-walled-keep in the middle of the dealer's hall. It had a barred wooden door guarded alternately by guys in armor and bored-looking guys in t-shirts, which let you enter a small theatre area with exposed wooden beams above and wooden benches inside, arranged before a podium and a large flat-screen. I think it's worth noting that they had an extremely comfortable carpet inside, too.

The demo was narrated by a man in armor while one of the t-shirt-dudes, now less bored, played it out. We saw an in-game cutscene (3/5 stars; good looking, not amazing on the voice-acting front, used in-game graphics, but stuttered occaisionally), heard a bit about the world and the character-creation system (basically a standard fantasy world, but with an emphasis on the idea that your character's background story and early life would be very significant to the story and NPC reactions), witnessed a few in-game conversations (4/5 stars; looked a bit like KOTOR, sounded a lot like Planescape: Torment in terms of 'conversation = important', but I wanted more than 3 options more of the time), and then saw a bit of combat.

Battles were conducted in a manner a reminiscent of of BGII and KOTOR. You get a full party (I saw up to 4 characters grouped, but I'm not sure what the max is), and you control them one at a time in a combat that is real-time, but lets you pause between attacks in order to assign moves and actions to each character, unless you feel like letting the AI handle things. However, according to the demo man, Bioware has thrown the recent move to make games easier to play out the window: just like in Baldur's Gate, if you don't prepare for a fight fully, and then fail to use appropriate tactics, you'll "be eliminated." The game is supposed to be tough. I don't know if it'll wind up that way, but the demo man did die and reload at least once, and in a big fight lost all but one character.

I'm not going to rate combat fully here, since it was clearly an in-development feature of the game. Some AI characters bugged out and stuttered, some had horrible pathing errors where they got stuck on each other, and so on. The spells did both look and 'play' amazingly well, though, and we got to see them interacting with each other, when a Grease spell was ignited into a flame patch by a Fireball, which was then doused by a Blizzard.

The Bad
For some reason I haven't yet researched, Blizzard (of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo fame) wasn't at the con. I was really, really looking forward to demoing Starcraft II and Diablo III, since Blizzard had a HUGE presence at the con last year, including playable demos of SCII and the upcoming WoW expansion. I was taken in by WoW-card-game related adverts, which I think must have been a deliberate bait-and-switch, but there's nothing for it. I'll just have to wait for the public releases just like all the other mortals who couldn't make it to BlizzCon.

There was also a corset-shop set up right near the MWP booth, so I had to pass it several times; the creepy-old-man proprietor managed to make a female friend of mine a bit uncomfortable. The people in corsets I could just avoid looking at; that, however, pissed me off.

The Awesome
I did spend some time at the con talking to writers, publishers, and artists, including MWP. The coolest stuff includes (in no particular order): I shouldn't have a problem securing a third-party license to do a Cortex sourcebook, I'll soon be getting some income from my freelancing work, an artist I met two years ago remembered me and said he'd be happy to have me commission some work from him, and a friend and fellow freelancer is putting together a writing commune/consortium of some kind which may provide some additional work.

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Smile)
Well, I'm off to GenCon; I'll be back on Monday. I'm staying with some friends (yay!), which is awesome both because I've missed them and because the biggest cost associated with GenCon is the hotel room....

I may or may not be bringing my laptop, but either way, I'll be less in-touch for a bit. Expect a full report upon my return!

To those who need to get in touch with me, my cel-phone and my email are your best bet.

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Default)
Well, I haven't posted in a while, but I have an excuse; I just got back to Maine on Monday, and (for the most part) I was too busy with *Real Life* activities to post for the two weeks prior to that (seeing as [profile] leeflower convinced me to stay in DC for an extra week). The trip was awesome, and included numerous strange and wondrous goings-on. Too strange and, indeed, too wondrous to detail here; that's a tale for another time.

Since I've returned, I have managed to take and upload some additional pictures of my family's house, beach and dock here in Maine; these aren't as awesome as the sunset and fog ones, but they give a more practical idea of what the place looks like. Though I'm hoping for another day of fog amidst all these thunderstorms we're having; I want to get a really good shot of fog around the house itself. I'm not going to link the pictures here, since my connection is really slow, but they've been added to my public gallery for anyone who cares.

In other news, while shopping at a local grocery for pie filling materials, I ran into a stockboy who goes to Earlham; we rode the airport shuttle together last year. I don't really know him (or even his name), but we recognized each other. Small world, eh?

And apologies to those just following this blog for game design purposes; I promise I'll write something gaming-related soon!

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Smile)
According to this Wired article, which I have not yet bothered to look into further, scientists have located microbes that live at such a slow rate they resemble dead creatures more than they resemble living ones. Apparently, they look like bacteria in the same vein as E. coli, but they metabolize and breed at such a slow pace that they might as well not be doing it at all, at least by comparison.

But that's not the best part. The best part is that these creatures "represent a thus-far untapped genetic repository for scientists looking for novel genes for changing metabolism, withstanding cold or synthesizing chemicals. "

Be it real life or Sci-Fi, the idea of genetically engineering humans into zombies---humans with extremely slow metabolisms and able to go without a lot of environmental/temperature control---isn't exactly a new one, but reading this article made me realize something. If a human could go with very little food, water, air, or temperature control for long periods of time, wouldn't they make an ideal slower-than-lightspeed extrasolar colonist?

Just a thought. I mean, zombie astronauts? And someday, zombie space pirates? Why WOULDN'T the UN fund these research programs?

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Tome)
Well, due to several setbacks (ranging from technological glitches that shouldn't bother me so much, to serious health issues for family members), I didn't manage to write more than a few hundred words yesterday, and today I've only added about another thousand. Fortunately, I've managed to complete the initial full draft of Chapter the First.

Though I am considering ditching the chapter structure. :-P

The current wordcount is ~5500. I've introduced two main characters, mentioned three more, begun to introduce the city of Cartholme and the world around it, and dusted foreshadowing and other background details liberally throughout. Microwave until done, or until it explodes like that pig-lizard in Galaxy Quest.

I don't feel the like the end of the chapter is as....good....as I'd like it to be, even for a first draft, but I'm tired, and I just feel like being able to declare the very first draft, in some way, complete. I think the rest of the evening is going to include less writing, but more reading and rewriting (woot for having a printer! I have a tendency to skim and skip parts when reading something on a computer screen).

Maybe I'll make myself some decaff coffee; I've had too much caffeine already to allow for a cup of chai at this point.

Also: Vista bothers me. Getting my own computer back will be wonderful.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

4000 Words

Jul. 7th, 2008 02:40 pm
rockwood: (Tome)
Well, things seem to be going fairly well so far. I've found that, as I mentioned before, it isn't too hard to keep going once I've sat down to write. I ground out about 3000 words yesterday (bringing my total to 4000), and thats despite the fact that I didn't start writing until 5:00 PM, and had breaks for dinner, cleanup, pacing, and making sure my grandma didn't die horribly when she tripped on her suitcase and fell, and started screaming (scary times, but all seems to be well, thankfully). I think the world has come together nicely; hopefully, though, my city of Cartholme won't be too confusing, with it's combination of steampunk-y elements from all across the 1800s jammed into one place.

Also---OMG GELATO! In an actual Italian presentation case, with bits of fruit on top of the tubs! In a coffeeshop with wi-fi access! Where I am right now!

Though after just a small one, I have to swear off ice cream, at least until I hit 10,000 words. Mmmm....gelato. I'll have to try the Blood Orange flavor next time.

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Smile)
Tooting my own horn a bit, here---fair warning!
Much to my surprise, the little play-by-post I'm running (a Call of Cthulhu mystery/horror adventure, entitled "You Can't Take it With You")  at PbP House (link to their 'what is this?' FAQ) attracted the notice of the moderators, who named my game this month's "High-Caliber PbP" winner!

The post I wrote, and their explanation of why it was selected, can be found at the bottom of this index page. It doesn't come with a cash reward, but I decided to take them at their word about the bragging rights and post here in a celebratory fashion. Considering that the mods, players, and GMs at PbPHouse are generally pretty skilled writers, I'm quite pleased I wrote something they thought was deserving of the mention.

By the way, the top of that index page also includes a pretty good explanation of what the site is. I highly recommend the place to anyone interested in play-by-post roleplaying---it's a good way to get in some games despite having little time to organize one in real life, and the people there are a fun crowd.

Blessed be,
~Nathan
rockwood: (Smile)
By all that is holy (and most other things too)! IT HAS ARRIVED!

I just got an awesome surprise: a copy of the Demon Hunters RPG core book arrived by FedEx not an hour ago. It is oh, so shiny...

First, thanks to the folks at MWP for sending one my way so quickly. Second, thanks to MWP and Dead Gentlemen Productions for making this project so awesome! I have to say, as much as I love Serenity and BSG, Demon Hunters was the most fun to write.

This post isn't meant to be a review---I'm kinda a biased source there---but on a basic level, this book looks, reads, and plays in style. A very particular, half-slapstick, half-serious style, but style nonetheless. The humor is great, and is consistent with the Demon Hunters universe; the rules are presented smoothly and with the benefit of having already worked out the hiccups that occurred in both the Serenity and BSG books (if I do say so myself); the collection of Traits is a thing of beauty; the layout is excellent; and, of course, there's the DVD of the Brotherhood Training Video....

This video was previewed at GenCon '07, but now includes even more goodies on the DVD, ready for printing and use. And, honestly, the video itself is worth the cost of the book.

I really should go about some other business, so I'll wrap up this post with one of my favorite quotes from the DHRPG rulebook. This comes from the section on the Mystic Arts, regarding casting spells faster than normal ('Cheating the Universe,' on page 95):

Instead of casting that spell properly, you can Cheat, with a capital "C." Essentially, by forcing extraneous eldritch power into the arcane matrix of the ritual-construct, you increase the rate at which---aww, hell, think about it this way. There's a baby with some candy inside a locked room with a glass door, right? You want the candy. You can either pick the lock, which is tedious and time consuming (casting the spell as a ritual), or you can wrap your jacket around your hand and punch the glass in (Cheating and speeding things up). Sure, you get cut up a bit, and maybe the baby turns out to be a face-eating demonspawn in disguise (botching), but otherwise you have the candy. Mmm, delicious, analogical candy.
Seriously, check the book out! And if you want to chat with other folk about it, or ask any questions, you can either post here or go to the CortexSystemRPG forums for a different perspective.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

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