Posts from 6th October 2004

Oct 04


Blog 7Post a comment • 720 views

The fear of being helpless in the face of your own rapidly approaching demise is already becoming a recurring theme of this list. Usually though, there’s a malicious influence involved somewhere, a giant maneating lizard or an axe murderer, for example. As all FT readers who have ever been up to their neck in quicksand will agree, in this case the real killer is the knowledge that the situation is entirely your fault.

Quicksand is pure stealth danger. It looks exactly like normal sand, but putting a foot wrong will see you sinking inexorably towards your doom. Its also psychological torture – there’s no pain involved in quicksand death until the fatal moment when your head goes under. The real horror lies in the knowledge of what is ahead, the slow sinking feeling (the slower the scarier, natch), the fading hope of rescue from a passer-by, friendly elephant or swooping bird of prey. And the prospect of encountering the remains of another foolhardy explorer just as you slip below the surface.

Experts say that if you do find yourself trapped in quicksand, on no account should you struggle, make rapid movements or otherwise try and extricate yourself – that will only cause you to sink faster. This is a bit like advising people to run in zigzags to escape a crocodile or stand perfectly still when faced with a grizzly bear. Frankly, it requires admirable presence of mind in a life-threatening situation.

And if the sand itself doesn’t get you, the noxious gases or circling vultures will have a good go. Glug.

Jet + Girls Aloud = Luv

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 1,274 views

Jet + Girls Aloud = Luv: It’s like Lionel Vinyl read my mind!

Real People wanted

Do You SeePost a comment • 346 views

Real People wanted

Upcoming opportunities to get on telly in misguided belief that fame and fortune awaits? Or at least, that’s the sell, it seems to me. Do people beleive it? Do people not just go for a laugh or for a good day out (especially if they are from the North of England). I have no idea, but hope it is; a nation of crap-fame-junkies is worse than Zombies.

I Was A Goblin: My Favourite AD&D Rules

TMFD9 comments • 5,866 views

(Caution: not for the softcore)

gnoll Alignment: AD&D employed a notorious form of psychometric profiling, the Alignment System, whereby every living thing’s personality could be summarised by a phrase like “Lawful Neutral” or “Chaotic Good”. The two axes of alignment dealt with reaction to authority and moral outlook: these were Gary Gygax’s only concession to the idea that characters should have a personality. Absurdly, each of the nine alignments had its own language which only similar people could understand – various glosses tried to explain this idea, settling on the notion that “alignment language” was sort of like body language. Bad people, in other words, smile less.

Hit Points: HP are now such an accepted part of computer gaming that it’s odd to remember how disliked the system was in the 80s roleplaying era. The problem in AD&D was that while a character’s hit points rose with experience, the capacity of weapons to do damage stayed pretty constant. The implications were that a higer-level mage wearing only a robe, for instance, could survive several maximum-damage blows with a broadsword which would immediately kill a lower-level character wearing full armour. This made it very difficult for the referee to actually describe what was happening in combat. “You are hit with a crossbow bolt. No ill effects though.” Again, exegeses of these rules were common: one idea was that only the last 10 or so ‘hit points’ were real, the rest represented a character’s luck gradually running out in a fight. (There was also another rule whereby your HP could go down to -10 before you actually died, or something. Nobody used it.)

Economics: The unit of currency in AD&D was the gold piece. There were also silver pieces, worth 1/10 of a gold; copper pieces worth 1/10 of a silver, and platinum pieces. Worth 10 times a gold piece, you’d think? No. Five times. And then there was the electrum piece, worth half a gold piece. All these different coins were accepted without question anywhere in an AD&D world – who minted the coins, and how this oddly complex five-tiered system had evolved, and why the electrum piece even existed other than to show that Gary Gygax knew the word “electrum”… these questions were left to the individual referee’s discretion.

Greed Is Good: You could get experience points in two ways in AD&D. If you killed a monster, you got some XP. And you got 1 XP for every gold piece you found. I am pretty sure you had to find them – you couldn’t just bank them and grow powerful from the interest. But on the other hand it was also implied you had to actually get the things home, just seeing and planting a metaphorical flag on the treasure wasn’t enough. Why did having gold improve your fighting or magic skills? Don’t ask that. The general thinking was that the experience-for-gold trade-off represented a boost from completing a particular mission, and most adventures were designed to follow this logic, with the big pay-off at the end. The obvious solution – of just giving XP based on how well an adventure went – was forbidden by Gygax, though nearly every ref just ignored him.

Encumbrance: The gold-as-XP logic of the AD&D gameworld meant that characters would routinely be faced with the problem of getting several tons of cash from place to place. The rulebooks were quiet on the logistics of this, but did include an extensive ‘encumbrance system’ to simulate the effects of excess weight on movement and combat. Of all tables in the AD&D rules the Encumbrance Tables were the most widely ignored* – referees quickly worked out that even trying to take them seriously would render characters completely immobile.

*actually, no, the Armor Class Modifier Tables were the most ignored, but of them we need not speak.

Oh no not again

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 301 views

Oh no not again: people can grumble all they like about cinema adaptations of books but they are entirely harmless compared to the time-wasting chasm of ineptitude that is comics adapted from books or plays. I remember the ‘good old days’ before Graphic Novels when the only comic you could find in a bookshop would be a version of Hamlet drawn by an inebriate monkey and heavy on the fight scenes. I also remember the staggeringly boring and static adaptation of The Hobbit that was a ‘hot title’ back in the late 80s and read like someone annotating a Tolkien calendar.

I’m not quite sure exactly why prose-into-comics are generally so dire but something about the storytelling styles doesn’t mesh. Plays-into-comics rubbishosity is more easily explained – the physical action of a play is necessarily smaller scale and that can make for drab storytelling. Anyway now we find good money being thrown after bad by poor old Penguin Books who promise a “manga version of Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

“I only read it for the constitutional debate”

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 288 views

“I only read it for the constitutional debate”: best thing about this story is the name of the German erotic magazine in question.


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 362 views

Was this the world’s first MP3 blog? I rather think it was. A regular on the NYLPM sidebar years ago, I was reminded of Euroranch during a conversation with the charming Mr Woebot last night. It used to have a separate and very enthusiastic downloadables blog as far back as 2000, now incorporated in the main site. I’m delighted to see that it’s survived for half a decade now despite having a name like a fisting club.

The Bestest Player in the Whole Wide World Ever!

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The Bestest Player in the Whole Wide World Ever!

FIFA’s annual popularity contest nears conclusion. The list is here, and FIFA’s news story on the list is worth a post of itself. The event will be imbued with a ‘Uuique tone’. Crivens – maybe they’ll have something that isn’t a corporate cockfarmer fest for a change. And Uncle Sepp’s minions must have been on something particvularly potent to come up with ‘but its singularity will not be limited to the elements of time and place.’ Goodness.

On to the list; note the prescese of 6 players who played for Real Madrid, even though it was the worst season they’d had in a long, long time. In which Zidane admits he’s playing worse now than he was two years ago. Where everyone agrees that Raul had a stinker of a year, and Beckham stopped playing after Christmas.

That list will go into international managers and captains, who vote for their top 3 players; as these managers come from all over the world, the list will tend to celebrity TV players rather than players who have played well, but you have to have watched them all season to realise how well. I remember someone from a South Pacific Island voted for Andy Cole one year, which was as touching as it was ludicrous.

For what it’s worth (very little obv), my tip would be Tegs Henry, followed by Chris Rockaldinho and Wayne Rooney bringing up the rear.

This mornings epic battle of Dave Boyle vs Victoria Derbyshire on Five Live

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This mornings epic battle of Dave Boyle vs Victoria Derbyshire on Five Live was foiled mainly by London traffic (we assume). Nevertheless if argument success is based on the amount the host flirts with the guest, then Dave won hands down. To be fair it was not as if the audience were particular combative. In Five Live’s way the argument was pushed to say that “Money Has Saved Football”, which was to reductive to be believed. Boyler got the best line in anyway, in the obvious but un-fivelivelike non-contentious suggestion that money had not made football better or worse, just different.

Forwards, ever forwards?

TMFDPost a comment • 314 views

Forwards, ever forwards?

Loyalty of football fans not beyond breaking point, he said, expectantly wanting the backlash to start.

There’s one school of though that view that on one side there are ‘others’ and on the other there are ‘fans’ and that the ‘fans’ are a homogenous group met by the evil diabolical machinations of the others (players, owners, leagues, FAs etc). I just can’t see how such a view is tenable. The sad fact is that awful, crooked, bent and downright thuggish owners have been tolerated by fans of those clubs as long as success appeared on the agenda. Fans have supported bans of away supporters from grounds. Fans have supported the banning of fellow supporters, siding with owners who have been criticised by those banned fans.

There’s a wider issue, I think, for the supporters movement to grasp hold of though. Ultimately, the reason bent owners survive, the reason too many clubs spend for tomorrow’s income and not today’s, and the reason people moan about players yet continue to play their wages, is that the majority of fans wish it so.

We can blame poor regulation, and we can blame others, but until we also accept the fact that we – fans, that is – allow these things to happen too. We’re not not children who have things done to us – we’re adults who make choices. Some of us get involved, make a difference, try to change minds. Others choose not to, to turn up, sit down and get behind the team, and tell these politcos going on about shares and ownership of the club and board meetings to shut up. They’re fans too, and if they didn’t do what they did, the owners and authorities who have acted against the interests of fans and the game couldn’t have gotten away with it. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. So don’t be scared. When the situation demands, go forth and call your fellow fans idiots.