After wrestling with AT&T Friday night (where she was told that our “connectiods must have reset”), we got direct connection to the net back up, but the wireless routers still wouldn’t work. After a frustrating struggle on Saturday morning where the wireless setup still wasn’t working, Jennifer stumbled on some “AT&T only” advice from someone who’d gone through it themselves.

The trick was that instead of setting up the connection as PPoE (which it was), AT&T forces you to set it up as DHCP… and after the setup fails switch to PPoE. Somehow, it worked, and we have internet at home again.

The Armageddon Rag by George RR Martin

The Armagedon Rag was an interesting book, written in 1982. I picked it up because it was sympathetic to the boomers and I thought I’d look at the world from their point of view. It didn’t do much for my opinion of the boomers… though I enjoyed it somewhat as a book with solid characters.

The book has two halves; the first is a journalist’s investigation of a murder and a lot of cross country travel. Spots were good, but I was impatient through most of it. Near the middle the book twists and goes down an occult and music path. While the tension was more impressive in the second half, the plot was much less centered around the viewpoint character.

In the end, I had a collection of interesting characters [mostly boomers having problems adjusting to the end of their movement, selling out, etc.], an initial plot that was OK but slow, a trailing plot that was more removed, a brief moment of crazy, and a nice party with friends to end it. I don’t recommend it unless you’re presold on the power of music and nostaligia.

A quick note

Just a quick FYI; I spent most of last week (and all day Friday and Saturday) fighting off a nasty cough/fever– it looks like I’ve finally emerged victorious, though there’s a bit of a cough trying to linger. Meanwhile, for a little longer than that, we’ve had internet connectivity problems at home. Jennifer spent a lot of time (and even more patience) working with AT&T on Sunday, but their test didn’t find anything. It’s quite frustrating, and will be more so before we get it resolved.

Jennifer has done a great job taking care of me, but I’m eager to return to more normal life.

Communal Setting Building after the Apocolypse

From the mailing list‘s Morgan Ellis:

Here’s the Con Guide Blurb:
Eons ago the world was sundered in a great cataclysm, the cause of which can never now be known. Humanity’s civilization was cast in ruins. In its place lies The Shattered Earth! A world of savagery, mutation, super science, and sorcery. But a few heroes still fight for freedom and justice against the forces of evil in a world gone mad.

Since Mike brought up my setting creation here is the way that I do it. Firstly I have sheet of a few Macro Setting Aspects that can be tagged at any time, and as usual the first one is free. Since the Shattered Earth setting is based heavily on 70s Post-Apocalyptic comic books I really want to make sure that feel comes across in play.

Shattered Earth Universal Aspects:
-Comic Book Panels
-Splash Pages
-Kirby Dots
-Catch Phrases!
-World in Ruin
-Familiar made Fantastic

I start the game with opening the Shattered Earth comic book and seeing six panels one for each of the Player Characters. I go around the table and ask What does your character look like and how are they traveling across the Wasteland of Shattered Earth? Then there is a rise in the Wasteland landscape and as they come over the rise page is turned to reveal the first part of the Setting Creation:
The Monument So I ask the players to name a Monument or Landmark that might still be around hundreds or thousands of years after the Apocalypse. I only have two caveats No Statue of Liberty, it’s been done too many times already, and has to be something that someone from this time would be likely to recognize.

So the players shout out different Monuments, and one of them starts to stand out and the players get excited about it. On my Setting Sheet I have space for two Aspects for the Monument. Once the players and I agree on the Monument I write it down on the sheet. Then for the second aspect I ask what is Post-Apocalyptic about the Monument. The players again throw out stuff and when a cool Post-Apocalyptic Aspect is agreed on then it gets written down. Presto two more Setting Aspects. Once the Monument’s been decided next up is:
The Menace Two more spaces for Aspects defining the danger that surrounds the Monument. I as the players what the Menace should be and usually it flows from the location, and post-apocalyptic nature of the Monument. For instance the Lincoln Memorial and the Swamp Delta that had flooded Washington DC, had the Pirates of the Potomac and Underground Cult as the Menace. The ready to launch Space Needle in the Emerald Jungle of Seattle, had Starbuck the Seattle Warlord and his Highly Caffeinated Super Soldiers. But it can be as simple and generic as something like Cannibal Mutant Raiders. Once the Menace has been created and the next step is:
The McGuffin This is the reason the Player Characters are traveling to the Monument and/or what they’re likely to find when they get there. Free the Slaves, learn the Teachings of a Wise Prophet, find the Solar Scepter, discover an Ancient Cache of Knowledge, or some Forgotten Technology. All of these can be one of the two McGuffin Aspects. Mainly it gives
the players something to focus on besides just beating up on the Menace.

The last six Aspects are the for the Environment and Post Apocalyptic Touches. These are Setting Aspects that help to define additional parts of the game. Environment Aspects are things like strange monsters, mutated flora and fauna, and other hazards of the Shattered Earth. While the Post-Apocalyptic Touches are all about injecting all those strange and wonderful possibilities into the setting.

Once it’s all done I’ve got a sheet of 18 Setting Aspects for that particular game of Spirit of the Shattered Earth, and the location and basic outline of a game and all the Post Apocalyptic madness I can handle. The best part is that almost of it comes straight from the players.

Followed up later with:
How do Universal Aspects work differently from regular aspects though? Are they like aspects anyone can tag or anyone can be compelled for?

Yep they’re just Aspects that anyone can tag or compel, but they’re specifically for that game and the setting rather then for a character. I leave the filled in Setting Sheet right there on the table, those aspects are free for anyone to use, then once they’ve been used I put a check next to them, after that it costs a fate point to tag them.

Probably the best way to think of them is as the Aspects for the Shattered Earth Comic Book Series and for that particular Issue or Game session. If you think of them in terms of Pulp Novels and Movies; Universal/Setting Aspects are the things that will likely show up in a given Pulp Series, and for that Novel/Movie/ etc. in particular.

For instance the Indiana Jones series might have ‘Redline Airways’ as a Setting Aspect to explain the travel sequences where a red line travels across a sepia toned map with superimposed images of various planes and other modes of travel to get the heroes from point A to far off exotic point B.

The Consciousness Plague by Paul Levinson

An interesting blend of elements, and evidently the fourth book starring Phil D’Amato. [Another review calls it book 2; it sounds like this is the first full novel following a collection of short stories.] It feels like a detective story much of the time; Phil is trying to find a serial killer and his bosses are on him to produce the killer. The other half of the book, however, is an interesting complication (memory loss, possibly drug or disease induced), which twines into the serial killer plot in interesting ways.

Phil travels a lot for his job– to Scotland, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which surprised me given that he’s an NYC detective. Along the way he interacts with a number of interesting people– thrown at him from both sides of the case. The memory subplot is clearly the heart of the story, with interesting characters and conundrums, and a lot of information passed to the reader about the structure of the brain, bacteria communication, and more.

The end is satisfying and properly links up the plots; while victory is secured, it’s not a white hatted hero who makes it all come together. The shifting alliances and trust are interesting throughout. I liked his girlfriend, but her depth seems to depend on earlier stories– while I liked her, she didn’t pop the way other characters did.

Next Game: Friday September 26th

I think everyone is available on Friday– if you’re not available, please let me know! Otherwise, let’s look forward to gaming. Since you decoded the book, it looks like your choices are somewhat clear. We’ll start with your conversation with the Chancellor and see which March Lord he’d like to blame…


Reign is an interesting system by Greg Stolze. It’s a fantasy variant of the system underlying Godlike and typically involved rolling pools of d10 and looking for matches. In general, there are two things you’re looking for with those matches– more matches is good [and reflects skill], high numbers on the matching dice indicates luck, and tends to act as a tie breaker. (Though combat has some interesting quirks, where the number on the die indicates his location.)

Die pools are enhanced with specialty dice with specific functions, some pools act differently than others [blocks, dodges, parries, and other defensive maneuvers are “gobble dice” with different rules], and so on. The basic rules look a little complex on paper, but will probably be second nature by the end of the first session. Many additional rules are included from advanced combat to special abilities (that reduce the cost of maneuvers, provide new options, or otherwise tweak the rules for a narrow application– including magic).

The world is interesting– rather than high or low magic, it’s a more firmly mythical world. The continents are literally the bodies of sleeping gods [see the reign page animation], magic is narrow and tightly coupled to the history of specific cultures, etc. A cool thing is that he’s put out several supplements, not quite for free, but using the Ransom model.

There is some errata, but it’s actually pretty light (a few typos, some page number references are incorrect), and the slight errata does a good job of clarifying the errors. (Evidently the corrections were made before the softcover was printed, so it should have even fewer errors.)

An important element is that the game is setup for the PCs to be tied to their communities (somewhat like Aria), and typically the PCs are leaders or participants in various organizations [called companies throughout]. The intended scope of companies is huge– from gangs fighting for over control of a district to Empires competing. The scale looks too compressed, but I haven’t playtested it– the proof’s in the pudding. I’m interested to see how well they integrate– Birthright, mass combat rules and the like have taken a stab at this before– but they typically separate the individual and political scale events so you’re playing two linked games. It’ll be interesting to see if Reign overcomes that, or if it also plays out as two lightly linked games. I’d be happy to play and find out!

N Space by Larry Niven

A mix of novel excerpts, short stories, new short stories in the worlds of his novels, and blog like things– Niven’s Laws, Superman’s reproductive challenges, and other random musings. Most stories begin with a page or so discussion about how the story came about, what his life was like when he wrote it, or similar. This is a reread– I have no idea when I last read this book.

I half remembered several of the stories; I remembered Cloak of Anarchy and was happy to get a chance to revisit it. In general I liked the short stories, disliked the novel excerpts, and found the blog like elements interesting but easily forgotten. As I was reading it, I found it easy to pick up several other books in the middle– a particular hazard faced by a book of short stories.

Overall I recommend this as a library book– check it out, skip over any story that doesn’t grab you by page 2, and enjoy the great nuggets scattered among the remainder.

Stuff and things

Chris’s landlord experience makes me suspect this is true.

A comic Dad will appreciate: Dog washing, and a gloomy story lost in the convention coverage: crackdown and intimidation of protesters, the reporters speak.

I guess it’s time to dress this place up. Thanks for linking to it Chris! 100 Excellent Free WordPress Themes
Zombie cinema, an RPG like board game?
A cool tick icon

On wanting friends close; she captures it perfectly.
Streetcars: what they do and what we wish they did.
If we plan on traveling to England, this post has a lot of advice.

Sarah McLachlan is putting out two new songs. U want me 2, sold via Netwerk or itunes.
Don’t Give Up On Us
is coming soon
River is one I don’t recognize and should investigate…

Obama’s legislative accomplishments, if you’re curious or have bought the “he’s an empty shirt” attack.