Posts Tagged ‘ stuff ’

“You’re not Ron.” DH P.1 (SPOILERS)

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Just watched Deathly Hallows P.1

Great stuff through out.

Other have commented on it so I’ll just pick two moments that made it special for me.

1. The dance: I felt a little awkward with that tacked on scene between Harry and Hermione, but the two of them pulled it off. You know Harry just wants to cheer up Hermione who is depressed about Ron leaving them (and leaving her). But when it is over, she looks at him and simply turns around as if to say, “You’re not Ron.”

BAAM GO THE SHIPPERS!

2. The Tale of the Two Brothers: Holy Heck! My jaw just dropped to the floor. The animation, top notch, it had one part old fairy tale (the really creepy versions before the Brother’s Grimm/Disney clean them up), two part puppetry and three part eye candy. Simple and sublime.

As an added note: I liked the “zip-me up” moment. Yes, not like it happens on the book, but funny enough with the ear less twin thrown in for good measure. The folks at Potter Cast say it was awkward, but considering that the relationship got such a short drift in Mov 6, that the characters simply had their relationship interrupted before they could get comfortable with each other.

Plus it ended right where I knew it would end, or at least a moment after. I knew that Shell Cottage was the perfect midway point after Dobby (sorry, I have something in my eye), but they added the last bit with Voldy just to remind us that this is far from over.

Just my two cents!

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Listening to Telepopmusik-Don’t Look Back:

Book Review: The Honor of the Queen

The Honor of the Queen is the second book in the Honor Harrington series. It carries the tradition of strong narrative with a great main character at the center of the action. Fresh from her victory in Basilisk Station, Honor is sent to escort a diplomatic delegation from the Kingdom of Maticore to the planet Grayson.

One problem, Honor is a woman.

Grayson is a heaven for misogynistic Mormon-Expys.

And the population of are considered social moderates compared to their exiled brethren from Masasa, whose sole mission in life is to bring the “apostates” to heal by any means necessary (they have used nukes in the past, yeah they are that kind of folks) including allying themselves with the Republic of Heaven, Manticore’s sworn enemy so they can get the necessary tech to beat the Graysonites to submission.

This is a typical “Cold War” scenario where in two great powers, on the verge of war, manipulate local politics to their advantage.  In essence is a repeat of the plot of the first book, On Basilisk Station, but with less infodumps and some new wrinkles that keep the situation fresh enough to be enjoyable.

But certain problems crop up:

  • Orientalism: I get that these cultures don’t measure up to the standards of either Heaven or Manticore (their extreme misogyny being a key point of contention between each side and their would be allies), and while Grayson comes of the better with their intention to learn and change their ways (to match their new Heaven protectors) they still need pried open by through Honor’s near heroic sacrifice. Then and only then (and with their Axe Crazy/Religious Fanatic enemies) at their door will they support whatever the Manticorians offer (in good faith of course). Of course the Massadans, well….
  • Complete Monsters: The Masadans are the epitome of religious fanaticism. Use of extreme measures like nuking a planet-check, torture of prisoners in the most vile way possible-check, no deviation (with screening, frothing at the mouth and crazy fascist speech thrown in for good measure) from their divinely ordained mission even though they would be better off letting their neighbors live in peace-check.  Except for one sane man among them, all are complete bastards with no redeeming qualities, which leads me to my third and final point…..
  • Strawman Political: And how! Anyone that skews to one side of the political divide or another is seen as either a fool or a dangerous extremist. Only those who agree with Honor’s point of view are safe from this. Particularly bad with the character of Houseman, who while making some good points in the beginning, but his utter cowardice later on undercuts him completely and even leads to a near-no holds bar beat down from our resident Amazon/Tactical Genius.  Not that people like that don’t exists, but it seems that the character exists only for the author to prove a point, mainly that college educated liberals are sissies.

These things might annoy some readers enough to make them walk away from the books, but the action is so fast and intense, the main character so likable, and the situation so desperate, that it you can blow through these. In his defense, the Havenites do not come off as complete idiots or inhumane and the Manticorians are not perfect, even if they are the chosen good guys, so it seems that the author is aware of issues.

Overall, the book is entertaining, engrossing and well worth it.

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And now for some music:

Back in the saddle again

Yep, I’m back inside the electronic womb of Azeroth, the land of electronic milk and megabyte honey. One of million slaying beasts, exploring dungeons and collecting bear asses (I kid you not!)  Still, the environments are enriching, the world is huge and colorful and the designers are always upgrading the experience which leads to a lot of complaints about nerfing, that is that which was once powerful (abilities) or hard to get (mount, special pets, etc) now it’s easy or underpowered. But I understand that you need to change things constantly, otherwise the game becomes stale. And even after five years you don’t need to invest in a AlienWare(tm) gaming rig to play the game.

Still, after awhile it becomes more of the same; the same quests, the same locations, the same objectives. I done the guild thing and the encounter thing. No high level dungeons, but then again, each expansion wipes out the thrill of legendary dungeons with more, over the top locations. Still pretty to look at, but as someone who enjoys solo play (and was once had a severe addiction to WoW), it has run its course. Now I’m back to visit, the way Scrooge visited his childhood home. Nice memories revisited, but I doubt I would pay to return.

Time to move on.

And talking about WoW based memories, here is an old one from days gone by:

What is it about Apple?

That makes it so popular?

Is it the stylish packaging that screams “buy me, I’m an Apple”?

Or the hip commercials that whisper “be unique, like everybody else”?

Could it be the slavish devotion of hundred of thousands of  Apple geeks which guarantee that the first run of each new shiny object of technology will be a success thus lowering subsequent prices due to the power of mass production?

Maybe it is Steve Jobs unique hippie genius that allows him to divine what people want the most but don’t really know until he hands it to them?

Or the “oh so easy to use that even your 98 year grandmother will be surfing the web before she is out the store door” interfaces with pretty graphics and intuitive performance?

The answer is: all of the above.

The wrong answer is: the price.

So is this one: cutting edge technology.

Once Apple was the domain of cheap home computers (Apple II series) but once the Mac hit the market, the prices, while not outrageous, they are certainly steep compared to the competition. And the tech you see in the iPhone, iPad or iPod is not cutting edge. Phones had touch screens, Windows™  based operating systems, text readers, or cameras or any one particular thing. The genius of Steve Jobs/Apple reside in the unique way the package/market their products. Macs look sleek and easy to use, iPod are fun for everyone, iPads are the new must have accessory. Add clever tie ins such as iTunes (buying music at .99$ did more for the iPod than the click wheel) and you have yourself not only a sales winner but a market conqueror (named the second to fourth most popular music players after the iPod, I bet you can’t even spell Zune and Sony Discman/Walkman don’t count).

Not that everything has gone according to plan. The Mac did not conquer the desktop market and it is even loosing some territory on the graphic artist area to PCs and tablets. While MacBooks may be the preferred portable computer of the trendy college student, yet for years Apple refused to even enter the market and a few Mac clones clawed out a miserable existence in a landscape dominated my their PC cousins.  But you can’t deny that Apple bounced back with a vengeance in the late 1990’s and has dominated key sectors of the pop culture driven consumer electronic markets (although the Apple TV ties, while interesting, did not take off). Their biggest rival is still Micro$oft who while having a barb-wire enclosed monopoly on the PC software market still can’t break out of the IBM PC office shell of it’s birth (except for the Xbox and even then when was the last time you heard someone say Microsoft’s Xbox in a complete sentence?).

In part it is because Apple knows marketing and knows that people will pay for products that do not overwhelm them with obscure operating systems that require you to take classes at CalTech just to turn on the damn thing. Apple products invite the user to explore them and customize them; it’s your games, your music, your graphics, not someone else. They also know the fine balance between standing on the ledge of pop culture trends while blending in into the ubiquitous fabric of everyday life.

And as long as Apple can maintain that balance, the kids will be alright!

Things I learned about RPGs over the years.

 

I’ve learned a few rules…why are you looking me like that? Okay, rules is a bit strong, if not inaccurate. Maybe lessons I picked up? Working suggestions? Useful bullet points? Whatever! Here is a list of things I sort of remember from my many years of playing RPGs and mastering a few (just a tad). In no particular order (other than the one given, like you really care either way)

1. Every gamer is a min-maxer: Each and every ONE OF THEM. Even the scrawny kid in the corner who is waiting for his thespian moment. Oh, woe it be to the Master who goes anywhere his one combo, stat or item he has hanged his characters hopes and fears on. Somebody called the waaaaaambulance please! Also known as “all players all whiny little children”.

Oh, a mirror, for me? Thank you! And don’t get me started on the munchkins . Yes, I have that mirror right here. Why do you ask?

2. Strip all publish adventures of treasure: Every single copper piece, +1 sword or other form of treasure must go. Then carefully build the treasure with all the misery love of a pre-Xmas Eve Ebenezer Scrooge. It is the only way to avoid Monty Hauling , which invariably leads to a dead campaign because the PC ascended to godhood by the end of the first encounter, or you drop a red dragon on their heads which leads to a TPK (Total Party Kill for you noobs!)

3. Don’t mess with the established monsters: Sure you can fiddle with them a little, but go too far and you will NEVER live down that one time, fifteen years ago when you decided to drop a “special” on them. Never…EVER!

4. When you utter the words, “Hey aren’t you playing X?” or “Here I have an NPC ready for you”, or “How about playing Y race cause I really need one in my game”, it translates in the players mind thus (Cue Admiral Akbar voice) “IT’S A TRAP!”

5. The Rule of Inverse Book Rule Carry: Lets say your current system has, oh I don’t know, 10 books so far (it’s just a number, yes I know they have like 30 out, or 177, just go with it, okay!). If you bring all 10, by the end of the night you will discover that you brought 9 to many. Bring only one and, of course, you brought 9 too few. Never fails.

6. The Inverse Square Rule of GM Loving/Slavish Detail: The more you time you spend on something, a weapon, an NPC or a map (or some such) the less likely the Players will care about it, react to it or bother to use it. However they will spend hours try to gang-bang the no name wench behind the bar, then once she gets knocked up they will want you to research (i.e. make shit up on the spot) the whole courtship/marriage ritual/ceremony whatever of the Old Kingdom of Aerdy just so they can slap a ring on the bitch and then leave her and her unborn child behind to loot another dungeon.

7. “You all meet at the local inn.” It’s old, cliched, kind of stupid and boring. It also FUCKING WORKS!

8. Ask for a character background, you may get a paragraph if you’re lucky. Ignore the player that handed you a freaking bible of a backstory and they will go on, and on, and on, and….yeah…..

9. As the GM is the master of time and space, which means if you give 3 days for the PCs to recover, hop across the planes, save their uber-wizard friend from the Pit of Hell and be back to face down the Apocalypse and the PCs say, “Not going to happen Bob”. Don’t be surprised if they didn’t also rescue Dorothy from Oz and reversed Global Warming while they were at it.

10. Celebrate PC ingenuity: If they found a cool way to kill your uber-monster of the week, reward them, don’t whine about how it was too easy. Also clever and unexpected solutions to problems (in and out of combat) are what players live for, so don’t be a spoil sport about it.

11. Oh and a final note, NO CLUE IS OBVIOUS FOR THE CLUELESS: What is obvious to you is not obvious to your players, remember rule #6.

NaNo Update: Things Coming Together and Blowing Apart

Now the story feels like it they are coming together. The key players are coming online and the action is moving forward. Still behind the curve at about 10k to 15k words but I can live with that as long as I keep writing. I’ll see how many more words I can produce before I hit the sack tonight.

Laging behind in NaNo

But I’m not done yet. Not by a long shot:

 

Yes, that is the NaNo counter widget. Forgot to include it in pasts NaNo posts. It’s up now.

Now back to work.