Character Aging in First Edition AD&D #ADnD #DnD #RPG #biology

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I’m going to take you down the same rabbit hole my mind entered while gradually waking up one recent morning. Most (if not all) gamers have encountered those online quizzes that tell you what D&D class you are in real life. I’ve always been of the mindset that I’m probably best characterized as a monk. I’ve trained a lot in the martial arts, starting when I was 14 (almost four decades ago), and every online alignment test has pegged me as lawful good or lawful neutral (very heavy on law). All of that checks out, which is unsurprising considering I’m answering the questions about myself (which means my biases must creep in). I feel like I might be a bad monk because I wouldn’t consider my Wisdom score my maximum, but that’s my skill set. Of course, you have to suspend some disbelief here either way. We’re translating classes into a real world that doesn’t enjoy the effects of magic.

But even considering that translation, what concerned me the most is that, while my knowledge of that hobby continues to improve, my body can’t keep up. I’m old, and that’s no small matter. Everything is always injured. Usually, it’s just a strain or something like that, but at times I’ve had to take weeks off to recover, even having had my first surgery ever at age 51 a couple years ago.

Aging in 1e

All of that got me thinking about how much I like the aging rules from page 13 of the 1e DMG, but not the aging rules from page 12. On the one hand, I like the idea that characters’ ability scores change as they age. It’s yet another tool that promotes immersion in the game world, and anyone who’s read this blog knows how much I prefer that play style. On the other hand, I don’t like that age is determined randomly. These two positions create a tension. Players can game the system, setting, for example, a cleric as age, mature, to boost Strength and Wisdom by 1 with no downside. In fact, other than a magic user or illusionist who’d likely go with middle aged, what character wouldn’t benefit from that?

If the DM has draconian character creation guidelines (e.g., 3d6 assigned in order, or even slightly better ones), the characters are sometimes going to have some terrible scores, and if the scores can’t be assigned out of order, perhaps scores that prohibit playing the class the player wants to play. In such a situation, gaming the system may make an unplayable character playable, so it’s not a bad thing after all. However, in my game world, the characters will roll 4d6 dropping the lowest, and assigning in whatever order they want, so the danger of overpowered characters is greater.

Because I don’t want their ages rolled randomly, I’ll probably require that the scores as rolled stay as they are, but perhaps create my own schedule of ability score changes due to aging. I’ve noticed that imbalance in minor things like this often go unnoticed by game designers, resulting in design elements with either a benefit or a drawback, but not both (c.f., the 4e Invoker’s own powers always harming itself without any extra harm delivered to its target). No matter what I do, I’ll keep this 1e DMG rule on page 13: “The only ability which may exceed 18 due to age effects (unless age restricts this) is wisdom.”

A few days after writing this post, MerricB tweeted something relevant:

Which I’m only now publishing. I’m way ahead of schedule.

I don’t have any problem with optimism, but this is a game system, so gains in Wisdom should be accompanied by losses elsewhere, even if they make just as little sense as a rule.

Who says I don’t have an 18 Constitution?

If you’ve had a different experience from what I suggest here, please share your thoughts.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Monster Taxonomy #DnD #RPG #biology

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Okay, I know. I went to Vegas, and you don’t care. Fine. Back to 1e AD&D.

My friend and I are developing a game system. It’s unlikely it’ll ever see the commercial light of day, but it constantly keeps me thinking about what I like and dislike about game design. I had an idea that’s apparently not novel (I’ve never even read Shadowrun, let alone played it), and it was brought up a couple of weeks ago on Facebook: Monster taxonomy.

See the source image

Obviously, I think it’s a fun idea. Despite someone complaining that the mere discussion of monster taxonomy was stifling creativity and story, the only use for developing taxonomy is creative in nature, producing a story element with no real mechanical effect. All taxonomy would do (at least as I envision it) is tell the player how closely related two species are. Are elves homo sapiens dryadalis (a subspecies of human), or are they something like dryadalis sapiens (in an entirely different genus from humans)? This would depend on your origin story for each species. Matching the nomenclature with the origin story can be clever and fun, but as a story element, players and GMs that disagree could completely ignore it.

And that was today’s lesson on how to take something nerdy and make it even nerdier.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Vegas, 2021, Part 2 of 3: The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay #Vegas #travel

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Every year without a new pandemic, I go to Las Vegas for blackjack. They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that’s not really a problem for me. I usually don’t even drink when I’m there. This year was a little different, but still not worth hiding anything. These posts are an assortment of photos and videos from the Vegas Strip. Most of the videos are from an aquarium I visited. The images are pretty big, so if you blow them up, you should still get good resolution.

I always stay and gamble at MGM properties. My credit card doesn’t get me gas credits or airline miles; it gets me gambling comps, so everything but tips are paid for because I paid my car insurance bill, got gas, or bought food at the grocery store. The comps really add up, so I use that card for everything I possibly can. I started the trip with $1,327 in available comps ($200 added just for reserving the room, so you can get those), and that was before I sat down at a blackjack table to gamble.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

Shark Reef

Normally, I don’t do much more than eat, sleep, and gamble, but I added this stop to my itinerary on Wednesday. Here are a bunch of pictures and videos presented in the order I took them (to the best of my recollection). There’s a small bit of commentary, but these are mostly just for your viewing pleasure.

Gator? Caiman? I didn’t read the placard.

This next one freaked me out. Mostly, he kept his eyes closed but occasionally opened them. I caught him with eyes opened. Seemed annoyed.

Komodo Dragon

This one was just weird looking. I thought it looked prehistoric, so it was worth a photo.

Next up is the touch pool. You’re permitted to reach into the water (maybe 1-1/2 feet deep) and, using only your index finger, lightly stroke the rays or horseshoe crabs. These were clearly juveniles based on size.

This guy was gooey.

At this point, I realized I should be taking videos rather than taking pictures.

Why haven’t these turtles been eaten?

What the hell is the evolutionary basis for developing a saw-like appendage?

What the hell is the evolutionary basis for developing a hammer-like snout?

Tomorrow, the entire post will be dedicated to a single locale: The Millennium Fandom.

I love Vegas.

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Why Explore Space? @tweetsauce #math #space #biology

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Vsauce had once again popped into my stream, but this time I’m not sharing this video for its primary theme. I point you to the end; specifically the 17:41 mark.

To summarize, as neanderthals grew in numbers, they moved outward but always stopped when they reached a significant geographical barrier, such as an ocean, sea, or mountain range. Homo sapiens seems to have seen such barriers as challenges, so we pushed forward.

My favorite quote is often attributed to the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, but he got it from Calvin Coolidge. It’s relevant here and #1 on this list.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

So, what’s the point? Many have asked why space travel is worth the expense in such trying economic times. Most scientist give a terrible answer, reducing our need to explore to a mere psychological curiosity. Here’s the better answer: It’s because our persistence and need to explore is our best means of survival. An easy way to think about this is that our population and individual gluttony continue to grow, but our planet’s space and resources don’t. The barrier we face in dealing with this problem is far more imposing than any ocean, and focusing on our gluttony (as so many do) will only delay the inevitable. Evolution always requires that we are in a constant state of pushing forward, and that means addressing colonization of space sooner rather than later. Press on!

Don’t be a neanderthal.

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How Many Holes Does a Human Have? @tweetsauce #math #topology #biology

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Vsauce asks the most ridiculous questions, but in doing so addresses some great science.

I studied a little bit of topology in Calculus III and did fairly well in the class, but that was a long time ago, and it was never really my thing.

I am a seven-holed doughnut.

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Good Watch: My Octopus Teacher @Netflix #GoodWatch #nature #ocean #octopus

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The plural of octopus is octopuses. It’s a pseudo-Latin word, which means it was a word made up to sound like it was Latin, but it’s really English.

Wait. That’s not what this post is about.

A Facebook conversation between Kessel Junkie, Jason (Facebook friend), and I led to a discussion of octophilia (is that a thing?), which in turn led to a recommendation of My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. I gave it a watch. The bad news is that this documentary is narrated by a guy whose voice is completely monotone. There’s no inflection in it, even when he’s upset. Make sure to have a cup of coffee or some Mountain Dew handy. Even just 90 minutes of that voice could put you to sleep.

The good news is that this is a neat story of how this guy found and kept track of a skittish, female octopus (as Jason put it, he became an “underwater ranger”), then convinced it that he wasn’t a threat. He chronicled the relationship and the life of this octopus over the course of about a year, and how that relationship changed him.

But to answer the film-maker’s burning question is: Yes, it was your fault. You were no longer studying behavior; you were forming a relationship. You wouldn’t allow your cat or dog to be injured, would you, dipshit?

If you’re at all into nature and can somehow stay awake through this guy’s droning, you may, like I, find this to be interesting. As always, YMMV.

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Turning 50: Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes #happybirthday

One Year Later!

This past year has been a great ride. A collection of small and not-so-small things inspired me to make some changes in my life. I don’t like discussing it, but many people have credited me with inspiring them to make changes, so here I go again.

On May 21, 2017, I weighed 303 pounds. I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, a B12 deficiency, and developed osteoarthritis in my hip. All of that sucked, but it didn’t inspire me to make any changes. What ultimately put me over the top was the burden I had become on society, and more severely on my friends. My gluttony and sloth were affecting others, and that wasn’t fair.

So, on May 22, I stopped drinking anything but water (occasionally with a bit of lemon or lime juice for flavor, but usually by itself). On June 5, I dropped my daily carb count to 70-75 grams per day and eliminated all but trace amounts of sugar from my diet. Everything that I eat has one of three things on the label: “0 g sugar,” “<1 g sugar,” or “not a significant source of sugars.” If it says 1 g of sugar, I won’t eat it. I don’t eat even onions and peppers because they have a higher natural sugar content then other vegetable options (spinach is your friend). To get me started, my first meal was at Wildfire in Tysons Corner. I had filet mignon and broccoli with lemon juice. Nothing wrong with that. When I had carb cravings, which happened a lot, I’d cook up an entire pack of bacon and eat that as an in-between-meals snack, and I’d still lose weight!

Note: If you have certain medical conditions, my diet won’t work for you. Also, if you’re only 20 pounds overweight, things won’t move as quickly as someone needing to lose 100 pounds. Consult a doctor if you have a genuine medical condition, but if you don’t have any genuine medical conditions, don’t pretend you do. Creating excuses will doom you from the start. This took dedication and persistence.

On July 6, I went back to my martial arts dojo and started working towards my 2nd degree black belt. In late September, I added weightlifting to my regimen, which is the first time in my life that I’ve regularly lifted weights. As my endurance improved, I started running. I do interval training, alternating between a jog speed (4.5 mph) and run speed (6.5 mph), but my goal is to regularly run at 7.5 (i.e., the fabled “8-minute mile”). Because of the workouts, I’ve actually had to force myself to eat 135 g of carbs per day and drink sugar-free Power Zero to replace potassium and sodium, but I never once faltered and resumed sugar intake.

My Results So Far

Today, I turn 50, and here are the results. I’ve lost 75 pounds. All of my numbers are great, and I have no persistent joint pain. I feel better physically, emotionally, and even mentally (i.e., no more B-12 deficiency causing vertigo, etc.). Don’t get me wrong. I’m 50. That means that lifting weights for the first time in my life can cause intense soreness. Even the very familiar martial arts has resulted in a badly-pulled hamstring and other assorted aches and pains. But that’s all temporary. If I give myself a little rest, it goes away, and then it’s back to the grind.

My Goals Going Forward

All I have is MS Paint. No Photoshop.









Okay, not quite. Here are the real goals: The aforementioned 8-minute mile and 2nd-degree black belt, another 8 pounds lost, but more importantly, everyone realizing that they can do the same thing. If you want to lose weight, start dieting right now, and then when you’re ready, start working out (preferably weights first, then cardio, but do whatever you enjoy more so that you’ll stick with it). If 50 isn’t too late, 40 sure isn’t, and neither is 30. The longer you wait, the more permanent damage you’ll do to yourself that will never be undone (I’ll spare you the gory details).

Get on it! If you have any questions or need a sounding board, let me know.

A special thanks to Ben Barr, champion of the First Amendment, whose post about a year ago gave me some good ideas.

The #Matrix: A Fan Theory That Changes Everything #science #computer #intelligence #emotion #startrek

I’ve have the Matrix movies playing in the background while I work on some trademark matters. I know that many people hated the second and third movies, Reloaded and Revolutions, and I wasn’t a big fan of them either. I find it annoying that no one in the movie can speak in a normal tone of voice, using either yelling or a whisper. No, that doesn’t make you sound cool. It makes you sound like a pretentious idiot who thinks he’s cool. However, I had to watch them again because I wanted to do so within the context of an interesting fan theory I learned by spending too much time reading

The theory goes like this: What you know as the Matrix is a computer simulation. That’s simple enough; no surprises there. What you know as the movie’s real world is also a computer simulation. The Matrix is a simulation within that outer simulation. What this means is that Zion is a computer simulation, and Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and all the other pretentious serial whisperers are computer programs. The reason for the existence of the layers is that the computer programs (i.e., Neo, Morpheus, etc.) are being trained to think like humans. They’re being taught to express love, to place the needs of others over themselves, and generally to govern their behavior by more than mere statistics. (Think of Will Smith’s monologue in the also-maligned I, Robot. He points out that a human being would have known to save the girl rather than him despite Will Smith being the statistically-correct choice.) The fan theory also explains Neo’s superman powers outside the Matrix. If the “real world” is just another computer simulation, then it’s explainable that a blinded Neo can see the machines, that Neo can affect them with his powers, and that Agent Smith was capable of “possessing” a “real world” character, Bane. Finally, this also explains that the trilogy didn’t really have an ending. Neo just won, not for some logical reason, but because … he just did. All the Agent Smiths just exploded because Neo … I don’t know … infected them? Well, who cares? No explanation for how that happened is necessary. It’s just important that he did. I guess the programs learned their lesson, so it was no longer necessary for there to be a war.

The theory has one downside I see: An anticlimactic ending. If what I’ve described is what was going on the whole time, then as the credits roll, you’ve got to be thinking, “So no one was ever in any danger? This whole thing was essentially an elaborate movie … to the characters _in_ the movie? Awwwwwww, shucks! I was apparently watching some nerd writing lines of programming code for six or seven hours.” On the other hand, that’s what you’re doing in real life anyway when you go to a movie, especially one like Megamind that’s nothing but computer animation.

While I didn’t need to watch several hours of the movie to appreciate the fan theory — I probably could have not watched it as all — it made the movies completely different films at least worthy of the rewatch. Neo, et al. the programs are learning hope, love, forgiveness, and many other things that machines currently can’t learn, but above all else going beyond one’s programming and exercising free will. Perhaps it’s only through “living” these experiences that the lessons can ever sink into artificial intelligence.

Or not. I’m no expert in artificial intelligence. It’s a neat theory, though, and one that makes for decent drama. Just ask Commander Data.

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