Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Saints Row 2 fans

One of the greatest parts of Saints Row 2 is that sometimes your character will badly sing along to the song on the radio. Here, for your pleasure, it is mashed up!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

There she is

I may have linked to these series videos in the past, but the series is finally completed. It starts off being nothing but fun then goes to a slightly more serious place for the conclusion. Enjoy


Moving house

So we moved house this weekend, from shiny flat to worn flat, from expensive flat to cheaper flat, from terrible shower to amazing shower. I'm willing to forgive our new flat a lot of ills (including INSECTS IN THE FRIDGE) thanks to the lovely shower, in which I can finally cover myself in water, rather than desperately pray for the morsels of water that the old shower used to dribble out.

The moving went rather well, thanks to the able assistance of several friends, apart from an unfortunate moment when we discovered that our able van driver's car had been clamped. Oh well, I had set aside 100 pounds for damage to the van, and instead spent it on a declamping.

The old flat is now clean and splendid, and all that is needed is to empty the million boxes sitting in our new flat. Incidentally, for anyone ever thinking of moving in December... for the love of god, don't do it!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Cheating as the gm

Depending on how you look at it, the gm cannot really cheat in a roleplaying game. Its their world, after all. However, its clear there are lines gms should not cross. Generally speaking it shouldn't be the gm's role to tell players how they act, unless said players are clearly using knowledge their character simply would have. Also, while some dice fudging might be allowed, the rules he's using should be the same as applied to the players. Or, if not, the rules are consistent (asymmetric rules between players and gms are not unheard of, but these do need to be clearly defined.)

What kind of dice fudging should be permitted? Ideally it should be avoided as much as possible, but I think sometimes should be allowed. While preventing your players from ever dying is not fun, its quite easy to accidentally throw an overwhelming encounter at your players by accident. In those circumstances it might be worth ignoring a couple of things. I've done this once or twice, but it is best to avoid, becuase players can't have accomplishments if you're holding their hands. Its also best to avoid fudging for anything other than the players favour, no matter what happens. If, for example, your swarm of unstoppable nurglings get taken down in two rounds of combat, then you just have to live with that, however implausible (between them the npcs rolled 4 ulrics furies....).


Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Another order of the stick forums related rant, its draw is inoxerable.

Cheating in competitive games is quite clearly wrong. You are basically playing a game according to a different rule set to everyone else. You are far more likely to win, and while this might be fun for you, you are setting out to take away the fun from everyone else. Strangely though, people will even cheat in roleplaying games.

Roleplaying games are largely co-operative games, yet it is fairly easy to cheat. I've seen some arguments around that this even might be ok. After all, no-one is competing. True, but when someone always suceeds, it becomes frustrating. A co-operative game isn't very good if one person is always doing better. I enjoy my characters having amusing epic failures, but this is less entertaining if another player is just doing all the work. I can live with random chance, and indeed want to it enliven the game I' playing- if I wanted to play without dice I'd do so. Without the possibility of failure, success becomes kind of pointless.

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Science and morality

A while back the government fired a scientific advisor. The reason? He was rightly suggesting the governments decision to move cannabis back to class B was ridiculous. Cannabis is a less dangerous drug than alcohol and cigarettes (arguably, this is also true of Ecstasy), and is not chemically addictive. Being at class C has not dramatically altered the usage, or led to a plague of schizophrenia. There is no justification for this other than to look tough. This is a clear case where the politic ans over rode scientific sense to appeal to tabloid sensibilities. There are certain issues that we refuse to look at sanely, and this is one of them.

So, can science inform morality? I believe so, yes. It cannot decide what is or isn't moral necessarily, but if we have a list of things we believe to be moral or moral, science may be able to decide what is. For example, we might consider it to be the governments responsibility to protect citizens, and in that case items which are shown to be dangerous with little benefit might be prohibited. The danger and benefits they present can be measured using science. For example, we know that wearing seat belts dramatically increases ones chance of walking away from a car wreck, and also can prevent you from killing someone else in the car.

A mistake, and one that has been made in this century, is to conflate scientific theories into moral codes. I'm thinking in particular of social Darwinism, which was considered by not only the Nazi party at the start of the century. It was an extension of Darwin's theories, but taken out of context. The fittest, as defined by natural selection, are merely those most fit to survive, but it was decided that humans could judge who this might be. The conclusions of such a program are disturbing, as it places disturbing amounts of power in the hands of the few. The notion that we are able to judge who is worthy of life and death is obviously incorrect.

The primary issue with social Darwinism is it is a strange conflation of ideas. It seems to be making the naturalistic fallacy, in believing that whatever happens in nature is what should happen, and then be happy to alter nature itself. Its such a disturbingly flawed concept, its quite surprising quite how many planned to do it.

We have the ability to perform such social darwinism even more efficiently these days, with the ability to look for genetic flaws, both in potential parents and children. There is a genuine question of whether we should employ this at all- there are congenital genetic defects that can cause massive suffering that it might be better to eliminate, but the question as to where we draw the line is a tough one. Science can help us here,to an extent, by quantifying how long someone with a particular illness might live, and how good their quality of life would be. Ultimately this is a question we do need to answer, although I'm not entirely sure how. I'd be tempted to err in favour of preserving life, because going too far in the other direction would have massive consequences. Once again, of course, once you start trying to eliminate these illneesses, you are leaving the judgment of human life in human hands.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Anatole Demidov

Ah, my dream has come true. About a month ago, I made some childish edits to this page. As of now, it is still in this state. Sadly, this page is not well read, so my evil genius is going under appreciated. Until I noticed that someone had fixed my section on Anatole Demidov... to fix a typo! I don't know whether she is in on the joke or not, but it is probably time to confess my most recent edit to wikipedia.

One day I might even make a constructive change...

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Monday, December 07, 2009


So we are moving house next week, and packing must be done. My methods are... somewhat more haphazard than my wife's, which can lead to consernation. I tend to assume that a box is firmly taped when that is nowhere near the case, which would undoubtedly lead to a box collapsing and maximum tragedy. I also like to fill boxes then realise I've put nothing but books in them and they are insanely heavy, to the point where I almost put my back out a week before moving by a foolish lift.

Of course, this is where Alice and I compliment each other. She is good at the practical things, and I'm good at making sarcastic comments and irritating people...


Friday, December 04, 2009

A bit of background(WFRP)

Mortis Venteri had always resented his father. The stinking alchohic had ruined his family's fortunes, and would continue to do so if nothing was done. Most would resort to simple murder, and perhaps thats what Mortis would have done if he had not found a book in the Sentis family library. Hidden from obvious sight, it detailed the.. darker histories of the family. Speaking of a snake demon that had brought the family to power.

Mortis became obsessed with this creature, and found out everything he could. In a stroke of fortune (and a considerable expenditure of the family's remaning wealth), he was able to piece together the daemon's true name. With that in his posession, he was able to bind the serpent into the plane, and make it do his will. The daemon was mostly powerless, and, of course, hated it. It got worse when the plague came, and Mortis used a nasty piece of magic to fight off the plague. Doing so robbed the daemon of most of its power, as it was forced to spend it protecting the hapless nobles of the Grafsmund.

It bided its time, knowing Mortis would eventually slip. Sure enough, no mortal was perfect, and the daemon's name was long, and hard to pronounce, so that mistakes slipped in. Not enough for the daemon to out right disobey Mortis, but enough to scheme. It had gathered much information, and saw a way to twist the fates enough such that it could be freed from the mortal plane. All it needed was some stooges...

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Alice and I have watched a lot of Friends in our time. Its on E4 more than big brother, and we even have the boxset. There are few episodes I haven't seen more than twice. I'm not entirely sure why. Its by no means the greatest sitcom of all time, its writing can often be weak, too soap operaish, and frequently redefines its characters to squeeze out a joke. So what does save it?

I think theres a comfortable nature to this show that draws me in, and a familiarity in the performances. As the show went on all the actors settled into the characters, and the writers got used to creating for them. While the writers would quite happily warp characters if necessary, they were usually relatively faithful. It was usually fun to watch them.

Apart, of course, for one character. Ross Gellar becomes more hateful with each episode. His performance becomes stupid, the writing becomes idiotic, and frankly when he suggested he might leave all the Friends in season 4 you find yourself rooting for it. He is a hideous, inhuman creation, who is not particularly well played by David Schwimmer. Of course when you have to suffer plots where you have whitened your teeth and apparently are unable to admit it, then thats whats going to happen. Add to that that the writers felt the need to keep the whole Ross and Rachel thing going for an insane amount of time, chickening out of pairing Rachel and Joey, a pairing that made more sense than that hateful couple.

The absurdity of the Ross and Rachel relationship was that they were together for a shorter period than some of the extras who joined the show, and yet we were meant to care about them. The final episode proclaimed that they were together finally, but really gave no evidence that this one would last, as the reasons for their break ups in the past was always something impressively stupid. Along the way the writers had accidentally sweetly partnered Chandler and Monica, who became far more interesting than the supposed cental relationship of the show.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Saints Row 2

Saints Row is a barely concealed rip off of GTA. Set in a large world, its based around following missions where you commit criminal activities, and if you get bored you can rampage round the open city. The difference is definitely in approaches. GTA, especially 4, has become more focused on story telling, and, for the most part, succeeded very well in telling a story about a character we cared about. There was some mild moral dissonance where you got the feeling that not all the writers always talked to you, but it was a fairly gripping story. Along with this came a system that was a lot more realistic, with defined characters, more real physics and a combat system that punished the gung ho attitude of former games.

Saints Row 2, however, is not going for realism at all. Its going for insane, over the top grandeur. Its going for a ridiculous plot, and a main character who is able to do ridiculous thing. You are able to sustain massive amounts of injuries in Saints Row, and you even regenerate your health. The cars fly around like toys, and the weapons selection is amazing. Its awesome fun, and feels like a massive improvement on GTA:San Andreas, taking many of the ideas from that and making them much better. For example, in San Andreas you could capture territory, but the mechanism was terrible- effectively you started shooting people then had to kill a gigantic army by yourself (who would usually run at you up the street from either side). It was more than a little stupid. Saints Row has the same idea, but makes the territory capturing into missions, rather than randomly generated bad guys. You still have to kill lots of enemies, but usually in environments that make sense, with clear objectives that make it feel a lot more purposeful.

You can also buy property, which is mercifully cheap, unlike San Andreas where you could only think about doing it much later in the game. The only flaw here is that the idea from Andreas, where money has to be collected, is re-iterated, and adds a tiresome part of repition to the game that doesn't feel necessary. At least all the money is in one place, rather than outside the property you purchased!

Is Saints Row 2 better than GTA4? I don't know, they're both terrific games, but each celebrate something different. I'm not convinced that SR2's open world is more fun than GTA4's, just different. The missions are certainly more interesting in SR2, and the number of distractions are astonishing, but the reality of GTA4 add an extra verve to the game. I suspect that if you like one, you'll like the other.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dollhouse- it gets better

If I watched the first season of Buffy now I imagine I wouldn't like it. It was hokey, the acting was a little poor, and the plot was uninteresting. So Joss Whedon has form (although the pilot two episodes are still excellent). It seems Dollhouse suffers from this. Having watched only three episodes so far, I am watching based mainly on potential.

While Target was generally thrilling, last night we watched Stage Fright, which was generally awful. The issue for me at the moment is who to root for. We can root for Echo, but she is passive (currently, there is evidence this will change), a creation of a rather nasty corporation. We can perhaps empathise with her handler a little, but he is, after all, a willing participant in an utterly abominable project. There is no gray here, it is pretty clear that the dollhouse is a hideous program, run by fairly hideous people with no respect for the lives they create and destroy. To be fair, the program acknowledges it. Its at its best when it does so- seeing the creepiness and the investigation is fun. Watching someone do what they are programmed to do.. less fun.

There is a serious issue currently with the rather traditional tones. After all, Echo is being protected by a man, and the FBI agent searching for her is a man, and Alpha is, as far as we know, a man! It wouldn't have been hard to make the FBI agent a woman. Stage Fright only makes this worse, an episode that appears to have been written to get women to wear little clothing and then sing. Its not helped by an insufferable lead for that episode. I really didn't care at all about anything that happened during that episode.

So I'll keep watching, but it better get better soon...

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