March 18, 2005

The Omniscient Eye: Everything You Wanted to Know About Silver (But Were Afraid to Hack)

The Omniscient Eye: Everything You Wanted to Know About Silver (But Were Afraid to Hack)

Pyramid sez: If a chemist is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he just might say, "Ag me with a spoon . . ."

I sez: The question is, basically, how much can a bunch of adventurers debase precious metal (in order to make it look like they've got more money) before it becomes obvious. The answer, in brief, is that they can't do very much partly because people will reflexively use a number of techniques to measure debasement ('cause they won't trust the precious metal content of anything) and partly because if they aren't at least semi-trained smiths, they'll burn their fingers instead. This is my fourth OE article. Go, me.

Caerceol: Palace of the Queen of the Mist Elves

Caerceol: Palace of the Queen of the Mist Elves

Pyramid sez: This castle, suitable for many generic fantasy campaigns, is just waiting for a story to be woven around it.

I sez: This location article was inspired by an all-too-brief stay at Ashford Castle, a 13th century castle in County Mayo converted into a luxury hotel. By a peculiar coincidence, it was three years ago this very week that the lovely and talented spouse and I were there. Lots of illustrations.

March 04, 2005

Buzzkill: Drug Development and Side Effects for GURPS Fourth Edition

Buzzkill: Drug Development and Side Effects for GURPS Fourth Edition

Pyramid sez: Warning: This article may cause nausea, restlessness, and light sensitivity. Women who are or may become pregnant should not read this article. This article is made of an unknown material which fell to Earth, presumably from space. Do not taunt this article.

I sez: Another long-list article, this was inspired by a period of recurring illnesses around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I belive this is the first rules-intensive 4e article written by someone not involved in 4e's creation to appear in Pyramid. Steven Marsh's blurbs rock.

February 18, 2005

The Omniscient Eye: The Gameable Archaeologist

The Omniscient Eye: The Gameable Archaeologist

Pyramid sez: Throw me the idol, I give you the column!

I sez: This is a brief description of what archaeologists do and how they work, from historical adventurers to modern scientists. Smarsh's blurbs rock.

February 09, 2005

Anniversary

My parents had their 42nd wedding anniversary. The lovely and talented spouse has already blogged about it. I'll add that dinner was ragu bolognese over a spinach pasta (all of which was made at home; Dad's been making pasta frequently after their recent trip to italy), but despite being presented with green pasta, Alex wasn't terribly interested.

February 08, 2005

New Ideas. Lovely.

While digging through some old files, I came across some half-finished articles I lost track of somewhere along the way: a history of money with brief speculation on alternative currencies, an arena for Car Wars, and an adventure based on Buddhist spiritual quests. All are viable and could be resurrected, finished, and sent off. And then there's that vague idea for a Dead Inside adventure. Just what I need: more things to distract me from what I should be doing.

February 05, 2005

90

My grandmother turned 90 today. She may not make it to 91, given her declining health and already very advanced age, but she's made it far enough that my son will be able to say that he met someone who had been through two world wars and the Great Depression, never had the need or, for the vast majority of her life, even the theoretical opportunity to own a personal computer or cell phone, and was alive when women didn't have the vote. When he makes it to the second half of the 21st century, those will be events nearly as distant from him as the Civil War is from me.

History's big, isn't it?

February 04, 2005

Why All The Pyramid Articles?

A quick glance over my list of publications will turn up very little that isn't an article published in Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games' on-line magazine. Why, one might wonder, should I put so much effort into such a niche-within-a-niche venue as a periodical for the gaming industry? After all, the pay sucks (3 cents a word) and the audience is small (circa 3k subscribers) and largely indifferent. So why bother? I write gaming articles for a number of reasons:
  • It suits my abilities as a writer. I can, I like to think, do exposition like nobody's business. Character and plot, I can deal, but not as well. Dialogue? Not so much. The emphasis in game writing is similar.
  • Articles take a lot less time and work than, say, books, and I don't really have time for anything long-form at the moment. Maybe when I hit retirement in a few decades.
  • It gets me published. I've yet to have an article rejected by Pyramid, which, given that I've submitted something close to forty articles, is something.
  • It pays reliably. Not well, of course, but reliably. SJ Games is apparently notable in the industry for its professionalism. Part of that is that they pay authors promptly. I've never had to wait more than a month for a check. I've heard horror stories about other companies, where authors have had to wait months or years. Dealing with SJ Games sounds like a pretty good deal, relatively speaking.

February 03, 2005

But with a different beat now that you've been gone

UPN has announced that Enterprise, after this season, is dead. About time.

I should mention that I don't actually hate Enterprise, but I don't like it either. It's not Voyager, but if that's the best you can say about something, where does that get you? I watched most of season one and saw a few episodes of the next two, but the show completely failed to make any kind of impression on me. The defining moment for the show for me was scene in an early episode when our heroes went down in a shuttle to visit an alien planet. The captain brought his dog with him, who went off to frolic in the alien grass. After the episode was over, that's the only part of it that I could really remember. It was a cute dog, certainly, but the story and characters were so utterly forgettable that they didn't stick in my brain. Better than Voyager, where the awfullness left scars, but far, far less than one might hope for.

In a broader context, Enterprise is a symptom of what's been happening with Star Trek for years. Between Voyager, Enterprise, and a series of increasingly inconsequential movies, it seems like the Powers That Be behind the Star Trek franchise seemed determined to industrially process it into pure product, devoid of anything of artistic interest, taking names and situations from the earlier series but losing the spirit. When new Trek product was produced, I couldn't bring myself to care. And in an era capable of giving me top-quality genre product like Buffy and Farscape (both off the air now, of course) and entertaining popcorn like Stargate, why should I?

There are a number of old Motown groups, like the Temptations, whose management sold the rights to their names. You can go out and see a bunch of guys working under the right name, singing the right songs, but it's not really them. No one who ever worked with the original group is involved in any way. Star Trek has become like that. They've got the rights to the name, but it's just a bunch of guys going through the motions.

February 01, 2005

To Do (Feb. 2005)

There aren't enough hours in the day. I'm close to done, albeit moving very, very slowly, on "Atomic Zombies Of The Pacific," and I've got an expanding list of semi-finished articles to submit to Pyramid and a handful of other things to write. Pyramid articles in the process include:
  • Amadan: a fantasy city with parts linked by magic portals.

  • Uxuloth: a fantasy city populated by undead.

  • The Great Trans-Kenya Railway: A steampunkish adaptation of the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway at the dawn of the 20th century. I'm adding an Anglo-German cold war about to become hot because of the Belgians (link to the Kongo article there), a homeland for the Jews, and zepplins. Some of those are fact-based.

  • The Song Of Eregoses: A fantasy adventure wherein a series of traps and tests are based on clues provided by a well-known mythological epic. The twist in this one is that, in the real world, folklore is variable. That is, a given story, song, etc., may be well-known, but people will know different versions, so the characters will quibble about the details which provide them with their clues.
  • Complications of travel in low-tech settings
And there are some in less distinct form. As part of the fallout from "Demented and Sad, But Social," I'm toying with an article or two on time management and/or social interaction (they're overlapping, but I'm not sure how they'll fall out). Based on some reading I've done recently about native African religions, I'm considering a fantasy adventure or location article where magical effects result from intention; essentially, it's possible to inadvertently curse someone you're angry at. Not sure where to go with that. Tangential to that and the recent tsunami, I have a vague glimmer of an idea about an alternate history where global civilization centers on the Indian Ocean, with Africa and southeast Asia as the major power blocs instead of Europe and China.

And, of course, there are the big, big projects that aren't actually going anywhere: the retro Gen-X rock-and-roll spy thriller, the fantasy novel based on the Ireland trip, and an outline and proposal for GURPS Byzantium. Y'know, if there three or four more hours in a day...well, I'd probably find something else to do with them anyway. I've got books to read!

January 28, 2005

Demented and Sad, But Social: Social Characters for Antisocial Players -- Part II

Demented and Sad, But Social: Social Characters for Antisocial Players -- Part II

Pyramid sez: The second part of this generic article gives more pointers for how folks in the real world make friends and influence people.

I sez: This one discusses seduction, bribery, political and diplomatic negotiation, and interrogation.

January 21, 2005

Demented and Sad, But Social: Social Characters for Antisocial Players -- Part I

Demented and Sad, But Social: Social Characters for Antisocial Players -- Part I

Pyramid sez: The first of a two-part generic article with insight for characters who can win friends and influence people . . . even if the players can't.

I sez: This combines things like Dale Carnegie, anthropological field guides, true crime accounts, histories of diplomacy, and other guides to how people can or should interact with each other in order to give non-social players (which, let's face it, is most of us) some suggestions on how to play socially-oriented characters. This part covers basic meet-and-greet tactics, social climbing, haggling, and con games.

January 19, 2005

e23

Steve Jackson Games has finally launched e23, their entry into the PDF market. With the various reduced costs and lack of other constraints, they can sell riskier and less broadly popular works than they could in print. Perhaps I'll have to consider finally getting around to constructing an outline for GURPS Byzantium.

December 24, 2004

Appendix Z: Bureaucratic Runaround

Appendix Z: Bureaucratic Runaround

Pyramid sez: Bureaucracies are like dealing with Murphy's Law in triplicate and standing in a two-hour line to do so . . .

November 19, 2004

The Omniscient Eye: When Buying a Kingdom, Who Do I Make the Check Out To?

The Omniscient Eye: When Buying a Kingdom, Who Do I Make the Check Out To?

Pyramid sez: So who do I have to bribe to be the king, anyway?!

I sez: The short answer is that you don't. Monetary exchange can be a feature of transfering power in a feudal setting, but the process is infinitely complicated by social and political maneuvering, so you can't just trade cash for a kingdom.