The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

On Cold Wars

Posted By on March 16, 2015

So, I went to Cold Wars last weekend (the 6-8, I mean, not the immediate last weekend), and, aside from the weather totally wrecking one of the games I wanted to play in and causing several vendors to not make it and delaying a lot of other things, but the one real standout there was Joey from World’s End Publishing and their This is Not a Test(TNT) rules. (The classes he taught were good too, but I’m not really going to talk much about them here aside from saying that he makes roads from shingles, with awesome results).

So, anyway, the game.

As most folks know, I like Post-Apocalyptic stuff, and Zed Or Alive(ZoA) was a recent find, using the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is basically an RPG light. They added some factions, and bolted on a campaign system, and made a skirmish campaign game for the zombie apocalypse. If you wanted a Walking Dead minis game, this is it.

Now, TNT is a skirmish campaign game, and, like most skirmish games, is also an “RPG Light” type system (your guy has different stats for shooting, fighting, strength, toughness, and then a general stat for “everything else”). In that way, the systems work kind of similarly, though ZoA uses your collection of RPG dice and TNT uses a D10. However, the initiative is a lot more streamlined and predictable than the Savage Worlds system, because the activating player picks a guy and rolls for initiative. If you pass, you get to do 2 actions (generally move and shoot) and if you fail you only get to do 1 (so move or shoot). Now, I don’t generally like “roll to activate” systems, but this one really works and doesn’t piss me off because you still get to do something. Anyway, if you succeeded in your activation, you roll to activate another guy and proceed on. If you fail, after this guy’s actions, the activation passes to your opponent. The turn ends once everyone has activated all of their models once.

The other major difference between TNT and ZoA is that where ZoA is focused on zombies TNT is more generic. Think more Fallout, Wasteland, Rage, or Deadlands: Hell on Earth. There are tribal guys, mutants, military guys, dudes in powered armor, and all your standard radiation storms, etc. The mood is whatever your table evokes – you can pull a more Mad Max aesthetic, or more of a 1950’s future, a-la fallout, which is what Joey did for the game in which I played, given the presence of all the 1950’s style cars rusting into oblivion.

TNT Game

TNT Game

In this scenario, half a dozen warbands were going after the old world lost tech McGuffin in the center of town, but the device had called the attention of a bunch of man-eating worms (but there was no sign of Kevin Bacon or Kyle McLachlan) with which we had to contend in order to seize the objective.

All in all, an excellent game, and I’m looking forward to the rules coming out. When I talked with him at Cold Wars, he was just getting the proofs back from layout, so I would expect them to be released in the next month or so. He says they’re going to be sold as PDFs via Wargame Vault, and that there is a miniatures line to follow shortly after via an online store at the main site. I’ve seen some of the miniatures he’s going to have up, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, that’s all, I have some airbrushing to do before bed. Night all.

Reflecting on my previous post….

Posted By on March 16, 2015

So, I was looking at [http://www.mattcaron.net/2015/03/04/and-the-hits-just-keep-on-coming/ raising the minimum wage] all wrong. It’s freakin’ brilliant… Think about it..

First, you get a whole lot of people to like you for raising the minimum wage. In the case of Cuomo, who is angling for the White House, this gets you some serious political capital if you want to run on a populist ticket.

Then, once all these people are priced out of the market, not only do you take no blame (because you can always blame “technology” or “management” or “the one percent”), but you can ride in and save them with social programs that help them retrain or just flat out support them because, remember – they weren’t priced out of the marketplace by poor economic policies. No. they were let go because of evil bosses who replace workers with machines because, you know, they’re mean and hate people, or some other weird nutty crap.

And the hits just keep on coming

Posted By on March 4, 2015

So, the day after I post about crazy NY, the governor ups the ante and starts a program to raise the minimum wage. There’s even and handy fact sheet.

Now, because economics isn’t taught in US schools (I had to learn it from reading and podcasts in the last 5 years or so), let me explain some fundamentals that seem to be lost on our dear governor. I’ll do it as a story.

Alice and Bob work for BigBoxCorp, and they make the minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Now, Alice is a rockstar, and generates $15 in value for the business, resulting in $6.25 in surplus. Bob is kind of average, and generates $10 in value, resulting in $1.25 in surplus. The minimum wage is raised to $10.50, which means that Alice’s surplus is now $4.50 in surplus, but Bob is now generating -$.50 in surplus. So, what happens? Bob gets laid off, and is replaced by either a better worker or a robot. So much for helping to raise folks out of poverty.

Meanwhile, the surplus Alice generates is reduced, which means that the company has less extra capital to use. One could naively assume this means “less profit”, but that would fail to realize that profit is what is left over *after* other expenses, such as (to name a couple of choice ones) research and expansion.

If a business has extra money they can expand into new markets, open up new branches, expand operations or otherwise get bigger, hiring more people and generating more jobs. Slow down their surplus, you slow down their growth.

Similarly, if they have extra money they can do more research, which means development of new products. Stuff like our computers, iPhones, etc. don’t come out of thin air, they come from research and development which is either funded by outside investment (which is surplus generated by one company which an investor takes and puts into another company) or by internal investment (surplus generated by a company’s existing products which are used to finance research in new products).

Now, if you assume that a company will not compromise their surplus (often called a “margin”), then they’ll have no choice to raise prices, which means that the extra $1.75 that Alice is now making suddenly doesn’t go as far because all of the things she’s going to by suddenly cost more!

The above is also true of people looking for jobs – if Carla and Dave are looking for jobs, and Carla is, say, a high school dropout and Dave is a high school graduate, and you have to pay them both the same, who are you going to hire? Based on the data given, most folks would pick Dave, due to his greater education. On the other hand, if Dave wants $10.50, but Carla will work for $9, then you may hire Carla, because you can pay her less and that compensates for her lesser education. Carla takes the job, goes to night school, gets her GED, and improves her lot in life. However, the minimum wage prices Carla out of the market, so now she’s unemployed and can’t improve her lot as she would have been able to do if she had the freedom to negotiate.

Going a bit big picture for a moment – prices and their cohort, wages, are a way for the market to signal what is of value – what is needed, where resources should be spent, etc. all wrapped up in this one thing. People command a low wage because their skills are generally either common (not specialized) or simply not in demand. You can be the world’s greatest performer of cartwheels, but if that is not a skill in demand, then it will not command a high wage. Similarly, you can be a great bagger of groceries, but so many people have that skill that you will also not command a high wage. Forcing companies to pay more than the market rate for these skills does not change this underlying reality, and eventually this will cause companies to investigate other options, such as automating those skills or eliminating them all together. Witness the proliferation of self checkout systems in grocery stores. Even though customers generally don’t like them, they’re still becoming more common, because grocery stores can’t afford to keep prices where they are while increasing their operating costs by $35/hour (assuming a $1.75 increase for a 10 lane supermarket with a checkout person and bagger on each lane) unless they have a corresponding increase in volume (which there’s nothing to suggest that they would). If you can eliminate 4 lanes by having them be a self checkout, with only 1 person watching over them, then you go from $70/hour ($8.75, the old minimum wage * 8 people (4 lanes, 2 people per lane)) to $10.50 an hour (the new minimum wage, for the attendant) + the additional overhead of the machines. As soon as that “additional overhead” is less than $59.25/hour, you get yourself some automated checkout machines and lay off 7 of your people.

The NY twilight zone

Posted By on February 27, 2015

So, not to be outdone by California, the Governor Cuomo has announced a SUNY policy to combat sexual assault, which includes “a statewide definition of affirmative consent”. So, colleges are apparently different than all the rest of the state – not that this is a surprise, really. I mean, colleges have different gun and free speech laws, why not coital consent?

Then, I get this one about New York’s failing schools. Now, there are some schools that are doing poorly; I have no problem addressing this. However, this is how they’re going to address it: “To address this problem, we’re proposing a model that worked in Massachusetts, where when a school fails for 3 years, a nonprofit, another school district, or a turnaround expert must take over the school.” So, yeah, a private option isn’t even on the table. Allowing a private school option, or a for-profit school option, isn’t an option.

And, finally, there was this story. Now, if we assume this isn’t just a cover-up, there are a variety of things wrong with it.

  1. Why the HELL did the state outsource email to MS’s cloud? I mean, I can see not really worrying about data confidentiality, as it’s all public anyway, but do you really want your email held for ransom on MS’s servers?
  2. 90 day email deletion policy? Really? Are you really that space constrained? I mean, I’ve got my personal emails going back 15 years, and it only uses 6.1G. With a 3TB hard drive being $80, that means 6.1G costs a whopping.. 16 cents. Heck, it looks like NY state has about 300,000 employees. So, the average busy person gets about 140 emails per day, and if we assume these are hugely quoted threads heavily HTML-ed and all that, we’ll say they’re maybe 100KB per, this means that the average person is getting 12MB per day, which is about 4GB per year, which, for all the employees, is 1171TB of storage per year (across all servers), which is 390 3TB hard drives @ $80 each, which gives us $31,226 in email storage per year. MY SOFTWARE ENGINEERING GROUP PAID MORE THAN THAT IN TAXES and I think it’s fair to suggest that we’d feel that keeping these emails basically forever is a very effective use of that money.

But, you know, then we might learn something about the festering cesspool of corruption that is Albany. I mean, I’m not surprised, I just wish they wouldn’t insult everyone’s intelligence by being so blatant about it.

And why the HELL are there 300,000 state employees? That’s about as many as GE, and it doesn’t include our local Sheriff (that’s county) or county highway, etc.,

From the back of the miniatures shelves….

Posted By on February 26, 2015

So, back in college and immediately after, I used to play Warhammer 40k (3rd Edition). I had Marines and Tau armies. Then I stopped, because I moved, and the minis sat, and sat, and sat. My mother also played, running a Sisters of Battle army. She stopped shortly after 4th edition came out because her gaming group got burned out on 40k and started playing Flames of War.

I’d been looking for some rules to run 40k, and not finding any, and had started writing my own, but the going was, of course, slow. Then I came across [https://onepagerules.wordpress.com/ One Page Rules], which has rules for 40K and Fantasy in both battle and skirmish scales, as well as fantasy football and full contact racing cars. The rules are tight, simple to understand, supported by the heroic efforts of an author who simply goes by OnePage Anon, with lots of helpful folks on [http://onepagerules.proboards.com/ their forums].

It took me about half an hour to read and grok the rules. In another hour or so, I’d done up a basic Tau list. My mom visited and it took us about 2 hours to do up a list for her (mainly because she was being a super power gamer who had to obsessively tweak her list to optimized for exactly 1500 points).

I had planned to take pictures as the turns progressed, but totally forgot, so this is a picture of the end of Turn 2 from different angles. Those, and a play-by-play, are below the more…

Now, readers will know that Liz will play Warmachine, but Warhammer was just too boring for her. We’ll see how she likes these rules, but she didn’t recoil in horror watching Mom and I play…

(more…)

Updated pics again…

Posted By on February 26, 2015

Only added about half a dozen, but they are now up to date through mid February and include some pictures of them playing in the snow.

Gallery link.

A connection I never made…

Posted By on December 31, 2014

So, I’m reading [http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/12/10/fisking-the-guardian-again-this-time-for-hp-lovecraft/ Larry Correia’s fisking of social justice warriors (again)], and he says the following:

Yes, Lovecraft was a racist. He was a 1930s Democrat. It is actually kind of hard to find 1930s democrats who weren’t racists. Eugenics then was the “scientific” equivalent to Global Warming today. The “science was settled”. Proper good thinking folks didn’t question it and the world’s governments used Eugenics as an excuse for all sorts of programs that seem insane to us today.

Hoooooly poop. Mind blown. It’s like exactly the same thing. Dubious but well-accepted science used as a smokescreen for all manner of government overreach and intrusion.

Mr. Correia, I salute you, sir.

Updated pics again…

Posted By on December 31, 2014

They are now up to date through Christmas.

Gallery link.

Posted more pictures of the boys

Posted By on November 6, 2014

I’ve updated the gallery of the boys, including first Halloween pics. There are two sets of costumes, because we went to two parties. So, this is all up to the beginning of November.

Player preconceptions

Posted By on October 8, 2014

These are a couple of stories (or, maybe, the same story twice) both involving Lois and her preconceived notions about RPGs and gamemasters.

It likely is worth mentioning that David and Lois are a couple, because that figures lightly into the story.

So, we’re playing Shadowrun, I’m GM-ing, and David, Lois, Lisa and Steve are playing. This is after David and Lois left the game and refused to play with Ross. However, Ross had left the game, so David and Lois came back.

In the first story, the crew was doing a run against a Renraku facility. Now, they were armed, but no one had drawn guns yet or really done anything other than jump the wall and get chased by some guards. I don’t remember the exact details, but they get split up, and the crew gets away except for Lois’s character. She gets chased by half a dozen Red Samurai armed with automatic weapons. They chase her to a dead end, and tell her to put her hands on her head, face the wall, and get on her knees.

She draws her pistol.

I tell her that there’s no way she’ll win against 6 guys with automatic rifles.

She says she’ll risk it.

In all fairness, she got a shot off before she took half a dozen 3 round bursts center of mass.

So, yeah, her character’s bullet riddled corpse falls back against the wall, and slides to the ground in a bloody smear.

She starts to cry.

I’m like “we can do that over if you want, but what did you think was going to happen?”

Her: “I thought you’d let me fight my way out.”

Me: “No, you get captured, and then the team has to come and break you out in a brilliant escape sequence.”

Her: “But when your character gets captured, the GM kills you.”

Me: “Not in my game.”

In the end, she (the player) couldn’t recover and left my game again, taking David with her.

Okay, so, the second story.

David and Lois are back. the rest of the crew is basically the same, and they’re having to get some hard-copy blackmail paydata out of a safe at some guy’s house in a gated burbclave. What’s the best way to get into a burbclave? Have a big brown and gold delivery truck. Now, in this game, Lois is playing a “hot mage”, essentially the face of the group, a siren seductress type. So, she hits the unsuspecting delivery driver with a come hither stare, and one of the other guys cold-cocks him and leaves him stripped to his boxers and tied up where someone will find him the next day. Meanwhile, they take the truck and get into the burbclave, except that the guys at the guard shack don’t have a corresponding delivery order from the brown parcel service’s computers (remember, it’s the future, all the systems talk to each other). Now, they could have retconned it, and that would have been cool, but instead she charms her way past the young guard standing out in the drive – which works, except the old guard in the shack is older and wiser so, as they’re driving away, he starts yelling at the young guard for letting the truck through.

It’s likely worth mentioning at this point that the only folks in the van are Lisa and David’s characters – the rest of the crew (a hacker and a gun bunny, IIRC) are in reserve just in case things go south.

Lisa and David get to the house, no one is home, they go in, pop the safe, get the data, and head out.. right into the waiting Lone Star crew. Now, the way I play it, magical units are like K-9 units – specialist, uncommon, but can be called in. So, they leave and there’s like half a dozen squad cars, including a couple of wage-mages and summoned spirits.

David’s character polymorphed into a mouse and ran into a gutter, leaving Lois holding the bag.

All the police tell Lois to surrender, and this time, she does. They pack her into a squad car and have a bound spirit watch her. (I figured that’s the best way to handle arresting magically active characters). She tries to cast something and the spirit whacks her with a stun spell knocking her out.

She starts to cry again.

Me: “What? You’re under arrest.”

Her: “I thought you were going to let me escape.”

Me: “The rest of the team needs to break you out.”

That’s not good enough, apparently, because she gets up and leaves, taking David with her.

So, yeah… I’m not really sure what I could have done differently as a GM here. I’m not certain where she got the ideas of how things work in games, and I realize that I’d never GM-ed anything before these series of games, but everyone else thought it was reasonable, and (after the fact) stated that a jailbreak would have been fun. Complications make things interesting. If it was always easy all the time, it would be kind of boring, wouldn’t it?