Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflections on Sunsets (December 13, 2009)

I touch your hand for the last time
and feel such a sadness in my heart.
I miss you. I hurt.
I don't want to let you go.

They say it's okay to cry.

And I do. But at the same time, my heart
remembers the joy its always found in your presence.
The stories, the jokes, the laughter.
Shared fears and triumphs, tears and song.
My heart knows love, and knows it is loved....
boundless and timeless, unquestioning and complete
You've shown me a glimpse of the divine.

So I hope it's okay to smile, too.

Thank you for sharing yourself with me,
for teaching me of friendship and faith,
of laughter and sharing,
compassion and trust
in myself and in others.

As I leave you I know that you'll always be with me,
in the wind that wipes my tears,
the sunshine that brightens my way,
the gentle rain that washes me clean,
but most of all in the golden sunsets
that you loved so very much,
reminding me every day of your love.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Critical Miss

[Author's note: A reader asked me to explain this post. I'm amazed to find out that I have readers! But more to the point: this post is about the table top role playing game "Dungeons and Dragons", not about a computer game. If you don't know what D&D or RPG's are, then this one might be confusing. My apologies;)]

So Sarah Darkmagic posted an article called Swing and A Miss, where she's asking DM's and players to comment on "failure stories".

I've always DM'ed with a "house rule" for critical misses. Whenever a player rolls a 1, I ask them to roll a second D20 to see how bad the miss was. Then I arbitrarily choose a reasonable outcome, based entirely on the game context. No random deck for me! The outcomes are worse on low rolls, and sometimes even help the party if the second roll is high.

Most of the time the player will trip, stumble, or lose their balance, and find themselves granting combat advantage, or prone, or maybe just losing any remaining actions in the current turn. Weapons are dropped, axes get lodged into door frames or into opponent's shields, and the player will need to spend an action (perhaps with a skill test) to get it back. Ranged combat is dangerous - usually it ends up with the player rolling again to see if they hit the dwarven defender holding the line... Good thing defenders have armour.

Environmental effects are always fun. Players can slide down a slope, drop into water, or get tangled up in chains or ropes. Fire is also fun - there's nothing like setting fire to the temple you were trying to defend, and then having your group forever remembered for it. Spilling acids on the floor to create a new hazard, setting off traps, stapling the rogue's cloak to the door, or cutting the rope that holds the chandelier. These effects don't usually harm the players directly, but they often add tension and or humour to the combat.

If the second roll is exceptionally high, I have more fun with it. You missed the target, but somehow managed to thwack the invisible gnome that was sneaking up on you. The troll dodged your attack, but tripped backwards over into the well. Your sword is now lodged into the dragon's hide, so if he moves you can hold on and treat it as a grapple.

Rolling a second "1" is a double critical miss, and that's an entirely different story. The table goes quiet and grim faced players slowly turn to find out what has befallen their unfortunate friend. Recently a wizard blasted his familiar (an invisible, telepathic, and extremely moody Drake) who skulked off for several sessions before finally forgiving him. Another player rolled a double critical, and managed to lodge his magic axe into a stone column, and was only able to pry it out after the combat, breaking it in the process. My players felt I was exceptionally harsh on that one, but they didn't know that the party was one room away from an enchanted forge, which allowed the dwarf to repair his weapon.

In the last session we saw a spectacular run of bad luck as the party tried to clear out a cavern full of orcs. A fighter tried to use a chain to sweep some orcs into an underground stream. Critical miss, and he found his arm caught up in the chain. One action would have freed him, but he decided to press on and attack instead. Another critical miss and the chain was wrapped around one of his buddies, who was unimpressed. The orc then scored a critical hit on the buddy, knocking him into the fast flowing river, and after many failed attempts to free themselves, the fighter got dragged into the river as well. As the party rushed to aid the pair, one of the remaining orcs scored a knockout blow against the fighter, leaving him as a dead weight in the water, dragging his buddy downstream. Other party members grabbed on, but nobody could slow the progress (how many times can a party roll without scoring a "5" or better???) and slowly the human chain was dragged into the river.

The last free moving character was the familiar-less wizard. He finished off most of the orcs, and was facing the last surviving orc who was at this point down to one hit point (our group calls these "born again minions"). The orc wisely chose to drop his spear and fall on his knees in surrender, allowing the wizard to grab onto the last player in the chain. Although he failed the roll to pull the group out, he did provide enough ballast to stop them.

The party heaved a sigh of relief, thanking their lucky stars. Then the wizard heard the orc walk up behind him, and very gently push him in.


(Did I mention that sound of a thundering waterfall that the party had heard from up ahead?)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I blinked...

Wow, I feel like a hostage must feel. Through administrative confusion, our corporate account at a certain web service got frozen out today. I'm not going to name the service provider, because then it might sound like I'm whining. I don't want to do that. So we'll just leave the details blurry, if that's all right with you.

So our company has been using this service for some time now, and it's been very effective at helping our dispersed team collaborate. The service has also accumulated a lot of our corporate knowledge in its logs and transcripts. When our account was frozen, we could no longer use the service, which is quite understandable... you don't pay, you can't play. What surprised me though is how there was absolutely no way to get back any of the data that the service had accumulated. At least, not without paying to thaw our account.

I always thought that you should just shoot the hostage taker, and live with the consequences. Negotiating with terrorists and all that. But when I was the one feeling the gun to my head, my perspective changed dramatically.

And I blinked.

I paid up the ransom, and now we have our data back.

But I swear, I'll never do that to any of my customers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Old friends...

Ran across Chaos Manor Reviews earlier today. Jerry Pournelle was one of my favourite authors in my youth, and I always enjoyed reading his technology commentary in BYTE. His writing is wonderful - good storytelling combined with solid science (even when the science is science fiction;) Even so, it's been years since I've read anything from him - I guess I lost track of him in the bustle of my life, and the tidal wave of content that makes up modern life.

So I dove into his writing again - his post on the iPad is engaging, thoughtful, and (most importantly) speaks to my point of view on the technology. (To wit, that the iPad is a great consumer device, but not a "producer" device. But that's not the point of this posting.)

What a treat... it's kind of like bumping into an old friend you weren't expecting to see. Thanks, Jerry.

Friday, June 4, 2010

But you're not saying anything either...

Seth Godin wrote a nice piece on boilerplate/meaningless text. The example he gave was

The firm will remain competitive in the constantly changing market for defense legal services by creating and implementing innovative and effective methods of providing cost-effective, quality representation and services for our clients.

Like any qualified geek, the first thing I did was to load the text into Google to see where it had come from. Funny thing is... I found two different law firms using it. What are the odds?