Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Fate Roll: Handling Initiative In A Split Party   1 comment

I had a curious situation this last Tuesday: I had a 3.5 gaming group where nearly every player had a character who would be in an entirely different place, doing different (though related) things at the same time.  I wasn’t sure how best to handle this… my instinct said that they should just roll initiative, but initiative wasn’t really a good story-excuse for ordering; initiative is about who can get the upper hand, about who’s faster, and about who’s wily enough to get the drop on other people.  And I didn’t want to just make it a “roll off” where everyone rolled a d20 and the number on the die was your order; one of the subtle brilliances of initiative is that it has an automatic tie-breaker, wherein those who get the same “score” can still check sheets and determine that even in a tie, one player would logically be faster than the other (though this can still lead to more ties, causing a roll-off, but that only has about a 1 in 400 chance of occurring, and then only between characters with identical Dexterity scores.)  So I wanted a Dexterity tie breaker, even though Dexterity was pointless.  Clearly I needed another stat… but all the stats were seemingly useless.

Enter the Fate Roll.  Borrowing some ideas from a few different games, I had the players add their Wisdom and Charisma scores together and divide by 2.  Wisdom tends to model your awareness of the world around you, and Charisma tends to model your self-assertion within that world, so it seemed logical that those two things might be related to a character’s ability to manipulate their own fate or destiny or what have you.  (This was probably way too much math to demand of my players; going with a Wisdom or Charisma score was probably enough, but dangit once I was committed to the idea I was gonna do it, no matter how many players had to double check what I was asking.)  This number would then be rounded down to derive a “Fate Score”, a sort of seventh ability score that could represent Luck or Fate or whatever.  Then a simple roll off to determine order of group.

As it turned out, the order was a decent one.  Everyone only had two “turns” for the entire session, but each turn represented an hour of in-game work.  In the current game, I’ve set things in Eberron and I’m using the Alabaster Cup tournament as presented in the book Complete Warrior.  It’s set in Karrnath, and many of the players joined the tournament while a few others chose not to.  The previous events have included Archery, an Obstacle Course, Wrestling, and Jousting, and the players have been trying to keep the campaign’s villain from winning the tournament since (in my version of the tournament) the winner has historically been able to ask for a “reasonable favor” from the monarch of whatever nation the tournament is held within.

All of those previous events, as you can probably imagine, didn’t really require much of a change to the order; people either did things at the same time (like in the archery tournament), in a turn-based fashion (such as the obstacle course), or they were randomly assigned placement in a bracket (like in wrestling or jousting.)  Hunting is the next stage, though.

One of the real benefits of doing it this way is that I was able to involve the players who weren’t in the tournament, who have been good sports the last few session while the action hasn’t really focused on their characters.  I grouped them together as a sort of security detail to watch the forest, and I’ve had them work as a group to discover an ominous figure who they know to be working with the campaign’s villain, apparently working with rival packs of Winter Wolves and Worgs.  They don’t know the reasons why,  yet, and they opted not to attack the figure in the forest or his wolves, but they were able to advance the story itself rather than wait for the other players to “be done” with their hunting.

Anyway… this in’t a hug revelation, and it could have been handled in a fashion as easy as me saying “Okay guys, we’re gonna go around the table from me, clockwise, to figure out what order you go in” but I liked having an actual reason. for it.  Take care, all!


Indie Gamer Groups   Leave a comment

Weird thought: how many Indie Games exist because of the popularity of Indie Games?

I mean, naturally, it feels like that should happen.  People realize that they don’t need to be part of a big video game organization to make video games, and set out to make their own, so sure, there’d be more games.

But on the other hand? I sometimes feel like some Indie Games are meant specifically to hit the Indie Game niche.  I’ve never quite seen an Indie Game that appeared to be made exclusively for being watched by YouTube streamers… but the thought isn’t too unrealistic.

Let’s be honest: there are many more people who have watched Markiplier play Five Nights At Freddy’s than there are people who have themselves purchased and played them.

And this isn’t a bad thing, or even something unprecedented.  Take languages, for instance: the US Military has an accent that’s unique.  Nowhere in the rest of the United States does that “vaguely southern, drill-sergeant drawl” appear.  The military is so large that it can act as its own society with its own method of speaking.  Now, THAT’S worth talking about.  I’m not a linguist, though.

Anyway… I’ve discovered Itch.Io and the kind of games that can be found there, and these were just thoughts that came to mind as I saw that the majority of comments on the site were from people who were posting links to themselves playing Let’s Play videos.  I have to admit that I’m guilty of that as well.

On the other hand, I totally would have played Cat Nigiri’s Keen even if I wasn’t making Let’s Play videos.  It’s just a great game, and I’m positive that it would’ve existed on its own.

I guess my fear is that indie games may become the next Web or Wild West; it’s still a mostly unsettled frontier, but I can also see it being latched onto by corporations.  Removing the Indie from Indie Games might not kill them per se, but I can see it changing the market.

Posted December 12, 2016 by John Little in Uncategorized

My Letter to Sony   Leave a comment

I don’t really follow music news, and I admit that I don’t keep up to date with modern music trends, but the news about Kesha’s trial to be allowed to not work with someone who’s sexually abused her upsets me.

And while I might not listen to Sony’s music, I do watch Sony’s TV shows, buy Sony’s movies, occasionally play Sony’s video games, use Sony electronics… there’s a lot of Sony on the market.  And none of it’s worth this kind of travesty.  So… I penned this letter and emailed it to Mack Araki, the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Sony.

Dear Mr. Araki,

I just heard that Sony is refusing to allow Kesha to create music without forcing her to work with a person that she claims sexually attacked her.  While a judge might have ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence, I’m upset that you’re not finding some way to accommodate her.

Until Sony releases Kesha from her contract and allows her to work in a way that makes it possible for her to avoid any contact with Lukasz Gottwald, I intend to avoid purchasing Sony electronics, playing Sony video games, listening to Sony music, watching Sony movies, or otherwise participating in Sony’s marketplace.  I will similarly research companies owned by or affiliated with Sony and avoid using any of their products either.

Sony should be BETTER than this as a corporation.  I don’t know what your personal opinion is on this issue, but I do hope that you agree, and that you will make my concerns known to the relevant parties so that in the future no one working for your company ever has to face this kind of situation again.

Thank you for your time.


John Little

PS – Thank you to anyone who may read your mail on your behalf as well, as I’m sure you get a huge number of emails daily.

Now… I don’t know if this’ll even get read by Mr. Araki, and I know that even Vice Presidents of corporations can have difficulty enacting quick change (which is a problem all its own) but I needed to say something.

For those unfamiliar with the scenario, a judge recently ruled that there just wasn’t enough evidence to support Kesha’s claims, and that therefore she still had to fulfill her contract, meaning she has to work with her rapist.  That there’s no legal way out for her is one of the many travesties at work here, but Sony’s action as a company is where I’m actually focused right now, for right or wrong.  Just because they have a legal standing doesn’t mean they need to follow through.  It’s still well within their power to terminate the contract and allow Kesha to make music elsewhere.  Theoretically they could allow her to keep working for Sony and never have her have to deal with Lukasz Gottwald (I don’t want to use his stage name; he doesn’t deserve one, I think) but honestly Kesha shouldn’t have to work with a company that’s put her through all of this either, even if such a concession is made.

So… yeah.  I don’t know what else to say, really.  I don’t know if this is Sony being evil and spiteful because they can, if this is corporate cog-turning running on some kind of horrible automation, or if this is just good old fashioned apathy at work, but ultimately this is wrong.

As a society we need to remember that just because we have a legal right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.  I hope the public response to Sony will get them to revisit their opinions, change them, and #FreeKesha.

Posted February 20, 2016 by John Little in blogging, Uncategorized

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We’ve Got MOVIE SIGN!   Leave a comment

MST3K Crowdfunding Success

Just look at that.  It’s a beautiful sight.  (A beautiful sight that Twitter user Stephen P, AKA @dim_halo has allowed me to use here.  Thanks for sharing the screenshot, Stephen!)

There’s a lot of talk about this.  Most positive, some negative.  And there are worries…

I’m worried that the show will be too “polished” and won’t actually be the same slapdash performance that I like.  I’m worried that there’s some sort of behind-the-scenes issue that a lot of the old cast and crew aren’t talking about.  I’m also worried that there’s no such issue, but that fans will imagine that there is and worry about it and bug the old and new people so much that it becomes an issue.  I’m worried that it won’t be the same.  I’m also worried that it’ll be too much of the same.  Basically, I’m a neurotic Internet fan.  But not a single one of these worries are important: what really matters is that MST3K is coming BACK, baby!  I’m giddy!

And just look at what we did.  114%!  That’s major, guys.  And that 114% is of the final 5.5 million dollar goal, not the original 2 million dollar goal.  We actually raised, like… over three hundred percent!  And it stunned and delighted everyone…

Sadly, financial pressures being what they are, I had to lower my donation just a bit.  I’m still looking forward to that printable ID card, but a lot of the higher tier rewards were REALLY nice.  I especially wanted that VHS tape…

Incidentally, if you haven’t watched the Telethon, do it now!  Well… maybe not now.  Not in its entirety.  It was a multi-hour event that featured islands of really cool entertainment and information in the midst of charming awkwardness and technical problems.  But there are a lot of moments that I predict will become big parts of MSTie nostagia.  If nothing else, the look on Joel’s face when, with almost exactly a minute to spare, the totals were updated and passed the 3.6 million dollar total.  There were also moments that some liked and others didn’t (I enjoyed the Castlevania song, though I’ve heard some claim that they actively disliked it.)

Also, did I hear Felicia Day accidentally start singing Mike’s theme song for a second before correcting herself?  I could’ve sworn she almost mumbled “Way Down in Deep 13″… funny moment.

Anyway… it’s a great week to be a MSTie.  Friends, we’re not actually living in a post-MST3K world.  We’ve simply been living in the 15+ year inter-season hiatus.

And it’s almost over.

(Incidentally, I don’t mention this often on the blog, but for the record I frequent MST3K: The Discussion Board.  If you want a place to chill and discuss the show, I’m over there from time to time.  More importantly, LOTS of people are.)

Back To The Future Day Movie Synchronization Guide   Leave a comment


So!  You’re a big fan of Back To The Future AND its sequels.  You’ve read Ryan North’s hilarious B to the F summary of the bizarre novelization of the first movie, you’ve laughed and cried to Telltale’s epic Back To The Future: The Game, and you’ve got Doc Brown’s science facts from the end of the episodes of the cartoon saved on VHS.  Maybe you even snagged one of the rare samples of Pepsi Perfect, though at $20.15 per bottle (a joke I didn’t even notice until my sister said that she got it) I can understand not going that far.  All of this means that you don’t need me to tell you that today, October 21st, 2015 is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown reach the future at precisely 4:29 PM.

So, naturally, you’re gonna want to watch a movie.

And because the urge to do so is overwhelming, you have the desire to synchronize your viewing with the moment that Marty makes it to the future.

But be warned!  This is a trickier prospect than it seems!  Time is a fickle beast, as anyone who watched these movies could tell you, and while there’s no risk of paradox from simply watching a film, you might delude yourself into a scientifically inaccurate moment of synchronization.

We here at Crater Labs, Inc. know that explosions build character, but accidents are best to be avoided even if they DO build character.  So let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need to properly synchronize your viewing.

BTTF Synchronized Watches

1) Check Your Time Zone

I’ve seen a lot of people pointing out that Marty’s moment of future arrival is at 4:29 PM.  And that’s correct!  But it’s also misleading.  See, if you’re waiting for your clock to say 4:29 PM then you’ve only got a 1/24 chance of being correct (realistically better than that considering how few people outside of the Western world ever read my blog, but I’m not making any assumptions here.  …though if you’re in China you’ve already missed it, sorry.)  Hill Valley is in California, located within the Pacific Time Zone.  So if you’re in, say, Oregon?  Then 4:29 is the time for you!  If you, like me, are in Indiana, though, Marty’s actual time of arrival is 6:29 PM because I’m two hours ahead of California time.  Ergo, if I want a scientifically accurate recreation, I need to hold off.  Which brings us to another point…

2) Check Your Theater Listings

A lot of theaters across the country are showing Back To The Future 2 today.  Even better, most of them are starting their showings at 4:29 PM!  Even if they didn’t consider point 1 above, that’s a really swell gesture.  Now, which idea is more fun for you?  Carefully synchronizing a movie at home so that you start playing it before 4:29 PM PST so that Marty gets to the future right AT 4:29 PST?  Or heading to a movie theater, maybe with friends, and viewing it together in public?  I can honestly say, as much as fiddling with tricky things is fun for me, being in public with good friends is something I want to do more, and if I had the money for a ticket I would totally do it.  HOWEVER… you can actually have your cake and eat it too providing that you don’t live on the west coast or in mountain time.  (Sorry, entire western half of the contiguous United States!)  Take me, for instance: living in the Central Time Zone as I do, I could go see the showing of Back To The Future 2 at 4:29 PM.  The movie is one hour and forty-eight minutes long, which means the movie will conclude at 6:17 PM.  I could then, assuming I made preparations in advance, race home knowing that I have 12 minutes available to beat the deadline.  There are realistically only two time zones (Central and Eastern) that can do this at the time that I put this post up, so it’s not likely you’ll see it in Time, but you should know that for those of us in this tiny 1/12th sliver of the globe there’s still that chance.  People to the west? Sorry, you’ll have to pick and choose.

3) Check Your Edition

Not all DVDs are the same!  Heck, not all DVD PLAYERS are the same!  On my personal copy of Back To The Future 2, from the time I push play on the menu screen to the time I see the modernized Universal logo pop up, 35.90 seconds pass.  That’s a variance of greater than half a minute!  DON’T LET THAT TRIP YOU UP!  Take note that this issue is even more true for VHS copies of the movie.  Props for going as retro as possible, but different VHS players run at different speeds, even if that difference is usually not significant enough to see.  This brings us to…

4) Check Your Player Speed

At this point you’re doing a pre-watch of the movie before your watch of the movie.  Good for you!  After the modernized Universal Logo on my DVD, the actual movie begins with the classic Universal logo that doesn’t have the big anthem going along with it.  This step mostly happens at the same time that you do step 3, but I mention it as a technically significant variance that may affect your schedule!  And finally…

5) Choose Your Moment

This is the tricky one.  Most people will settle for merely watching the movie at 4:29 PM.  This is fine and dandy, sure, but it’s only one of three options, and I maintain that it’s the least accurate.  I mean, it’s not bad, but if you’re going to this trouble anyway I suggest looking at the others.  So, here are your choices.

  • The Huey Lewis Special:  You can tell your doctor that you don’t mind so long as you get back in time.  Back in time for what? Who knows.  Or Huey knows.  One way or the other, this is the option most people go with, and the option they need to go with if they’re going to a movie theater.  This is when you start the movie at 4:29 on the dot.  To synchronize for this viewing, you need to take the first four steps.  For me, I’d have to start watching 35.90 seconds before 4:29, which would be 4:28:24.10 PST, or 6:28:24.10 Central Time.  Marty McFly in sunny Hill Valley (or rainy if the weather prediction is accurate) will be a few minutes ahead of you, but you know what? You’re watchin’ a movie.  It’s all good.
  • Didn’t Have Time To Build It To Scale Or Paint It: This is pretty accurate… from the point of view of a typical 80s teen.  This method of synchronization has you viewing the film so that 4:29 happens the moment that Marty McFly and Loraine are in a flying car with Doc Brown, right when it hits 88 miles per hour.  4:29 in this method comes 3 minutes and 25.40 seconds after the movie begins.  To hit this mark, you need to begin viewing even earlier, starting no later than 4:25:34.60 PM PST, which in my time zone would be 6:25:34.60 (Central Time if you haven’t been paying attention.)  And from the point of view of someone in the 80s going along Marty McFly’s personal timeline, this would be perfect!  But we’re not starting to work on this from 1985, we’re living back in good old 2015.  We want to meet Marty when he arrives.  This leads us to the final option.
  • Save The Clock Tower!  This method doesn’t have us departing with Marty, it has us arriving with him, and in my opinion this is the way to go!  After Doc Brown takes off from 1985, the movie continues for a bit without actors as we get an aerial view that moves through the clouds.  Now, we’re meant to think this is the view from a flying car… and it may be exactly that… but if you pay attention, the storm clouds over Hill Valley aren’t what the DeLorean flies into, they’re what the DeLorean appears in the middle of!  If you want 4:29 PM PST to land on exactly the moment that Marty is first in 2015, this is what you want to use as your moment of synchronization.  To make this one work, you need to begin viewing at exactly 5 minutes and 1.37 seconds before 4:29!  To accomplish this, you need to start watching at 4:23:58.63 PM PST, or 6:23:58.63 Central Time.  This viewing has you on the track to be waiting for Marty not just when he arrives but WHEN he arrives.  …those mean the same thing, but I was talking about When from two different directions.  Time to enjoy a movie like we do in 2015!

BTTF2 Jaws 19

Gettin’ sick of seeing that image yet?  EVERYONE’S USING IT, AND I’M NO DIFFERENT!  See, it’s clever because we’re talking about a movie that showed movies in 2015, and now it’s 2015.

IMPORTANT NOTE: remember, that in my calculations, I’m factoring in the 35.90 second delay that’s on my DVD copy from the moment I push play!  This won’t be the same for you, though it may be close.  If you want to cue up your DVD to just after the modern logo (or its equivalent) and just before the old classic Universal logo begins, you can start 35.90 seconds later!  So this would change your viewings to…

  • Huey Lewis Special: 4:29 PM PST (no real challenge here)
  • Didn’t Have Time To Build It Or Paint It: 4:26:10.50 PM PST
  • Save The Clock Tower! 4:24:34.53 PM PST

As with all things, there’s room for human error, and this is just using my own DVD player.  You may need to run a trial run yourself and do these calculations on your own depending on any play speed variances.  Plus it’s always good to check someone else’s work.

Anyway, keep all this in mind while viewing Back To The Future 2, and no matter how you view it, be sure that you have fun.  Split second timing is fun… and important, as Doc Brown likes to remind us… but we also need to take a page out of Marty’s book and take it easy once in a while.  So if you miss starting the movie right when you want, don’t worry about it.  Have fun!

Paragon Chat Half-Week Report   Leave a comment


Okay, I know I’ve done a lot of these posts lately, but I’m very excited.  Half a week into Paragon Chat and it feels nice.

Full disclosure: we don’t have travel powers yet, so you’re slowly walking everywhere when you’re not teleporting between zones.  Also, you won’t have full access to emotes unless you manually alter your own emote files.

Having said all that… it’s awesome.  For readers of Three Virellium Coins, know that I’m calling that particular ghostly figure Captain Mayday.  He’s not exactly like the Captain Mayday of Three Virellium Coins, of course.  The Paragon City Captain Mayday is a space ghost, as you can see.

Posted July 11, 2015 by John Little in Uncategorized

Welcome Home   Leave a comment

Dancin' Live at Pocket D

Welcome Home

Posted July 8, 2015 by John Little in Uncategorized

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