July 31, 2008

Dogs in the Vineyard, Two

I finished reading through Dogs last night. It's nice and short - only 140 some-odd pages.

It's also the source (but not the origin) of the oft repeated, "Say yes or roll the dice." It may not work in all kinds of games, but the idea is important: unless something interesting is going to happen along the way, the players succeed at what they want to do. If they want to go somewhere, and the trip is uneventful, they get where they were going. If they're searching for something, and not finding it doesn't present an interesting option, they find it.

Some of this is facilitated by the style of game that Dogs presents, though. The game isn't about the story or the search or the fights - it's about how the Dogs decide to resolve the town's issues and what that reveals about their characters. People are going to come to the Dogs with their issues in the town, because they know the Dogs are supposed to do something about it. Whether that turns out the way the NPC wants it to is whole separate matter.

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July 30, 2008


Looks like we'll have to worry about the skies now. Practical Jetpacks, coming to a town near you.

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July 29, 2008

Dogs in the Vineyard, One

I'm numbering this because I may want to talk about this later.

For now though, I'll just link to the source.

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July 27, 2008

Heroes: Villains

Here's the bookends from the Heroes panel at comicon.

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Drum Hell

Some guy apparently decided to go through ever Rock Band song on expert drums in one sitting - pack-in songs and DLC. He's got about 29 songs left to go right now.


That's just insane. The dude is insanely good too.

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July 26, 2008

Overrides and Shadows

Nice little inheritance tools there. I have no problem with them, except that I've had to shadow way to many methods on List and LinkedList for my combat tracker.

See, I need to know when my CreatureList (inherits List) and InitiativeList (inherits LinkedList) objects change. Neither base list type does - for that you have to use BindingList.

So I've been using not insubstantial, even if small, time shadowing (actually "new"-ing in C#, Shadows is the keyword from VB.NET) every add/remove method on those two classes to run the base's version and then fire off an event.

Which also leads me to post the following: the difference between overriding and shadowing.

When you override a function implemented by a base class, you change the function pointer for all instances of that derived class no matter what they look like to the outside world.

public class BaseClass
public override string ToString()
return "BaseClass";

public class InheritedClass : BaseClass
public override string ToString()
return "InheritedClass";

BaseClass testOne = new BaseClass();
//testOne.ToString() == "BaseClass"
InheritedClass testTwo = new InheritedClass();
//testTwo.ToString() == "InheritedClass"
BaseClass testThree = new InheritedClass();
//testThree.ToString() == "InheritedClass"

Shadows/new works differently. It only 'overrides' the function pointer if the inherited class is being used as the inherited class.

public class BaseClass
public override string ToString()
return "BaseClass";

public class InheritedClass : BaseClass
public new string ToString()
return "InheritedClass";

BaseClass testOne = new BaseClass();
//testOne.ToString() == "BaseClass"
InheritedClass testTwo = new InheritedClass();
//testTwo.ToString() == "InheritedClass"
BaseClass testThree = new InheritedClass();
//testThree.ToString() == "BaseClass"

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Artist in Need

Here's a cheap almost morning post. I got this from Shamus, but Aaron Acevedo (RPG and CCG artist) had his house struck by a flash flood last Wednesday and his holding a print sale to soften the blow. Check his Livejounal for details.

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July 25, 2008

Mad Men

That tale of 1960s decadence and "ad men" starts back up this weekend.

If only we knew what Don Draper/Dick Whitman would be up to next.

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Raise The Roof

I've discovered that - ok, I sort of already knew - that with the more pleasing, IMO, syntax and increased flexibility with using C# for my Combat Tracker, I've inherited a greater ability to shoot myself in the foot.

This came to me when I first tried to raise an event from one of my data objects. In VB.NET, RaiseEvent doesn't care one way or another about whether anyone's listening. When you raise, or invoke, an event in C#, though, you need to make sure that the event in question has listeners (basically that EventWeAreAboutToRaise != null).

Which is just kind of silly. I agree that you should be able to see and possibly iterate through your listeners, but to require that you have them to raise the event just seems kind of silly.

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July 24, 2008

Combat Tracker


That's where you can find my combat tracker. It's totally non-functional (the trunk version, anyways). I'm using "/branches/initiative/" to get the basic turn order stuff working.

Hopefully putting this out there will be a good experience. Plus, I'm trying out VisualSVN to handle my stuff. It's basically a VS plugin to handle source control via TortoiseSVN. I'm just on the trial now, but if it works out, I'll buy it.

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Online Communities

They don't work without participation (sadly, see my D&D wiki from previous posts). They don't work without uptime (see Twitter a month or so back; I don't think there have been too many fail-whales lately).

When they don't work, they're not particularly useful.

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July 23, 2008

Combat Tracker

My creative functions are being seriously consumed by efforts to create a 4E combat tracker. It would work for other things too, just not so easily.

That and watching the end of the latest series of Doctor Who.

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July 22, 2008

Keep on the Shadowfell, Part 3

We join our intrepid heroes after a restful night in the inn. Pondering the cryptic message given by their mentor but more driven by the strange mirror that Agrid and his crew were crating up, they went to visit Valthrun in his tower.

Not a very tall building, but tall in the scale of Winterhaven and its environs, the tower stands five stories tall. The group climbed the staircase up to the fourth floor before finally getting an answer - for future reference, the sage only occupies the top two floors of the tower - from Valthrun. After much study among his library, he finds the runes that match the mirror: they are the signature runes of one of the great wizards of Nerath, the ancient human empire that used to rule these lands. He offers to take the mirror off of the adventurers hands - Valthrun's a bit of a collector of lore and artifacts - but, being a rush, they left the mirror with him for the time being, under the assumption of a deal to be made later.

With nothing else particular to do and a desire to gain a name in the region, our heroes - minus Digron, whom the party assumes has been called away by Pelor to spread his word - take off in the direction of the kobold lair.

Upon reaching a clearing, Cassandra noticed a group of kobolds just on the other side of the tree line near a waterfall. Raistlin made several attempts to distract by magically projecting his voice, but these attempts were only met with moderate success.

From their vantage point behind the trees the party decided to mount a surprise attack on the band of kobolds, who appeared to be guarding something (the mouth of the cave in this case). The surprise was imminently successful as a combination of attacks from Balasar (Lightning Breath!, aided by furious attacks from Levcis) and Raistlin took out most of the kobold party and the follow-ups from Cassandra and Sil wiped out the rest of the forward guard. The attack did not, however, succeed in preventing warning from reaching the cave, as a kobold (who had failed to either set Balasar on fire or glue him to the ground on two subsequent attacks) fled inwards shouting, "Irontooth must be warned!"

The party rested briefly before venturing forth into the waterfall hideout. Levcis and Balasar split up, which had the unfortunate side effect of Levcis being overwhelmed and flanked by kobolds who dropped him but didn't finish the job. Balasar persevered through this onslaught despite being briefly stuck to the floor by the kobold who had fled the previous fight and through accurate placement of his fiery sphere, Raistlin took out many of the small creatures.

Cassandra and Sil helped Balasar with his batch of kobolds while Raistlin took out most of the ones who'd slaughtered Levcis. Then, through a miraculous recovery, Levcis managed to get up off the ground. Short thereafter a bellowing roar came from the back of the cavern and several more kobolds and a goblin - Irontooth - emerged from the shadows.

Wielding two battleaxes, Irontooth made for a monstrous opponent, but the party was smart and managed to avoid the brunt of his attacks. Taking shots where available, maneuvering Raistlin's fiery orb into a flanking position, and using hit and run tactics all got the goblin to the point where he was seriously injured. Cassandra struck the final killing blow with her longbow, but not before he knocked Balasar and Levcis unconscious. As he died, the goblin cried out, "Kalarel and Lord Orcus, prepare my way!" Some quick first aid from Sil and Raistlin kept them from perishing.

We leave our party as they rest and search through the place to see what they could find.

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Random Thoughts (D&D 4E)

So, one of my favorite things in 4E is the ability to bring down the PCs without seriously endangering the party. Well, without necessarily being a TPK anyways.

My group of players barely managed to take out Irontooth last night. They took good care to stack damage on top of him fairly well. He did manage to take out two of their party members though.

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July 21, 2008

I won't feel a thing

Well, as of last night, Dr. Horrible is now completely off the net, save for iTunes. Until the DVD and soundtrack anyways.

The ending was a little cliched (for Joss anyways), but it was truly the start of a tragic villain. Not unlike the start Brandin's reign of terror over Tigana.

For me the most tragic part is, if you pay attention, you can tell that if Dr. Horrible had just stayed "Billy-Buddy" he could've gotten the girl. But that raises the question: who is Billy if not Dr. Horrible? We don't really see enough of his non-horrible activities to get much of an idea. Does he have a day job? If not, does he fund himself entirely through horrible schemes?

The world may never know. Or the commentary may reveal all. Just tell us when, oh great Whedon!

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July 20, 2008


In the time before the avatar, we bent nothing but the energy within ourselves.
- Lion-Turtle, Avatar: The Last Airbender
So, barring any extreme returns, Avatar is over.

That was a pretty good last 2 hours of animation. It leaves so many questions but manages to give us closure on the big points. The world can start to rebuild itself after 100 years of war.

Also, Azula really snapped there. Completely bat-$#!% insane.

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The Dark Knight

It is as good as they say.

It's disappointing that Ledger can't reprise this role, but I have to hope that what Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News says is right: that this lays down the rules used by anyone else who gets the part of the Joker, should he be back.

Even though it is a good movie (and if this gets snubbed by the Academy, it just proves once again their snobbishness toward certain film genres), it's not exactly a Batman movie - at least, not as we've been shown Batman in the past. Generally, the film gives us what we've been told these people are in the comics for a long time.

For the Batman, it means a detective and a vigilante. He is Gotham's hero, a nudge towards the light from the dark-side - he's not a "hero" because he can do what other men won't. We also see him using his vast technological and monetary resources to look into things the cops can't, either due to a lack funding or a lack of authority.

For the Joker, this means that we get a true agent of chaos. Which is actually kind of funny, because despite being an agent of chaos, he's not chaotic himself. Instead, everything is thoroughly calculated to cause as much chaos as possible. He's left a complete mystery - no one can figure out who he is, and even though he "keeps his word" he lies through his teeth.

But really, if anything, this is the story of Harvey Dent. A truly tragic figure in this take, but I'll leave that to watchers to figure out. You see, he makes his own fate.

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July 19, 2008

No-CD Cracks

This is pretty crazy. Why on earth would your devs do that - especially when you consider that, with the size of the internet, someone is doing everything conceivable with your files. And that, sounds dirty for some reason.

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Long Island

Iced Teas, that is. Which as you should know have absolutely nothing to do with tea.

Those of you who know me, also know that I drink fairly rarely. In fact, I've only ever had this particular drink once before. Last night was a friend's 25th birthday party, complete with problem reservations (for place that will come out and say that they don't reserve tables).

Also, I really shouldn't be up this early, but my damn internal clock is keeping its normal schedule.

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July 18, 2008

Keep on the Shadowfell, Part 2

Our intrepid heroes (minus Balasar), fresh from a night of rest and morning of haggling, decide to go after their mentor, Douven. Before they get more than a mile outside of town, however, they're ambushed by another pack of kobolds.

These kobolds are no weaklings, but turn out to be far less than a match for our group. A fiery blast from Raistlin and a radiant blast from Sil sends one of the skirmishers fleeing, while Levcis and Digron boldly protect their less armored companions from attack by the kobolds front line. This should daunt the remaining kobolds, but their vicious wyrmpriests bolster their companions' courage through an incitement of faith. After beating back the opponent to his last man and surrounding the remaining wyrmpriest, the priest launches an orb of energy angrily at Digron. This backfires, however, as he leaves himself open to attacks from all sides. He manages to launch the attack but, being overwhelmed, he misses. With the fight concluded, the party searches the corpses and they find a necklace on one of the wyrmpriests - one that Raistlin recognizes as a crude idol to Orcus, demon lord of the undead.

The party then ventures forth into a montage! as they attempt to find the dragon burial site based on Eilian's map:

  • Digron helps out Raistlin and provides first aid for the wizard when he nearly breaks his ankle in a hidden hole in the ground…
  • Levcis rushes to the top of the nearest hill to get a better view and spots something likely…
  • Raistlin consults his knowledge of the area's history to judge which direction to travel when they come a fork in what looks like an ancient path…
  • A little further in, Cassandra climbs up tree to get a good a view and they get closer…
  • Sil looks deep into the hearts and minds of his companions, but can't tell whether they're going in the right direction or not…
  • As the party encroaches on the location of the burial site, they start to find increasing marks (broken twigs, light footprints, disturbed branches), and finally find themselves at an opening into the burial site…

Meanwhile, back in the village, Balasar goes around town, introducing himself to as many of the townsfolk as he can. None seem to know him, but they're all a little repulsed - whether they detect something vicious within the young dragonborn or merely don't trust him is a mystery. He then takes off into the forest after the people who helped him make it into town.

No dragon awaits them, however. Instead, a band of humans led by a gnome and a halfling and protected by a pair of nasty looking drakes (think dragonkin hounds, in this case) starts up a conversation. Even though Agrid, the gnome, tries to pretend that he's a companion of Douven's, Sil sees right through it and the fight begins. But not before Balasar makes it to the edge of the clearing.

From there the combat flows in a blur of furious action: the guard drakes charge after Balasar when he sends a rock flying over their heads; Raistlin takes a bold step forward and kills two of the humans with a blast of fire; Cassandra moves to better vantage point and attacks the Agrid, winging him. Through Pelor's merciful healing - courtesy of Digron - and Levcis's encouraging words such as, "Way to use your head!" after Cassandra is knocked unconscious by one of the halfling's slung rocks, the party survives. Balasar crushes in the skull of one of the drakes with a brutish blow; Sil tries and repeatedly fails to hit the halfling; Raistlin summons a sphere of fire that manages to harm Agrid (Cassandra gets the final blow). After ganging up on the halfling, Raistlin's fiery sphere kills it.

Tied up in the corner of the dig site, the party finds their mentor, Douven. Surprised at his rescuing party (he thinks correctly that his wife must have sent them), he thanks them profusely - he rips an amulet of health from Agrid's unconscious neck, takes out a picture of his wife, and gifts it to the party. Then, apparently in a rush, he teleports away - apparently an arcane casting, but neither Sil nor Raistlin can see the inner workings of it - but not before leaving these words in the air: "Keep an eye on the dragonborn, for he can be your greatest ally, but he will also lead you to a dire foe."

Puzzled (and wishing for rest), the party searches the site, finding a non-magical mirror carved with mystic symbols and a robe of firebrand armor. They then return to town, uneventfully, arriving just before the gates are closed at nightfall.

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Encounter Design

So I mentioned the difference between 4E NPC/Monster and PC design yesterday, and today I'm going to talk about 4E encounter design.

First of all, throwing together or adjusting an encounter to smaller/larger groups is easy with a simple XP per player "budget" for each encounter level. If you need adjust an encounter to your group size, you just add or remove monsters to fit the budget.

The harder part comes in if your group doesn't have an "ideal" makeup - which is to say, it doesn't have all four of the Leader, Defender, Striker, and Controller roles covered. Then you might have to adjust the kind of monsters you use (if using a published adventure). There are suggestions for how to handle this, and it basically boils down to this:

  • If you're missing a leader the team will hurt in terms of bonuses, but you can give out healing potions to compensate for the healing.
  • If you're missing a defender, your leaders are probably going to need to step up to the front lines. You may also need to limit the number of "brute" and "soldier" monsters that you put in your encounters because the party is less able to deal with the threats they represent.
  • If you're missing a striker, you don't actually have to do much. Your party may need to retrain themselves so that they focus more on damage output though.
  • If you're missing a controller, you may wish to use fewer minions in your encounter due to your lack of AoE. It can be partially made up for by a Fighter with Cleave or a Dragonborn character that can take being in the front lines (they have a breath attack they can use each encounter).
And that's a glimpse in to 4E encounter design.

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July 17, 2008

As per last night

This one I'm supposed to be busy with D&D. Let you know more about it later.

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NPC and Monster Generation

One of the biggest differences between Character Creation and and NPC/Monster generation in D&D 4E is the difference in the shear number of powers available to them.

You're free to create NPCs the same way you do characters, but unless you want them to be an incredibly powerful nemesis (most monsters/NPCs don't have the same pool of powers as characters), you're not supposed to. Instead they build from the same set of powers, but have fewer. Less flexibility overall, in fact.

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July 16, 2008

Social Obligations

This has to be the busiest week I've had in a long time.

It all starts just this last Saturday: my parents come up for the weekend and a co-worker throws a pool party. The parents left Monday morning.

Then, Monday evening was the first actual play session of my D&D game (private wiki @ http://wdtgg.wikidot.com - if you apply and I know you, you'll probably get access).

Tuesday was week 2 of "Freaks and Geeks" as part of "TV Night Tuesdays".

Tonight, I'm actually relatively free - but not really.

See, tomorrow I'm hosting the second play session of "Where Does The Good Go?" so I have to prep the house. I have to send a shout-out to my parents for leaving the apartment cleaner than they left it - much, much cleaner. I still have some work to do, though.

Then Friday night is a super secret birthday party - I don't think he reads this blog, so I should be safe. That's bound to go all night long (obviously, getting kicked out of the restaurant around 10ish at the latest).

Saturday, I'm hosting "Bats Rock!" an insanity-fueled idea of watching The Dark Knight in an afternoon matinee and then following it up with food and Fake Plastic Rock into the wee hours of the night.

Then I have Sunday and Monday (during the day) to take care of business before session 3 of "Where Does The Good Go?".

Busy, busy, busy.

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Final Fantasy XIII....Non-Exclusive?

News from the front at E3 (no longer the gaming giant event it used to be) says that Final Fantasy XIII will be simultaneously arriving for the PS3 and the XBox 360.

Not sure which I'll be buying it for, but this is a big blow for Sony. I'd be willing to bet that they were hoping for this release to sell PS3s - it may still, but it's far less likely now. Of course, they haven't said whether all of FF XIII is going to be multi-platform: Final Fantasy Versus XIII - whatever that is going to be - may still be PS3 exclusive.

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July 15, 2008

Keep on the Shadowfell, Part 1

Even though it was skirted by, our intrepid heroes came across a dragonborn soldier with no memory other than his name: Balasar.

Then came an encounter with a band of kobolds, who were largely annihilated by the dragonborn's lightning breath (to the shock of both Balasar and some of the other party members - they knew this was possible, but had never seen it before), and scorching blast of fire from Raistlin kept him in the fray.

In an attempt to disable a foe who had snuck her blade under his ally's armor, one of the sneakier kobolds rooted Cassandra to the place she stood. This could stop the comparatively young elf, however, and once her nearby foes were vanquished - with the aid of a dizzying attack from Digron, as well as some healing - she switched to the longbow that childhood with her people had taught her to use. That same kobold, continuing to lurk around the edges of the combat, set Sil on fire before attempting to flee.

Not to be daunted by a lowly fleeing kobold, Balasar, Levcis, and Sil followed in hot pursuit. Levcis struck the final blow with sword, but remained dazed for several minutes. The party decide to strip the kobolds bare and the resulting haul brought them great fortune.

Now in the village of Winterhaven, our heroes have found what comparatively little word they could of Douven Staul, their mentor. Of course, this doesn't amount to much - merely a map to where the burial site he was investigating should be, according to the amateur historian of the village, Eilian the Old. They've also been hired by the town leader, Lord Padraig (descendant of the Lords of the village from back when this was still part of an ancient human empire), to dispatch the kobold menace for which they shall be rewarded greatly. As greatly as such a meager village can afford, at least.

For the time being, however, Balasar is going to search the walled village and surrounding farms for clues to his past. Meanwhile the rest of the party prepares to venture forth, but towards what goal?

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You Have to Have a Memorable Laugh

Random Topic: During the Writer's Strike earlier this year, Joss Whedon got some of his friends together and decided to go indy for a three-part series.

I haven't had to time to watch it, but if you don't catch it this week, you'll probably be paying for it on DVD.

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July 14, 2008

How I Got Started in Programing, Part Two

What was your first professional programming gig?
My first and only, so far, professional programming gig is at Data-Tronics. COBOL, VBScript ASP with JavaScript clientside, VB.NET (both console and WinForms apps; not much ASP.NET though). Although, it's not the first time I got paid for code or markup.

If you knew what you know now, would you have started programming?
I'm not sure. Probably, I would, but I'm also interested in and somewhat knowledgeable about the hardware side of things. Sometimes I feel that would be a bit slower: unless there's a problem or new hardware requirements, things could be pretty quiet. It's not that way at our shop, but we've got thousands of systems interacting.

If there was one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?
I can't write just one, so here's 2-3:

Learn how to maintain code. Learn how to write maintainable code. They're hard to do outside of a professional gig, but they're important. There is such a thing as objectively maintainable code, but I haven't seen any (including my own) that looked it.

Get used to other people seeing your code. There will always be someone who thinks it's crap, and usually someone who thinks it's good (as long as it works, anyway).

To second Brian, get involved. Even if you don't want to spend an excessive amount of time learning, you should always learn something new. I don't care if it's programming, computers, science, art, or history. The act of learning keeps your mind flexible, which keeps you employable.

What's the most fun you've ever had... programming?
It's a toss up between the final group project for a video game programming course we convinced out college faculty to "teach" and getting a joystick to run a little robot for JPL (it was a summer research fellowship) over a wifi connection.

Tag, you're it!
I'm not sure who to tag with this, so I'll hit some of Brian's up.

And add one: Tim Franklin.

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How I Got Started in Programing, Part One

I've been called out, so here's a response. At least, as good of one as I can think at 6:10 in the morning.

How old were you when you started programming?

I don't really remember for certain, but I'd say fairly young. Probably by the time I was 10.

How did you get started programming?

I think I got started on either Timex Sinclair or a TI-99 4a. It appears that I'm following a path not unknown to most programmers of that era: I copied down games in BASIC. That's right, I think I had a book of BASIC programs that were just games.

Of course, not all of them worked, and I stopped after a few years - mostly. See, my dad's in the other side of the computer business. He's been a lot of things over the years, but now he's the Technical Support Manager for a state organization. So I've been around a lot of computers.

What was your first language?

BASIC. I remember, in addition to copying down some games, writing some really simple math programs. My first "real" language that I took seriously though was C++. Like Brian, I think this is why I'm more comfortable in C# - although sometimes I wish it would stop asking me for semicolons. Not all the time though, because it's nice to no have to use a line continuation character.

What was your first real program?

I'll take this to be the same question as Brian did. I'll also answer the same way: my capstone project at Arkansas Tech University. In our case, though, they have us do what's effectively "community service" programming. I don't think it ever saw real use, but my group and I wrote a fairly standard news system (and some other stuff - I think we had job listings and profile pages) for the CS Alumni site done in PHP with a MySQL backend on Linux.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

In college: C++, PHP, I think several different Motorola Processor Assembly languages. Real World: VB.NET, Javascript, COBOL, a really weird in-house macro'ed assembler (barely), VBScript. I've dabbled in some Python and C#, but haven't really finished anything in either language.


I know this is supposed to be a one post thing, but I'm running short on time this morning. I'll finish up this evening.

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July 13, 2008

See, I'm not missing tonight...

Hellboy 2 was pretty good. Definitely a good popcorn movie, but it also has some decent ambiguities. It also had a combat scene that I so want to steal (clockwork environment) for some purpose.

I've now got a sizable collection fairly generic monster tokens, along with some for PCs. I should be all good to go for tomorrow.

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Yes, that's right, third day in a row of no evening post.

I blame the pool party this time. I even managed not to get sunburned.

Going to see Hellboy II this afternoon with dad.

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July 12, 2008

Where Does the Good Go?

Wow...I did it again. That's what I get for transcribing character sheets all night.

I've apparently created some sort of monster with this D&D thing. Let me tell you why I say this.

A character that was just a plot hook to get the party into the right general area (their mentor in the ways of excavating and dungeon-diving), has gone from being the man who raised several of them into a mysteriously ancient figure. This is due at least in part to the fact that he rescued the dwarf (who's 161) as an infant and yet is somehow still alive.

Our elf and our half-elf took my suggestion that they could be half-siblings, and I think they both hate their father for leaving their families behind.

We also have at least two non-sibling sibling rivalries going over the attentions of the mentor.

It's really nutty.

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July 11, 2008

Keep on the Shadowfell, Character Creation

Ok, that was the first time I've missed a post, but be honest: a lot of my posts aren't worth the bits they take up.

Last night was the character creation session for my D&D game that's going to start with Keep on the Shadowfell (H1). Here's the party we have:

  • Levcis, Tiefling Warlord - This is the most adventurous character we have, as he's actually possessed on occasion by two Demons
  • Digron, Dwarven Cleric of Pelor
  • Raistlin (I may have to get this changed, but it's kind of funny), Human Wizard
  • Balasar, Dragonborn Fighter (with Expanded Lightning Breath!)
  • Cassandra, Elf Rogue (motto: "Take Him!" *points at ally next to her*)
  • Sil, Half-Elf Star Pact Warlock (he took the wizard's Ray of Frost for an encounter power)
It was hastily done, and I'd like to thank Sil's player for quickly picking up things and thus being of great aid. It's sad to think that Sil and Cassandra won't be with us for too long (they're both interns and thus will be gone half-way through August), but who knows, they could be back in a year or two.

I left them with as close to cliffhanger as I can, leading them right into the ambush that makes up the first encounter. I plan on rolling back the clock just a little bit so we can get a bit of roleplaying out of them as no one should expect the Spanish Inquisition.

I can already see some corrections and additions I need to make to some of the character sheets, but that's ok because even I was overwhelmed. Someone really needs to come up with a step by step way to fill out character sheets, or at least make such a way more prominent. Also, and I don't know if this is normal or not, but I'm assuming that classes that use implements have non-magical, non-enhancing implements that they use to channel some or all of their powers through.

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July 10, 2008

Song Summoner

Square-Enix has continued their foray into the tactical realm with two - relatively - new releases: Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and Song Summoner.

Song Summoner is breaking some new ground for them moving further into the mobile realm - it's an iPod game. Being on the iPod, they make use of a technique that's similar to Monster Rancher's CD-based monster creation: your squad members, "Tune Troopers", are created through the selection of songs from your music collection and I assume the stats are based on song data and metadata.

Of course, I've never managed to finish a tactical game. The battles take quite a while, and they're usually varying degrees of punishing if you're careful.

Besides, I have to think of how to keep people used to video games and the internet interested in a tabletop RPG. Think about it - it can be pretty tough.

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July 9, 2008


The song "Lost?" by Coldplay is, to put it quite simply, a very sad and yet uplifting song. Not to be confused with "Lost!" which is the same song, but electric.

Just because I'm losing,
doesn't mean I'm lost,
doesn't mean I'll stop,
doesn't mean I would cross

Just because I'm hurting,
doesn't mean I'm hurt,
doesn't mean I didn't get what I deserved
no better and no worse

I just got lost
Every river that I tried to cross
Every door I ever tried was locked
Oh and I'm,
just waiting til the shine wears off
He got lost. He can't admit it at first, but even though he does it doesn't mean he's giving up. He's accepted that this is just what's going to happen. If I had to point to a specific event, he's talking about getting dumped and getting trapped in the mire of despair and confusion that can come with that.

He doesn't see it as the end, just an ending.
You might be a big fish
in a little pond
Doesn't mean you've won
'cause along may come a bigger one

And you'll be lost
Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off

Oh and I'm,
just waiting til the firing stops
Oh and I'm,
just waiting til the shine wears off
He goes on to talk about the other, the lover who jilted him or the person who thinks they're better than him now. He says that there's always someone bigger for him - maybe his true soulmate - or bigger than them. Then that other will be just as lost as him. It can happen to anyone.

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Burn Notice

Spies don't get fired, they get burned.

Tomorrow night Burn Notice returns for its second season. I have no idea where their going to be when the show starts back up, because the end of the first season was a bit out there. Michael drove his car into a trailer and that was that.

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July 8, 2008

Freaks and Geeks

Oh, wonderful short-lived Judd Apatow-produced 1999-2000 TV series.

I may not have been born yet in 1980, but I totally get Sam's crowd (the character, I'm not talking about myself in the third person). In ways, I was even worse off even without getting beat up: I was a band geek.

'Nuff said.

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Why is that after a nice long post like that one, I'm so often struggling for a topic the next day?

It has to be a variation on the whole white page issue.

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July 7, 2008

July DNUG Meeting

So tonight, in addition to the traditional pizza, we also had the traditional (I guess that's ok to say, it has only been a few months though) presentation and the soon to be traditional "Tool Tip".

This first presentation of a "Tool Tip" - my own name for it, though if you want to take it, do so Paladino - was vouching for and showing some uses of some of Sysinternals's utilities. Now, I'd heard of Sysinternals before, but didn't know they'd been bought by Microsoft.

Two things of note not mentioned at the meeting:

  1. Sysinternals is the group behind Rootkit Revealer, which famously uncovered the infamous Sony Music CD rootkit.
  2. Some PC games have copy-protection software that watches for either an installation of Process Explorer or for an active Process Explorer, uh, process. So, fair warning to those of you who may game on a machine you also use for developing.
The meat of the meeting though, was a presentation on the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), which is part of the .NET framework since version 3.0. Its focus is on abstracting most of the communication involved in passing messages between clients and services (both local and intra-/inter-network) while allowing both the ability to build in your own handlers/channels for the communication and to communicate with at least some non-WCF clients or services.

It's all based around the decoupling of client and service (or server) through the use of Web Service Definition Language (WSDL) "contracts". This means that you don't need to explicitly share code between your two pieces and really facilitates having, say, an internal WinForms or WPF application and an external ASP.NET or Silverlight application that make use of the same functionality.

Since WCF is entirely opt-in through attributes (except for the actual host of the service, which I would hope is obvious), it should be pretty easy to adapt an existing codebase - probably the "business logic" layer of a standard WinForms app - for use as a service. And like I said above, depending on how the service is being hosted or the service itself, a WCF service can talk to a non-WCF client and a non-WCF service can communicate with a WCF client. That means you can talk cross-platform if you have a mixed shop.

It's some pretty cool stuff, especially with the use of the IExtensibleDataObject interface that allows a service and the client to pass around information that they don't really understand but some service in chain uses or requires. It's a sort of "soft versioning" so that the clients don't blow up when you change the service.

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Product Placement

Alright, trivia time. My current corporate family has one of it's logos appear, but it is not mentioned, in all of the last 3 episodes of The West Wing. Comment or email me with specifics and I'll let you know if you're right.

I don't know if it's actually paid product placement, but it seems odd to me that the item in question shows up in all 3 episodes with the logo readable at least once and recognizable more often.

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July 6, 2008

Mass Time-Spender

Ok, so I've never been satisfied with Mass Effect on the XBox 360. So I went out and bought the PC version today.

It runs fairly well, as evidenced by the fact that I'm barely making this post on the 6th.

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Oy, I finally finished Green Grass and High Tides Forever, Easy Drums. I realize this may not sound like much, but it's taunted me for quite a while. It's not really that challenging, although some of the quicker bass pedal sections give me hell because I have trouble separating feet from hands in terms the of independent motion required for the drums, just really really long. The only real instrument I've ever played was the trumpet and it really just requires a mouth and 3 fingers on one hand + 2 on the other.

For those who haven't heard my own self-rankings: I'm pretty good at vocals (I've completed Hard - generally with actual singing - and started Expert, which is a pain, but I did 100% Dani California on Friday night, who cares if it's easy), absolutely suck at guitar/bass, and am moderately better at drums.

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July 5, 2008

Social Contracts

They're everywhere, whether explicitly written or implicitly known. In most situations, it's generally common sense (well, assuming that you were raised in the society in question) but at the gaming table, it can be a really big deal.

But just like most human societies, there are parts that are sort of implicit. Adherence to the rules of the chosen system, save where they don't cover what's happening or where group has agreed not to abide by them, for instance.

Others aren't, otherwise there wouldn't be a whole lot of point to this post. In many groups, the parts that you'd wish were more explicit are still implicit which can cause problems. It can be important to get some of this stuff out there to get everyone on the same page (more).

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Monster Creation

So, I've been reading through the 4E DMG and MM and I just want to say: encounter, monster, and potentially combatant NPC creation seems easier than ever.

Encounters are just an issue of sticking monsters together until they hit a certain XP goal for your party's size and level. So, no more "two CR 5 monsters equal a CR 7 encounter" which is just a little insane.

Unless you need to make a really custom monster, there are simple enough creation rules in the DMG. Of course, there's still an option that's always been available to DMs: re-skin them. Call an existing monster something different, change any relevant descriptions and voila! Instantly new monster. What's great about this is that now it's actually suggested in the DMG.

NPC creation is similar, but there's one great thing that's out there now with the way that PC powers work. No longer does a special power mean that the NPC has to have a magic item providing it (or a spellbook including it), which means there's no obligation to provide such an item as loot.

Even better: the DMG spells out the expected item loadouts per character level, so there's not guessing and there's no "I should XXXXXXgp worth of items".

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July 4, 2008


Well, maybe not a party, but a cookout and hangout. So I'm too busy to post this normally.

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Independence Day (For US anyways)

I leave you with a bit of song this morning:

Today is ours
Condemned to be free
Free to keep breathing
Free to believe

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July 3, 2008

Nutty Contract Language

This is some sneaky, sneaky work by AOL.

Shame on them, though I'm pretty sure that corporations don't normally feel shame.

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Good Advice

If you're interested in running a D&D (or, really any kind of roleplaying) game, there are a few sites out there that can help.

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July 2, 2008


I think I might actually be getting my D&D game off the ground. Now let's just hope I can keep it going once it starts.

I'll be running Keep on the Shadowfell for certain, and maybe H2 as well (hell, H3 if it's out in time to use it).

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Private Investigators? Really?

Thanks to a strange new law, computer repair shops in Texas will have to have PI licenses.

Assuming the law doesn't get overturned, this means getting a criminal justice degree or undergoing a 3 year apprenticeship or get hit with fines and jail time. That goes for their customers too, apparently.

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July 1, 2008

Weapon of Choice

So my little rant yesterday got me thinking about the nature of choice. With the ability to choose (free will) comes the responsibility to accept the consequences.

Choose to walk across the street, take the chance that you get run down by a driver. Choose to take care of yourself, you might just turn that head your way and meet someone new.

Choose to study and you should do better on that test. Choose not to vote, and you accept that you just gave away your legal route to deciding who helps run this place.

It seems curious to me that the biggest hot button topics in relationships (politics, religion, money) are tightly entwined in the most meaningful, most consequential choices we can make. And yet they're forbidden topics in so many circles.

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Know Your Vines

Yeah, I'm out of ideas this morning.

So, I link this comic from Randall over at xkcd.

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