Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Review of Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2

As Preorders close on June 23 I thought now would be a good time to review this book. Before I do so here is another review to give you a second look. Generic Universal Eggplant Review

This book has 24 monsters, each with a picture and 2 pages of text.  Some are old classics like Giants, Stirges, Chimera, and the Naga.  Others are new monsters. The book is based on stock art so some will look like classic monsters from various games but are given unique and often exciting life here.
Each monster has stats,and many have a special attack that is well described in the text. The text also includes adventure seeds (I think all have 2) which helps the GM quickly drop them into a campaign.

Most of these are rather tough, if not boss level, and the variety is enough that something here will be good for any DF type campaign. Some are pretty creepy and most have enough flavor to amuse me and add to a campaign.
For an idea of the contents here are the monster by type:
Construct 2, Demon 3, Dire Animal 3, Divine Servitor 2, Elder Thing 2, Elemental 2, Faerie 2, Hybrid, Mundane 3, Plant 2, Slime, Undead 3

As a kickstarter backer I received my PDF copy a few weeks ago, and I am looking forward to my printed copy later this year. I really liked the book and hope you get yours as well.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Big Government vs. Small Government

This is one of the classic debates between the two camps, so lets look into it...

Right Wing

Big government is bad! As it gets bigger taxes go up to pay for it, bureaucratic red tape makes it slower and less efficient, and it intrudes in peoples lives.

Left Wing

The government should take care of its people.

Center

As with most things either extreme goes too far. The government is supposed to protect the country and its people from foreign attack, both sides agree there. But what abut other things?
  • Police, fire departments add to the size of government and increase taxes but if no one did it we would have anarchy. Also privatized services cost more money to run because they want to make a profit and may choose to only cover those who can afford them. We actually used to have that setup in the USA but it turns out fires spread and if not controlled quickly they spread out of control.
  • Corporate takeover is a risk from not just US based companies but foreign ones as well. In fact most corporations are owned in whole or in part by foreign entities. Without government oversight companies could seize your home, charge you anything they wanted, force competitors out of business, and trample all over citizens rights and freedoms. So clearly we need some government controls, the real question is how much is too much.  That is a topic for another post.
  • Public Education is another thing to look at. We used to have private education but the trouble is uneducated people find a hard time getting good work and are more likely to resort to criminal activities. Also with a poorly educated population we have to import skilled workers from other countries or ship skilled jobs overseas. This weakens our country and makes it more vulnerable to foreign control so an educated population is in the countries national security interests.
  • Infrastructure is something the government can do well, though its subject to corruption. We need roads and airports to connect us and do we really want all roads to be toll roads?

Summary

The size of government and what it does is a good topic for debate, clearly we need some but not too much. Those who think government can solve everything are mistaken, some things are in fact done better by private entities motivated by profit and greed over patriotism. However some things that profit over patriotism gets in the way and is counter to the good of the country. Remember in modern America big business is beholden to its stock holders and they may or may not be Americans. By definition we cant reasonably expect them to be patriotic and loyal to our country, especially over making a profit.

An Open Letter to Robert Mueller

Dear Robert Mueller,

I've heard you dont want to testify before Congress and that you feel your report stands by itself. I respect that, you seem like a work hard kind of guy and likely expect others to work hard too.  And having read your reports it seems pretty clear and well laid out case.
However most Americans have not, please understand that many are working multiple jobs and have families and dont have a lot of free time. And its hard reading, especially if your not a lawyer, and to be fair its a very hard read. Also many Americans likely feel that if there was anything in there Congress would do its job but all most are hearing are partisan politics. You have a major news channel in Fox telling everyone its a witch hunt and totally exonerated the President. You have the President himself and most of the GOP saying the same thing. So its understandable that Democratic voices are considered partisan hacks, especially since Speaker Pelosi and most of the House has chosen to not begin impeachment.  That tells the American people that they dont have enough evidence so they need to keep digging.

Unfortunately we have corruption and most of Congress looking to protect their own power and political aspirations.Some want to bury the investigation and let Russia and other countries continue their attacks on America to protect themselves and their party. Some just are cowards who are afraid to do what they swore to when they took office and are waiting for the wind to blow the right way.
I understand your disgust at all this and testifying before them will not be fun and you'll probably feel like showering for a month wont get rid of the slime and stench from being in the same room.  I understand the feeling that you served your country yet again and its about time others who are in a position of power to do so stand up and be counted.
But we all know that is not likely to happen soon, in the meantime cyber security has been pretty much nixed and our elections are still insecure as there is no political will to protect the country.

The sad truth is your country needs you again. We need you to stand up and explain in a manner that will get coverage and be clearly understood and repeated by every American. We cant trust Congress to do its job and hopefully we can replace most of them in 2020 for their failure. But efforts to protect our republic need to happen soon if they are to do any good at all. If the President and Congress are allowed to get away with these crimes against our country then things will only get worse.
So I ask, no I beg you to testify, do it soon, and do it publicly.  And I ask that you call out Congress (both parties) on their failure to do their duty.
America needs to hear from you, it may be our only chance.
Thank you,
Rory Fansler
USAF Veteran.
(No war hero, but I served and was willing to die for my country and do not feel its too much to ask the same of my elected representatives.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Sci-Fi Settings

Check this page for a list of settings. Thats a good list but as a list it lacks flavor.  For flavor we need to break that down into something smaller.

GURPS Infinite Worlds

Created to showcase the versatility of GURPS this is a pseudo time travel setting with two competing parachronic opposing organizations. The setting presupposes a bunch of alternate timelines and the characters travel from world to world doing various missions, This is a fun setting, though it can be hard on the GM as it jumps from world to  world and mission assignments vary.
There are a number books and Pyramid articles supporting this setting.

GURPS Transhuman Space

This is the largest sci-fi setting for GURPS and started near the end of the Third Edition, but has had an update and conversion book as well as several fully Fourth Edition supplements.
The concept is a near future where transhumanism is front and center. Computer technology is prolific and humans can upload themselves into machines. Its similar to cyberpunk but less dystopic in a way.

Reign of Steel

Another Third Edition setting updated to Fourth Edition.  This is a post Apocalypse series where computers took over the world. The difference between this and most others of that ilk is that there are several computers (called zone-minds) with each in charge of a certain region of the world (or beyond!) and they are vying with each other for control of resources and philosophies. This is a harsh world where computers send out hunter killer teams to eliminate a human resistance, use them as lab rats, or a labor force.

Tales of the Solar Patrol

This is a Space Opera setting in the vein of pulp science fiction, with square jawed heroes, helpless damsels to rescue, and a lot of stereotypes. Its a fun setting and one not to be taken too seriously.

Lands Out of Time

Another fun setting designed to be less than serious is Lands Out of Time which has a lost world with dinosaurs that the characters are somehow sent to.

Summary

So that 5 complete sci-fi settings for modern GURPS, two tongue in cheek, two serious and more gritty, and one that is pretty much anything goes. Pyramid has several setting ideas in it as well, and Third Edition settings can of course be adapted.
But that is what we have now, what would YOU like to see in the future?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Capitalism vs. Socialism

So in the media a lot of people are talking about these ideas but not bothering to dig into the terminology, instead its being framed as two opposing sides. The reality is of course more complex than a sound byte.

Capitalism

The idea behind capitalism as an economic philosophy is that humans are competitive in nature and also inherently lazy. Without a personal benefit people wont do any work and society will crumble.
While that is a bit exaggerated (we all know people who volunteer) it does however have a lot of truth to it.  People are generally far more motivated if there is something in it for them.

Socialism

This is a hybrid government and economic philosophy and all governments are to some extant socialist in nature. The idea is that by banding together for the collective good the society provides benefit to everyone. Examples include the military for defense, public roads and utilities, fire and police departments, etc.

Difference in Goals

Capitalism is a predator vs. prey relationship, where the strong get stronger and feed off the weaker.  In this case wealth is the measure of power. Socialism is a grassroots community building process where the whole is grater than the sum of its parts. By helping those less fortunate than you you help society as a whole.

Getting Practical

By allowing those who work hard or come up with new ideas to personally benefit society becomes stronger, However if the majority of the society feel to put upon they may revolt, also they are needed to provide labor and consume the goods the wealthy are selling.
Socialism provides a safety net  to keep exploitation low enough to prevent civil war and help more people become contributing members to society.
Both sides can go too far or not far enough, the best approach is a middle ground.

Getting to the Middle

To function America needs both ideas, Capitalism encourages development and growth, but socialism evens out the playing field through education and basic services so everyone has the hope of opportunity. As the money gets more and more focused at the top its easier for them to maintain power even without working for it (Inherited wealth, racial privilege) and harder for those born poor to get wealthy (or even middle class). Socialism tries to even this out by ensuring everyone is equal and starts off with the same resources, then its up to the individual what they do with it.
 If the average American is one step away from losing their home, job, or life with a single stroke of bad luck society as a whole suffers.

A Prosperous America

America was at its most prosperous after WW II in the 1950s.
We had a strong rising middle class due to a souped up manufacturing industry and the world needing rebuilding, also consumer demand was high.  The GI bill helped a lot of service members and their families get better jobs and offered affordable housing which also meant more jobs. The goodwill and economic prosperity brought to other countries by the Marshal Plan helped foster good will towards America, increasing overseas demand for its products. Strong labor unions helped workers get better pay and benefits which increased consumer demand as more people had more money to spend.
The marginal tax rates were far higher than they are now, though not at historical highs. The highest rates were after the Great Depression and helped get us out of it faster than many other countries. Still it was as high as 91% in 1960 for $200,000 single filers (today that would be 1.5 million dollars) and that also helped spread the wealth around.
As corporations and the wealthiest gained more and more power they have worked to undo a lot of those gains, lowering their tax rates substantially while lowering the average Americans far less in comparison, destroying unions, and lobbying for massive deregulation.
They also went for consolidation resulting in less competition and fewer jobs.

Getting Back to a Prosperous America

In order to get back to a prosperous America for all we need to promote job growth, not by adding more part time jobs for minimum wage and no benefits but by adding good full time jobs at a living wage. As more and more people make a decent living and have money to spare they spend more which in turn creates the need for more jobs.
To do this we need 
  • Minimum wage to be tied to inflation. Most people get raises that are lower than inflation, which means year after year even though they make more money it does not go as far.
  • Quality Education for all. Education is stacked towards the wealthy in America.  That means those born wealthy have a tremendous advantage over those not so lucky. By making more people able to have the same opportunities to make a better life for themselves and their children everyone benefits. Its simple Demand Economics. If you have more customers you can make more money.
  • Health Care is a huge cost for most Americans. If you get sick even with insurance you may lose your job, and its the number one reason for bankruptcy in America. Americans pay more for less than any other industrial nation. Taxpayers pay for medical advances at universities and trials yet the drug companies sell the same drug for thousands of dollars to Americans that they sell at a profit overseas for a few dollars. If this is not changed America will fall.
  • Climate Change is a hge problem.It costs billions of dollars in tax subsidies each year for disaster relief and the amount keeps growing. Meanwhile fosil ful jobs own most politicians despite hiring fewer workers than renewable jobs (Look it up Bureau of Labor Statistics) which hurts our economy now and even more so going forward. We used to lead in solar cell production but have surrendered that to China due to government policies purchased by the fossil fuel industry. Addressing this while the window is still open means more American jobs.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Designers Notes for GURPS Powers: Nature and Totem Spirits


Its been a long road but this is my first GURPS book, though hopefully not my last.
This was originally part of a much larger book, but Steven Marsh wisely suggested a smaller book for my first time. In my mind shaman and spirits are given short shrift in most RPGs in that spirits are mostly things to fight and shaman are typically just another spell caster. GURPS has the structure to do so much more and we have seen glimpses but I wanted more for my favorite system.

The Totems, there are a decent amount included, I only had to cut one from the playtest draft (rat) which was a nice urban type totem but replaced it with Dragon and Nymph at the request of the play testers who wanted more non animal totems. There a bunch of notes for others that did not get a writeup, just some short notes on their aspects.
The play testers were great, especially William Stoddard and Jon Lang who kept the discussion on the power modifier going a few days after it officially closed. They had specific concerns and because they were willing and able to discuss them objectively we managed to come up with a rewrite that hopefully works for more people than the original.

Going into this I knew I would get requests for additional totems (Octopus was one such), expected to get some recommendations to cut, and was expecting (and received) requests for more detail and lore on certain favorites. However the goal was to get in as many worked examples as possible and cover several professions and character needs.
Overall that part went better than I expected, for those familiar with the subject a lot of this can be very personal.

The Role section was added during the review and let me keep more totems than I expected and do a better job of helping GMs and players make new totems. It adds an extra step but I think keeps complexity to a minimum.

Drafts, I actually did rewrites and sent them out daily the first week.  Most would not do this, but it helped the manuscript was short and it helped me track word count and turn in the final draft faster by editing in virtually real time instead of after the test. The only playtest I have participated in that was similar was GURPS Technical Grappling where it was important to the author we saw changes quickly for improved feedback.
I tried to make it as painless as possible by noting the changes in each draft from the previous one.

Hows the Crunch?

Primarily this is a book of templates and lenses and no new rules. However I created some new modifiers, including one that addressed something I have wanted in GURPS since GURPS Lensmen!
Also added were some skill and advantage clarifications. Overall I think its pretty crunchy but still has plenty of flavor. But that is the authors opinion, whats yours?

What was changed or cut?

In the end the presentation had the most changes, with sections of text being moved around, a few things were deemed redundant and cut, other sections reworded for clarity.
The Power modifier and a few advantages received some feedback and changes but in the end they came out as I wanted but better written due to the feedback. The Role change was a nice addition and saved a lot of repetitiveness. That saved a lot of word count but also makes an easier read. The old way each Totem was a larger wall of text, good for fast reference but not as pleasant to read in my opinion.

Other Reviews

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Investing in America

I'll be going through a series of posts on Investing in America. In order to grow a business our country you have to be willing investment and support for that growth.  Incentives also help, though a capitalist economy can be enough of an incentive as long as people have the opportunity.