30 January 2015

Proto rule zero

Rule zero over the years

That is a good article.

Though I think “rule zero”—in some sense—actually predates D&D.

On the Pied Piper forums; Mike Mornard, Rob Kuntz, and Gary Gygax talked about Chainmail games where rulings were made on-the-fly to deal with things players wanted to do that were not covered by the rules. Such as setting fire to the woods enemy units were holed up in. Mike in particular made the point that “what is not forbidden is allowed” was the way the Lake Geneva wargamers played before D&D.

Unfortunately, those PPP forums seem to no longer be online. (And the PPP forums may have had multiple incarnations.)

29 January 2015

Runequest Archive Products Being Retired

Runequest archive products being retired at OBS

This is extremely myopic. One of the great benefits of e-books is that books don’t have to go out-of-print and (potentially at least) become hard-to-find.

What is the message they’re sending to customers who would like to buy these books? If someone wants to give them money for these products instead of (or in addition to) the more recent books, that customer doesn’t care why they’ve been “retired”. They just hear, “No, we don’t want your money.” At best.

28 January 2015

User friendly

A Brief History of User Interface

That is a great video, and nothing here is meant as criticism of it. After all, it is meant to be brief.

It always bothers me a bit, though, when the fact that there was user friendly software before the windows/mouse GUI gets glossed over. The GUI was undeniably a big paradigm shift. (Being graphical by default, discouraging modes, being more event-driven, being more consistent, &c.) But there were plenty of people who wanted to—and did—make computers more accessible before it.

27 January 2015

Other people’s code

Programmers dread reading code written by another programmer. Why is it so hard to read other people’s code? I don’t know, but here are some thoughts.

In C, it is because of the limited ability to express abstractions. Code of any complexity tends towards using function pointers and macros and other techniques that obscure things.

In some languages, like Perl, it is because everyone uses a different subset of the language. In the extreme case, this can also mean completely different styles of programming in the same language.

With some languages, like Scheme, it is because the ability to build powerful abstractions means that code of any complexity essentially becomes another language embedded in the original. To understand the code, you have to learn this new, project-specific language.

26 January 2015

Winter NAMM 2015

Products that looked interesting to me while watching the Winter NAMM 2015 coverage...

Digitech Trio: The Trio puts the old Band in a Box software into a pedal along with chord detection. So, instead of programming the chords and rhythm by hand, you just play the chords and rhythm, then the BiaB bassist and drummer join in.

Note that the BiaB software is fairly sophisticated. It will play fills. It will play busier parts at slower tempos and sparer parts at faster tempos. It could also do keyboard parts, so maybe we’ll get a Quartet pedal in the future if the Trio sells well.

So far, I only saw one demo where they talked about what the optional external footswitches do, and the choices seemed questionable. I hope that will be configurable.

It seems like there would be some potential for a pedal like this that was also a looper. Or maybe they could make it support the same sync feature as the Digitech loopers.

The Eric Johnson Tone Capsule: I’d already been impressed by what I’d been hearing about the new Blues Cube amp. It turns out that they have a socket on it that you can plug a “tone capsule” into. This one is designed to tweak the amp to make it deliver something closer to EJ’s tones.

The fact that it glows and looks like a tube is awesome.

So far, it doesn’t look like there’s anyway to get the BC’s original tones without unplugging the tone capsule. It would be nice if you could have the original tones and the tweaked tones all on tap.

IK Multimedia iRig PowerBridge: This is a great idea. A single solution to charging an iOS device while having an audio or MIDI interface connected.

The downside is that the Mini-DIN connector they’re using probably means it is only compatible with IK’s on interfaces. You’d really like it to have a Lightning connector like Apple’s HDMI adapter. I’m guessing Apple makes that option impractical for them. The next best choice would be USB. But that might still make it more expensive and more complicated.

You can argue that it is in IK’s interest to make it only work with their own interfaces. I disagree, but...shrug

Z.Vex Pedal Thief: Allows you to swap an effects loop between a mic and a guitar. I’m thinking this will be handy to use with loopers that don’t have multiple inputs.

Big Ear N.Y.C. More More More: Three boosts in one box.

Mooer Wahter: What’s cool about the Wahter is that it is a compact wah pedal with fold-out sections to make it more compact while travelling. I hadn’t seen that before.

Boss ES-8: I have to wonder why Boss didn’t already have a switching system for pedals like this in their line. I also wonder if it really is a “game changer” compared to similar systems that were already available. But it does look very nice.

It is a bit disappointing that it doesn’t appear to have a lot of support for stereo pedals. Loop 7 has a mono send and a stereo return, and loop 8 has stereo sends and stereo returns.

I think these are all the (single size) Boss pedals that have stereo in: DD-7, RV-5, TE-2, RC-1, and the RC-3. Although you probably don’t want both an RC-1 and an RC-3 in the same rig, you might want all of them and all the others. The TE-2 strikes me as a very special purpose pedal, so I think you’d want a DD-7 along with it. Lots of people like to have at least two DDs set to different delay times. With the ES-8, you’d have to put all of these in loop 8 or put them after the ES-8 outputs. Either option means you aren’t getting the biggest benefit of the ES-8.

Looking at pedals with mono in and stereo out: DM-2W, DD-3, BF-3, CE-5, CH-1, MO-2, PS-6, OC-3. You have much fewer options using these with the ES-8. Only one of these can go into loop 7 in stereo mode.

Still, for most guitarists that probably isn’t as big an issue as I’m making out of it. Mono is plenty for most guitarists.

Fender Limited Edition Sandblasted Telecaster: Looks pretty nice. I’m a sucker for Teles and anything blue. But what looks even nicer is...

Fender Special Edition David Lozeau Art Stratocaster, Dragon Art: Blue and a dragon.

Reverend Descent Baritones: Reverend has some cool guitars, and baritones always catch my eye.

Antares ATG-1 Floor Processor: This was originally announced and “coming soon” in...what...2012? I still plan to buy one as soon as they’re available. I stopped holding my breath years ago.

25 January 2015


Thoughts occasioned upon hearing the song “Rude”...

...or “You keep using that word; I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

There is nothing rude about giving an honest opinion when asked for one. It is rude, however, to dismiss someone’s opinion after asking for it just because it wasn’t the opinion you thought they should have.

If you were going to “marry her anyway”, then you shouldn’t have asked.

I’m not going to say that you have to have her father’s blessing to marry her, but since you asked for it, I have to assume that it is important to you. So perhaps you should consider striving to understand his objections and commit yourself to winning his approval. Rather than simply ensuring that he will never respect you.

24 January 2015

Toon house rules

In prepping to run Toon, the cartoon role-playing game, I came up with a few alternate rules.

This one is straight from the Tooniversal Tour Guide: When a character falls down, instead of the player sitting out for three minutes, they lose three turns.

Not really a rule...just a way to keep track of lost turns. When a player or character loses turns, the Animator hands the player one token (like a poker chip) for each turn lost. When the cycle of turns comes back to that player, they hand in one token.

When a character successfully Dodges a Fire Gun, there is a 50% chance of ricochet. (Normally it is either zero or always depending on whether you’re using the “superstar” rule.)

Each session each player may hand out one Plot Point to another player’s character. Players don’t have to hand out this Plot Point, but they don’t get to save it past the end of the session.

The animator makes all Tracking rolls. The Animator makes two rolls. If the 1st roll succeeds, the 2nd roll is ignored. If the 1st roll fails, the 2nd roll is consulted. If the 2nd roll succeeds, the character knows they’ve lost the trail. If the 2nd roll fails, the character thinks they’re still on the trail, but they’re actually on the wrong trail. (This is slightly different than the original superstar rule.)

There will probably be more as we play it more.