Sunday, November 30, 2014

Basic Income

A friend of mine asked for me to talk about basic income a while ago. That was during a glut of socio-economic blogs, though, and I didn't want to scare people away with more of my my socio-economic nonsense. Now that I'm coming off of a glut of movie reviews and D&D pantheon rants, though, I think I've scared off pretty much everyone. So, it's back to economics! Yay!

Basic income is the idea that the government pays every citizen in the country enough to cover their basic needs. This is an interesting concept that I've honestly thought about for a long time.

Story Jam

Recently I joined a Secret Facebook Group (shh, don't tell anybody) in which everyone is supposed to post a new story idea every day. This actually sounds way easier that writing a blog post every day, ad I'll prove it by making this one blog post just a collection of story ideas--as many as I can think of in the time it would normally take me to write an average blog post.

Movie Review #48: The Ice Storm

I heard about this movie during an episode of WTF in which Marc Maron interviewed Elijah Wood. For whatever reason, this movie really stuck out in Marc's mind, so it's been on my list for months.

Short review: this movie is kind of all over the place as far as the tone goes, exploring a variety of emotions. It's compelling and uncomfortably sexual, but not explicit. It's also really hard to describe, apparently. The cast includes a variety of recognizable actors, including Toby McGuire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, and, of course, Elijah Wood.

Friday, November 28, 2014

My New Favorite Company

In the past week I've placed two orders through Cards Against Humanity, totaling $21 in spending. I have no idea what I'm going to get for that $21, so why did I bother? That's what I want to talk about.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Working on Thanksgiving

I've been seeing a lot of people suggesting that everyone should boycott stores that are open on Thanksgiving. I disagree.

Los Angeles

A few weeks ago Laura and I drove to Los Angeles for a weekend. We were primarily going there to pick up our friend Jami to bring him back to Tucson for the holidays, and we decided to use that time to see a sight or two in the city.

So, here are my impressions of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Movie Review #47: The Rounders

There are a bunch of movies I want to watch, but it's hard to string together 2-3 hours where I can sit down and actually focus on one I want to watch. Some movies I'm hoping to watch soon include 12 Monkeys, Ice Storm, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Raising Arizona, and The Fisher King. Given that I'm supposed to watch a movie every week this year, and that this is movie #47, I have five movie left. I think those five movies should probably be it.

Anyway, I chose this movie randomly while browsing Netflix for something to watch while eating breakfast. I just finished it, after 3-4 sittings.

Short review: there are better Matt Damon movies, better Edward Norton movies, and better poker movies. That said, it's competent and engaging enough. The actors perform well, but the story itself is rather predictable.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ode to F5

No button more trusted in exploration,
Journeys or quests or investigation,
Than my ever-present partner in crime, F5:
For in classic parlance, he's infinite lives.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dragon Age: Inquisition - First Impressions

The first Dragon Age game was the ultimate evolution of the Neverwinter Nights series: an epic fantasy RPG telling a sweeping story with cool characters, with tight, party-based, tactical gameplay, and varied, interesting environments, all in a rich, original world no longer tied to someone else's D&D campaign setting.

The second game also told a compelling story with cool characters, but it did so while sacrificing the original's scope and environmental design while making the combat system tedious and unnecessarily time-consuming, presumably to pad out the game. This balanced it out into an overall mediocre game that I must assume simply had some budgeting issues.

Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third installment, seems to have solved that budget problem. My every complaint about Dragon Age II has been addressed, though it's not without its own set of issues.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Anonymous Letter From a Kickstarter Backer, and My Response

I received an anonymous message from a Kickstarter backer today in response to our Slacker Backer program, which allows people to effectively back our project even after the campaign itself is over. He raises an interesting point, and his question warranted an honest, thoughtful response.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - Spoileriffic Story Review

The Pre-Sequel takes place in between Borderlands 1 and 2, so if you've already played Borderlands 2 you pretty much know what's going to happen already anyway. That said, it's always the journey, not the destination that's important, so if you haven't played The Pre-Sequel yet, you have been warned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - No Spoilers Gameplay Review

This past weekend, just in time to pick up Dragon Age 2, I finished Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Does anybody else actually play these games for the story? If so, you'll probably like this one, since it's probably the most story-based game in the series.

However, I'll handle all that spoilery story stuff in another post. This one is all about the gameplay

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Movie Review #47: Snowpiercer

Have you ever heard of this movie? I hadn't, until my friend Reid recommended it. As a movie starring Chris Evans and with what looks like a decent budget, I'm surprised I hadn't heard of it before it hit Netflix. But, there it is.

Short review: this bloody (but not really gory) post-apocalyptic action flick is pretty good. It's at times sad, wonderful, surreal, and horrible. Also, I feel like I barely recognize Chris Evans in it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie Review #46: Stand By Me

Clearly it's movie season. Four of my past five posts were movie reviews, and here's another one. Expect another one tomorrow. Movies are a great way to get through otherwise mindless tasks, and now is the time at work when I finally gravitate toward mailroom tasks when I can due to the holidays.

Anyway, Stand By Me is an iconic movie, yet much like Total Recall I've only seen bits and pieces. It's on Netflix now, though, so I got to watch it the whole way through.

Short review: there's a reason this movie is iconic. It's a movie about boys figuring themselves out, and it's as touching as it is adventurous.

Movie Review #45: Total Recall

I've never watched Total Recall from the beginning. I think I've only seen it from the middle to the end, which was enough to make me interested in the movie at least. As it turns out, the beginning of the movie is absolutely important to the context of the rest of the film!

Short review: In Arnold Schwarzenegger's most personable role shy of Kindergarten Cop, we get a mind trip of an action movie that's as thoughtful as it is violent. You won't soon forget what you've seen. Check it out on Netflix.

D&D #45: A Dying World

As Percy’s door closed and the train dove back into the fiery lake, The party got a much clearer view of their surroundings. On the other side of the lake, resembling nothing so much as a group of towering stalagmites reaching up toward the dark ceiling far above, is what can only be the city Percy had described. Lights pour out of many of the tower windows, signs of civilization.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Movie Review #44: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Curiously, much like the Terminator series, I think I mostly just watched the second movie in this series as a kid, completely skipping the first. So, when I saw the original live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Netflix, I figured it was worth actually checking out.

Short review: Released in 1990, this movie perfectly captures the transition from 80s to 90s. It doesn't seem certain of its audience; some parts are way to violent or thoughtful for kids, but other parts are way too cheesy for adults. It seems to me that they were aiming for both and managed to hit neither, but the box office sales belie that assessment. The fact that Michael Bay eventually took over this franchise makes a lot of sense to me now, though.

Movie Review #43: Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva

Last week, Cox's service went wonky in this area for a few days. We could access the Internet, but everything moved slowly, and download speeds were far too low to stream video. So, while looking around for something to watch that didn't involve streaming, I happened to come across a movie file I got back when Jeff and I were regularly watching movies based on video games in order to discuss them on the Fangamer Podcast. That didn't pan out, though, which is fine, since that meant I got to finally watch it last week!

Short review: Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is exactly what you'd expect from a Professor Layton movie: there's puzzles, a mystery, a grand reveal somewhere along the line, and altogether a fairly cute story. However, the movie format doesn't bring much else to the table. It's a competent, adventurous movie, but watching it won't give you a deeper understanding of yourself or the Layton universe.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Movie Review #42: Ken Burns' Prohibition

Following in the wake of my marathon run of The History of Rome, I had some interest in getting a little more history. Primed as I was for some history, when Jeff recommended this documentary to me it was only a matter of time. Luckily, it's on Netflix!

Short review: It's a fascinating look at America a century ago. Even if you're not usually interested in history, I recommend giving the documentary a shot. Start watching it, and give it a chance to drag you in.

D&D #44: More Dead Ma'ari

After driving through a river of lava in the previous session, the party landed on a large dark island. Lit only by the glow of the lava that surrounded it, the island seemed dark and barren. An excursion away from the ship revealed signs of cultivation, though, and soon zombified farmers appeared on the horizon--zombified farmers that were apparently content to ignore the party and focus on their farmwork.

This Realm of Stone was turning out to be very strange.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Deities, A Review

Whew! I managed to write a series of nine blog posts in a row without getting distracted by a different subject. That's a new record, I think!

Before I get into my backlog of topics (I've watched two movies and ran a D&D session, all of which deserve a review) I want to take one more look at my pantheon, their relationships to each other, their relationships to their followers, and some other curious observations I've made about them.

Friday, November 7, 2014


I remember having Chaotic Evil described to me as basically just being the criminally insane. Looking back, though, I think that was a gross misunderstanding. First of all, that's a terrible misrepresentation of mental illness: even psychopaths function well in a structured system they can manipulate. It seems like labeling Chaotic Evil people "raving lunatics" is just a convenient way of dismissing a group of people who might otherwise have a legitimate grief with their government and a Machiavellian approach to solving that problem. Revolution is a bloody affair.

That said, my Chaotic Evil deities are all about explosions and ending existence.

Naughty Eternally

Neutral Evil is evil without regard for civilization one way or the other. Such evil can exist normally with or without the laws that work to, say, Belkar and Bialey's advantage. As a result, there's something very common-feeling about a Neutral Evil villain. They almost seem evil without a cause. I kind of struggle with it, since it almost seems like Neutral Evil is primarily evil for the sake of being evil.

That makes this alignment the most uninteresting to me, to be honest. I mean, really who's evil for the sake of being evil? Jerks, mostly.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Laughing Evilly

Ah, Lawful Evil. If you want a one-off villain you can have a party encounter and beat quickly, countless Chaotic Evil characters are lined up to take that role. If you want a truly terrifying villain that's always one or two steps ahead of you, though, Lawful Evil is the way to go. A truly powerful Lawful Evil character could be right beside you, grinning smugly to your face, yet completely untouchable. Think Al Capone, living a life of luxury in Chicago for over a decade, a veritable celebrity and known gangster, yet nobody could touch him due to lack of evidence and fear of both legal and violent repercussion.

Granted, if you're good enough, you can turn someone from any alignment into a villain, creating a truly interesting situation that causes the players to doubt their own cause and reflect on their actions. Still, I think Lawful Evil is the most satisfying alignment to defeat. Assuming you can actually defeat them in a satisfying manner, rather than just arresting them on charges of tax evasion.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Coolest Neutral

In my experience, Chaotic Neutral is one of the most popular alignments for players to choose. In fact, I'd say it's right up there with any of the Good alignments. This is based on my limited sample size, though. Curiously, a search of the Internet could not find a proper poll showing the most popular alignments. Someone should get on that.

Anyway, most of the time people seem to take Chaotic Neutral to mean a license to be a dick without necessarily being evil about it. You can steal, you can lie, you can cheat, you can do pretty much whatever you want as long as you don't murder people too regularly.

I think the Good Samaritan scenario is useful for illustrating Chaotic Neutral: imagine for a moment a man lying beside the road, calling out for help. A Chaotic Good person will help that person, then steal his wallet. A Chaotic Evil person will kill that person, then steal his wallet. A Chaotic Neutral person will simply steal his wallet, then maybe call the guy a loser for good measure.

Not to say I dislike Chaotic Neutral characters. I think they make things interesting. I challenge you to find me one that's not also a jerk, though.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Truly Naive

Ah, True Neutral. Probably the most popular alignment among sentient species, and probably the hardest alignment to maintain as a player character. As a character with the passions to try and enact change in the world, players naturally tend toward one side or the other, along one axis or the other. Not to say that it's impossible to play a True Neutral character, but over the course of an adventure the time will inevitably come when a character must choose one side or another. And a side, once chosen, is difficult to un-choose.

On an unrelated note, I would say that robots are much more True Neutral than Lawful Neutral. Like animals, they are what they are programmed to do. The exception would be true AI, but true AI would be whatever it wants to be, like any sentient creature. So, I take issue with the Lawful Neutral robot stereotype.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Looking Nice

"Law" gets a bad rap in D&D, but it's one of the most important concepts in civilization. In fact, it is the very essence of civilization. Law is what separates a society of basic human rights from a "might makes right" society. Sure, evil can still exist in a lawful society, but here's the difference: in a Lawful society, evil forecloses a house after a single missed payment and forces a family out on the street, or raises their payments to levels that keeps them in poverty yet will still never allow the debt to be paid off. Without law, evil simply enters the home and slaughters the family, or else simply forces them into slavery at the point of a sword. Of course, if slavery is legal then that's a whole different set of problems, but regardless there are rules in a lawful society, and if you know the rules you can work with them.

Still, Lawful Neutral has a reputation for being cold, logical, or otherwise stuck up. Actually, the stuck-up part is a common thread among all Lawful stereotypes. Stripped of the idealism of Lawful Good or the cool, malevolent machinations of Lawful Evil, though, Lawful Neutral seems to be left with all the rigidity but none of the flavor of its Lawful brethren.

With my deities, though, I tried to give them their own flavor.

Crazy Goobers

Chaotic Good is where things start getting weird in my pantheon. I had to figure out what "chaotic good" even means before I could really figure out what makes sense for a couple of CG deities.

I think to some degree it helps to note that each deity in each alignment focuses a little more on one alignment axis than the other. For instance, Waymon is more Good than Lawful while Decchio is more Lawful than Good. Likewise, Milana is more Good than Neutral, and Palindae is more Neutral than Good.

So, here we have Kiryn, who's more Chaotic than Good, and Tas, who's more Good than Chaotic.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Neutral Good is the most common alignment I choose when playing a D&D character. The alignment is abbreviated NG, so I often joke that it means "no good." Ha.

Anyway, here's a description of my pantheon's Neutral Good deties.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Good Lawd

If I'm going to describe my deities I should probably start by reading the alignment chart left to right, top to bottom. So, here I'm going to describe my Lawful Good deities.