Diary, 8/26 to 8/31/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{8/26/19}  Weight 222.8.

Lying in bed this morning, I recalled the names of two of the Pathfinder characters I played, so, a bit of reminiscence:

My first character was Fonk, a big green barbarian (half-orc).  It took me a couple of minutes to come up with the name, which troubled me for a while.  He eventually had a returning javelin that could carry a spell.  This character involves several poor choices—a barbarian is more complicated to play than some other fighting classes because he can go into rage to increase his strength, then must go into fatigue to recover from rage, or he can be “normal,” thus giving three sets of numbers for attack and defense and so on, and the javelin is useful mostly in the initial attack, when the enemy is distant, and it returns to the place it was thrown from, not to the character, which is usually awkward.  Fonk got killed at level one or two (i.e., very early) but was resurrected by the forgiving GM, Perry Smith.  [9/1/19: This was my first experience with Pathfinder.]

My second character was a druid with a wolf companion.  I can’t remember the druid’s name, but the wolf was “Little Fuzzy.”  When the druid could cast the appropriate spell, the wolf became “Big Fuzzy,” and he was pretty scary.  I created playing pieces (one “large” and one “huge”) for him, with drawn wolf faces that I thought pretty good.  This character was more fun and less difficult than Fonk.  We played The Slumbering Tsar campaign.

My third player character was Squegg, a goblin rogue who got killed often at first, and that was very annoying.  I wrote a funny introductory story for him.  We didn’t finish the campaign, I don’t know why—perhaps because I was released.

I ran two campaigns myself, both created by me rather than using a published (and very expensive) campaign, plus at least one very short partial campaign for Mike and Danny, young men who were not regular players and not much into the game (i.e., they quit after a very few sessions).  Creating a campaign is a great opportunity to exercise one’s creativity, but it’s also a horrendous amount of work.  I created a deck of cards to generate dungeon tunnels and rooms, also treasures and encounters.  It was imperfect but an amusing tool.  I also created tiles for the playing surface, which became an elaborate set, but I think I used it only a couple of times because it was done on rather curly paper that I covered with transparent tape.

I also remembered the name of a player who was in one or both of my campaigns, “Tex,” who annoyed me a lot.

At the end I was devising a “druid campaign,” i.e., a game in which all players would be playing druids, but it never came off because the players were not enthused.

The “Jeff” I was trying to remember I think was Jeff Thurber, though I’d had the impression that his last name was often used as a first name, like, say, “Leslie.”  Pretty sure that Thurber is right, though.

A Pathfinder campaign is a lot of work for both the GM and the players; together they can create an entertaining and memorable story over several or many months; thus, as games go, it’s great if you have good people involved.  But sometimes it also fizzles—it can be ruined by anyone involved.  One bored player did things like set senseless, random fires, relieve himself (in game terms) at odd moments, and so on, essentially spoiling the experience for all concerned.  Argumentative, immature players can be very frustrating.  An incompetent GM (Jeff) is very frustrating.  Tex, I recall, always wanted to have sex with any females encountered during the campaign, which was stupid and tiresome to me, but the GM (Perry) didn’t seem to mind.

{8/27/19}  Weight 223.2.

Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths:  Algorithms to Live By:  The Computer Science of Human Decisions, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2016, is very interesting and readable, and possibly even useful.  It has at least opened my eyes to some possibilities and informed me of some details of the Internet that I am glad to know about—for instance, what “packet switching” is, and a little about how computers and other devices communicate.

It also informs me that the Sartre quote I’ve been looking for, “Hell is other people,” is from No Exit.  Other quotes:

Quoting Lao Tzu:  “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things when they are small.”  p. 109.

Quoting a “proverb”:  “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.”  p. 118.

“We’ve all had the experience of talking to someone whose eyes drifted away—to their phone, perhaps—making us wonder whether our lackluster storytelling was to blame.  In fact, it’s now clear that the cause and effect are often the reverse:  a poor listener destroys the tale.”  p. 221.  This made me realize that my dislike of making eye contact makes me a poor listener; I do it to Pablo constantly.  But, of course, I do not blame myself for his lackluster storytelling, because he is so often telling a story that I simply do not want to hear, at all, ever.  Ye gods, he bores me; fortunately, not constantly.

I got this book from the library, and the above quotes are disappointing, not capturing the things I’ll want to remember:  the 37% stopping rule, an effective way to sort books, how a group should decide where to eat or what to do next (avoid excessive politeness), which is part of “computational kindness,” and so on.  In other words, I might do well to buy a copy and reread it, with highlighting.  But I probably won’t do this because I think that the things I’ve learned aren’t that important, and I might never get around to reading it again.  Some things are of marginal interest, like game theory, and stuff.

I had a waking dream, or a real dream, about Donna, the woman I’ve seen often at Dagny’s and spoken to a couple of times, and am somewhat attracted to.  Now I’m inclined on the following:  asking if I might ask her something, then asking about her writing, and even saying, “I thought I’d better talk to you, since you’ve shown up in my dreams.”  The possibilities are excellent, though perhaps remote; but if I’m to avoid further-increasing loneliness, etc., I need to get moving on this and other fronts.

The other fronts include the elephant, and personal ads.  Pathfinder perhaps is likely to happen even without this “advice to self.”

FHFFS:  How “high” is studying German?  Higher than repeat-viewings of DVDs, clearly, which is a thing I do often.  I’ve seen the Terminator:  SC DVDs three times now (though not quite done with season 2).  They’re fun, so I watch them whenever I sit down to eat, but I also watch a second and sometimes a third episode just because I’m interested.  Now, one cannot FHFFS all the time; but I find whole days passing “in the gutter,” you might say.  Some daily flying seems like a good idea, even if it’s only lifting the dumbbells or culling some books.  These are not high, but at least they’re out of the gutter.

{8/28/19}  Weight 224.0.  Last time I weighed this much:  7/21/19.  Well, it looks like bye-bye ice cream.  At least the two-to-three-times-a-day ice cream.  Shouldn’t have bought Cheetos.

Payday today, at long last.  My intention is to buy only Pathfinder books, but given that I’ll be going to Barnes & Noble, that might change.

Right now, I’m so hungry (it’s 5:30 am) that I’m going to have some Cheetos.  Offhand, I’d guess that I’m depressed and “self-medicating” with food.

{8/29/19}  Weight 223.4.

So the Pathfinder Second Edition complicates unmercifully an already extremely complex game system.  The good news is that Barnes & Noble has a 20% discount on the Core Rulebook.  I spent most of yesterday reading it.

Then I watched the first 45 minutes of Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next.  I had thought it would be about our permanent war system of global dominance, but instead I find it’s about how great it would be to live in Italy, Finland, or Slovenia (so far) and how badly we Americans have fucked ourselves.  Eight weeks of vacation a year?  Paid maternity leave?  World’s best education, including sex ed?  Free college?  Not for us.

There are reasons, not explored so far—without our bloated military budget “defending the Free World,” the Italians could not have survived on their two-ship navy.  Still, we could have had both, but not both and our 600 billionaires, a figure from a few years back, and our broken “democracy.”

So, it’s depressing, and he hasn’t even gotten into our for-profit medical care and prisons, and of course the movie is pre-Trump.  I knew much of this before, of course, but it’s still painful to be reminded.

I am reminded also of the maxim, which I cannot quote accurately, that the best government is the one that makes it easiest to throw the rascals out.  [9/1/19: I got this idea from a Richard Rorty book.]

Watched the rest of the movie, and the rest is even better—and not at all depressing!  I felt like I was being educated, in the best possible way.  The segment on prisons was a real eyeopener.  In Norway, the maximum sentence is 21 years—and their maximum security prison is practically a country club.  Their recidivism rate is 20%.  It made my head spin.

A quote:  “Why do we hide from our sins?  The first step to recovery, the first step to being a better person or a better country is to be able to just stand up and honestly say who and what you are.”  The context is our history of slavery, and the fact that our first museum of this history opened in 2015.  Where to Invade Next:  A Film by Michael Moore, a Dog Eat Dog Films Production, 2015.

Watching To Kill a Mockingbird, listening to the—I think—producer and director’s comments.  I tried a couple of months ago to watch it straight and couldn’t, it was excessively familiar.  But this commentary is almost completely worthless—everything is completely “wonderful” to these two guys, every actor, every shot is a “favorite,” it absolutely had to be shot in B&W, and on and on.  One could hardly expect them to fairly judge these things, aside from the actors, perhaps, so they should have talked about anything else, but they didn’t much.  And one of them mumbled so that I couldn’t hear half his lines.  Worst commentary I’ve ever encountered.

{8/30/19}  Weight 223.0.

The second disc of TKAM had a long documentary that was sometimes good, sometimes pretentious, sometimes almost sickening.  The narration was pretty horrible, written by the director.  Comments by Peck and the now-grown children were generally excellent.  It seems that the actor playing the villain was remarkably unpopular because he stayed “in character” all the time.

{8/31/19}  Weight 222.4.  It’s the ol’ Cheetos diet.

So I’ve spent $200 on Pathfinder books and supplies, and most of my hours reading the Core Rulebook.  The initial impression remains:  this is much more complicated than the first edition.  However, after spending hours yesterday creating a character, I’ve also concluded that most of the complexity is in character stats and abilities (er—what else is there?).  The GM is likely to be surprised during play by PCs’ abilities, unless she reviews and studies the character sheets, not only at level 1, but throughout the campaign.

Obviously there is a limit to how complicated RPGs can be made and still be popular, and PFe2 may be at that limit, if not beyond it.

Disappointing is the fact that I’ve sent two emails to the PF Meetup members, currently five, and have received nothing back.  First meeting is scheduled for 9/14.

Now I’m thinking about creating playing surfaces, i.e., “tiles,” and why not?  But I think first I’ll try buying some…

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “Diary, 8/26 to 8/31/19

  1. I read your blog. The whole thing. RPGs are not my thing. More into RBG. Hope she can hang in there until DJT is out. Finished The Brothers Karamazov. Now I started The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Maybe I’ve read it before? We’ll see.


    1. The Big Sleep might put me to sleep, but I agree about the divine RBG (or whatever her monicker is). Pretty sure I read a Chandler this year and found it a cut above the run of the mill because his hero was flawed, though I suppose that’s de rigueur these days. Thx for the comment, and for reading.


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