Friday, August 1, 2014

Wizards of the Coast is sending a damaging message

When the 5th Edition D&D .pdf was made freely available, like many others I was pleased to see the sidebar on how gender is handled in-game. I missed this, however, and to be honest wasn't even aware of these two individuals (RPGPundit and Zak S). I'm unhappy that our hobby still retains enclaves of people with social ideas like these two. Given that a lot of us in hobby games are both intelligent and experienced with social marginalization, you'd think we'd be a lot farther along on this kind of thing than the general community.

From what I've seen, we've got it better than most here in VT, but we can do better. I'd encourage all of you to take a look at this article, and speak up. Until Wizards makes a real statement addressing their failure here, they won't be getting any more of my money.

And if this doesn't seem like a problem to you, it's because you're one of the lucky ones. Think about whether or not these guys would represent a problem to anyone you care about. It's not enough to ignore people like RPGPundit and Zak S; they need to know that these ideas are unwelcome and damaging to the community that they profess to care for. The original content is here.

We deal with negativity in the hobby community on a regular basis.  It's just part of socializing, and when your social activity of choice is competitive and contentious, conflict will arise.  Nerd rage over rules interpretation is a disagreement on equal footing. Doxing your detractors and having your followers send them late-night phone calls, outing trans folks, publicizing the school your detractors' children attend, these are not the behaviors of jerks. These are existential life-or-death threats. They do not deserve your defense.

Do I think Zak should not work in the hobby at all? No, I hope that's not what came across. It's not up to me or anyone else what he does for a living. However, what he, and by association Wizards, needs to face is the fact that there are consequences for certain actions. One of the consequences of engaging in noxious behavior is being cut out of the social contract; that's how it works pretty much anywhere. If you're a dick, people don't want to associate with you. If he and his ilk find it difficult to find work in a particular industry, then that is a direct result of the action he as a consenting adult chose to engage in. It's not my job to feel responsible to protect the job opportunities of a flagrant asshole. This is 100% about the prevailing social environment and what is wrong with it, in that in feels the need to be more protective of people being assholes than people who are being hurt.

A frequent misapprehension by people who decry "political correctness" is that those of us doing the calling-out are pushing for some kind of policy change through firing, litigation, blacklisting, or whatever. And some overzealous social justice crusaders actually are doing that, but that's far more the exception than the rule. I'm not trying to get these guys banned from anything (they seem to do a great job at achieving that themselves). What I'm trying to do is further the dialogue where we can make the hobby more positive, friendly, welcoming, and open for everyone who chooses to abide by that specific social contract. We don't waste time on those who don't, other than to portray them as examples of a cautionary tale.

By choosing to hire these guys as consultants, Wizards got Asshole on them. As I've stated before, what I'm looking for is for them to publicly admit that they fucked up. Bringing these guys into their house sends a message, intended or not, that there is a place in this community for people being hateful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Getting caught up

My last post from some months ago focused on what I had hoped were some new insights into the Tyranid codex.  Naturally, my experience with the list over the last few months has proven me 100% correct.  Please forgive my gloating; I don't get to be this emphatically correct this often.

Strategic redundancy really is the name of the game here.  I played a small, local tournament in April and took first place with a list that focused on this to a tee.  3 one-beast Carnifex Broods supported by 3 one-beast Venomthrope broods; massive Synaptic coverage thanks to the Synaptic Swarm formation, and strategic response in the form of a Devil Flyrant and a Hive Crone.  There was clearly some other stuff in there too, like a couple little broods of objective-grabbing Ants.  

Now I have no idea how this will hold up under the new 40k rules, as I have yet to actually sit down and play a game, but that's going to be corrected on Tuesday.  I'm bringing Daemons, because I want to explode the Malefic Daemonology list and see where the pieces land.

What I've been playing a LOT of lately is Hearthstone.  I've always loved Blizzard's intellectual property.  Blizzard have done a fantastic job of translating their world into a really crunchy bite-sized game.  I'd like to think of myself as a fairly competitive player; one of our local game stores is hosting an invitational championship and I managed to qualify in the second round.  Now really, all this makes me is a big fish in a small pond; in ranked play I really can't seem to break into rank 6.  Given that the Naxxramas expansion has dropped some fresh cards into the pool, the metagame-beast is twisting in evolutionary agony.  

My stated goal with Hearthstone is to climb the ladder clear to Legend rank, which is daunting...  My plan right now is to ladder as effectively as I can for the rest of this season (2-3 days) and then come at it hard with a simple, aggressive Shock Paladin deck.  I've gotten good with that, and it manages to be an effective Zoo-like deck without being completely vulnerable to the anti-Zoo meta.  That's the theory, anyway!

Monday, January 13, 2014

I've got the Tyranid codex figured out!

...or I'm a delusional apologist, who has mastered the art of self-deception....

Whether it was deliberate or not, the design results of this book is to make the Tyranids not particularly stellar at anything, but for them to be very abundant. This thesis hides in plain sight, given how rapid internet analysis seems to myopically focus on individual unit types but failing to see the bigger picture beyond a few unit synergies. The points cost of (almost) everything is discounted, sometimes deeply, and the specialist units are just not as good at what they do as their counterparts are in other armies. It has a lot of players pretty disgusted and frustrated, but it has me intrigued.

I think what Tyranids are going to do especially well is strategic redundancy and contingency plans. Building a lynchpin army around a series of very specialized gimmick units will not work, and that is precisely the way most 40k players think about this game. What will work is a large army full of many models, made up of generalist troop types that can fill each others' roles as casualties mount. Tyranids are not robust, with a deficit of 2+ or Invulnerable units, and an absolute lack of Eternal Warrior. Things are going to die, and that idea is repellent to many players in this age of superhero squads.

Thinking of them as the classic NPC army is not far off the mark. These guys are designed to die, and die a lot, and die some more. Carnifexes are back, 20 points cheaper, but D-cannons and Nemesis weapons abound. They are monsters for the Space Marines to kill, and they are meant to make the other armies look good by comparison.

None of this is to imply that they are incapable of winning games. There is probably as much competitive potential buried in this list as any other, but it is definitely buried in here. Winning with Tyranids is going to mean more than spamming sweetheart units and ignoring others. They have no Heldrake, Riptide, Wraithknight, or Night Scythe. But the implied advantage when you lack the Deathstar is there's no one place for the Rebels to fire their missiles. I'm looking forward to seeing what that means in 40k.

Ultimately, this fits into the current 40k universe by marking the Tyranids out to be a unique and alien species whose combat doctrine flies in the face of the accepted methods of other species.

So that's what it is, and Tyranid players can, as always, adapt or die. :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Factions of Source, part III: The Fold

The Fold:

            The subject of whispered myth and rumor, the Fold is a loose confederation of zealots, sages, diviners, cultists, and madmen, loosely allied in pursuit of forbidden lore.  Paranoid and insular at the best of times, the Fold is a dangerous and unpredictable force.
            Followers of the Fold are often preoccupied with prophecies and great doom.  Many of them are talented diviners, but mortal minds were not meant to understand the frayed and contradictory threads of fate.  Frequently, members of the Fold are mentally unstable, but they view this as little more than a minor inconvenience.  They know that their sanity is a small price to pay to receive even a small measure of knowledge of the dark truths that they relentlessly pursue.
            Dark and dangerous beings of alien intent frequently find the Fold to be loyal followers.  The Scrounge know that they are not alone in the walls between reality, and they tell tales of cosmic predators that leave fear and madness in their wake, and devour the bodies and souls of men.  The Fold is one of the few universal organizations that welcomes Scrounge without prejudice, knowing that the manners and appearance of the mad rodent-men is irrelevant compared to the secrets they know.  Some members of the Fold have learned dark methods to call upon these transdimensional beings and court their favor.  It seems that only a fractured mind can contain the bizarre, alien majesty of the Ones From Beyond, and some accounts hold that entire worlds have been bargained away by Fold cults.
            The Fold is extremely opaque in its organizational hierarchy.  Cells of cultists and scholars work together in darkness toward questionable ends, and rarely have any reliable knowledge of the rest of the organization.  Only the Fold’s Inquisitors seem to have any real knowledge of the size, scope, and true goals of the organization. 
            Naturally, the Fold strongly venerates Taelyst as their Source of choice.  Ansetal is difficult for them to effectively draw upon, as the requirements of law and consistency are inimical to the Fold’s twisted minds.  The chaos and power of Voroc and the howling waste of Nysroth are frequently used by more aggressive Fold: many times, prophecies of doom seem to need some help in coming to pass.  Additionally, Umuon’s depths often conceal dark secrets that have been lost for centuries.  The Fold finds the prospect of such forbidden knowledge to be irresistible.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Factions of Source, Part II: The Order of Mercy and Severity

The Order of Mercy and Severity: 

            Recognized (if not necessarily respected) in many realms throughout the universe, the Order is shrouded in pomp, ritual, and mystery.  Their approach to magic tends to be baroque and formulaic, utilizing many highly elaborate systems to understand and manipulate the Sources. 
            The Order believes that the universe is a place of many layers and spheres of influence, conforming to hierarchical laws.  They believe themselves, and all sentient beings, to be naturally imperfect and unrefined.  Fundamental to that belief, however, is the notion that the spark of the divine rests within all living things, and that spark can catalyze into the brilliant white fire of perfect understanding.  The Order teaches that separation between the self and the universe is an illusion.  Only by becoming perfectly balanced and purified can one truly begin to become a vessel flawless enough to receive the Quintessence.
            Magi of the Order of Mercy and Severity are fascinated with forces in opposition and reconciliation.  They typically favor garments of black and white, representing their willingness to deal with contrasting forces of light and dark, sacred and profane, material and ephemeral.  They tend to view concepts such morality and religion as pedestrian and antiquated, believing that they represent a limited view of the universe.  Many of the Adepts of the Order believe that gods are simply a higher order of sentience than mortals, and possessed of a state that is not out of their own potential reach. 
            The Order teaches its magi to draw upon all of the Sources, but they strongly favor Ansetal.  They believe that Ansetal is closest to the true Quintessence, and thus the purest expression of raw universal power.  Ansetal’s light, if the Order is to be believed, dictates the laws of the universe, and even the other Sources are beholden to it.  By strongly aligning themselves with the Light, the Order has a powerfully protective metaphysical structure to explore and manipulate the other Sources.  The first teachings of an Apprentice of the Order focus heavily on forming a powerful bond with the Light, but Masters of Mercy and Severity wield the other Sources without hesitation.  Even the tainted might of Nysroth can be bent by the fortress-like mind of an Adept of the Order.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Factions of Source, Part I: The Legacy of Feldenglas

Choice of affiliation with a particular faction will play a significant role in Source.  While each Magus at the core of their force will draw upon whichever Sources he or she chooses, alignment with one of the major factions will carry certain benefits.

First, and perhaps most dramatically, it will provide an additional pool of followers from which to choose, and these followers will often form the backbone of the Magus' force.  There will be unaligned followers that will be available to a Magus of any faction, but those drawn from a faction will have abilities that are not available anywhere else.  Additionally, each faction has its own background, philosophy, and approach to the Sources that helps bring a new level of narrative into the game.

Here, then, is a brief background outline of one of the factions, the Legacy of Feldenglas:

The Legacy of Feldenglas
            Militaristic and highly disciplined, the Legacy is unique in its approach to magic and the Sources.  While every other influential organization playing a powerful role throughout the universe is dominated by the interests of powerful Magi, the Legacy of Feldenglas actively seeks to limit the use of magic.
            The modern Legacy are descendants of survivors and refugees.  Their realm was known as Cae Lyndyr, and it was utterly destroyed in a war between feuding beings of tremendous power.  It was at the city of Feldenglas where their war came to its violent conclusion; a self-styled god was destroyed when the entire realm of Cae Lyndyr was collapsed in on him.  A small group of Magi, alert to the possibility of this calamity, evacuated as many people as they could from Feldenglas and the surrounding countryside.  Their home was lost, but they swore an oath to prevent such recklessness in the future.
            Despite its essential nature as a military organization, the Legacy of Feldenglas is surprisingly democratic.  In times of peace, every citizen of a Legacy-held city has a vote, and elected officials serve at the pleasure of the populace.  The majority of the elected offices are held by ranking soldiers of high prestige, but this is largely because the populace reveres its warriors and protectors. 
            Feldenglasers are racially and culturally diverse.  They are predominantly humans, alfar, and neisse, the descendents of the world of Cae Lyndyr.  They are open-minded and proud, and have become comfortable with freely speaking their minds.  However, they tend to take a very guarded view around Magi who are not members of the Legacy, as it was the unguarded use of magic that led to the destruction of their homeland.  To that end, the Legacy of Feldenglas pursues an agenda of containment and control of enemy magic.  They seek to prevent any further catastrophes, though many who have felt their wrath have described the Feldenglasers as being motivated primarily by vengeance for their fallen realm.
            Magi of Feldenglas, believing strongly as they do in the principles of law and justice, naturally gravitate toward Ansetal.  The Legacy also boasts some very powerful wielders of Hurad, as the Alfar of Cae Lyndyr were proponents of a druidic practice.  Though neisse typically do not gravitate toward use of the Sources, the Legacy of Feldenglas has produced some who dispense brutal justice through the brute power of Voroc. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Universe of Source

Time to dust this thing off and throw out some words!

I've been working on a concept for a miniature skirmish game...  The rules are coming along apace, and I have a really interesting idea for a potential distribution vector, but for right now I figured I'd get some content out there about the setting itself.  The game is still very much a work in progress, but the working title I have for it right now is Source.

The known universe is a vast place comprising many worlds and realms.  It does not adhere to the cosmology with which we are familiar; planets, star systems, galaxies and the like may exist but are the exception rather than the rule.  Instead, each world exists like an independent bubble of reality, with its own climate, denizens, and sometimes even natural laws.  Some realms are massive, others are tiny.  Some realms are verdant paradises sheltering Utopian civilizations, and others are desolate wastelands incapable of supporting life.  Those who have learned to travel from realm to realm have discovered that there are many consistencies that indicate a shared origin: humans are ubiquitous throughout the realms, and they share worlds with elves, trolls, dwarves, and dragons.  Common languages and cultural practices abound, despite how different and unique (and sometimes downright alien) each realm can be.  Cosmic entities such as daemons and the disturbing, half-mad Scrounge maintain the boltholes between the worlds.  Confederations of Magi have banded together in support of common goals, whether those be the reunification of the disparate worlds, or the sacrifice of entire realms to inscrutable cosmic horrors, or simple self-mastery.

Sages believe that it was not always this way.  They speculate that it was the complete and utter consumption of one of the Sources that caused the universe to be forever shattered.  In ancient times, cabals of wizards of incomprehensible might drew deeply on the Quintessence, manipulating it in ways that would now be impossible.  Quintessence is the raw substance of reality; something greater than matter, energy, or anything in between.  It is pure power, unspent potential.  The universe is Quintessence, and Quintessence is the universe, coalesced into form.  Refining and extracting the matter of the universe into raw Quintessence is an exhausting and prohibitive process that no Magus has ever really mastered, but many continue to try.  More effective, then, is to draw Quintessence from the Sources.

The Sources are the primordial origins of all creation: Platonic idealizations representing the transition of Quintessence becoming the Universe.  The Sources are not a place or thing, but rather an omnipresent ideal shaping the realms of the universe.  Magi must first learn to draw upon the Sources before they can expect to manipulate magic.

There are six Sources recognized by the Magi:

Ansetal:  The Light, the Source of illumination, innovation, warmth and heat.  A source for civilization, law, rulership, courage, craftsmanship, and the callings of a higher soul, but also oppression, stasis, absolutism, fascism, and war.  It is known as the Voice of Inspiration across many worlds.

Taelyst:  The Dusts; the Source of Time and Place, Serendipity, Destiny, and Doom.  Venerated by the wise and the mad alike as a bringer of divine vision, but also fraught with peril and terror.  Those who look too deeply into other places and times often lose all sense of themselves.

Hurad:  The Spiral, the Source of the eternal dance of life and death.  All living things are ruled by Hurad, and it governs birth, growth, and death.  It can provide healing and growth, but it can also inflict blighted rot and decay.

Umuon:  The Well, the Source of spirits.  Umuon rules the world of the living hand in hand with Hurad, but where Hurad rules bone, branch, flesh and leaf, Umuon rules the unseen mystery of the soul.  It can manipulate spirits, unseat the soul, or allow the living to briefly transcend their mortal limits.

Voroc:  The Crashing, the Source of Elemental Forces.  Here dwell earth, air, fire, water, the collision of matter and energy.  Eternally violent and calamitous, Voroc is violence and change.  It is recognized as being a powerful and drastic Source, with consequences for its wielders.

Nysroth:  The Emptiness.  Nysroth is no longer a Source, properly, but it is believed to have once been.  Now it is an echoing, ashen waste in the void, burnt-out and utterly used up.  Tales say that Nysroth’s power was so tempting to the ancient Magi that its powers were consumed utterly.  Whatever archetypal force was provided to the universe by Nysroth, it is now so completely absent as to be removed even from memory.  Once one of the primordial building-blocks of the universe, Nysroth is now colloquially known as the Source of Hunger.  It functions as something of a null or negative source, always devouring, destroying, and corrupting.