Thursday, February 16, 2017

Star Trek Beyond

I didn't bother to see Star Trek: Beyond in theaters, and only in the last month got around to watching it on DVD. Watched it with company (people talking and moving about) and it seemed a little bland; watched it again alone (in the dark with perfect audio) and that was a much better experience.
Pro: Tons of well-placed callbacks to TOS.
Pro: Running through the Enterprise when gravity's askew.
Con: Endless plotholes.
Con: Nobody but the bridge crew (plus token ally) are allowed to even attempt to achieve anything.
I'm not going to fault the movie for having plot holes--they aren't exactly new to Star Trek; and I'll only fault the movie a little for being an action movie--it did manage to work in a few character arcs, and it did try to pit the Enterprise against a type of challenge they've never faced before. I do like that the writers tried to address the "humanity must struggle" theme from TOS, which TOS maybe didn't handle very well, although Star Trek: Beyond didn't handle it with much depth either.

I hope the token ally, Jaylah, returns for future movies the way Lieutenant Saavik should have. I'll even double down on that hope because I'm only now realizing how much potential she has as a Tasha Yar analogue. (Not as explicit a match as Ro Laren or Kira Nerys, but better positioned to mash up the Geordi/Tasha and Scotty/ensign-spacelegs relationship arcs.)

I said last year that I wouldn't describe myself as a particular fan of Star Trek, and I should probably qualify that by saying I am still a fan of Star Trek; someone gave me this trinket for Christmas, and I'm quite tickled to have received it:

Sorry that the scan is a bit muddy. I know a few tricks with photoshop, but not enough to clean this up.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pathfinder Transcript: First Rat Quest

[One of the players in our group had been keeping brief transcripts of our sessions. He gave up on it partway into this quest so he could focus more on playing.]

This is the quest I described here, the first in our evil rat cycle.

I was wrong - the other players didn't change characters after this quest, they just made their existing character less evil. (This DM had asked us to make sure our characters weren't so evil or chaotic that he couldn't hook us into the quest by having us repay an important debt.)
  • My sorcerer was lawful evil, and stayed so. 
  • I think the hairless fighter is within one step of chaotic evil.
  • The alchemist was going to be literal-plague-upon-the-land double evil, but he toned it down to regular evil.
  • The bard might be chaotic neutral. Doesn't really matter, because he kept accidentally flirting with every single NPC he interacted with, so he decided to roll with it. He did end up changing characters.
  • I don't remember the alignment of the samurai who joined us later; the player changed shifts at work and hasn't joined us again.
The DM pulled out some dungeon tileboards for the warehouse fight and followup explorations. It felt like we didn't need them, but I guess I'd have said the same about the prison fight if we'd had them for that too. They had an extra couple bits of greebly terrain (half flight of stairs, gazebo, and so on) that I don't normally think to add, which was nice. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Harebrained Initiative (86 pages later)

[TL;DR? Weighing pros and cons, it's mostly pros, and the cons are arguable. I want to tweak how the "weight classes" are defined, though, which is why I'm really posting.]

It took a few weeks, but I finally finished reading this eighty-six page discussion of Harebrained Schemes' initiative system.

Regular BattleTech tosses a coin at the top of each round and then alternates between players, waiting to resolve weapons fire for all units en masse.HBS BattleTech resolves each unit's weapons fire individually after it moves, and gives lighter weight classes the option to activate before heavier weight classes.

There's a lot to like about the HBS system:
  • It mitigates the effects of always winning or losing the coin toss by making faster-activating units less powerful than slower-activating ones. 
  • You can break up enemy activations (or bunch up your own) by reserving your early-acting units to later phases.  
  • Your influence over activation order is intrinsic to force composition. 
  • Bonus: It adds value to light and medium 'Mechs, which tabletop players often criticize as too weak relative to heavy and assault 'Mechs. 
  • Meh: It matches the fiction better (events are rarely depicted as simultaneous - characters tend to take a hit from their enemy, then maneuver cleverly and fire a return volley). 
Other effects are less clear-cut, and I did see two substantive objections. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

First Look at Lyran Manufacturing in 3025

First, some ballparking:

Defiance Industries is "by far" the largest 'Mech manufacturer to survive to 3025, so it has to be substantially bigger than the Lyrans' next biggest manufacturer, Coventry Metal Works. If Commando production is anything like Valkyrie production, then Coventry (which also builds Stingers, Firestarters, Vulcans and Phoenix Hawks) should be building at least 150 'Mechs/year.

I've already established overall Lyran production as 500 'Mechs/yr, and House Steiner: The Lyran Commonwealth (hereafter HS:LC) lists five other 'Mech plants. If we estimate them as one share each, Defiance of Furillo as two shares, Coventry as 150/yr, and Hesperus II as one share bigger than Coventry, then Hesperus II would rate 175/yr, Furillo would rate 50/yr, and the other five plants would average 25/yr.

I enjoy how the 'Mechs are in scale with each other but not with the humans

Maybe it isn't surprising that Defiance and Coventry together would represent 75% (or more) of Lyran 'Mech production; and maybe I shouldn't be surprised that them being so big would bring the the lesser plants into line with the FWL's lesser plants.

I notice that TR:3050's entries for the Stinger, Wasp, Griffin, Wolverine, Victor and Atlas list variants from fastest produced to slowest produced. If other entries do the same, that would mean the Lyrans produce less of almost any given 'Mech than the FWL does. That's a useful constraint.

Okay, modeling Lyran factories on those in the FWL:

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Direct Competition to Rogue One"

"As direct competition to Rogue One, we release, Light Up The Night!
We'll just see how well you do at the box office now, Mr. Disney..."

I love how their newsletter over-hypes things.


Rogue One

Am I jaded for finding Rogue One ham-handed and mediocre? Don't get me wrong, there's things to enjoy about it, but it feels like a rejected alternate to Episode VII, and like the script doctors only got 40% of the way through. 

It'll be successful, of course, because it follows the same plot formula all the other Star Wars movies do; but I would think that these side-story movies would be trying to break from that formula.

[Edit, Jan 7: I am not alone! A kind soul pointed me to a couple articles posted on /Edit]

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pathfinder: Evil Rat Cycle

I have a little more to say about Periphery manufacturing rates, but it's taking longer than I expected to sort out.

In the meantime, here's some notes prepared by the first GM in our next Pathfinder cycle. We started out as a party of evil rats in a new campaign region--I think everyone else has moved onto their second, less evil rat by now. I'm the only holdout.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pathfinder Transcript: Corpses Are Loot & So Are Their Makers

[One of the players in our group has started keeping brief transcripts of our sessions, partly for the amusement of a third party who isn't playing with us I guess, and partly to help us pick up the following session in medias res.]

TL;DR-  We indulge some backstory for the GM's PC (who is present in an ancillary role) by investigating a light house which has gone dark.

The set-piece battle was interesting: steep waves would frequently lift one ship high above the other, periodically taking them out of sight and reach of each other; and the reanimated pirates all shared a common pool of hit points.

The lighthouse itself was going to be a second set-piece battle, but we confused the NPC villain (or maybe the GM?) by splitting up and entering simultaneously through both the top and bottom of the tower. Also, instead of killing the villain, we recruited him.