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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen


Dungeon Masters in Cyberspace

Is this one of the signs of the Apocalypse? The New York Times has decided to talk about DDO vis-a-vis traditional pen-and-paper gaming.

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2006 Game Design Competition

GameTableOnline and have just announced the theme for their 2006 Game Design Competition: dice games. The winner's game will be added to GTO's online suite of games and gets a trophy of some kind. I've actually been looking for something like this, so I think I may give it a try. My Amber game doesn't use dice, so it would be nice to break out and think about something new for a little while. There are only a few limitations:

  • Games must be designed for play on an easy-to-replicate game board, using checkers, Go stones, Chess pieces, Poker chips, dice, a standard deck of cards, or other items likely to be found in the average gamer's collection.
  • Games must be designed for two players.
  • Games must include dice as a central element. Acceptable dice are limited to: 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, 12-sided and 20-sided.
  • Prizes will be awarded to the top games, as chosen by a panel of judges. Among the prizes, the winning game will be put into the GTO development queue and the runner-up will receive a free six-month subscription to GameTable Online.
  • All designers who submit a valid entry will receive a free three-month subscription to GameTable Online.
  • The deadline for entries is March 31, 2006.
I think the key to winning the competition will be to make the dice run the game, and engage the player in a fun, new way. After all, the theme is all about the dice.

Luckily, I have a very interesting dice mechanic that I designed when I was about 13 years old that is simple, expressive and can involve lots and lots of dice. I liked the idea that you can use dice of different kinds together to generate interesting probability curves. And you got to roll lots of cool dice, and you got to roll them together.

The basic mechanic boils down to rolling your dice and taking the highest result. The "highest result" rule makes your curve always favor the highest result you can achieve with the most dice in your pool. Remember, on a single d6, the chance of rolling a 1 is the same as rolling a 6. It's always 1-in-6. But if you roll 2d6 and take the highest result, you have only a 1-in-36 chance of rolling a 1, and an 11-in-36 chance of rolling a 6. If you roll a d6 and a d8, your chance of rolling a 1 is 1-in-48, your chance of rolling a 6 is 11-in-48, and your chance of rolling an 8 is 6-in-48. d4/d6/d8 is even more interesting: your chance of rolling a 4 is 37-in-192 (about 19%), your chance of rolling a 6 is 44-in-192 (about 23%), and your chance of rolling an 8 is 24-in-192 (about 13%). Here's what I found:

 Probability of Rolling
Die Pool46810
d61/6 (17%)1/6 (17%)00
d6/d87/48 (15%)11/48 (23%)6/48 (13%)0
d4/d6/d837/192 (19%)44/192 (23%)24/192 (13%)0
d4/d6/d8/d10175/1920 (9%)364/1920 (19%)360/1920 (19%)192/1920 (10%)
From this, we can derive a few general rules. First, that the chance of rolling a 1 is relatively high with a single die, but decreases very quickly with multiple dice. Second, that the most likely outcome of a given throw depends on the number and kinds of dice, and there will be peaks and valleys in the curve if the number of sides are close to one another. Third, if you do not have overlaps in the number of dice that can roll a particular number, then the probability curve is flat.

In any event, the probabilities aren't much help without a game that gives some kind of meaning to the numbers, but maybe it's possible to back into a design based on manipulating probability curves. Maybe.

I'll give it some more thought, but at least the juices are flowing. I have an idea where each player will be allocating dice from a pool in order to generate particular numbers. It will probably use d4/d6/d8/d10/d12. This will ensure a wide range while still keeping the number of overlapping sides in the pool relatively large. More to come when I have a game idea as opposed to an unnatural fascination with probability curves.


The Daily WTF: The Replacement

The Daily WTF is a geek insider site dedicated to exposing bad code and the people who write it. Don't even bother reading it unless you're a coder. But if you are, you will certainly get a kick out of this. These bogus, dumbass, bullshit consultants make life hard for the rest of us. If you can't code, if you don't know what you're doing, if your head is up your ass, if your a friggin geek poser, then go do something else for a living and leave technology to the professionals!

Incidentally, I can't remember the last time I posted three times in an hour. And if you want to find out if you're a geek poser, then find out here. Of course, all I found out is that I'm a "major geek" (38.85602%).

The Anatomy of a Phish

Phishing, as I'm sure you all know, is the process of tricking unsuspecting email users into giving out sensitive information through various forms of trickery, usually by masquerading as some corporation that asks you to "verify" your account.

This blogger tells the tale of how the user can do everything right and still be wrong.

Coder or Killer?

The Programming Language Inventor or Serial Killer? quiz tests whether you can tell a mass-murderer from a hard-core geek. You might be surprised at how similar they seem. Thanks, Gretchen.


How to Wreck a Nation

It's not often you can lambaste President Bush while talking about gaming news. But today, I have the opportunity to do just that.

Wreck the Nation, the "Game of Political Misbehavior", is a new board game designed by Julia Carson and Jennifer McGlynn designed to satirize the cronyism and irresponsibility rampant in the neoconservative empire that is the Bush administration.

Players start out with a few hundred billion dollars of government money and try to spend it on pork barrel projects, political dirty tricks and homeland security and the player who gets rid of the most cash first wins....

In fact, game cards offer directions such as "Be the only government in world history to grant a tax cut to citizens during a major war effort. Pay $200 billion" that are based on real-life Bush administration snafus.
But despite being cited by the Chicago Tribune as one of 20 cool board games you might not know about, the geek reviews overall are not good, the most often-cited reason for the negativity being the sheer lack of strategic options. Despite being clever and topical, there is little involved beyond roll, move, take a card, and do what it says. One of the only positive reviews I could find online was a highly suspect post on, written by someone with the same last name as one of the creators.

I applaud anyone using games as an artistic medium, and Wreck the Nation obviously has something to say. But a game can't be all theme and no fun. In the end, it seems that Wreck the Nation is an amusing footnote in the history of both politics and gaming, but serious gamers need not apply.


Another Test

Okay, one more silly test. I just had to post it to prove what a nerd I am.

9/9 Genius
You are 90% knowledgable and 96% intellectual.
Amazing! You have an incredible brain (intellect) and a powerhouse of information (knowledge)! Keep up the impressive work-- we all bow to you.
My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 96% on knowledge
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 92% on intellect
Link: The Knowledge vs. Intellect Test written by rattytintinface on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

The Campaign for Real Monopoly

I'd like to celebrate my return to non-cut-and-paste blogging with a link to a funny article in gamer e-zine Critical Miss: The Campaign for Real Monopoly. It's a gamer's take on the classic board game, pointing out that even we gamers have been playing Monopoly all wrong. And we should do something about it.

Have you ever played Monopoly?

Of course you have. Everyone's played it at some time in their life. It's shared culture, a common element that weaves together our modern world.

But when was the last time you played it?

You can't remember, can you? We've all played it sometime, when we were kids; but never recently, and why?

Because it's crap. It takes ages to play, suffering long action-free periods in which the players endlessly circle the board in search of the streets they need to complete a set, and lacks the interaction between players that we look for in a game. In short, it's boring and lacks skill.

Except that it isn't crap. Actually. You just have to play it the way it was designed to be played.

You just have to read the fucking rules.

Check out the article and turn it over in your head a few times. Go ahead. I'll wait in another window for you to come back.

Now, I liked to play Monopoly as a kid, and funny enough, I actually noted and pointed out this very rule to my big brother when I was maybe ten or twelve. I was ignored, of course (big brothers always do that, don't they?), and never gave it another thought. You see, Chris liked to win. And his favorite way to win was to win so soundly that there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to how complete, utter, and total his victory was. He would control the board by taking advantage of his younger siblings (my sister and me) and eventually, he'd control the entire board except for the shitty monopoly that he would let you hold on to so that you felt like you still had a chance.

But rather than simply bankrupting us and winning, he'd wait until you landed on Marvin Gardens with 3 hotels (yes, he played with multiple hotels), and then he'd say, "Well, I'll give you $5,000 if you let me buy Chance. This way you can keep playing."

Ever the gamer, even at such a tender age, I said, "Well, what would that mean if you buy chance?"

"That's easy! Any money you pay because of a Chance card gets paid to me."

Seemed reasonable. I don't know why I didn't insist that he foot the payouts, too, but whatever. I got to keep playing. Maybe if he could just land on my hotel on Oriental Avenue....

But my point is that when you change the rules of the game, more often than not, the entire experience suffers. And I don't just mean letting your older brother buy Chance. The point of The Campaign for Real Monopoly is that the entire game can change by ignoring just one simple rule. The pacing changes, the strategy changes, the balance of money changes. The game experience depends on many different variables being balanced against one another, and the rules are in place to ensure that the flow of the game proceeds the way that the designer had intended it. You see, game designers are a meticulous, almost obsessive lot. The game you play is the product of extensive design, testing, and balancing. The designer has worked out the probabilities of one landing on a given space, he's thought about how quickly money changes hands, and about how to keep everyone involved. Each rule that is there is there to ensure one thing: that the game is as enjoyable as it can be. That's the point, after all.

So play the game the way it was meant to be played. And don't ever let your brother buy Chance, no matter how much he offers you to let him.

To Add Insult to Injury...

Tthis is the actual test that the Sparrow took. The first one was something else, apparently....

The Nerd
You scored 48% geek!
Congratulations. You're accepted within the geek community. They allow you to roam their message boards and peruse their chat rooms without attacking you. You probably really like learning, and that's not a bad thing. It doesn't make you any less of a nerd, though. There's a high probability you have never had sex. Sorry. The test said it, not me.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 81% on geekiness
Link: The What's your Geek Level? Test written by dingus93 on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

I am "The Geek!"

As if to confirm what I already knew (thanks, Sparrow)...

The Geek!
You are a whopping 27% Geek!
No one is 0% Geek -- that's just not how humanity has evolved. Use this precentage to guage whether or not you have adequately kept your geekiness under control, or conversely if you've kept it under too strict a lock and key! Passions and interests are nothing to be ashamed of -- unless they start to take over every aspect of your life. Interests are cool, obsessions are creepy. This is a good maxim by which to live.

Congratulations! You are a geek. You've not let it get out of control, nor have you decided to keep it locked tightly away where no one can see it. You are a geek, and you're not afraid to show it. Your interests and knowledge thereof have made you a more dynamic, more interesting individual. Keep it up, baby!

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Geekiness
Link: The Geek Quotient Test written by jenny11 on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Modern, Cool Nerd

According to the OK Cupid! Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test, I am:

65 % Nerd, 56% Geek, 47% Dork
They explain:

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia. A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions. You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and "geek is chic." The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!


I appreciate the compliment.

How To Instantly Inflict Devastating Damage

I love this shit:

There is a nasty fighter hiding inside you... and we know how to wake him up and make him a part of and without hassle.
How To Instantly Inflict Devastating Damage From 20 Feet Away...
Using Nothing More Than A Paperclip And These Viciously-Easy "Power Throwing" Tricks Developed By The Smallest Former Combat Expert To Ever Scare The Living Crap Out Of Entire Biker Gangs, Skinhead “Attack Squads” and Every Black Belt Jerk Who Ever Dared To Make Fun Of His Size!

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.