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Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 09:36 am
Yesterday I was caught by new software.

You will recall that I play RPGs? Well, yes, it’s no secret. I was reading File 770 for an update on the Hugos situation when Mike Glyer posted the nominations for the nominees for the ENnies, the Gen Con EN World RPG Awards.

I didn’t even know there were awards for excellence in RPGs – though logically I suppose there must be. So being a gamer I had a look through the websites he linked to and I was drawn to three things.

The first thing which I got curious about is the D20 system for running tabletop games online. This looks as if it could be very good for any time when my group can’t get together for some reason but need to play on. We’ll be playing in our retirement homes yet! I was invited by a gaming friend to take a closer look, which I am. One thing I did notice that while the system itself is free (though the paid-for options look tasty) artwork can have varying costs. All of them look quite small per set of items, but I’d think they can mount up fast if you’re not careful.

The second and third were two software options from WolfLair called Realm Works and Hero Lab.

Realm Works is a very powerful bit of software that allows a GM to create and keep track of their game world. It also appears to allow the GM to send the information to a nearby screen (such as a TV). I haven’t explored that bit yet to see if it works as described but the possibilities attract me. It has a sister bit of software which is a player’s version, allowing the players in a game world to see what the GM lets them see – handouts, background information, lots of things. I’d prefer to see that on an iPad rather than a computer, I would think that even a laptop would get in the way of the players’ faces but maybe the screen version obviates that.

Hero Lab allows GMs to roll up characters on the fly and in advance of a game, and insert them into the Realm Works engine, as well as print them out for use by players. It works with several game systems including Pathfinder, various flavours of AD&D, Call of Cthulhu and a couple of other things I hadn’t heard of. You have to pay for each system separately due to licencing issues, but none of them are expensive. On the other hand, if your chosen system is Pathfinder you could be in for an expensive time – there is a positive plethora of Pathfinder stuff, masses of it, but each bit is separately priced. None are expensive, but it could mount up fast if you use their sources.

On the other hand, the ones I wanted were $20 each – Call of Cthulhu, AD&D 3e (nearest I could get to 2e, which is what we play) and the ‘authoring’ section which should allow me to adapt what’s available to close to 2e.

Learning this software is…interesting. The learning curve on Realm Works is challenging, even with video support – but then it was late at night and I was tired.

On the other hand, I love software like this and couldn’t leave it alone. I finally went to bed at 03:30 having played with it for hours and hours. I love filling in the little boxes on Hero Lab and seeing the other numbers move around. It’s so cute. I also love filling in information on Realm Works and watching the software link it all up. It’s amazing.

So, yes, I recommend these if you’re a GM or a gamer in general.
lexin: (Default)
Sunday, June 14th, 2015 08:26 pm
Yes, we have finally reached the stage of reviewing the novels. The five nominations are:

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)

I tried to read all of them, with varying levels of success which I will describe below in more detail.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK) )

The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books) )

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books) )

Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books) )

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books) )
lexin: (Default)
Sunday, May 31st, 2015 03:46 pm
I am somewhat behindhand on my reviews of the Hugo nominations. This is largely because I started the novels and the first one I picked up is “The Three Body Problem” by Cixin Liu. Other people on File 770 have raved over it, but I’m finding it very hard going. I will try to finish it, but I’m only prepared to give it another couple of days before I give up and move on. It’s not the translation – the translator did a bang up job – I’m just struggling to dig up much interest.

It’s also because I had to prepare to run my occasional Call of Cthuhlu campaign for my two friends, which always takes up time. We had a good game, though. Well worth it. We’re still looking for a third player, in case anyone’s interested.

The final two "related" works…and there are no spoilers in these items, for once.

“Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts )

Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson )
lexin: (Default)
Sunday, May 24th, 2015 12:44 am
On Thursday, I had a bit of a hiccup. I decided that, after a year of using it, I didn’t like the way that Windows 8’s standard email program dealt with emails. So I resolved to sort it out and get Outlook 2013 up and working and make it my default program for email. I thought it would be easy. A ten minute job.

How wrong could I be?

As it turned out, very very wrong. It took me only a few minutes to make it work with my outlook.com email address. Very simple. Done in three clicks. For some reason the icloud.com email address I have but never use was already linked to it. Don’t know how that happened, I’d certainly done nothing to make it do that.

The sticking point was my standard gmail.com address, the one I use for 90% of the time.

Gmail’s instructions make it sound simple. “Put these settings into the email program and watch it work.” So I put the settings into the email program and it did not work. I varied them according to the instructions for over four hours and it still did not work. I had a cup of tea and tried again. No dice. Rebooted. No dice. Cuddled the cat in a marked manner. No dice.

Finally I tried settings I was sure I’d tried at least twice before with no results…and it worked. Eh? What was with that?

My old friend [insanejournal.com profile] yonmei once said that she’d been working with computers since 1991 and still sometimes the only explanation for why the thing has done what it’s just done is, “It’s possessed.” I concur.

Hugos reviews, continued. Note: rampaging spoilers herein. Please do not click on the links if you can’t cope with spoilers.

I’m currently working my way through the “Best Related Work” list. I should say up front that I haven’t finished two of these, and doubt if I will finish them – if I’m even meant to finish them which I’m not completely sure I am.

Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli )

The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF )

Finally for this tranche we have:

Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth )