Because Life is an RPG

I'm guessing this is third edition rules, but I'm not sure.

I Am A: Lawful Neutral Human Wizard (5th Level)

Ability Scores:







Lawful Neutral A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs him. Order and organization are paramount to him. He may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or he may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot. However, lawful neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Signs I'm Becoming an Adult Part 8

Nearly 6 years ago (yikes!), Katie offered a strange observation on BATG: "You guys would make great second husbands." I don't think that ever aired, but to me it was one of the more memorable lines of the show. Frankly, I wasn't sure whether to be insulted or not. Ultimately, I decided to simply dismiss the comment as nonsense.

The thing is, as I gaze at my prospective dating pool in the present, I'm beginning to realize just how right she is. Of course, not everyone is a divorcée. One's a widow.


I'm trying to develop a new (it may not be original, but I don't think I've heard of it) theory (metaphor, really) that romantic compatibility is a lot like red blood cell compatibility. There are the O- types, those universal lovers who everyone appreciates, but ironically can't really find someone to reciprocate that love. Then there are the AB+ types, those universal recipients who would be happy to settle down with just about anyone even though they can't really give back what their partner needs. But most of us are probably somewhere in the middle looking for someone mostly like us, though not necessarily a person who matches all of our own characteristics. I'm really not sure where I'm going with this and maybe I'm trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but I thought I'd put the idea out there in case if it strikes a chord with anyone.

And, for the record, yes, this concept was inspired by meeting someone recently who I think is a universal donor. Because that's what I do: put any emotions I have personally through an intellectual filter and try to construct a general theory for analysis.

A rose by any other name

I've enjoyed seeing the overwhelming support for gay marriage today as the supreme court takes up the question, though it hasn't been entirely unanimous. One of the dissenters brought up an old Lincoln quote "If you call a tail a leg, a dog still has four legs," presumably referring to a redefinition of the word marriage as subtext. Like many of my "Ooh, shiny" moments in life, I quickly became distracted by the abstract concept while ignoring the instigating issue at hand.

Out of curiosity, I was interested if Lincoln actually said this, though this too was really a side issue for me. It appears he did, albeit not in any official speech, but more as an offhand comment to some folks who later reminisced about it before it was written down some 50 years after his death. He also was talking about a calf instead of a dog, but the rhetorical point remains the same. Unfortunately, the epistemological point isn't so clear to me.

It is clear that re-defining a tail to be leg, the tail still does not possess the properties under the previous definition of leg, but that point is moot. The confusing issue is whether the term "leg" is totally redefined or the properties of a tail are now incorporated with the old definition. If the former, the dog only has one "leg," in my opinion, but if the latter, the dog clearly has five "legs." I'm not sure why you would call a tail a leg, as it would harm communication, but as a theoretical exercise, I don't see anything wrong with it. If a foreigner called what I would call a tail a jambe and I agreed to his usage, then the dog would have 4 legs and one jambe and if one jambe equals one leg, then he'd have five legs. That's just the transitive property of mathematics.

Which brings me to the point that we can re-name things in math all the time. It's really easy: I erase the "ABC" on the three points of my triangle and rewrite it as DEF, thus re-naming it. Not that redefinition is purely in the realm of abstract thought. We re-named Pluto to be a dwarf planet instead of regular planet a few years back. Pluto still retained all of its characteristics it had before, we simply redefined the word "planet." If Lincoln's logic held, though, we'd still have nine planets, possibly more. Or maybe not. Ignoring the existence of Pluto for a moment, if you called Ceres a planet, how many planets would the solar system have? I'd have to say nine, but your definition would not comport with my understanding of the word, but I can suspend that for the sake of your argument. The sweet fragrance of roses would still be pleasing to me even if society chose to call them stink-blossoms. I'd be confused by its appellation, but I would call them stink-blossoms in order to communicate even if I didn't believe they stank. Greenland's lack of green hasn't stopped me from calling the region Greenland.

Now none of this speaks to the Orwellian nature of redefinition, which I think was what Lincoln was trying to get at. Language can be used for obfuscation as well for clarification as certain practitioners try to confuse the issue. Political orators have been doing this for as long as they've existed. But hard definitions are slippery things, especially when everyone knows what a word means without ever defining it. Often times, it's the most common of words that give us the most trouble, like the definition of "game," "geek," "reality show," or "time." The most famous example is when the supreme court had to deal with "pornography." Or, in the case that lead to this whole line of thought, "marriage." Opponents of gay marriage claim that the proponents are redefining marriage, but I think it's more complicated than that. I'm not sure the word ever was well-defined in the first place because everyone thought they knew what it meant, even though they didn't. Kind of like the word "planet" before the discovery of Eris. Thus all the definitions have been ad-hoc, created after a dispute began to reveal itself. It's happened before (e.g. inter-racial marriage) and I suspect it will happen again (e.g. polyamorous marriage).

It's easy to to know why Lincoln used such a clear example of a calf/dog, but I wonder how he would have handled a more ambiguous creature, like a baboon.

The Gygaxian style

This past weekend, I went to Anonycon, played a lot of games, saw old friends, and had a great time (I even wrote about my LARPing experience in my larpingthoughts blog). One of the games I played was Original Dungeons & Dragons, i.e. the 1974 edition in all its glory. We went into the DM's homemade dungeon, which in our 4 hours play, covered about 10% of one level, fought some trolls, stirges, and snow apes, and went home with a whole lot of treasure with only one PC death (we were a conservative group for some reason, and the dead PC jumped in as a new character who slept in and just caught up with us after the battle). There's a surprising amount of downtime for PCs in OD&D battles, with rounds going by that a PC really doesn't have anything good to do and just kind of sits there watching the action. I didn't actually mind this so much, as it gave me an opportunity to read those ancient manuals while keeping an eye on the battle. In modern rulebooks, there's a sterility, a plain here's-the-facts presentation that just tells you what you need to know in a very direct way. But there's a weird playfulness in the otherwise badly written books of yesteryear that is a style I can only call Gygaxian as Gary inserts his own odd commentary. One of my favorites:

MINOTAURS: The Minotaur is classically a bull-headed man (and all of us who have debated rules are well acquainted with such).

There are gems like these all over if you have the patience to read through them.

I write

I just discovered a fun, new distraction: it's a website that does "statistical analysis" to see who you write like. After throwing in three more or less random blog entries, it has been revealed that I write like David Foster Wallace, Cory Doctorow, and Stephen King, depending on the entry used. Either I am a genius at mimicking the style of authors I barely read or there are limits to using mathematics to study artistic sensibility.

The next experiment, of course, is to see whom those writers write like.

Weird Anniversaries

Exactly thirty-three years ago my old boss was the first person to the scene of an old Baptist church that had caught fire. Some suspected arson, but the cause of the conflagration was never really determined. What is certain is that on this night in the year I was born, flame was occupying the very space where I am typing this. The church was destroyed, but if such an incident didn't happen, I'd be living some place very different.

Happy Halloween!


"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

I'm not sure I believe that. Where was the internet when Ecclesiastes was written? Or what about trains, planes, and automobiles? Gunpowder and guns was a long way off, that's for sure. Even the nascent Greek form of democracy was centuries in the future. On the other hand, perhaps these are simply improvements or variations on themes that are that old. Communication, transportation, weaponry, and government pre-date any historical records.

It seems to me that there is a strong neophilic tendency in our culture. Many of us pride ourselves in being first adapters as is strongly evidenced by the long lines whenever a Apple comes out with a new gadget, no matter how minute an improvement it is over its previous incarnation. Perhaps this is an evolutionary impetus as we feel an inherent need to change or die. But I doubt it. There have been just as many cultures that revere the old, tried and true methods of doing things as reliable. Though I'm not an expert, I believe even in academia, plagiarism was once lauded as copying the Greek and Roman masters was more credible than innovative thought.

Yet for as many "First" comments where that is the totality of the substance, there are even more "Likes." Memes pass from one person to the next often verbatim and without citation so it becomes difficult to trace the creator. We do it all the time and have for at least as long as there have been jokes. So many start off with "Have you heard the one about the [insert joke title here]?" that in itself the phrase has become part of a standard set-up. Political talking points are enshrined in memoranda that are memorized my pundits and candidates alike for fear of coming up with something original extemporaneously that hasn't been properly vetted. No actor would dare re-write Shakespeare while on the stage. So I suppose there is a real tension between originality and passing on knowledge.

There certainly is in science. Sure discovering new theories of how the world works is pretty sexy, but even more of science is the replication of the experiments one's forbears have already performed. Usually the results are duplicated, but no one faults those scientists for confirming what we already know as a waste of time. And occasionally, independent producers come up with the same thing in complete ignorance of each other.

It is said that "Good writers borrow, and great writers steal." But who said it? Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, or T.S. Eliot? Or maybe it was Aaron Sorkin? Or none of the above. The adage's mysterious origins endlessly repeated throughout history seems to emphasize the point it makes even more.

Some people are born authors, extremely creative individuals who don't know how not to create. And others of us are born editors who are unable to come up with a single original thought that is so highly cherished in our society, but are able to evaluate material and spot the good ideas when they see them. I believe most of us have a little bit of talent in both areas, seeing a good idea and, so inspired, fuse them with our own as it becomes transformed. Musicians do this all the time as covers of old songs are renewed; changed maybe, but certainly not original. Even pure carriers of information who simply hit CTRL-C and CTRL-V can create an audience that missed it the first time. And isn't that what creators ultimately want: to see their works appreciated?

Games as Food

Maybe I'm crazy, but I always liked to compare games to food. The feeling I get from games is similar to the feeling I get to eating certain foods and if I'm giving a review, I find the experiential comparisons are apt. So here's a partial list that may only be relevant in my mind, but I'd thought I'd share:

Dominion-Dominion is like pizza. It has an enormous list of toppings and a nigh infinite list of combinations of those toppings. Sometimes those combinations turn out terrible, and some go surprisingly well together. In any case, I could almost always go for a slice or two.
Fluxx-Fluxx is shrimp cocktail. There's not much there and it's really only good for an appetizer for something better to come along. But it puts me in the mood for eating/gaming, so I can dig it.
Monopoly-Monopoly is a McDonald's cheeseburger. Purely American, not very good, but if there's no other choice (though I'd never seek it out), it'll do in a pinch. Yet whenever I bite down, it digs up a certain nostalgia that I used to like this as a kid, back before I knew any better. Similarly, Life is chicken McNuggets.
Settlers of Catan-Settlers is chicken noodle soup. It can be warm and comforting on a rainy day or if I want something not too stressful, but I usually seek something a little more interesting.
Apples to Apples-No, it's not like apples, more the opposite: it's like candy. It's easy to pick up and almost as easy to put down. It's a whole lot of fun, but if I have too much of it and nothing else, I sort of feel sick afterward.
Go- Go is goat livers with vegetables. It's Chinese, I don't get it, but there's no doubt in my mind it's good for you. Also, I've never really tried it.
Twilight Imperium-Twilight is lobster. It's big, expensive, and has a lot of useless parts and takes a whole lot of work to get to the really good bits. I really have to psych myself up for such a thing and can't do it very often. I appreciate that it can be a delicacy, but also why colonial prisoners complained when it was served it too frequently.
A Game of Thrones-This is a nice filet mignon. Easy to manage, but rich enough to leave me satisfied at the end.
Chess-A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's a classic, easy to have almost anywhere at any time (whether you're in a park or at home), I always enjoy it, but don't do it too often.
Poker-Poker is apple pie. As American as McDonald's, but something we, as a culture, can actually be proud of. Also, when I'm done with it, I don't feel like I want any more.

There's a lot more food and games out there, so if you actually think like me and this list inspires you, feel free to tell me what you think are good food-game comparisons.


I wasn't going to post anything today, but for some reason others' words inspired me to dig up an old entry, which in turn is mostly an even older sermon that not everyone who reads this now may have seen. It remains the best reaction I've seen regarding the tragedy.