The Art of Mathematics

After a break of more than a decade, a couple of years ago I got back into creating math-based art I call “The Beauty of Math”. Some of it involves drawing Bézier curves on graph paper, like this one I did back in 1994 during my Freshman year of college:

Others are drawn with just a compass and a ruler, combining circles, arcs, and lines in interesting ways. I have now taken those skills and applied them to creating coloring pages like this one, all of which can be found in my DeviantArt gallery:

Please note that this is a low resolution image, not suitable for printing. See my DA gallery for the high res version.

That brings me to LibreCAD. I still start all of my designs with pencil and compass, with lots of erasing, trying something new, and starting over, but then move to LibreCAD to make a clean digital version to share.

LibreCAD is an open source 2D CAD program for Windows, Android, and Apple. It somehow manages to be very powerful, but also lean enough to run easily on our Asus Transformer netbook (Coloring Page #4, pictured above, was made almost entirely on the Asus while at Bojangles one afternoon). While it’s no AutoCAD, it’s also not hundreds of dollars a year.

Even if you don’t have an engineering degree or any interest in engineering at all, as you can see in my coloring pages, LibreCAD can also be useful for various other arts – I even used it to design the cards for my forthcoming game Spellslingers.

The DXF files I made with LibreCAD are available to my Patrons. The exported SVGs are available to the public exclusively on Patreon, but only Patrons can access the DXFs.


My First Two Print-on-Demand Games

A month ago I announced the impending release of my first print-on-demand (POD) game, Cribbage Dice. Unfortunately, once my sample copy arrived I discovered that The Game Crafter’s (TGC) d12s are nearly sequential, which means they can’t be used as randomizers.

More fortunately, TGC’s Hook Box Challenge has inspired me to create three new games. Two of them proved to be untenable for the contest, which requires the entire game to fit into 18 cards and the box that holds them, but will be great as larger games. The third, Spellslingers, is nearing completion, and will be available for POD purchase shortly thereafter. The contest deadline is in six weeks, so expect frequent announcements on Twitter.

My First Print-on-Demand Game is (Almost) Go

While I have been silent here for the past month, it’s not because of depression this time. If you follow me on Twitter or facebook then you may know that I have been busy getting read for the release of my first print-on-demand game, Cribbage Dance (that link doesn’t work yet). My sample copy should arrive in the next day or so. If all is well with it then the game will go on sale on November 13th at the link above.

I have also started work on several new games, including some for The Game Crafter’s “Hook Box Challenge”, which requires entries to fit entirely within an 18-card hook box. It seemed like such an interesting challenge that my wife is also entering. It will be her first attempt at designing a game from scratch, so she hasn’t even told me what it’s about so that I won’t be tempted to influence her design. Needless to say, I’m excited to see what she comes up with.

I’m also nearing completion of a free game for Looney Pyramids – I just need to get a few more people to playtest the rulebook itself. Once Lura and I have finished our entries for the contest we’ll get back to finishing up the Looney Pyramids game we’re designing together.

Dog Haiku

The first thing Lura and I did after getting home from our honeymoon 15 years ago next week was adopt an adorable stray mutt we named Meekay. Wednesday afternoon he breathed his last breath. I have of course started a tribute poem, but in the meantime here are some hilarious dog haiku to serve as a memorial.

Meekay, our small, black terrier mix dog at the age of 7

Note: The authorship of these is matter of some debate. If you know who actually wrote them please let know so I can give due credit.

Love my master;
Thus I perfume myself with
This long-rotten mouse.

I lie belly-up
In the sunshine, happier than
You ever will be

Today I sniffed
Many dog behinds—I celebrate
By kissing your face.

I sound the alarm!
Paper boy—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I lift my leg and
Whiz on each bush.
Hello, Spot—Sniff this and weep

I sound the alarm!
Garbage man—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

How do I love thee?
The ways are numberless as
My hairs on the rug.

I sound the alarm!
Mail carrier—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

My human is home!
I am so ecstatic I have
Made a puddle

I sound the alarm!
Gardener—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I Hate my choke chain—
Look, world, they strangle me!
Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack!

Sleeping here, my chin
On your foot—no greater bliss—well,
Maybe catching mice

Look in my eyes and
Deny it. No human could
Love you as much I do

The cat is not all
Bad—she dots the neighborhood
With Tootsie Rolls

Dig under fence—why?
Because it’s there. Because it’s
There. Because it’s there.

I am your best friend,
Now, always, and especially
When you are eating.

My owners’ mood is
Romantic—I lie near their
Feet. I fart a big one.

New Eeveelutions

During Pokémon League on Free RPG Day several years ago I ran an OVA one-shot in which all of the players were different Eeveelutions. Now I’m planning on running that game again in order to playtest my trpg. I adapted the original seven characters into it, and also made Sylveon. But I’d like to also offer players a couple of options that don’t yet exist. Here are the stats for the canonical Eeveelutions:

Eeveelution HP/At/Df/SA/SD/Sp Role
Espeon 65/65/60/130/95/110 Special Sweeper
Flareon 65/130/60/95/110/65 Physical Sweeper, Special Tank
Glaceon 65/60/110/130/95/65 Special Sweeper, Mixed Tank
Jolteon 65/65/60/110/95/130 Special Sweeper
Leafeon 65/110/130/60/65/95 Physical Sweeper/Tank
Sylveon 95/65/65/110/130/60 Special Sweeper/Tank
Umbreon 95/65/110/60/130/65 Mixed Tank
Vaporeon 130/65/60/110/95/65 Special Sweeper/Tank

The average stats among all Pokémon are between 80 and 88; average Attack is 95. Pokémon are generally only considered competitive if all of the stats they need to do their particular job are at least 100 (so Espeon’s 130 Special Attack and 110 Speed are ideal for a Special Sweeper). Eeveelutions always have two stats that are above average (110, 130), one that is average (95), and three that are garbage (65, 65, 60).

After spending a couple of hours spreadsheeting, I came to another realization about Eeveelutions: their top three stats are nearly always at least two of the top three stats of all Pokémon of their type, but not in the same order. For example, the highest average stats of all Electric Pokémon are, in order: SA 102, Sp 90, and SD 84. Jolteon’s are Sp 130, SA 110, and SD 95.

With all of that in mind, I used the average stats of their types to create some others so I can make them as pre-gens. I also made sure not to duplicate any existing Eeveelution, which limited my options.

Eeveelution HP/At/Df/SA/SD/Sp Role
Steel 65/130/110/65/95/60 Physical Sweeper, Mixed Tank
Dragon 110/130/65/95/60/65 Mixed Sweeper
Flying 65/95/60/130/65/110 Mixed Sweeper
Ground 130/95/110/65/65/60 Physical Sweeper/Tank
Ghost 60/130/95/65/110/65 Physical Sweeper, Mixed Tank

I might make the rest of the types eventually, but that’s it for now. It will interesting to see how close I got if Game Freak ever adds any of those types as Eeveelutions.

Happiness Jar #9 for 2017-05-19

I’ve been fighting a cold for the past several weeks (finally getting over it is the first thing going in the jar this week) so I haven’t been posting, but I haven’t been completely idle, either. I have invented two new games this week. One of them is for Looney Pyramids, and I’ll be starting a second round of playtesting for the latest version at the FLGS tomorrow.

The other game is more complicated (imagine if you could design your own tournament-legal figures for a game like HeroClix), and it was while using our Pyramid Arcade to test out ideas for it that I came up with the other game. I’ll go into more detail when I release the Pyramid version as a free game – next week if I can get enough playtesters tomorrow.

Several years ago we sold the vast majority of our Yu-Gi-Oh! collection to our favorite FLGS, reserving only our favorite two or three decks each. But on Saturday we realized that we haven’t even used those few decks since then, so Wednesday afternoon we used the FLGS’ nice big tables to sift through the remainder to find any cards that had art we particularly liked or might be useful as tokens for Magic. We sorted the rest by rarity, ready to sell tomorrow, and were pleasantly surprised by how much some of them are worth.

While at the FLGS I even got to do some playtesting with the store’s resident master of board games, who gave me a great idea for the game. Before I got inspired to make the game I had been working on adapting Final Fantasy Tactics‘ Samurai job to GURPS. I had hoped to have it ready for Thursday is GURPS Day yesterday, but mysteriously hurt my hand either Tuesday night or while we were running errands on Wednesday.

So a pretty great week overall despite the injury.

To Serif or Not to Serif

The debate of whether or not to use serifs in fonts has raged almost since Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1440. What are serifs, you may ask? Serifs are the little decorative marks on letters, like the bars on the top and bottom of the capital “I”. Sans-serif literally means “without serifs”.

Since I write both fiction and rulebooks, I looked through an assortment of our roleplaying books and novels, and also some boardgame rules.

In our roleplaying books serifs are very dominant. I checked a sampling of our GURPS 3/4e, D&D 4e, OVA, and HackMaster 4/5e books, and they were exclusively serif fonts other than tables and sidebars in HM; sidebars, examples, and sample characters in OVA; and monster blocks in D&D. In other words, they use serifs unless the text is small enough that the serifs might make it harder to read.

Possibly the oldest novel in our collection is my much-loved and rather battered 1978 edition of Heinlein’s Space Cadet. It uses sans-serif for chapter headings and page headers, but serifs otherwise. My wife’s 2013 library book is the same – and some people say that’s the problem, but I’ll go into that shortly.

Boardgame rules are less cohesive simply because they come in a number of formats: sheet or two of paper, pamphlet, booklet, the box or similar material (Ultimate Stratego’s rules are written on the card used to divide the board while players set up). From what I have seen, those that print on card- or pasteboard tend to use serifs, while those on simple paper don’t. Munchkin uses fonts that fit the game’s mood, resulting in a mixture of serif and sans fonts in booklets. Pyramid Arcade includes a 75-page rulebook, entirely in sans serif.

The serif debate is as nuanced as any, but most people seem to fall into one of two groups:
* In long lines of uninterrupted text serif fonts are easier to read because the serifs help guide the eye.
* Sans-serif fonts are “cleaner”, and therefore easier to read. Serif fonts only seem easier to read because they are what we are used to.

I fall into that first group, but also agree that sans-serif fonts look “cleaner”, but in mixed case sans serifs can be confusing. Think of how the word Illinois looks without its serifs. In all caps or or all lowercase it doesn’t matter, but in mixed case capital “I” and lowercase “l” look exactly the same.

As a compromise I have developed the habit of using sans-serif (Arial for screen or Verdana for print) for headings, especially if they are all caps, and serif (Times New Roman) for text. Purely out of curiosity, I mocked up a fake page from my roleplaying game’s rulebook with one written completely in Times New Roman (right), and the other with Verdana headings (left).

Font Test with mock up of rpg rulebook page

So which do you prefer?