Monthly Archives: February 2017

Happiness Jars #4&5 for 2017-02-27

Got so busy I completely forgot to make happiness jar posts for the last two weeks, but since they’re related, here are both.

Happiness Jar #4

As planned, on Saturday the 18th we had our first meeting about the GURPS Fairy Tail campaign. I’d been bouncing around between which type of magic to use, but hadn’t been able to think of an actual character yet, until the GM told us about our guild. With my memory issues I can’t remember any actual details, but the guild’s focus is on time, and that led me to thinking about clockwork. Putting our heads together, the GM and I came up with the idea that my character might want to duplicate magic with technology.

Since then I’ve expanded it into this:

At some point in his past, he witnessed a non-mage getting mugged by a mage, and swore to come up with a way to give non-mages a inexpensive way to protect themselves from mages. His ultimate goal is to be able to build them cheaply enough that nearly everyone can afford one, and yet make enough profit to be able to give them to those who can’t.

We’ll iron the details of his invention later since that’s not something he’s going to have at the beginning anyway. Likely enchanting something like a bracer that grants the wearer Magic Resistance (making it harder to affect them with spells) and DR limited to Magic (so they’ll take less damage from fireballs and the like) and is powered by Lacrima.

When defending himself or someone else in combat, he relies on Requipping guns that he uses to fires magic bullets (or possibly enchant bullets/shells as he fires them, or simply uses the guns as foci through which he channels his magic; not decided yet).

That’s what I’m working no now. I’m going to build it as both Imbuements and Innate Attacks built as alternate abilities and see which I prefer. I knocked out most of the former sitting in the doctor’s waiting room this afternoon, and expect to finish shortly. The IAs won’t take me more than half an hour because I’m so prolific an IA builder (I even made Elmer Fudd’s gun (sometimes a rifle, sometimes a shotgun, even in the same scene) just to see if I could).

Happiness Jar #5

I had coincidentally been working on adapting Fairy Tail to GURPS purely for the fun of it for a couple of weeks before the GM announced the campaign, so I have pages of stuff for it now. To get things organized and to make it easier for everyone else to sift through, I posted as much of it as I could to a new section of my campaign wiki Friday afternoon. There was too much for me to be able to type it all up in one go, so I still have a good bit to do, but I got more than half of it posted.

GURPS Extra-Lite Finalized

I just uploaded what should be the final version of GURPS Extra-Lite. Other than the font and some formatting, the only thing that changed was that I finally made it compliant with Steve Jackson Games’ Online Policy for fan-made websites and game aids.

It used to say this:

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

But in re-reading their policy several times we realized that was meant only for fan sites (which is why it remains on the Web version of Extra-Lite, and has been added to my Munchkin compatibility chart). Instead they want this for game aids:

GURPS is a trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and its rules and art are copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by Steve Jackson Games. This game aid is the original creation of Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) and is released for free distribution, and not for resale, under the permissions granted in the Steve Jackson Games Online Policy.

They’ll also allow you to use most of their art as long as you follow their Online Policy. So if you ever see a game aid or other fan-work for any SJ game that doesn’t have one of the above disclaimers, send the author that link. Whereas some companies are really stingy with their IPs and actively discourage fan works (I would literally be in violation of Pokémon’s online policy if I were to even link you to it), SJG welcomes them, so the least we can do is give them their due credit.

Our God of Truth vs the Liar-in-Chief

The God we serve is one of TRUTH

Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 (NET)

For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.
John 3:20-21 (NET)

and LOVE

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8 (NET)

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40 (NET)

and CARING

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Then they too will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?” Then he will answer them, “I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.” And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Matt 25:41-46 (NET)

and PEACE

Reject a divisive person after one or two warnings. You know that such a person is twisted by sin and is conscious of it himself.
Titus 3:10-11 (NET)

Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing. For,

the one who wants to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from uttering deceit.

And he must turn away from evil and do good;

he must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the Lord’s face is against those who do evil.

1 Peter 3:8-12 (NET)

Donald Trump, on the other hand, used bankruptcy laws to steal tens of millions of dollars from his employees and contractors, and stole from them a second time by refusing to pay taxes, forcing them to pay his fair share. He also encourages his followers to hate all Muslims because of the actions a few terrorists, but handwaves away the same complaints made against whites who commit acts of terror in the name of Christianity.

From that and many, many other things he has done and said it is blindingly clear that of all the things that Donald Trump is – reality TV star, thief, liar, sexual predator, hypocrite, thin-skinned egomaniac – one thing he most certainly is not is a Christian.

Now obviously the fact that he isn’t a Christian doesn’t make him unqualified to be President. I regularly thank God that America isn’t a theocracy, and pray that it doesn’t become one. Trump’s faith – or the total lack thereof – has no bearing on whether or not he is qualified to do the job. But…

  • The fact that he tells very public and obvious lies and expects people to believe him does show that he is unqualified.
  • The fact that he throws very public hissy fits every time anyone calls him out on one of those lies or disagrees with him in any way does show that he is unqualified.
  • The fact that he refuses to even talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with him does show that he is unqualified.Among our closest friends are Pagans, atheists, Jews, and who knows what else. Also among them are Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, and Liberals, and I’m an Moderate Independent with mostly Conservative leanings. I value their opinions as they value mine. The refusal to even listen to anyone else’s viewpoint is immature, egomaniacal, and very un-Christ-like.
  • The fact that he pretends to be a Christian in order to use people’s faith in God to trick them into trusting him does show that he is unqualified – and a world-class hypocrite.
  • The fact that he is comfortable being publicly supported by white supremacists and other hate groups does show that he is unqualified – and a complete moral vacuum.
  • The fact that he thinks dictators like Vladimir Putin – who have government-run media companies tasked with keeping the masses ignorant and under control by only showing them his “alternate facts” – are great democratic leaders does show that he is unqualified.
    • That is precisely why Trump fights so hard to discourage his followers from seeking the truth about anything – he doesn’t want them to learn the truth about him or what’s really going on in the world.

I’ll let Jesus Himself wrap this up with the words He spoke to another group of people who refused to see the plain truth standing in front of them:

If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Why don’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot accept my teaching. You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I am telling you the truth, you do not believe me. Who among you can prove me guilty of any sin? If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God.
John 8:31-32, 43-47 (NET)

What Is a Poem?

Before the crash I wrote poetry fairly often, and even got an award for one I wrote in middle school, but after the crash I suddenly stopped. The soul exception was the free verse I wrote after Columbine. That poem is notable for two reasons: I wrote it while staying awake for more than 24 hours while watching news coverage of the event (and skipping all of my classes), and it’s the only free verse I have have ever written, and likely ever will.

Ask five people what a poem is, and you’ll get at least six different answers. My favorite poetry always has defined meter (but sometimes break from it for effect), as do all but one of the poems I’ve written, but free verse strays far from that. I won’t do more than mention “prose poetry” here because I don’t want to sidetrack myself, but that’s another case where one person’s poem is another’s paragraph with randomly-inserted line breaks.

Then Twitter and texting came onto the scene, and the English language will never be the same. Merriam-Webster has probably been busier adding new words than they have ever been since Noah Webster wrote the original nearly two centuries ago.

Over the past year I have become more active on Twitter despite my deep Depression, so it was only relatively recently that I discovered Twitter poetry, and with it came a renewed interest in poetry. In the two decades since the crash I have often written poetically (mostly to my wife Lura), but no actual poems aside from a brief one for her every once in a while (usually shared publicly via Twitter or facebook, if you’d like to read them). Last year I even signed up for an online course called “How Writer’s Write Poetry“, but only managed to stick with it through three lessons before Depression and busyness distracted me from it.

I have tried repeatedly to write poetry over the past several years, including making a roleplaying character that only spoke in haiku, but can never seem to stick with it. That’s why I was so intrigued when I learned about Twitter poems. Reading many of them over the days following my discovery is what got me thinking about what constitutes a poem.

The essence of haiku is to show just enough to let the reader’s imagination take over, making the reader an integral component of the art. As Matsuo Bashō famously said: “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.” As a result I’ve seen some wonderful three-word haiku, and even wrote one I may share someday, but that got me thinking about how short a poem could be and still be a poem, leading to this:

scream
catharsis

Only two words, but to me it is quite evocative because it is something I have experienced so often. Others who have felt the blessed relief that can result from a good cry or scream may feel something in reading that, but does simply being evocative make it a poem?

I have been writing Twitter poems for Lura more and more often over the past year, even one a month for a while. The forced brevity of the format means I can’t be my usual flowery self (a bad habit English teachers spent more than a decade trying to curb), and that has helped my writing in general. The character limit also means that the resulting poems are so short that I can’t agonize over them for months or years until I think they’re perfect, as I have done with several short stories for years now. In fact, I must instead treat every tweet as if it was a haiku, making sure I get my whole message through without any extra words.

As an example of what I mean, and because it’s Valentine’s day, here is the Twitter haiku I wrote for her last year to celebrate the 17th anniversary of our first date:

Seventeen years gone
Love lies sleeping beside me
Still watching her breathe

How did you read that poem? Was it sweet, or mildly erotic? Did you imagine me lying there watching her sleep and just being happy that she was in bed beside me? Or did you think I was just ogling her boobs as they went up and down? Could I have meant both? Was I saying that I was happy that she was still in my life after 17 years and that I still find her to be the most desirable woman who ever lived? The only thing you can be certain of is that I am still very much in love with her after 17 years together – the rest is up to your imagination and how you see the world.

That simultaneous clarity and ambiguity of meaning is why before the crash I wrote poetry almost exclusively (aside from the occasional essay, which is why blogging appeals to me so much). But since the crash, and especially since our wedding, I’ve written more prose than anything else, much of it inspired by things we have done together (even today we both tend to use tabletop roleplaying games to flesh out characters and settings).

Now that I realize how much I was telling the world when I sent that Tweet back in November, I have decided that I will end this by sharing with you my three-word haiku I referenced earlier. It is the most personal thing I have ever written, but I am sharing it despite my innate extreme shyness because it succinctly tells the source of the Depression that keeps me from blogging or doing anything else for months at a time. And even though I cry every time I re-read it or revise this post, maybe making it public will prove even more cathartic, and hopefully provide some comfort to others in my situation by letting them know that they are not alone.

longing
fatherhood
despair

Happiness Jar #3 for 2017-02-13

This is actually last week’s jar, but I’ve only now had the time to write it up because the good news itself has kept me busy – which is further good news since that busyness means I’ve only had one major Depressive funk in the past week or so, and that was Saturday night). After a several-month unintentional hiatus, we are finally going to be roleplaying again, in the Fairy Tail campaign I mentioned in “Happiness Jar #2“. The GM’s books should be arriving tomorrow, so we hope to be doing character creation before Pokémon League this Saturday, so that will probably be this week’s HJ.

Last week’s jar is that I finally settled on how I would do the Requip ability if I were the GM, meaning that as of Saturday I was able to make Natsu, Gray (mostly), Erza (and by extension the gun requippers, but their attacks are my current project since that’s the kind of character I’m leaning towards), and had a rough idea of how to do Lucy (Allies (Summonable, +20%, Magic, +10%; Must have the spirit’s key, -25%; Pact (??), -?%)), but don’t know enough about celestial mages’ contracts with their spirits to create their Pacts, so that’s probably as far as I’ll go on that.

Since I’m not the GM I’m not going to actually post any of that anywhere until he gets a shot at making his own versions, especially since he’s getting Thaumatology, which is near the top of our trpg wishlist, but I used Powers, which he isn’t getting, so our results will be quite different. In fact, everything I have made for the game is an Advantage – even Erza’s armors are Advantages like Limited DR, IAs, and Flight added onto armor purchased with money – and about half of them are Innate Attacks.

Once the campaign actually gets going (next week, with any luck) I’ll post everything, and with the GM’s permission I’ll also post his versions so it will all be available to anyone who wants to use or adapt it. If you do so then please leave a comment on that post, and leave a link if you posted your version somewhere. I always love to see how others build upon my work, which is exactly why our Constitution tasks the government with giving people patent and copyright protections “for limited times” to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, but I’ll go into that in a future post.

Happiness Jar #2 for 2017-02-03

After struggling to come up with happiness jar #1, this week we’ve got two candidates. I’ll start with the second one first.

A few minutes ago I was picking up a stack of books that had fallen over and were keeping our elderly Australian Shepherd from getting to their water dish. Near the bottom of the stack was our second copy of GURPS Basic Set: Characters, which has been missing for months. The timing could not better since we’re getting ready to start a new Saturday afternoon campaign and the GM only has one copy of his own.

Earlier this week something amazing happened: my wife finally got health insurance. She’s had to do without because we couldn’t afford the premiums (even with subsidies) and NC’s Republican Congress decided not to expand Medicaid. Given how many pre-existing conditions the two of us have, we’re happy beyond words that she’s finally getting insurance before the US Senate makes it impossible again.

If you live in Buncombe County and have a low income or still don’t have health insurance, visit the WNC Community Health Service (WNCCHS, or “Winches”), a Federally Qualified Health Center in Asheville. They have been our primary care provider since 2010 when they partnered with Buncombe County government to provide primary health care to low-income residents like us. Because I have Medicaid most of their services have been free – even dental – and the rest are very inexpensive because they charge on a sliding scale.

Thursday is #GURPSDay – Our Houserules

  • Bang Skills Cost Double Instead of Triple
  • Costs FP/ER is -10% Per Level, Capped at -40%
  • DR With Absorption (B46) Costs Less
  • Age-related Traits Cost Half, and Unaging is 5 CP

GURPS is pretty much the perfect roleplaying game for our needs. Its only major flaw is that once you get enough skills tied to one attribute it becomes far more cost effective to simply increase that attribute, gaining everything else that goes with it, instead of increasing the individual skills. Other than that and a few minor annoyances, it has served us very well since 4e released back in 2004, and remains our go-to game to this day. We’re actually about to start up a Fairy Tail game in which I’m looking forward to being on the player side of the screen for once.

I solved the skills-attributes problem in two ways:

  • finding reasons to use characters’ skills with other attributes (which is why GURPS has you record the Relative Level), and
  • encouraging players to take “Bang Skills”.

Here’s how we deal with that one big problem and those few minor annoyances:

Bang Skills Cost Double Instead of Triple

Learning to play GURPS is dead simple if someone else makes your character: Roll 3d6 under the target number on your character sheet. That’s oversimplified a bit, but you really can learn everything you need to play the game on one sheet of paper, like on my own GURPS Extra-Lite.

But making a character is another story and best done with the help of someone experienced (the sheer number of options can be overwhelming, so I encourage GMs to come up a list of what they will or won’t allow in that campaign) – especially when it’s time to buy skills. That remains the most difficult thing to explain to new players, but is easy once it finally clicks.

One way to make it even easier is with “Bang Skills” (“Wildcard Skills” sidebar on B175). Bang Skills cover vast numbers of skills with one super skill, and are very expensive as a result: Very Hard x 3.

As an example, the Professor on Gilligan’s Island would have Science! as his main skill. It would cost him 24 CP to get it equal to his IQ, and then 12 more per level after that. As a 150-point character, that’s asking a lot. Since I want to encourage my players to take Bang Skills, I only charge them double the VH cost instead of triple even though our games usually start at 200-250 points.

Costs FP/ER is -10% Per Level, Capped at -40%

For advantages that have to be maintained, you may take:

  • Costs 1 FP per 10 seconds, -20%
  • Costs 1 FP per second, -40%

Take note of the -40% limit. The same also applies to abilities that use Energy Reserves (Powers 119).

In digging through my old notes it appears that at some point in the past I was convinced that even -10% per level was too little, and that this was even better:

  • Costs FP’s value decreases with level: CFP 1 is -25%, CFP 2 is an additional -10%, and each additional level adds -5%. So it goes -25% / -30% / -40% / -45%.

It makes good sense because CFP 1 means you immediately go from infinite uses to at most 7-8 per battle – a pretty significant difference. But CFP 2 only drops you to 3-4 uses, and CFP 3 to 2-3. Since I forgot about it I haven’t actually tried it yet, but will in my next campaign.

DR With Absorption (B46) Costs Less

  • Absorption: Heals HP or FP, +40%
  • Absorption: Heals HP and FP, +60%
  • Absorption: (One Trait) xY, +5%
  • Y is the level of Absorption for that particular entry.
  • Absorption: Every Trait, +50%

In Rev. Pee Kitty’s article “Absorption Revised“, he details why absorption is too expensive, so I won’t duplicate that, but here’s Natsu from Fairy Tail as an example:

[6.5 * X] DR X (Magic, -10%; Limited (fire), -40%; Absorption: Heals ER, +40%; Absorption: ST x5, +25%; Absorption: Burning Attack x3, +15%)

In short, that means Natsu takes X less damage from fire-based attacks, and when he does he can use that energy to restore his ER, increase his ST (and therefore damage), or add dice of damage to his fire spells. It costs his player 6.5 CP per point of DR.

Age-related Traits Cost Half, and Unaging is 5 CP

From Rev. Pee Kitty’s House Rules “2. Reducing the value of ‘flavor’ traits”:

The values of all age-related traits (Extended Lifespan, Longevity, Self-Destruct, Short Lifespan) are halved, except for Unaging, which costs 5 points. Terminally Ill no longer exists, except when granted via an Affliction.

From the day GURPS 4e released I thought that Unaging was overpriced simply because it is mostly flavor and almost never has any mechanical effect, so I was happy when I found out that I wasn’t the only one only charging 5 CP for it. Halving the cost of other age traits hadn’t occurred to me, but is a good idea.