Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Penny Arcade Artist's WWII Veteran Grandfather Speaks

"Gabe" / Mike had his aunt conduct an interview with his grandfather, a World War II navy veteran. Please read it.

At the end I noticed three important things:

  1. Everything he had from the war was lost. He came home with the clothes on his back - his medals, his souvenirs, his diary were all lost. This creates a larger disconnect when you have nothing to hold on to; it's all in the mind, and coming home to the United States was different than Great Britain.
  2. Once home, he married, returned to his job and stayed there his whole career.
  3. He doesn't like WWII "First-Person Shooters" because the only interactivity is killing each other with guns (phrased differently but this is the core).
This made me think of the cyclical nature of the human experience. Prior to The Great World War (One), war was romanticized. Many Europeans wanted to fight. They were in for a rude awakening thanks to modern warfare and outmoded military generals and their tactics.

Here too, we see a new generation, unfamiliar with real war, experiencing it as they can. Instead of books, we now have First-Person Shooters.

I, for one, applaud that the (statistically) ignorant masses, victims of the American Public Education System, are seeing something, learning about the weapons, the uniforms and a bit about the places and battles, however imperfect (the proliferation of sub-machine guns in these games is completely unrealistic).

I embrace the fact that we have yet another generation unfamiliar with war, because that is normal. They will go and face (the 2nd Gulf War) and come home different, like Ralph did, amidst a public who still has no freaking clue what it's all about, what they went through, and what life really means.

Most people, unless their eyes are opened in this manner, are just destined to never understand.

Friday, December 07, 2007

10yo Girl versus Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 Online Players

MoH:H2 is the first 32 player online Wii game.

Capture the Flag, in the map entitled "Sewers", 32 player map (16 people per side)

Kills Deaths Kill Steals* Flag Captures Team Rank
10 3 5 2/3 1st
5 0 0 3/3 1st
5 3 10 3/3 3rd
20 3 5 3/3 1st
1 0 0 3/3 2nd

* Kill Steals are approximate because Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 doesn't track that, but everything else Lupita copied down from the stat board at the end of each match.

These scores are incredible for an adult let alone a 10 year-old girl.

The last match, where she got 1 kill and all 3 flag captures, she said someone shot at her with a sniper rifle and she saw the direction it came from thanks to the heads-up-display, so she chucked a grenade that direction and found cover, and the sniper went "boom."

The 4th match (20 deaths, 3 kills) she got lucky and killed 4 or 5 people with one grenade. I asked her about that round, asking how'd she rack up so many kills, and she said "Well a shotgun and grenades go well together."

Gee, I think every red-blooded man would agree with that.

I asked her how she netted so many flags, and she said "The people on my team were so dumb. They'd run to the other side and then stop to shoot at anyone they met. So I'd just run past them and collect the flag while the enemy was busy shooting at them."

Another trick she'd pull was shooting in one of the two doorways at the spawn point of the enemy side and then ducking for cover; they'd look and see the people she was with, open fire, and then she'd go get the flag, effectively making the people around her targets. But, since they were stupid, this seemed an appropriate use for them.

I remain amazed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Random Musings at the Drive-Through

It's after 10pm (pitch night here). My 10yo daughter, Maria, and I were parked outside a fast-food store waiting for it to finish closing to pick up my brother and observed a customer pull up to the drive through. He pressed the button and sat there. We started laughing, sitting in the van. He just sat there, his truck's engine idling, for about four minutes, alternatively staring at nothing and at the voice box. Mind you none of the lights on the displays were lit, even the big "what you can order" sign was dark.

"Gee!" I mocked, "I pressidy button. Whie don't it vork?"

Maria laughed; then he pulled forward and tried the pick-up window. Finally he drove off.

Maria remarked "We should buy some of those 'OPEN' signs with lights and put them on other places and see what people do."

I think I laughed for about five minutes on that one alone.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

N'gai Croal on Nintendo

N'gai Croal is awesome:

"Nintendo, the company for which records were made to be broken. It's now the second most valuable company in Japan, behind only Toyota. Yes, I did say wow. It took the third coming of Jesus the third entry in the Halo series for the Xbox 360 to surpass the Wii, yet the gap was a mere 26,800 units. I expect the Wii to resume its lead in North America next month and do so for the foreseeable future."

Read the full thing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Iraq Affair

Dr. Earl C. Carlson wrote this piece before the media hoopla about the upcoming Iraq war. I found it interesting, so I am posting it here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Fairy Princess: Lisell
Fairies are cool. Out of all the games at (don't go there without Firefox and NoScripts and don't allow to run scripts on your computer), I pick the fairy dress up game. I must be gay.

Actually I prefer to think that I just like fairies. Fairies and mythological dragons are my favorite, but they don't have a "layout the Dragon's horde" game. :P

I can't make a character without making a story.

Lisell is the 9th daughter of Lynay. To avoid sexuality in my stories, fairies either procreate asexually or any two fairies can sprinkle each other with pollen and get the job done, effectively meaning all fairies are both genders at the same time; it all depends on the mood I'm in at the time.

All fairies are poisonous and most are herbivores, much to the plant family's chagrin. Moss & algae are fit for some, while others prefer fruits or leaves. A few kinds of fairies are omnivorous and opportunistic, eating bugs and things small enough not to be a threat and slow enough to catch.

Lisell is a Vasp fairy, the most venemous. As is custom among fairy keepers, she's been trussed up a bit by her owner and her venom glands removed, which precludes her from ever rejoining the wild.

Still, she goes outside with her owner's family on a wire string, gets plenty of food, and loves digging her tiny fangs into anyone who tempts her temper, especially strangers. She doesn't like most of the owner's children much, except the oldest, who is the most calm.

Her white hare is a tell-tale sign of her species, the Vasp Fairy.

She responds to many verbal words and gives the wry smile you see here when she chooses to ignore them, which is often.

Fairies, after all, aren't really domesticatable.

William Bouguereau

One of my heroes.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My Belruel - Jam Sessions

Because no one seems to get it right, I have posted the musical notes / music chords to "My Belruel" (actually Tycho's Ode) here:

A A - A
'twas the twelving day of Everfair
E E - E
when fell my maid of raven hair
D D - D F#m F#m F#m
beneath her cloven standard of the wren
E A A - A
and damn that roiling goblin horde
E E - E E
we'd almost slain the overlord
D D - D D F#m - E E
but i could never roll an elf again

A A - A
"The Queen of Bells and Battle-Downs"
E - E
she wore the title like a crown
D D - D F#m - F#m E
Foes so deep a man would drown, but she still stood alone
A - A -
a princess and a duchess both
E E - E
and sworn to nine prestigious oaths,
D D - D F#m E
her duties, they would take her to that twisting spire of stone

A A - A
Against his tower, a silhouette
E E - E
She called like a coronet
D - D D
And the green sea of his armies burst from warrens far below
A - A
The pacts he'd made with demonkind
E E - E E
Had rent his thin and tattered mind
D - D - F#m E
And hellish princedoms occupied the arrow he let go

A - A
They took her through the crowded square
E - E
And laid her at the temple stair
D D F#m F#m E
The sorcelled barb of Arudair beyond their healing arts
there stands a circlet on her brow
that turns the blades of men around
D F#m
But if Belruel could hear me now
This song would pierce her heart

A A - A
'twas the twelving day of Everfair
E E - E
when fell my maid of raven hair
D D - D F#m F#m - E
beneath her cloven standard of the wren
A A - A
damn that roiling goblin horde!
E E - E E
and damn their hell-bound the overlord!
D D - D F#m F#m - A E A
but i could never roll an elf again

Tycho from Penny-Arcade said this tune was based off of a default song in the preview build of Jam Sessions - I can't find any song that matches it in the final release.

He seems to poetically, or randomly, intersperse extra notes or fewer notes, and I have not annotated where he'd strum the guitar without holding a key, which makes a sound but produces no note.

NO one on TEH INTERWEBS has bothered to really try to write down each note on each line, just the notes that are on that line in the order they appear. I'm quite disturbed at the lack of interest of this particular piece - it is one of the finest pieces of work the author has ever done, and it's like it's just something he did and tossed, and so has everyone else.

In a way, that's the saddest fate of Belruel.

I am currently trying to practice this with my 10yo daughter, but without a proper music sheet and knowing what timing to set the metronome, it's about near impossible. I shall have to involve my lovely Latin wife, who plays classical piano, for aide. We spent almost two hours tonight (1:45) playing THE FIRST THREE LINES. After the first half hour even my well disciplined child asked "Do we have to keep playing?" I told her "This is drilling, sweetie." She was a trouper the rest of the time, no questions asked; we got our yucks in with all of our bloopers too.
or more)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Grits, Jackalopes and Snow Snakes

So Dulce, who just turned 8 on the 15th, calls me at work and asks me "Papa, what are grits?" as I'm holding the phone with one hand and trying to type with the other.

"Uhhhh," I answer, "Grits are small animals that live up north."

"Oh." she says. Emboldened, I continue "They look like little rabbits, with antlers."

"Oh." she says.

I continue "They're related to Jackalopes, who live in Texas, which are part Jack Rabbit, a large kind of rabbit, and part Antelope, because of their antlers."

"Oh." she says.

I say "Do you know what eats grits?"

"No." she says.

"Snow snakes." I tell her.

"Snow snakes?" she asks, puzzled.

"Yes. They live in the snow." I say.

Dulce asks "What color are they?"

"White, of course." I reply.

Dulce asks "Are they easy to see?"

"Oh, no, they burrow under the snow." I reply "but fortunately they don't like to come near people."

"Oh." she says.

I tell her she should go tell her older sister what she learned about Grits, Jackalopes and Snow Snakes, and then call me back.

No sooner do I tell Dove what I just did, then my phone rings. I answer.

Lupita says "Dulce just told me something about grits and snow snakes but she got me all confused, what is she talking about?"

So I retell her everything, and she says "PAAAPAAA! And she actually BELIEVED YOU?"

I cackled "Every word, apparently. You'd better to re-educate your sister before we do irreparable harm."

Kevin: How did grits come up anyway?

David: She didn't say, which made her question seem quite random to me, which is actually what made me feel like giving her an equally random response.

Kevin: Well just sort of an odd question in general, mainly from the fact that grits don't normally come up in conversation hehe

David: Yes, especially since my Latin wife hates them and refuses to cook them. The only time I get to eat grits is when I eat out, mostly. Not that it's some burning hole in my life, it's just something I select as a side when offered.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Transformers RP Backstory & Setting

In our fiction, Transformers don't understand gender very well. Most default to male personas, but there are notable exceptions. Since they don't reproduce sexually, relationships are based on a need for community rather than procreation.

Campaign Setting Goal:
Even in a Transformers RP game, you have to know your setting and what you are setting out to do.

In Dungeons & Dragons, my goal was always simple: Create a consistent, believable world and let the players interact with it and change it. At the end of the campaign, redraw the map of the land to show how things had changed. "Draco" saw 7 campaigns, 5 of which had proper endings. It accumulated enough back-history over the course of ten years to fill a small wiki.

Here, however, I found I have a different goal: Make my children grow and learn by putting carefully constructed problems in front of them; more specifically, encourage my firstborn's (Maria de Guadalupe) natural aggressiveness, nurturing and bossyness and hon it into learning to be a leader, of which she has all the natural traits needed; in constrast to Dulce Maria, whom is a follower and I want her to learn more decision making and discovering her identity outside of what her older sister does, and making her own decisions while keeping to the Golden Rule of Sisterhood: Always sticking by each other. This is something I have drilled into my girls since birth; no girls were ever on Papa's team, it was, and is, always them against Monster Zombie Tickle Papa, or whatever incarnation I take.

Campaign Setting Basics:
AHC = Autobot High Command
DHC = Decepticon High Command

Why is travel to Earth forbidden?

  • Because Transformers have a real problem with being inventors, but humans don't, AHC and DHC were scared at how quickly the humans adapted what technology of theirs that they came into contact with, as well as human history of invention (ever watch "CONNECTIONS"?). This is the real reason AHC orbitally smart-bombed and used digital warfare against all human records of Transformer technology, and why AHC and DHC made travel to Earth or the Sol solar system forbidden.
Why are Decepticons Here?
  • (Armada) Battle clone Megatron had an idea to gain immense personal power - since Decepticons had already broken an ancient Cybertonian law and melded flesh creatures into cyborgs (the Dreadlords, or "Meatformers" as true Decepticons call them), why not use humans to invent new weapons and technology? He came to abduct scientists and attempt to have a controlled population. Human history shows that no one can retain control of a vast breadth of humanity for very long, but a smaller group seemed more manageable to him.
How did DHC know about Megatron's plan, or that he came to Earth?
  • Astrotrain betrayed him.
Why did Optimus Prime return? How did he know? Why not just alert AHC?
  • The real answer to this might blow your mind. Optimus Prime got an anonymous tip (who it was may blow your mind); he knew that AHC's response could be a full-scale war, which would decimate human cities and possibly destabilize Earth's fragile ecosystem, or it could be more purposeful and better handled.

    The reason Prime chose not to tell AHC is because he has a different reason for returning: he believes that human beings, with their short lives and uniqueness with each individual, stand to teach the Autobots a lot about individuality, the value of freedom and life, which is something Autobots in general have handled largely by themselves and observing lesser lifeforms.
Who tipped off Optimus Prime?
  • **SPOILER ALERT** If you really want to know - Astrotrain betrayed Megatron just after he left; he told Soundwave, a Lieutenant Commander, because he was a survivor of the Earth wars and worked in DHC. Prior to forming his group that would usurp command from the battle clone of Megatron, Soundwave sent a coded message to Optimus Prime and warned him. He then deliberately didn't bring enough forces with him to destroy the Autobots he calculated Prime would be able to bring. Optimus Prime doesn't know who sent him the message, only that someone from Decepticon space sent it.
What are the Dreadlords / Dreadbots / Meatformers?
  • Ancient Cybertronian Law forbids any and all cyborgs and augmenting either alien races with Transformer technology, or grafting Transformers with living tissue. Decepticon High Command has, within the last 18 years (after the Earth wars closed and Earth was evacuated, only Starfire (G1 Skyfire) and Soundwave escaped), overturned this.

    Decepticons came across a planet long since torn apart by war; the surviving intelligent species had so drastically genetically altered itself that they have incredible powers of regeneration; however, they'd also nuked themselves into the stone age.

    Because Transformer brains are so difficult to make (the core of them are comprised of materials that are of extremely limited supply), DHC decided to create the "Meatformers", as true Decepticon soldiers call them, in order to augment their ranks and push back the Autobots.

    This campaign has been effective in areas that the Autobots do not have a substantial defense network set up, enough success for AHC to view these creations with a certain form of... dread. Autobot brains are still hard to come by, just like Decepticons, yet Decepticons are throwing creatures intelligent enough to handle their bodies (dumb computers can just be outwitted or hacked, these can't), but more replaceable than Decepticon brains.
What's with Windrazor? Why does he idolize Optimus Prime? What is AHC doing wrong?
  • AHC has started to warp the phrase "For the Greater Good." Individuality, indeed the rights of expression and, of course, objection, are considered contrary to the greater good of the war with the Decepticons. This movement within AHC gained ground when, completely unrelated to the Earth-bound Transformers I grew up with, a treaty with the Decepticons fell through with drastic consequences that the current power-holders in AHC managed to stop (hence, their new found respect within AHC, and the willingness to accept a harsher way of doing things from other Autobots in general).

    Optimus Prime, like a Bishop in Africa, was completely apart from all of these changes, and when he returned from Earth with his memories and adventures, was aghast at what he found. AHC tried, convicted and destroyed Starfire (Skyfire/Jetfire) for being the Autobot who fired upon Autobots from AHC who attacked the humans; Optimus Prime never got a chance to himself, but Starfire could fly fast and get into space. It was just their way of making an example of him. They stripped Prime of his command and made him a citizen, which Prime found out is now considered a "lower class" from soldier Autobots.

    Optimus Prime dispersed his entire memory set, abridging only what he wouldn't want in Decepticon heads, as a way of making the Autobots remember what they stood for. AHC declared his actions against the war effort, and notified him that if he was ever destroyed, he was not to be rebuilt.

    Around this time, as Prime was continuing to be engaged in this new underground movement, he got the anonymous tip that Megatron was heading to Earth.
Why did Starfire show up?
  • Ratchet remade Starfire with the memories Optimus Prime secreted within his own brain's memory banks. Starfire himself backed himself up before his trial (this one became Nightfire, and since it came from the source is, by Autobot law, the new original, not a clone). Both of them came for the same reason: their best friend called them. Starfire brought Jazz with him, an Autobot who has grown to know Prime over the last 18 years (I never had Jazz as a boy).
Why did Autobots Ratchet, Skyblast & Downshift come?
  • Ratchet needed a ride, so he found a willing taker in SkyBlast. He left after Starfire because he wasn't anywhere near Starfire at the time, and received a separate message from Prime. Downshift was recreated from the G1 Omnibot on Earth. Nobody knows it, but Grimlock and the G1 Omnibots are all still alive, just in hiding, possibly deactive in hybernation. Camshaft and Overdrive didn't want to revisit Earth and all the painful memories there. These guys don't know they are clones, they think the originals died on Earth.
Why did the Decepticons call in the Dreadlords?
  • DHC asked Soundwave what he needed to handle the Autobots on Earth without drawing attention from AHC, since DHC isn't dumb and figures that, if Prime's best friend was waxed by AHC, and Prime was stripped of his command, then Prime isn't there in an official capacity. Soundwave lied and told them he needed less forces than he actually did.
Clarification on Optimus Prime's Goal:
  • He's there to counter the Decepticons, for sure, but he's also there to continue learning from humanity. He was confident that, even if peace couldn't be reached with human governments, individuals would help change things. Daniel's betrayal has confounded the Autobot leader for the moment; he has realized that he is still a machine, and reading humans is difficult for him.
What does the "new" Megatron want?
  • To follow through with the old one's plan of using humans to invent new technology, only with the official sanction of DHC, and to crush the Autobots, especially Optimus Prime, since he's an Autobot folk-hero.
What does Soundwave want?
  • Good question. He's currently relaying orders from DHC to Megatron and keeping tabs on everything that happens.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Transformers RP Session #14

It's here! [read the session]

Told from the Autobot's side; Once again there's no combat, although there are some dice rolls this time and the introduction of a new Autobot!

I apologize for entering a kind of "Dragonball Z" story phase where a lot of nothing happens, but little girls seem to enjoy things that boys would likely skip over until they're at the next battle or conflict.

I am also worried that the Cyber Spawn and other Todd McFarlane mecha character might be a bit much for folks to swallow, but there's a hidden truth to them and a reason they don't transform and appear to have... flesh! All to be revealed in the next episode of...

The Transformers RP Session!

Transformers RP Session #13

It's here! [read the session]

Learn more about Soundwave's plan and what he is going to do with Megatron. The answer may surprise you, but reaffirm Soundwave's character. Plus! What are the Constructicons up to? That's not answered, but alluded to...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Extra Degree

At 33 degrees, water falling from the sky on a Saturday is a rainy day. At 32 degrees, children are building snowmen, riding sleighs and promising their parents that they're warm enough to stay outside five minutes longer. A beautifully uncomplicated metaphor that ideally should feed our every endeavor; you can reach exponential rewards in life by applying one extra degree.

From the book "212 - The Extra Degree" Author S.L. Parker.

I love this because it is so stupid. The extra degree gives exponential rewards in, as the example illustrates, very rare and specific circumstances. There are degrees 34 through, say, the surface of the sun (10000°F/5000°C, and even hotter above and below the surface). None of those lead to frozen water, although a great many of them lead to a molten surface on Mercury.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Transformers RP Session #9

Maria controlled Ratchet, Optimus Prime, Jazz, Brute and Chip; I controlled Mirage, Downshift, Recon & Chaser. Brute, Chip, Recon & Chaser are Knock-Offs we gave names to.
Maria contemplates what she should have Optimus Prime do...
Maria was contemplating what to have Optimus Prime do. She could feel something was wrong in the 9th session (the 8th we had Ratchet, Skyblast & Downshift arrive). Daniel, the son of the human they knew before the Great Cataclysmic War, had given the Autobots a safehouse - an empty warehouse his company owned. In return, the Autobots agreed to help refine his factory and its computer systems so the company could make more money - money which, in turn, Daniel would use to help procure supplies for the Autobots.

The warehouse base the Autobots inhabited and set up with Teletraan 1 was in Denver, Colorado. Daniel's factory was outside of the city.

Optimus Prime had all the jets and spacecraft stay at the base; Starfire (Jetfire / Skyfire), Harrier, Firefox, Skyblast & Rescue. Emergency asked to stay as well. Prime, Ratchet, Jazz, Downshift, Mirage, Chaser, Brute, Recon & Chip formed the convoy for the trip.

The convoy headed to Daniel's factory and noticed an un-marked helicopter following it from a great distance.

I made repeated rolls as the Game Master silently, and Maria tried to see if any of the Autobots saw or noticed anything, but kept rolling low scores. I'd tell her "Ratchet doesn't notice anything, but that's not the same as there being nothing to notice."

Drawing ever closer, when Prime spotted the factory far off with his amazing spot-check, he noticed it was made of reinforced concrete - concrete mixed with steel bars, like a bunker, and had a giant door tall enough for the original body of Starfire (Skyfire / Jetfire) to walk through. She made a intelligence check, and rolled a 6 and a 4. Plus Prime's Intellect score of 10, that was 20.

I asked her "Is your result higher than two?"

"Yes, of course." she answered.

"Twenty is higher than two?" I joked.

"Yes, Papa." she said.

As the Game Master, I said "It's rather obvious that no factories you know of are made of reinforced concrete, it's just too expensive to make."

Then Downshift noticed he couldn't reach Starfire. Maria asked "What can stop our communication?" "Well," I answered, "the curvature of the Earth, even Autobots can't send signals through the Earth's core, and Decepticons. You're not sure if humans can block your signals now or not, it's been 18 years since any of these Transformers have been here."

Still, she couldn't make a decision, so the Autobot rolled inside past the blast doors (which was the entrance). The doors closed behind them.

Once inside, the road went down. Still, she couldn't make a decision as to what to do. Then they met this:

Inside the tunnel, not in an opening but along the narrow four-lane road inside this bunker, they met a giant robot.

"I am a Super Fighter," the robot blurted at them, and marched forward with incredible weight; even the heaviest of Transformers could feel the ground tremor. Optimus Prime knew that the last time he felt that was when Omega Supreme was still alive. He was one of the Autobots whose memories was not backed up, and died in the last stand against the United States Army & Airforce.

"Enemies detected." the behemoth continued.

Over an intercom, a human voice said "Autobots, this is General Brad Langford. As you have come to the United States of America unannounced, and have already begun aggressive actions with your enemies in our cities and on our streets, you have left us no choice but to continue the War of Independence against alien aggressors bringing their wars to our shores. Allow me to introduce to you our solution. Perhaps you recognize it. If you don't, you should..."

General Langford finally shifts from his monotonous voice to one of force, "it's made of the melted-down bodies of your dead comrades."

(Cliffhanger ending)

Game Notes
The Robot: The toy robot really does blurt out "I am a Super Fighter," and then ambles forward a bit before saying "Scanning" and does a scan sound and looks left and right with his torso and then says "Enemies detected... FIRE!" but Esteban cut off his power just before he said that.

The War Reference: What the Transformers (Decepticons and Autobots alike) know as "The Great Cataclysmic Earth War", the humans know as "The War of Independance." Human governments spun it as ousting the alien aggressors from their planet, which, indeed, there was cause for doing.

Betrayal: It should be obvious, but Daniel has lead the Autobots into a deadly trap. One can assume that Starfire and the others are about to have some fun, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I found Mr. Drake.

My American History teacher from 8th grade, and, unfortunately, the best history teacher I ever had. I wish I'd had some more years with him; thankfully, between him and my Uncle George, who used to sit me down to watered down stories of "The Great World War II in the Pacific," when I was 4-5, I came out with a love of history.

It really puts a different slant on how you look at things, when you study history, or anthropology, as my lovely Latin lady does. Human beings tend to believe their moment is more important than others, yet the famous quotation ... gah, I can't source it, but it went something like "Kids these days have no respect for their elders." It was said by a Roman Senator some 2,000 years ago.

But I digress. Finding Mr. Drake got me thinking about a lot of things at once.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 7

Last night we played the Autobots, although little was accomplished due to:

  1. Jose Francisco.
  2. Dulce deciding it was a great evening to cry.
We did, however, have some fun having the Autobots talk about their take on the action in RP Session #5, which was drastically different than how the Decepticons felt. Essentially it was like an Azumanga Daioh episode: a lot of talking and watching personalities play out, and very little else. For me and my firstborn, that was fun.

Different from usual, I played Optimus Prime last night. Usually Maria plays the Autobots she owns (Jazz and Prime).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 6

The Decepticons limped home (from Session #5) just in time to watch their transformed star ship's defenses ward off the Autobots.
We had a game last night, this time as the Decepticons. Basically, the RP centered around fending off the Autobots, who did come to attack the base, then licking wounds for five days, and then trying to think of a way to lure Soundwave to Earth. By this point, only my 10yo was still up, so we talked about his personality and I let her try to think of things that might hook him. She couldn't come up with much, so we got to talking about Megatron and why he came...

"Try to think about what Megatron has done, and that may help you answer what his plans are. So far, he has defected from Decepticon High Command's control and gone to a forbidden planet. All right. So whatever he is doing is either worse than these things, or will wash it all away. Think of a bank robber, who steals a car so he can have a getaway vehicle. He really doesn't care about stealing a car, he's going to rob a bank. In other words, he's going to do something worse, so a forbidden planet doesn't bother him. Or, he's going to reverse the situation. What do all Decepticons covet?"

On her third try, because I kept answering "It's more basic than that," she said "Power."

"All right. So if Decepticons desire power, what might make them forget that Megatron disobeyed them?"

Maria answered "If he becomes more powerful."

I said "Ahhh. And lastly, he might have already done something so bad that the Decepticon High Command wants him destroyed, does he care about coming to a forbidden planet?"

Maria said "No. They're already after him."

"So he doesn't care about getting in a little additional trouble. For all we know, he's already wanted for doing something bad before, he's on the run, why not come here?"

"So, there you have it, three possibilities. Now, because I play Megatron and you play Prime, you are going to have to figure out what the truth is. Megatron won't tell the other Decepticons the whole truth. So I'm afraid you're going to have to wait and figure it out."

That concluded our evening.

See my PhotoBlog of this event.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jose Francisco, the Precocious

Jose Francisco is a special case; my mom studied child psychology and recognized early on that he had a neurological rarity: his cognitive functions woke up immediately, when most children have them creep into awareness between ages 1-2. His mind was firing all this off while he was still flopping about, unable to effectively move his arms and legs.

Such children can have problems because of the lack of stimuli to a brain that craves it: they can become master manipulators because they quickly learn "I can't move, but I can do things to make others do what I want" and they sometimes "turn off," suffering from lack of stimuli, their brains give up and their cognitive functions reawaken around age 2, which is actually late.

Fortunately for Jose Francisco, with my mother's warning, and the fact that he has three sisters and his mother stays home, he had plenty of stimuli. While we've managed to counter his ability to manipulate for ill, his charisma is incredible; he's charmed 4 to 5yo girls he meets in stores several times, exception one that was just resolute on the idea that 2yo boys are babies and not to be paid attention to. Plus, he charms grown folks too when he wants to.

It's as natural as breathing to him; I've observed his behavior and body language and it's like watching an actor who knows just what to do, intuitively, to get the target person to respond. With his sisters, I have seen him summon 5yo Alejandrita because he knows she listens, and then 7yo Dulce follows because she finds herself without a playmate, and then he asks Dulce to get on a stool to get him something.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Transformers: RP Session 5

Decepticon Base
In this session, we played from the Autobots' perspective; we generally switch each session.

When we started out, sessions one, two and three had already taken place, plus a fourth which wasn't written up: essentially Starfire (aka Jetfire) and Jazz came from outer space (ordered online from Hasbro) to reinforce their old friend, Optimus Prime.

The Players: Maria, my 10yo daughter, played her Optimus Prime and Jazz figures, as well as Harrier, a small knock-off.

Dulce played her favorites, Brute and Recon, as well as Rescue, all of whom were small knock-offs.

Dad played his Starfire (Jetfire / Skyfire) and Mirage, as well as Firefox, a small jet knock-off.

Autobot (left) and Decepticon Bases
Here is the setup of the Decepticon and Autobot bases. Note that in the game world, they aren't that close together.

Extra Notes: We used stryofoam to make a better flooring than the carpet. The bases are doll houses bought from thrift stores; we took the 2nd largest and repainted it.

Autobot Base
The Autobots are hiding in factory owned by a human family they knew before the Great Cataclysmic War of 1989, in which the Autobots and Decepticons threw themselves at each other in a great battle, and the United States, USSR, UK, France, and other countries around the world suddenly attacked any Transformers they could find with their militaries. Already weakened, both sides were annihilated within the year.

Maria & Dulce setting up the Autobots
By 1988, the human governments had grown tired of the Transformer war spreading on Earth, had realized the only reason it was here was because the two factions had "set up camp."

After Autobot High Command, in space, ordered that all Transformer technology that the humans had be destroyed, a surprise orbital strike, in conjunction from Autobots that arrived from space (most of those loyal to Optimus Prime refused the order), and digital warfare, accomplished this objective. Military personnel and some civilians were killed, but Autobot High Command felt this action was "for the greater good."

After this, human governments colluded with each other and built a plan, which became the reason behind the Transformers' ultimate destruction on Earth in 1989.

Though Transformers can back up their memories and be rebuilt from scratch, the Autobot starship, the Ark, had left; orders from High Command, which was disinterested in spending resources on Earth. Optimus Prime had kept parts of Teletraan 1, the mother computer.

However, Teletraan 1, in its diminished capacity, was unable to back-up all the Autobots who were destroyed when the humans betrayed them (as, indeed, the Autobots had in 1988). Prime, being deemed valuable by Teletraan 1, was one of the Autobots it backed up.

Now, Optimus Prime has returned in a new body, to a place forbidden by both Autobot and Decepticon High Command, because a few renegade Decepticons have arrived. Their purpose isn't clear, but the Decepticons are lead by a battle-clone of Megatron, a Transformer who turns into a tank. Already ravaged by war (thrift store rescue case), this Megatron is dangerous, if overly combative.

Dulce and Maria man (girl?) the Autobot base
In RP Session 4, Starfire (Jetfire) and Jazz came to earth. Jazz was towed by the, now smaller, transforming spaceship.

The Autobots had struck luck early and learned where the Decepticon base was; in the last RP session, the Autobots learned that the Decepticons were attacking Atlanta, Georgia (at least, some of their jets were). Prime (controlled by Maria) felt this was a ruse, and rather than rescue Atlanta, he planned on leading his forces to the Decepticon Base while it didn't have its full compliment guarding it.

Starfire (as named in our fiction) is known as Jetfire or Skyfire in Transformer lore
Starfire served with Optimus Prime "back in the day," and while he was destroyed in the Great Cataclysmic war, Starfire was wise enough to have an exact replica body made (I bought two Jetfires as a boy and kept one it its box); however, upon returning to Autobot space, he was arrested for treason, and destroyed. (My mom gave both of them away when she promised not to *cries*)

Fortunately, Optimus Prime, his friend, kept another backup of Starfire, and revived him. Prime was stripped of his command for refusing to obey orders in 1988, but remains an Autobot (some Transformers have no allegiance to either side).

Optimus Prime assembles his Autobots
Optimus Prime assembled the Autobots, made up more by newly created mini Transformers than by Autobots made in factories on their homeworlds.

Starfire asked if the Autobots knew whether or not the Decepticons still had a spaceship in orbit (he is the only Transformer we have capable of intersteller space travel, so he knew they had to arrive by ship) or if, like the Autobots, they had dismantled it upon arriving for parts. Optimus Prime wasn't sure, so he called the officers to meet upstairs...

Recon, Starfire, Jazz, Optimus Prime & Mirage; Prime holds a private meeting with the officers; Jose Francisco has Recon join anyway
Starfire, Jazz, Optimus Prime & Mirage discussed the possibility of whether or not the Decepticons had a starship in orbit, which "would affect our strategy," as Starfire put it.

Optimus Prime concluded that he doubted the renegade Decepticons had a starship at their disposal, and probably arrived in reusable space craft as the Autobots had: craft designed for dismantling for parts, a typical strategy both sides employ when coming to new worlds.

Mirage, who is a bit shy for a sports car, spent the meeting behind Prime. He's never been an officer before and fell into the role when he and Prime arrived alone on earth and constructed the younglings to help them.

Extra Note: In my fiction as a child, the only Transformer who matched Starfire's intellect was Soundwave; their processing cores were actually the same; however, one was instilled with an Autobot's will to do good, and the other... what no one knows is I have ordered a reissue of the first generation mold of Soundwave... oooh the fun when he arrives.

Prime relays final orders
Prime relays final orders to the autobots.

Extra Notes: That is Jazz, Prime & Mirage facing left, and Chip, a youngling Autobot who transforms into a police motorcycle. All of the newly created Autobots and Decepticons are knock-offs bought from Big Lots.

Starfire (Jetfire) and the other Autobots listen
Rescue, Starfire, Chaser (background) and Harrier & Firefox (blurred foreground).

Prime tells Starfire to leave his booster pack (his warp engines) behind because they don't have the parts necessary to fix it if it gets damaged in battle (you can barely see it between Starfire and Rescue).

Prime has such a great voice, we just can't get enough of him speaking
A decent shot is made so much better by a shift in angles... (see next)

Heroic pose
I love how this picture turned out. The elevator in this doll-house catches the light well in the background.

That's Emergency up front.

Mirage and Emergency stay at the base and stay in communication through Teletraan 1 (tin foil viewscreen)
Mirage, Emergency (pictured) and Chip stay behnd to monitor the Autobots from Teletraan 1 (tin foil viewscreen).

The other Autobots take to the road and sky.

The Autobots take the Interstate towards the Decepticon base
Optimus Prime, Jazz, Brute (a small tank), Recon (a military jeep) and Chaser (a patrol car) take to the interstate.

Prime decided to avoid having the humans find them, since the Decepticon base was in a remote location, they would drive there rather than fly as robots.

Game Mechanics Note: In this alternate earth, humans use double-lane vehicles, which naturally can't drive on anything less than a four-lane road. Modern human semi trucks are typically this big, now.

It sucks when you need to pass one of these things.

They met some crazy human drivers along the way; and yes, Prime and Jazz take up two lanes of traffic
For a while we role-played the two hour drive (fortunately not in real time).

Dulce makes the game's first dice roll (2d6)
As the participatory game master, I made a few rolls and found that the mercenaries were patrolling routes leading to the Decepticon base.

Scalper, the double-lane red car, came up behind the Autobot convoy. Dulce made the game's first roll to determine whether Brute and Recon (the Autobots she was playing, who happened to be in the rear) noticed. They did.

Prime's stats were so high Maria didn't have to make a die roll for him to notice from the front of the convoy. Damn.

Starfire (Jetfire), Harrier (white), Firefox (red) and Rescue (chopper) follow their ground based comrades in the air
Starfire, Harrier, Firefox and Rescue made official flight-plans with human Air Traffic Control, which took them to an indirect route to fly-over the Decepticon base and arrive when the wheel-bound Autobots would.

Starfire stymied Prime on the question of "Should I file an official flight plan, and risk the Decepticons being smart enough to have hacked local Air Traffic Control centers, and thereby realize our flight plan might be suspicious, or fly beneath human radar at 500 feet, at which point humans on the ground will see and hear our loud jets, but our surprise against the Decepticons, unless they have a starship, is guaranteed?"

Prime told him to file a flight plan, so he did. Once they spotted Scalper, an unidentified Transformer with no Decepticon or Autobot markings, he took his flight group off course and came towards the Autobot convoy.

Attacked! Highway pileup almost ensued, but Prime did some fast footwork (good dice rolls; Prime is slow) and avoided it.
Recon impulsively transformed and attempted to land his feet on Scalper, who was tailing him, and shoot him point blank. It would have been a cool move, but Dulce's dice rolls were against her, so Scalper managed to hit the breaks and Recon's feet hit the pavement while still moving 70MPH; he tumbled to a stop and took some damage.

The rest of the Autobots transformed; human vehicles in front of them were fine, but Prime had to pull off some fancy footwork to avoid the ones directly behind him from smashing into his legs; he's a bit slow, but Maria's dice rolls were good.

Dulce, playing Recon (jeep) and Brute (tank) faces Scalper (the red & black figure with a sword)
Brute, angry for his friend, Recon, attacked Scalper ineffectually.

Scalper, a Decepticon, thought he would pick on the little guys...
Scalper was amused at Brute's bravado; unfortunately he underestimated how long it would take the flying Decepticons to intercept his position.

Optimus Prime and Jazz fed Scalper hot plasma
Jazz and Optimus Prime made short work of Scalper; Starfire's strafing run was the finishing move.

Extra Note: Prime has his shield generator (wind plane in truck mode) transformed into a sniper cannon; he wasn't worried about Scalper's firepower.

...that didn't end well for Scalper after a few turns
Scalper, ultimately, fell victim to Recon's impulsive attack, because there was no one to back him up once the Autobots transformed and had only one thing to shoot at.

Picture Notes: That's Recon on the left and Brute on the right of Scalper, who is on his back.

Jose Francisco with SkyShadow (left) and Megatron (right) before they entered the stage
I made some Game Master dice rolls earlier and determined that Megatron was too impatient to wait at his base (which has its own weaponry) for the Autobots, and instead ordered the Decepticons to fly (in robot mode for the majority who weren't jets) to intercept them.

Jose Francisco poses with the Decepticons before they've entered the game field (the interstate).

Maria as Optimus Prime: "Autobots, get ready, here they come!"
Maria had Prime prep the Autobots for the coming Decepticons. She also had Prime lift Scalper's sword.

Picture Notes: That's Jazz, Optimus Prime, and Chaser.

Both of these are Maria's toy figures; She had Prime lift Scalper's sword after he was downed
Yeah, they look fairly cool.

Optimus Prime wanted a chance to parlay with the Decepticons, which was at first thwarted when Recon jumped Scalper, but I rolled the dice and found Megatron couldn't resist gloating...

Starfire (Jetfire) lands to help his friends face the Decepticons on the ground
Starfire had his band land to assist the other Autobots; his logic being that while doing strafing runs would mean his squad would receive less damage, it would also mean the Autobots on the interstate, who had no cover, would be juicier targets.

BATTLE RULES: As you can see, we use 2d6 for most rolls; you take a Transformer's base stats from the back of their box and roll 2d6 with it. To do a ranged attack, roll 2d6 and add it to your Transformer's Skill. To dodge (once per turn) an incoming shot, roll 2d6 and add it to your Speed. Every shot after that will hit you if the attacker's roll is greater than your speed.

Then you roll 2d6+Fireblast (attacker) versus 2d6+Endurance (victim) to see if the hit is moderate or severe.

Smaller Transformers do no damage to large ones on a moderate hit, and one point on a severe. Equal sized Transformers do either one or two points of damage per hit. A larger Transformer will do two to three points of damage to a smaller one. A Transformer is down once it has taken as many points of damage as it has Endurance, and completely destroyed beyond repair once it has taken twice as much damage as its Endurance. Nanobots in all Transformers continually attempt to repair them.

The Decepticons, of course, wanted to talk before the fight began; Megatron loves to gloat
Megatron couldn't resist giving a monologue.

"Optimus Prime, we meet in person at last." (I never owned Megatron as a child, he was always on Cyberton, and though this is a battle-clone of Megatron, he shares the memories of the real ones)

Prime was smart under Maria's command, she said "Megatron has a big ego so..." then she spoke in her Prime voice "Megatron, why are you here?"

I asked her why she thought he'd answer and she said "He can't resist." I smiled.

"Why Optimus Prime, you mean you don't already know? I'm so surprised." Megatron, sure enough, couldn't resist feeling superior to Prime. "Do you think we came all the way to this infested, treacherous planet just so you would show up? You're not that important!"

Prime pressed "Than why are you here?"

Megatron laughed "That's for you to find out, Prime." and he fired at Optimus Prime. (He dodged.)

Same as above, no flash
The larger Autobots fired at Megatron, and the smaller ones fired at various Constructicons (the yellow guys); Herc, Drilldozer and Crane.

The Decepticons, under Megatron's orders, all shot at Optimus Prime; however, Prime had his shield generator up which, albeit temporarily, made him tougher than Megatron.

That was all the advantage the Autobots needed...
Optimus Prime, as seen through Megatron's legs; "Autobots: Attack!"
While those weren't Maria's words with Prime, that was her meaning. Because she knew the smaller Autobots could score a hit and still do no damage, she wanted them to fight the small Decepticons.

To illustrate Maria's plan, and because it was in keeping with Megatron's character, I had all Decepticons attack Optimus Prime, even the small ones; that didn't work very well.

Both sides focused their firepower, but Megatron got the short end of the stick
Optimus Prime's shield generator held up, while Megatron took real damage. Despite not having his booster pack weaponry, Starfire was able to lay into Megatron as well as Jazz and Mirage.

Maria had Prime stand his ground and didn't seem peturbed by the amount of fire directed at him; she saw where the damage was going (to his shields).

Megatron cries "Retreat! Decepticons! Retreat!"
Once Megatron had taken 6 damage points (his Endurance is 10), and three small Decepticons were already down, he signaled the retreat.

Angered, Maria had Prime order to concentrate fire on Megatron, which everyone did. The larger Autobots got him down to 1 hitpoint (which starts out equal to the Transformer's Endurance), and then four smaller Autobots hit him, but did no damage (moderate, not severe hits).

As Game Master, I decided four ineffectual hits did, indeed, stack up, and Megatron went down. Much to Maria's chagrin, however, SkyShadow picked up his fallen leader and continued flying off.

All cheer
The Autobots had won the day.

Of course, they're still standing on an interstate, but I assume Maria and Dulce will either have them disperse and transform into vehicles and head back home in disguise, or press onwards towards the Decepticon base in the next session.

Dulce gushes over the game
I love her expressions in these next few shots, in which she was answering my questions "How did you like the game?" and "What did you like about it?" and "Why?"

Maria loved the game to, but not the camera.

She really liked it
"What did you like about it?" *snap*

I always ask why; here she is answering my favorite question, which took her a good four minutes
"Why?" *snap*

I doubt I will take the incredible amount of time it took to write up another session like this one; however, I still wanted to do this because I like to finish what I start and I realized that, if it's the only one I do in this detail, it's a great example of our play.