The missing piece of the Lovecraft mythos

The Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods didn’t seem to know much about technology.

They flew through space with magic, they did some basic biology stuff but nothing particularly interesting (except maybe the MiGo).

Can new Elder Gods or Great Old Ones appear? Can Azathoth sire new gods? Maybe Nyarlathotep sets up a science project involving some Deep Ones and a few used Commodore 64s?

Or consider an Iain Banks-style set of Minds: hyperdimensional AI gets bootstrapped and then discovers that, ok, science and physics and string theory but also what the FUCK is happening out there in the Pleiades?

Can you fight a shoggoth with particle beams? Or what happens when the shoggoth learn about particle beams?

Games I want to run

Star Trek, only instead of a “peaceful” Federation, they’re the 25th century version of revolutionary France. They’re trying to do their thing, but managing the aftermath of the revolution – factionalism, economic woes, and other empires right next door.

Oh, and instead of Klingons and Romulans the bad guys are the Great Old Ones and Elder Gods.

“OK, boomer” annoys me

So “OK, boomer” is kinda funny. Carlin summed it up a couple decades ago; boomers are the worst. Not really a controversial stance for anyone born after about 1965.

My annoyance isn’t ageism; boomer (used pejoratively) is in a way more about a mentality that strictly date of birth. Watch that Carlin bit and tell me Ben Shapiro is not a boomer. A self-absorbed idiot asshole screaming “give it to me, it’s mine”.

Instead, my annoyance is that this is probably going to be repeated ad nauseam in every media space. And not just for the next 6 months.

No, we’re going to see this over and over and over. In a couple years, when the boomers start dying off in greater and greater numbers, we in Gen X will assume the mantle of boomer. Despite the hilariously small demographic relative to everyone else, and a likelihood we’ll not own all the wealth in the world (here), everything will naturally be blamed on us.

Whatever the fuck comes after Zoomers will naturally blame the Millennials for all their woes.

And so on, and so on.

It’s because it’s an easy, lazy joke construct. Bagging on boomers is funny (again, Carlin’s bit). The entire generational conception of Gen X is that we’re the cynical, forgotten children of Boomers! Our “whatever, nothing matters” stereotype is an indirect burn on boomers!

Anyway, the point is that social media INTERNET COOL POINTS makes these easy burns the culture of the realm. Thus, if your premise is that social media – and all the godawful bullshit that it entails – is here to stay, then so is this kind of lazy intergeneration warfare bullshit.

Lastly, the other problem with “ok, boomer” is it buys into generational struggles and not a greater class struggle. Yelling about boomers isn’t really helpful when the problem is that a very small percent of hyper-rich boomers are just manipulating the rest to support this oligarchy.

So, whatever. Yell at the boomers, fine. They’re shitty. But maybe also take a few minutes to then do some “let’s raise class consciousness” work too?

Let’s run the Park Service like Chuck E. Cheese

Today’s frothing rage brought to you by this article:

The tl;dr is: let’s “modernize” national parks by adding food trucks and WiFi so you can get your Amazon deliveries while you’re camping.

That’s actually not the frothing rage bit. People should be allowed to experience the outdoors how they want; it’s a spectrum, from Primitive Technology Guy to glamping.

I’ve lived that entire spectrum! Obviously I’m closer to glamping, now that we have the trailer, but it’s not like we have a bread maker in there. Still gotta shower in the creek and poop in the woods.

So we’ve established that allowing a wide range of outdoor experiences is OK. Fine, right?

No, I still have frothing rage.

First, this stupid plan is blatantly intended to enrich landlords:

The White House wants to reduce spending on the National Park Service by 15%, or $481 million, even as the service has said it is facing a more than $11 billion maintenance backlog.

In other words, enable and empower our corporate overlords instead of doing the boring, expensive, and absolutely critical work of maintaining outdoor public spaces.

This is some straight-up disaster capitalism thinking:

“Overall capacity has not kept up with growth and changes in camping demand, and the infrastructure that does exist, with few exceptions, fails to meet expectations of the contemporary camping market,” the group said, calling U.S. national campgrounds an “underperforming asset.”

Underperforming asset. Public lands are underperforming. A thing that is ours, yours and mine, intended to provide for all of us and our kin and our future generations. But this group of walking infectious human waste bags look at the George Washington National Forest as an “underperforming asset” and not “the woods”.

That’s really the frothing rage bit, here. It’s not about diversity of outdoor experience, or reasoned ways to accomplish that diversity. We’re going to disaster-capitalism the outdoors, “extract value” from it, suck the marrow from its bones, then shrug and move on.

“Sure, we aided in the extinction of dozens of species and added tonnes of carbon to the air – we had to cut down a lot of trees so there was better WiFi on the trail, and for some reason there were a lot of fires every summer in the places we didn’t want to spend money maintaining – but at least we generated a lot of value for private industry and our shareholders.”

The way to solve the “changes in camping demand” is easy. Fund the fucking park services. Maintain the backcountry, keep the vault toilets emptied on a regular basis, and enforce the rules.

Part two of that is, yes, also build some infrastructure to support the glamping types. Just FOR FUCK’S SAKE put the “we have to have a generator/AC/shore power” areas opposite from the “I want to sleep on the ground” areas, OK?

Trying (again) to unwind myself from AAPL (and others)

Every so often I get sort of freaked out how deep I am in the Apple ecosystem.

The most often occurs when I want to replace a device, and the combination of “geeze that costs a LOT” and “at this point in time, Apple hardware is sort of shit” makes me think that it’s all a really bad idea and I should GTFO.

The answer is always … complicated.

For example, I still have precisely 0 interest in DIY. So while BitWarden seems as capable a password manager as 1Password, it seems like the only obvious thing to do is to host my own locker, or I’m just trading lock-in A for lock-in B. But I don’t want to DIY something that important, and even if I did, I’m just locking myself into AWS or whatever else I use to host it.

The second problem is as crappy as eg Photos is, gotta tell ya, most of the alternatives are pretty much even worse. The thing about any given Apple app is, most of the bad press is when it first comes out. Photos was monstrous garbage. Lately, though, it’s really a generally OK-if-not-good-enough consumer-grade app. I’m not angry at Photos, the point of the exercise is “everything is locked up in one place and that’s scary”.

Thus, audition replacements; replacements are not great; ugh, why bother.

So unwinding myself from all this is tedious and there’s no great answers. And every day that goes by is another day I just dive deeper into FruitCo.

(Also no, I’ll never use Android, Android is bad and you should feel bad.)

Further complicating is that Apple might get its shit together and release some non-awful computers. Due this year are, if I recall correctly, the new Mac Pro desktops, and probably some upgrades to the line overall. So maybe it won’t be so bad? Maybe?

Success on the social media front is heartening, though. I’ve gotten rid of Slack, I’m mostly not using Instagram, and I only use Twitter via the web, which is so generally awful that it restricts use. I am desperately trying to use this blog more and am once again trying out

I started using Flickr again but the public feed looks like a bunch of Very Serious photographers and not pictures of people’s lunch, which is about all I use it for when I’m not on vacation or camping or whatever. So I don’t expect I’ll get a lot of “likes” but as Insta is now pretty much “stealth Facebook”, I should get the fuck off it.

The bottom line, is that DIY remains hard even for a seasoned technologist. It’s a matter of time and effort I don’t always have. That sort of sucks.

5e total conversions and game balance

On a whim I backed a Kickstarter for a cyberpunk 5e “total conversion”. It got me thinking about how you do deep system balance.

Somewhere there has to be a set of rules – a spreadsheet, a Perl script, something – that TSR and now WotC uses to work out game balance.

There’s back-of-the-envelope stuff in the 5e DMG, buried in the back (the part no one reads, I imagine – but you should, it’s some of the best stuff!). But, it’s very abstract and intended more to just get you into the balance ballpark.

So for example, what I’m wondering about is a small piece of math like:

  1. For every spell level, base damage is 1d10.
  2. automatic hits drop damage to d8 per level
  3. for every 3 point save DC interval above 10, add +1 to damage

And so on. Some sort of balance algorithm.

A friend of mine tried once to reverse engineer this; he had a Perl script and a spreadsheet. He got pretty far into it; mostly enough to decide what he had worked well enough for his own games. Whatver math didn’t work out, he’d just eyeball and improvise in the context of the session.

TSR, WotC, and other D&D publishers don’t get to do that; you can’t improve printed materials. So it stands to reason there’s at least some way to 1)assure balance before press and 2)verify empirically (better than a guess) the balance of submitted materials. Right?