I built a pie

I’ve wanted to build something with Raspberry Pi for a while now. But I never really came across any projects that interested me, and/or I didn’t want to solder stuff. But then Nintendo flipped everyone off with NES Classic Edition, and word is that SNES Classic Edition is now in the works. I’m not holding my breath that supply will be able to meet demand this time.

So F it – I’ll make my own! But better!

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I knew the Pi would be a relatively simple and straightforward little gadget to assemble, but dang. It was literally just a few pieces to fit and sometimes snap together.

Look at those cute little heat sinks.

I was surprised by how small this thing is. Fits in the palm of your hand.

So that was easy. Reformatting the microSD card (using the nifty little USB adapter provided in the kit) and loading up an image with the Retropie OS was really the hardest part of “building” it, mostly because there were several steps and a few little utilities to download.

 

The main hurdle was my display, actually. Damn Insignia TV was overscanning and cutting off the border of the Retropie’s display, and apparently this model has no fit-to-screen or overscan setting to toggle.

So I had to dig into the OS’s config file and play around with the overscan properties – lucky that’s an option! It was a little tricky when the text was cut off at the edge of the screen, but eventually got it sorted. Woot!

Now all that’s left is to load up some roms! Legally, I can only download and play games that I already own. But if I were to download the entire SNES, NES, and Sega libraries and do some sorting, and then select titles from other consoles like Dreamcast, PS, N64, and maybe some arcade games…well, I imagine that would be the most time-consuming piece of this project.

Anyway, it always feels nice to successfully build something. F you, Nintendo.

l

-Bushi

bushi

Ringworld and Rimworld

Rejoice, dear readers – I live!

What have I been up to of late? My discovery of the Last Kingdom and first reading of EE “Doc” Smith are chronicled over at the Castalia House blog. But what else have I been up to? Certainly not writing blog posts, right?

Well, I’m nearly done with my first “Known Space” book. I read the Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle some years back and remember being impressed. Since then I’ve read one of Pournelle’s solo works and it was pretty solid. Time for Niven, right?

One of the challenges with going back to read these older series is sorting through the various collections that pop up, along with conflicting or sparse information on proper reading orders. I don’t think you can ever really go wrong following stories in publication order, but for some reason I settled on this order, starting with Neutron Star.

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It isn’t exactly publication order, but close enough. Neutron Star is a collection of short stories taking place in the Known Space universe. Once I’m finished I intend to proceed as chronologically as I can, though I’m eager to get to the famed Ringworld.

So far I’m really digging the setting and Niven’s writing. Stylistically his sense of humor and sarcasm come through without crossing over into silliness (a ‘la Douglas Adams). In my Doc Smith post at Castalia House, I noted my enjoyment of Smith’s aliens. Incidentally I’m also really liking that about Niven’s Known Space. Rather than space elves and dwarves (which I suppose you could argue some of the variant non-terran humans resemble), you’ve got space-faring cat folk, intelligent and honest yet cowardly monstrosities like the gentleman pictured in the above cover art, and physically weak, bizarre-looking yet honorable squid people. Then there’s the grog.

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So far most of the human protagonists blend together, but there’s a lot of cool technology, intriguing plots (especially if you’re into “hard”ish SF) and at least one rad alien character.

In gaming news, I recently powered through XCom 2, which was a flawed but ultimately fun preoccupation. Now I’m on to Rimworld, and oh boy this is a time sink.

If you’re unfamiliar with this title, it’s a scifi colony sim/survival game. There are several modes and difficulty variations to toy with. And holy crap is it detailed. When your colonists are injured, you can see exactly where – they might get a bruise to their torso or lose a pinky or toe. They can get scars and health conditions like asthma and infections and diseases.

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There’s crafting, of course. There are pets and animal taming. There’s hunting, cooking, and growing crops for food and medicine. You can build defenses like sandbags and turrets to help you ward off raiders and hostile animals.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of Rimworld is the storytelling AI. You can pick from among three AIs with different personalities and tendencies, and they basically generate events at certain intervals. The base AI, Cassandra, tries to ramp up the difficulty over time and keep your number of colonists at levels she likes (so if you have too many she won’t give you chances to get more or she’ll try to kill someone off).

The stories that can develop are nuts. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re sad.

For example, in my first game I wound up incapacitating one of the raiders who attacked me. I remember she was a doddering old fat woman named Delgado. She had dementia and was a pyromaniac. Still, people are resources and I lacked manpower. So I captured her and treated her wounds, and kept her locked up until she agreed to join me.

Eventually she did, and she ran around naked and unhappy until I was able to craft some garments for her. Things went well for a while. She could cook, and that was a skill my people sorely wanted for. One day, however, she snapped. She started wondering around and setting fires on the outskirts of my base. I had to send someone to beat her down and throw her in the clink to cool down.

Shortly after that we suffered a heat wave that I was woefully unprepared for. My colonists all collapsed into unconsciousness in the 50 degree (C) weather before I could figure out how to treat their heatstroke. With no one to rescue them, they all died. The end.

Another time in a succeeding game, I was hunting muffalos for meat. Usually they just try to run away. But this time they decided (or Cassandra decided) not to stand for that shit. They got mad and I wound up with a couple dozen alien buffalos chasing my colonist back to base. I was able to draft everyone and ward them off without any deaths, but damn.

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Meat for the meat god.

One of the saddest things to have happened thus far, though, involves one of the colony pets. Stupid me had no problem letting them all sleep outside despite the bears and wolves and crap wandering around. After one raid, one of my dogs was pretty badly wounded. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when a lynx attacked him. I was able to get the dick cat in time, but damn. Only a couple minutes later, a BEAR showed up for an easy meal. I was able to kill the bear before my dog kicked the bucket. But the damage was done, and the dog was down to two good legs.

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There was another raid, and the dog went in to help its master. I mowed down the invaders, all except one, and this guy was tagged and about to go down. So the piece of crap raider stops advancing on my entrenched colonists, turns to the dog, and slices its leg off right before he bites the dust.

It was a while before I noticed the dog wasn’t moving from the spot where my colonists had carried him to treat the wound. He would just lay there, periodically sleeping and being fed. I checked his stats, and…

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Yup. Down to one leg, and zero mobility. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

It was just a virtual dog in a stupid little game, but it took me a good few minutes of inner deliberation before I euthanized it. Damn game.

But man if Rimworld hasn’t got its hooks in me. There’s already so much content packed into this thing, but I can’t wait to see what’ll be added next.

-Bushi

bushi

Request for Assistance: Vintage Mini Game Edition

  • by Gitabushi

One story my children have gotten tired of hearing about is how I came in 2nd at a D&D convention adventure tournament.

Here’s the story, mainly to fill up space before I get to the Request for Assistance.

In the early 80s (1983 or 1984), Billings had a Dungeons and Dragons convention. There’s a minor story about how a freak snowstorm killed attendance, and to pay off all the obligations they had an auction that included Katherine Kurtz putting winning bidders into one of her Deryni short stories, but that had no impact on my part of the story.

I and my friends signed up for any number of activities.  One I chose to sign up for was a Dungeons and Dragons adventure.

Arriving at the session, the Dungeon Master (DM) asked us all what type of characters we wanted to play.  I had recently grown interested in Illusionists, which had been (unfairly) ignored in our own local sessions, so he handed me a Fighter/Illusionist.

The mission was to infiltrate a stronghold and defeat an evil Priestess/Mage.

In the first battle with an outpost sentry team, the main bad guy fell into the water.  Since I knew that there was no mechanism in D&D (at that time, at least) for hits to knock people back, I asked if he fell into the water, or jumped.  The DM shrugged and said he fell. So I told everyone the bad guy might regenerate in water, and thus to keep an eye on him as we edged past.

Safely past, I told the DM I was doing a “Change Self” spell (an extremely low level spell that merely alters your appearance with an illusion…you can’t look like a dragon, all you can do is disguise yourself slightly) to make myself look like the guy who “fell” into the water.

When we reached the next sentry team (a much more powerful team this time), I told them I had charmed and captured these invaders and needed to take them to the Priestess for her orders.

The sentry leader shrugged and let us go on.

Then we were in her presence, and attacked.  She took a good amount of damage, then changed shape (healing damage) to fly off.  We never got close to her again.

Fun session.

About 2 weeks later I came home and there was a package on the table.  In it were two mini-strategy games.  One was a dungeon crawl where a few teams raced to get to the center for some reason, encountering monsters and finding treasures and weapons on the way. The other was a space game I hardly remember at all.

I was puzzled, so I wrote a letter to the sender.  A week later I got a reply back: My actions helped us avoid a major battle and get closer to defeating the Priestess than any other team.  As a result, I scored 2nd highest overall and this was my prize.

I hadn’t even realized there was scoring and prizes. I was just intending to adventure with new people and a new DM.

So here’s the deal: I lost both games at some point in life.  I can’t even remember when.  I solo-played the dungeon game a few times, and would really like to find it and play it with friends now.  All I remember is that the objective was to reach the center, and it was a race against the other teams.  I think the idea was that reaching the center gave you control of the castle and special powers, and one of the teams was a Prince who should have been the rightful heir, but wasn’t necessarily a protagonist.  And I might have some of the details wrong, so don’t depend on that.

How would I find the name of this game so I can search out a downloadable copy, or search out a rare existing copy?

The science fiction game was something similar to “Revolt on Antares,” which was a science fiction game my friend owned, but which I have subsequently purchased, but never played since buying as an adult.

 

UPDATE: FOUND IT:

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UPDATE II: The other game was The Warriors of Batak.  Amazing how you think you recognize another cover art, but aren’t sure…then when you see the right one, all the memories come back in a rush.

Are your peasants men or mice?

A couple weeks ago, I was reflecting on the role of the peasantry in fiction. This is in the context of having just watched a couple of Scandinavian films, I suppose. In The Salvation, a Dane in America’s wild west finds himself up against a ruthless gang lead by Negan. Really.

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I don’t want to get spoiler heavy, but you’ve got two types of villagers here. The sniveling coward appeasers, who refuse to stand up to the lawless cowboys, and the real common men. I think this is a common motif in Western stories. Sometimes it takes a leader to marshal the townfolk into fighting back against the bad guys. The protagonist and his brother were once soldiers, so we are told, so I suppose they don’t count as “peasants” in this musing.

The other film I watched, The Last King, tells the story of a Norse king who is assassinated so that those close to him can seize the throne. It is soon discovered that he had an illegitimate son – an infant who is being protected and hidden away by babe’s mother and some men loyal to the king.

Ultimately, a showdown between the usurpers and those truly loyal to the rightful king becomes inevitable. The two soldiers guarding the royal baby wind up marshaling a gang of farmers to arms.

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Though they know the odds are stacked against them, the Dane peasants ski in YOLO -style to kick some ass.

This is what got me thinking. I’m going to make a big generalization here – different cultures have wildly different perceptions and portrayals of their villagers. Specifically I was thinking of most of the Japanese films I’ve seen.

Part of this, I’m sure, if explained by the histories of the different countries we’re talking about. In feudal Japan, peasants would have maybe had pitchforks and other farming implements. They were forbidden to own swords for a good chunk of time. And I guess the strict class structure of Japan would have been another strike against badass fighting peasants.

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I don’t really have any solid explanations here. Just my half-baked thoughts. Still, this is an interesting element for DMs and writers to consider. Can PCs and baddies just come waltzing into town and expect everyone to lay down for them? Or is the populace going to fight back if pushed? This could be a neat way to draw a distinction between different peoples and cultures, too.

-Bushi

bushi

PC Oshinbun: Battles and pulp and glory

I’ve let things slide, and now we’ve got a mega-packed edition! Here are some noteworthy things and stuffs from the last few weeks.

My Little Pony – a great show for guys and gals!

David over at Serpent’s Den explores just what it is about My Little Pony that has attracted so many fans, including many dudes.

“That’s exactly what My Little Pony gives us; intensely feminine characters who are interesting in their own right without feeling like they’re trying to one-up us guys. The characters aren’t just self-possessed, confident, and brave, but they actually have real personalities and interests that they care about for their own sakes, rather than being preoccupied with how they are perceived or what social message they’re sending. In short, it’s a series that embraces normal human emotions about the sexes; that men and women are different, and that they generally like each other that way. It does this simply by allowing its female leads to be unapologetically feminine.”

 

Rick Stump – when it comes to gaming, getting girls to play is quite simple!

Treat them like people. He’s got some advice beyond that, of course, but that’s what it boils down to. No feminist critical theory required.

 

Growing problem with Star Wars

Yavok Merkin outlines what he sees as the growing problem with the Star Wars franchise.

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Hard and Soft

We’re not talking tacos. Jon M. at Seagull Rising compares the perceptions and accuracy of the terms “hard” and “soft” scifi. Been a lot of walk within certain circles about genre lately!

 

 

Fairplay

Jesse Lucas tells the short allegorical story of a boom town called Fairplay.

 

Master of Appendix N

Semper Initiatuvs Unum blog ran a series of polls, pitting Appendix N authors against one another to see who would rise to the top of the heap. The winner may not surprise you, but the individual match-up posts themselves provide some great reading in the form of literary highlights.

 

Looking at Leiber

Dan at QuQu Media reviews Fritz Leiber’s Swords & Deviltry. I also do so. But I’m more grouchy about it.

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Gita Bushi throws some SFF bombs

Not intentionally. But he hates all that is good, obviously.

A discussion of genre and taste (Part 1)

Gita’s beef with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Howard (Part 2)

Gita talks about what he does like (Part 3)

 

The Dune Wars

I have to say, I was slightly triggered by this guest post over at Castalia House, where Rick Stump’s son Alex tears into Dune. It’s one of my favorite books of any genre. But while I gathered my thoughts, a skirmish played out. And you know what? I’m good. Don’t need to touch this one right now.

Dune is the most overrated novel of the 20th century! (Castalia)

No it isn’t! (Injustice Gamer)

Your response sucks (Rick Stump)

No it doesn’t (Injustice Gamer)

Yes it does (Rick Stump)

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Castalia!

It’s hard to keep up with everything now; even with the Castalia House blog!

Daddy Warpig has a great post looking at He-Man and its pulp story ideas.

Jeffro’s done at least a couple Sensor Sweeps since I last checked in here. One and two.

 

A Tale

Oghma’s written a (horror?) story on his blog. I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but it’s intense. So I recommend checking it out, but be prepared!

 

More Appendix N

Into the Night blog is following in the steps of Jeffro and others in tackling Appendix N as a reading list. He’s written brief impressions of several books so far, including the Dying Earth.

 

Hellboy, hell yeah!

So much Castalia content! HP of Every Day Should Be Tuesday takes a look at the pulp roots of Big Red.

Hellboy is totally pulp.  And not just because it has a tentacled space monster.  Mike Mignola, the writer-artist of the original comic, points to Lovecraft, but he also points to Robert E. Howard.  And not just to Conan but to Solomon Kane.  And not just to Howard but to Manly Wade Wellman.  Now you have my attention.”

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Eh Fist

I’ve been watching Iron First on Netflix and voiced more than a couple complaints on Twitter. I’m not the first to vocalize my disappointment in this weaksauce C-lister. Jeffro Johnson recorded his thoughts about each episode on Google+ and Rawle Nyanzi’s compiled them for us.

 

Mass Effect Andromeda-ha-ha!

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I generally don’t wish anyone ill, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate when stupid crap fails. I was a big fan of the Mass Effect series. Red flags started to pop up when I read of SJW developers bashing white people on Twitter and not losing their jobs. Andromeda looks to be a big disappointment, and I’m glad to see some prominent voices calling it what it is instead of propping it up.

 

Fantasy indoctrination

Over at Goblin Stomper:

“A short time ago I was asked a rather intriguing and difficult question.  “If you had to pick three books that paint a picture of the Fantasy Genre for someone, which would they be?”  It was asked in the context of gaming/role-playing, and what books might best introduce a potential FRPG gamer with no experience with any facet of fantasy.”

Definitely some interesting picks! I read several of the Guardians of the Flame books when I was younger, so it was kind of a blast from the past to see the series named here. Very different selections that I’d make, most likely, but a cool thought experiment.

 

JimFear138 and Jon M.

JimFear138 hosts fellow audiobook narrator and author Jon M on his show! I haven’t had a chance to listen to this yet, but both of these guys have been colorful and fun members of the Pulp Revolution crowd. Looking forward to this.

 

Gygax on modern SFF: Meh

A cool post over at the Frisky Pagan digs into D&D creator Gary Gygax’s reactions to post-Appendix N scifi/fantasy and its influence upon the game.

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-Bushi

bushi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunters and Horrors

Things are frantic right now – just finished with wedding festivities and the in-laws have returned home. I’m gearing up for some long work days, as we’re moving to a new office and there’s lots of IT work to be done in preparation.

Still, nerd’s gonna nerd.

Kaiju, the Great Troll Lord, has done it again. The dude who once got me into World of Warcraft (“Merry Christmas – here’s a free month of crack”) has dragged me kicking and half-heartedly protesting into Monster Hunter Generations.

 

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This is my first foray into the series, though when I lived in Japan I saw kids hunting beasts all over the damn place. That land of trains and banker box apartments lends itself to local handheld play. Also there are terrible, giant monstrosities, so naturally kids would want to hunt them.

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The single player action is solid, though the gathering quests are kind of bland. As you might imagine, multiplayer is where the game really shines. I haven’t joined any public games yet, but I’ve killed a giant armored toad among other things with a buddy. I also joined in killing a dragon. By “joined in” I mean I stood a screen away so as not to get one-shotted. Coordinating attacks, laying traps, chucking bombs of various kinds – it’s all good stuff.

The crafting is ok. I find that there’s a lot of junk armor. I mean, it’s cool that pig-cows can be skinned, but who needs crappy pig-cow armor when the discerning hunter gets access to lizard-raptor parts almost immediately?

Most of the weapons are large and ponderous or else weird. Of course I went with one that’s both. The gunlance, aerial style, baby. So like FF VIII, I guess, but with a giant lance and shield instead of a gunblade? Trust me, I am a cool dude.

What free time I can scrounge has mostly been going to Darkest Dungeon, though.

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Ok, now I had seen the glowing reviews in passing. But I wasn’t prepared for how good this one is. I honestly just thought I’d try it for an hour or so and check off a box.

What we’ve got here is a dark, tactical, turn-based, rogue-like dungeon crawler. Artistically, it reminds me of a comic book. I’m not really a big comics guy, so I’ll say a Dark Horse comic. Dark Horse is a brand, right?

Stylistically and tonally, it’s got that weird tales feel. Lovecraftian, for sure. I mean, heroes build up stress, which if unmanaged can progress into various manias and general madness. The manor (the main setting of the game, divided up into various areas) is populated with all kinds of eldritch horrors, beasts, and nasty humans. It’s got as many cultists as you’d expect in an HPL or Clark Ashton Smith tale.

The battles make me think of the third member of the Weird Trinity. It’s tactical, for sure. Positioning and party composition matter big time. But the way it plays out is Howardian. It’s visceral and action-packed. You can feel the swishes and whomps and splatters. The suspense mounts and plays out both in combat (things can go downhill fast; they can also turn around quickly on a few (un)lucky hits) and out of it as you explore the dungeon, hoping you’ve brought enough torches and food.

I’m really enjoying it a lot. So far my most satisfying moment was defeating the Collector – this low-encounter-rate spectral mini-boss who collects the heads of dead heroes and then summons them to kick your ass.

 

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I’ll be at these two games for a while.

-Bushi

bushi

3 Clever Cugel Campaign Ideas

Not too long ago I expressed my ambivalence regarding Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever stories. The guy is a heel, and as such he’s not always fun to follow for me. Still, the tales are demonstrative of Vance’s cleverness, if not always that of their titular protagonist.

I already suggested this, but it’s worth expanding upon: for those DMs and GMs and writers out there, much can be gleaned!

There are indeed ransomware-inspiring ratmen to be found in Vance’s Dying Earth, as well as an enchanted, slumbering giant ever-ready to destroy the town at its feet should the villagers slacken their vigilance. Those are but two examples. Here are three more you might want to filch for your game or else draw inspiration from in some form or other:

1. Gems are boring

Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, zzzzzzzzzzz. It’s fun to loot precious stones from baddies, that’s true. But when your players are just picking’em up and basically auto-selling them in the first city they come to, eventually the jewels cease to sparkle.

Why not spice things up, then? At one point, Cugel briefly joins the employ of a small company that sends divers into a slime pit to retrieve the scales of a godly denizen of the Overworld. These scales, depending on the body region they originated from and their condition, are worth hefty sums to a wizard who is buying them up as artifacts. You may not need the weird slime-diving or vague origin story of said scales. They don’t even need to be scales (though they can be fun as they may be shiny and colorful and can vary greatly in value) – you may use ivory or monster bones, rare crafting materials like ironwood or mithril (which is overdone but people recognize what it is), or some other artifacts or uncommon goods.

 

2. Do the Worm

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Another job Cugel takes up at one point is that of “worminger” for a vessel upon which he wishes to procure passage. What is a worminger? Well, this ship is carried forth by great sea worms. They must be carefully tended to and managed by wormingers, who clean them, feed them, bait them, and steer them among other things. Maybe the winds have died in your campaign world, or maybe you just want a cool boat that’s towed by worms or some other giant aquatic creatures.

 

3. Geas some palms

One popular way to coerce players or NPCs into undertaking quests or tasks they normally wouldn’t is by means of a geas. This is basically a high level charm spell that forces the target to do or not do something.

But how about spicing that up a little bit and building a little character or adding some roleplaying options (besides a boring wisdom saving throw) into the equation?

In Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel is burdened with an alien parasite named Firx. Basically, Firx’s job is to make sure Cugel does the job he was sent out to do. There are times when the creature suspects Cugel is shirking his assignment or dawdling. When this happens, the little beast flexes its barbs, which are wrapped around Cugel’s guts. At these times, the protagonist either has to give in to Firx’s wishes in order to stop the pain, or else convince it that he’s pursuing the best (or only) course of action available.

And so I’ve come to find this – that even if you don’t like Cugel and don’t particularly find his stories fun, there’s still a lot to draw from them and a lot of good ideas and quality storytelling to appreciate.

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-Bushi

bushi