What’s Character Progression For?

On another forum, someone was asking about how to deal with the problem of a new player joining a group and being underpowered relative to the existing players. They were mostly getting answers from people who were assuming that players will feel cheated if they don’t have character progress or if someone else gets to the same place without the same trials and tribulations. What I think of as a very “old school”, D&D viewpoint. This is a slightly edited version of my response. 

Could a game be designed where new characters could come in and be as effective (primarily in combat, I suppose) as current members of the group? A level-less system of sorts? 

I was thinking characters could always be basically the same, but might have a wider variety of skills than a newer character.

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Windchill Matters More

This essay against reporting wind chill factor just popped up again.

The author apparently lives somewhere where issues like 35 deg (Fahrenheit) + windchill are a frequent occurrence (as opposed to 5 deg + windchill). I’ve long said that the number we should stop reporting (or add as a footnote) is air temperature and make wind chill the prominent value. See, here’s the thing: I’m a person, not a pipe or a car or bit of plastic tubing. So what the effective temperature is as perceived by a human is the part that matters. The fact that your car only cares what the air temp is, not the windchill, is true. It’s also less of a concern. There are only a few weeks of the year where it is unclear without checking a forecast whether the air temp is above or below freezing. And your car is far less susceptible to the temperature changes, so precision there is less important. Whereas I need completely different outerwear when it’s 25 [wind chill] than when it’s -5 [wind chill]. 

Now, if the equation is off, that’s something we should look at. In fact, I didn’t know that it assumes you’re moving—I would think that the least-biased representation of wind chill would be on someone just standing there, not generating any significant heat due to motion. 

His argument that the wind chill reading is meaningless because you might be sheltered from the wind or in full sun doesn’t make any sense. The air temp reading also can be off by that same amount if you’re in full sun, and the air temp reading out at the airport is almost inevitably lower than when I’m downtown (and probably higher than if I lived out in the country). This problem of local variability is true whether you’re looking at wind chill or air temp. Mr. Engber is right that it’s not “the same”—I can turn my back to the wind and be a little warmer, whereas if the actual air temp is -40 the only way to keep my nose from freezing is to cover it. But a wind chill of -40 is still a heck of a lot more like an air temp of -40 than it is like an air temp of 0 (even if that is the air temp), even if the equivalence isn’t perfect. And I can’t turn my back if I need to be facing in that direction for whatever reason, at which point I need to cover my nose. 

I also don’t know where he lives, but his assertion that the air temp is relatively steady during the day while the wind has significant daily variability is bogus. We routinely have a 20-degree change in air temp over the course of a day here in MN. On a cloudless day, it could easily drop 30 degrees overnight. 

Personally, I think we should report the wind chill (or heat index, in the summer) as a big, prominent number, and put the air temp in tiny little type off to the side—exactly the inverse of how temperatures are currently reported. For an average person, wind chill or heat index are the more meaningful number. It’s only for a small subset of people that the air temp is as or more important. And the primary time that that is the case is when it is close to the freezing point. If you have outdoor plants (whether garden or farm), you need to know if there is danger of frost. If it is precipitating and you might be on a road, you need to know if there is danger of ice. But the rest of the time? I don’t care what the air temp is. In fact, unless the air temp is between 30 and 40 (Fahrenheit), I literally don’t even need to know. 

“Fake Geek Girls”?

Just a short one here.

I was just thinking about this the other day: the outcry over “fake geek girls” doesn’t even make sense. Set aside that it’s deplorable and hateful—where’d it even come from?

So, you’re a lonely geeky guy, and this girl shows up flying her geek flag—maybe she’s got a unix t-shirt on, maybe she’s playing D&D, maybe she’s in full-on cosplay mode. And your first reaction is outrage and accusation? Shouldn’t it be “OHMYGOD!! It’s a female geek! We have something in common! Maybe I can talk to her and she won’t run away!!” Why would you automatically assume that it’s an act? Do you automatically assume that a dude in a Neon Genesis Evangelion t-shirt is faking it? 

Or, ok, let’s take the accusation at face value. Honestly, I don’t think that geeky things have reached the point where anyone would want to be seen as a geek if they weren’t, but let’s just suppose. So now what you have in front of you is not a geeky girl, but a girl who is so interested in geeky guys that she’s willing to pretend to be a geek or, at a minimum, show interest in the things that geeky guys are into (but she isn’t—remember, we’re postulating that she is actually a fake geek girl) just to get their attention. 

Again, how is that bad? Shouldn’t you be practically salivating that her is a girl—possibly a super-hot cosplaying girl—who wants to spend time with geeks? Even if they really are fake, so what? Do you care that a girl isn’t actually that fond of Indian food, but is willing to go to an Indian restaurant because she’s interested in hanging out with you? Yeah, ok, you may want to sort out what is her own interest and what is for sake of you before you get married, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to just go with it initially. 

Maybe if Walker Starts Running for President in Earnest, He Won’t Have Any TIme Left to Screw Up WI

Governor Walker says that we need to cut state spending on UW by $300 million, at the same time proposing increasing state spending by $220 million for a stadium for a private professional sports team.

I think Walker’s comment that his proposed changes to the UW financial structure are “like Act 10 for the UW” are more telling than he is letting on. Act 10, ignoring for a moment it’s ulterior motive of gutting Democratic support, was about backing people into a corner and then pretending that they have options. Under Act 10, public unions may not negotiate on anything but wages. Pray, tell me, what sort of “negotiation” is it when you have nothing else to trade off against it?

“We would like our wages to go up.”

“OK, but we aren’t made of money—what are you willing to trade for that.”

“Um, sorry, but: nothing. We’re not allowed to negotiate any other part of our work or compensation.”

And, on top of that, it capped public union wage increases at the rate of inflation. So, public unions may negotiate for any pay raise they wish, so long as it’s either no raise at all or a decrease, and they may not bargain for any other thing. How do you think that’s gonna turn out in the long run? It’s clearly not about controlling costs, it’s about gutting the public sector, undermining government so that it in fact ceases working, as his ideology claims it always hasn’t.

Think about it: you’re working for the government. You now know that your real wages will never go up, and will probably go down at least some years. So the longer you work there, the less you make. Maybe your accumulated seniority will make up for that so you can tread water. But your only real hope is that someone like Walker will promote you to a high-paying position you’re completely unqualified for.

Can we cut the governor’s and legislators’ salaries 13% and ask them to work longer hours?

So, anyway, Walker’s proposal for the UW is a massive 13% cut, after several years of cuts and tuition freezes, which he says they can make up with their new-found autonomy. Though one of the tools that is not to be available to the UW, at least initially, is adjusting tuition. Thus clearly illustrating that he doesn’t understand education and doesn’t actually value it. If he were really concerned about public return on investment and what is best for the state, he would be pumping money into our schools (at all levels)—see here, here, here, and here, for starters. Or maybe spending on infrastructure.

“It will make them do things that they have not traditionally done.” —Walker

Yeah, like provide a poor education at a too-high price. 

Confusing Technical Innovation and Profits

“The FCC’s plans to reclassify broadband under Title II are misguided,” [US Rep. Bob] Latta [(R-Ohio)] said in his announcement. “Imposing monopoly-era telephone rules on a 21st Century industry that has thrived under the current light-touch regulatory framework will undoubtedly impede the economic growth and innovation that have resulted in the broadband marketplace absent government interference. These businesses thrive on dynamism and the ability to evolve quickly to shifting market and consumer forces. Subjecting them to bureaucratic red tape won’t promote innovation, consumer welfare, or the economy. My legislation provides the certainty needed for continued investment in broadband networks and services that have been fundamental for job creation, productivity, and consumer choice.”

Here, let me rewrite that for you:

Imposing monopoly-era telephone rules on a telecom industry that consists of de facto monopolies in almost every market makes sense. The industry is currently thriving at the expense of both customers and the citizenry as a whole, due to the government being all but absent in the broadband marketplace. A business should not need to victimize its customers in order to thrive, and the current marketplace means that consumer forces on the telecoms are essentially non-existent. As a result, telecoms have been enjoying the kind of “thriving” that means huge profits for senior executives and shareholders, while their product offerings stagnate despite rising prices. “Regulation” doesn’t always mean excessive “bureaucratic red tape”, but even if it did the “victims” of this bureaucracy would be some of the wealthiest companies in the US, boasting of record profits while keeping their workers’ wages low and regularly raising the prices they charge consumers. Allowing them to operate without regulation hasn’t promoted innovation—except in billing—consumer welfare, or the economy. If we reclassify broadband service under Title II everyone—big telecom and small upstart—can have the certainty needed so that they will resume investing in broadband networks and services, and so that the telecoms have an incentive to start providing consumer choice. 


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Toys R Us-and-Them

Because we couldn’t possibly have both a boy and a girl playing Ninja Turtles.

cover of Toys R Us Christmas catalog
I know this is far from news, but I looked through the whole thing. 2-page spread of “create and explore” that was basically crafts and only featured girls. Followed by a spread of “eduscience” that was actual exploration and only showed boys. Not to mention that a solid 2/3 of the book is color-coded blue=boy, pink=girl, so you don’t even have to look at the page to know if it’s for you or not. 4 pages for Lego and other building toys, with a fair bit of space devoted to the kids (as well as the toys), and they’re all boys. Lego Friends has its own page, showing only girls, and sharing a spread with toddler building toys.

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. I did discover that there are two toys that are coed: