10 things video games taught me about romance

Posted in deep & philosophical, gaming lifestyle, geek, pc game, video game by Jerall on 5 July 2010

Niel Bekker, of News24 Games fame, provided a list of 5 game-inspired relationship/romance tips. While I do think that his list provides a good start, it in no way covers all that the video gaming world can teach us about love. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to expand on that list and invite others to do the same:

6. Do not approach your loved one while in your fighting stance:

Or she’ll kick you in the head.

Fighting your way through Karateka is not an easy task and when you finally make it to your beloved Princess Mariko’s cell, if you do not drop your fighting stance before approaching her, she’ll gib you with one hit. Just as in real life, Karateka has no save game feature, so this lesson is doubly important since this is not a fun way to go.

7. A complete badass WILL kidnap your loved one and make her one with the Zerg:

Expanding on Niel’s first list item, one also has to consider that you or your loved will be altered, for the worse, by the abduction. Often, the alteration requires that you kill or be killed by your loved one. Consider Isaac and Nicole, Tommy and Rebecca, and even Raynor and Kerrigan. You need to be prepared to kill your loved one. At a moment’s notice. Without hesitation.

Spoiler: Rick has to kill Jennifer. Very sad.

8. You can change your loved one:

Television and film would have you believe that dating/marrying a fixer-upper, with hopes of changing him/her to better suit you, normally ends badly, often with disasterous consequences. Playing video/PC games, however, has shown me that television and film aren’t actually reliable sources for relationship advice. Consider Viconia – simply by choosing the correct dialogue options, it’s possible to have her give up her Neutral Evil ways.

Viconia - evil or just hasn't met the right guy yet?

9. Love is cubed:

The Enrichment Center reminds you that the Weighted Companion Cube will never threaten to stab you and, in fact, cannot speak.

10. Love is fighting your way into the Hollow and making a detour to find your buddy’s wife:

Rule 34. No exceptions.

Arguably the best video game romance of all time. The video game as the new narrative is still a (relatively) new concept, with many in-game romances seeming forced or contrived. The relationship between Marcus and Dom is natural, based in friendship and born during the shared hardship of war. Love is a chainsaw bayonet.

- Jerall

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I’m a d20

Posted in d20, deep & philosophical, gaming lifestyle, geek, rpg by cassey on 22 April 2010

Hey all,

It’s been awhile since I posted, but hey it’s not like you’ve had nothing to read. In the spirit of fun I did that what die are you quiz and no surprises – well at least to those I game with – I’m a d20. Yip, I stab first, ask questions later. :)

Take the quiz at dicepool.com


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Boobs are like spaceships

Posted in deep & philosophical by Jerall on 27 March 2010

This comes straight from the Paizo forum discussion on TC’s NCD 2010 post:

Reasons why it’s a bad idea to bring your girlfriend to your next session

Posted in blog carnival, deep & philosophical, rpg by Jerall on 19 March 2010

I suspect that many role players (both players and GMs), through trial and error, eventually define their ideal group size and GM/player ratio. For myself, I prefer a 1:4 GM/player ratio. I don’t know when or precisely how I came to this number, but it’s something I try to maintain, keeping my ratio to at least 1:3 and never more than 1:6. Even as a player, I won’t join a game if I would push the ratio to 1:7. Regular readers may find this a bit odd, as I often preach about reviving the Durban gaming scene, aiming to bring new blood into the hobby yet still trying to restrict the numbers of my own core group. That’s because I would prefer to see the Durban gaming community as a pool of differing resources, available for use by individual groups as they try different systems and styles of play. That, however, is a topic for another post.

Span of control, to those not familiar with management or organisational theories, when defined in the simplest manner possible, refers to the number of subordinates a supervisor has. Despite this rather simple definition, span of control remains a frequently discussed and heavily debated topic. Today, I hope to illustrate, using the discussion surrounding the concept of span of control, one of the harder lessons I, as a GM, had to learn: I had to learn to say “No, you can’t join our game.”

“Is there an ideal span of control?” This happens to be one of the more frequently asked questions surrounding the concept. There is no universal answer as individual situations contain too many variables such as supervisory/leadership styles, industry, demographics (such as age, gender, culture) of the subordinates, available technology and so forth. There is, however, one common point of agreement: at a certain level, the benefits of adding an additional subordinate to a supervisor (such as reduction in supervisory costs) are outweighed by the negative (reduced individual supervisory attention, for example).

It’s quite easy to apply the concept of span of control to a role playing group (GM = supervisor; player = subordinate (but, of course, with a relationship very different to boss/employee)). And, as with the work environment, each group and GM would have a different ideal GM span of control, based on such variables as the GM’s cognitive abilities, system used, play style, ages of group members and so on.

Now the fun part:

First published in 1933 and republished in the 1937 publication, Papers on the Science of Administration, in his paper, Relationship in Organization, Graicunas devised a set of formulae used to illustrate the exponential growth of complexity as more subordinates are added to one supervisor. Your own calculations can be used as part of your next rejection argument (though you may also have to admit to limited cognitive ability).

Imagine that your play group has n players. According to Graicunas, there would therefore be n direct relationships between yourself (GM) and your players.

Unfortunately, there are cross-relationships between players, and, to some extent you have to facilitate or, at least, oversee these interactions. Also note that the relationship Mary has with Sally differs from the relationship Sally has with Mary, which means two relationships for each pair. So, according to Graicunas, there would be n(n-1) cross relationships.

Then, worst of all, sometimes players will attack the GM as a group. Bastards. Graicunas defined the number of possible direct group relationships (GM to differing combinations of players) as n[(2^n)/2 - 1].

The sum of the above 3 formulae would give you an indication of the number of relationships that the GM would have to deal with:

  • 2 players = 6
  • 3 players = 18
  • 4 players = 44
  • 5 players = 100
  • 6 players = 222

I find that two player games just don’t offer enough complexity , limiting the possible gaming experiences that may emerge through play. On the other hand, I find that running a six player game is quite taxing and I often have to cut player ideas short and become a bit more rail-roading. At seven players, I find it impossible to address intra-group conflict adequately and the game falls apart quickly.

So, when I tell you that you can’t join my group, saying “it’s me, not you”, I actually have some maths to back me up.

This post was inspired by this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by the Questing GM, which asks bloggers: How to be a better GM? I found that by limiting group size, sessions run smoothly, games are more fun, and my GMing is better.

- Jerall

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, I cannot find a freely available online copy of Relationship in Organization and the Wikipedia articles are rather lacking. However, I have found that this page, written by Fred Nickols, provides a very good starting point (and reference for this post) for investigating the formulae of Graicunas further.

In case you didn’t get it, this post is not really about excluding people from a group based on any other factor other than group size.

The Liquid Modern Gamer

Posted in deep & philosophical, rpg by Jerall on 4 February 2010

There are some GMs that, once a game is in motion, expect their players to stick to one character for the length of the game. I’ve never been one of those GMs, always allowing my players to swap out characters as they wish*, even at the cost of story** and verisimilitude. Why do I allow this? Well, that’s an easy one to answer: I am one of those flighty players that excitedly reads all the hype about new releases, wants to try out the latest things, experiments with the rules, gets bored when experiments prove less than stellar and thinks up creative ways to get my character offed so that the GM has a little less ability to veto my character-swap (OK, I don’t really do the last one).

Furthermore, in my experience, characters (if player actions and character actions can be considered as two separate phenomena) are often as flighty as players, frequently changing alliances, altering moral codes to suit the immediate situation, dropping one quest/mission/endeavour for another and betraying the party/squad/cabal.

Previously, on this blog, I have tried examining various forms of player/character behaviour by looking at the individual, today, however, I’m going to suggest that this behaviour is a product of the uncertainties within the in-game universe, the industry, individual game systems and the real world in which each player finds herself (and in which the in-game universe finds itself).

Zygmunt Bauman introduced the concept of liquid modernity, which (borrowed from the great wiki) is:

“Bauman’s term for the present condition of the world as contrasted with the “solid” modernity that preceded it. According to Bauman, the passage from “solid” to “liquid” modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals with a series of challenges never before encountered. Social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives. Individuals have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that don’t add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like “career” and “progress” could be meaningfully applied. Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable — to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.”

So, where am I going with this? Well, let’s see if we (as in me and the esteemed readers) can’t come up with a list of the traits needed by the successful liquid modern gamer. These traits would help the LMG maintain a healthy gaming quota despite all the uncertainty surrounding the RPG hobby.

  • System neutral/Multi-systemed: There are so many RPG systems, forked projects and publishers, that it’d be silly to assume that wherever you may go, you will find a group, with an open seat at the table, that plays (or will play) your game of choice. The LMG must be willing to experiment and play with any system. Bonus points if the LMG actually has a few systems on her gaming CV.
  • Horrible mutant GM/PC hybrid: It’s easier to find/start a group if you’re able and willing to take on either a GM role or player role.
  • Teacher: The LMG owns a collection of gateway games and uses them effectively to find and awaken latent gamers.
  • Networked: No matter where the LMG goes, she knows where to find a game or knows somebody that knows where to find a game or knows somebody that knows somebody that knows where to find a game.

So, what else would you consider necessary to be a successful liquid modern gamer?

- Jerall

*Also consider groups that swap systems, games/campaigns and GMs.

**As if true role players care about things like story and narrative.

Rejected titles for this posts:

  • OMG! My character’s having a quarter life crisis!
  • Why sandbox is the most awesome – again.
  • In this episode, I try to sound smarter than I really am.

OOC – lessons in how to be a better Eastern roleplayer

Posted in deep & philosophical, rpg by trashcondor on 20 January 2010

This is a bit far out there, but I enjoyed this so much that I’m going to slant it into a roleplaying context. The next time you feel like doing some Eastern character, consider this:


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For Blog and Cleavage

Posted in deep & philosophical, internet, rpg by Jerall on 10 December 2009

Just last week, I was talking about regretting not getting involved with the Open Game Table project. That’s why I’m glad to report that Jonathan Jacobs (of the Core Mechanic) has announced an OGT volume 2. For more information, see here and here for nominating blog posts and here for volunteering to be part of the review team.

Over the last year, I’ve come across several blogs and posts that I feel deserve to be in such a compilation. So, I’ll be spending some time this weekend, rediscovering those gems and nominating them for review. There is, however, one specific tenletter post I’d like to see make it:

Every April, South Africa celebrates National Cleavage Day, or NCD, (this is a true story), and this year, tenletter marked the special event with a few cleavage inspired posts. One of those posts, entitled cleavage – a guide to the in’s and out’s*, has turned out to be one of our most popular posts of all time (not sure why, though…). Now, why would I nominate a post of almost-nearly-questionable material? Well, my reasoning is quite selfish, actually. See, I’m not too sure where TC got the images that he used in the post – probably the darkest and/or happiest corner of the internet. So what? Well, the OGT includes original art, created just for the posts included in the compilation. Do you see where I’m going with this yet? Yes, getting TC’s cleavage day post into the OGT might mean that we get some original chainmail bikini-clad cleavage art!

* Did anybody else notice that the feats listed in the post are quite powerful when combined with the Pathfinder cleave. Don’t ask about the apostrophes.

- jatori (busy turning the maturity levels up again until next year’s NCD)

[RPG Blog Carnival] What goes around, comes around

Posted in deep & philosophical, gaming lifestyle, rpg by cassey on 26 October 2009

The carnival this month is about morality.  Given that this is a bit tricky to write about, I’ll be using the questions posed in the post about this months topic, with a final thought at the end.

What are your limits as a player?

My characters tend to be chaotic and as such they add to their code as they go along. Betrayal can be ok, sometimes, if the price is right. I’d happily kill anyone deemed evil, but if something doesn’t feel right about the situation it won’t happen. I’ve found though, that if there’s a paladin in the group I tend to go overboard with the wanton destruction.

How evil can you be?

Pretty darn evil, I don’t have this nic just for the fun of it. Although I’m not the organised take over the world kind of evil, it’s all about the destruction, peeving off the biggest person I can find and kicking ass.

Do you just like to play by alignment or do you like a more realistic moral system?

I prefer a more realistic system, alignment tends to be restrictive because we all have different views on what stands for what.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done as a player?

I suppose it would be the death of  umm 15 peasants because they were in my way.

How much difference is there between your real life morals and your in-game morals?

There is an entire universe between my real life morals and my in-game morals. In game I let loose and don’t really care about the consequences, in real life it’s all about the consequences. Although  both in-game and out karma tends to be a factor.

If a God mandates Kolbolds are evil and must be destroyed, could your character kill a Kolbold pup in cold blood?

I’d probably try to keep it and raise it. Baby animals are my weakness.


When we game we tend to look at morality in terms of alignment choices or your level of humanity, but do this arbitrary choices really reflect the characters moral code, or even your own? Probably not, but it does help to have something to fall back on when your character needs to make those really tough calls: kill the baby or go against orders? My experience has tended to go along karmic lines…when ever my rangers acted against nature, they would die at the ‘hands of nature’. If calling it karma doesn’t work for you how about cause and effect? Clearly everything you do has a consequence/ripple effect on everything else. I figure that, that’s how morality works…we have the code to shape our actions.

[Zombie Tuesday] When zombies attack

Posted in deep & philosophical, film, geek, tv, Zombie Tuesday, zombies by cassey on 15 September 2009

Welcome to my zombie Tuesday post : When zombies attack or rather Lessons learned from film and tv ;) I look at scary movies as really expensive service announcements as what not to do in those situations, so here follows zombie survival tips gather from movies.

The number one zombie survival tip to follow:

  • When you find all those other plucky people hoping to survive the attacks always make sure that you can outrun at least one of the gang. It really doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you’re faster than Jane over there.
    • And remember you never, ever go back for that slow poke.

The other lessons and tips you can pick up from those costly tv and film mistakes are:

  • Don’t trust your neighbours. Sure you think it’s a safe little community, but don’t be dumb and leave your doors unlocked so that the kid next door – now a zombie – can just wander in and attack you and your significant other.
  • When the kid bites your loved one, locking yourself in the bathroom and crying is just dumb, especially if you have tiny windows and might not get out. Grab the car keys and get out of there.
  • Don’t drive to work or the centre of town, get out-of-town avoiding the main roads…don’t forget to keep the radio on.
    • Don’t forget to keep a cricket bat or hockey sticky in the boot.
    • Don’t take your beloved dog with you, it’ll only get you killed later….same for anyone faster than you.
  • When you find other survivors, scope out the slowest one and make him/her your best friend.
  • Don’t camp out in a mall/bank/pub, that’s just dumb.
    • Pick up supplies and just keep on moving. Staying put in a mall or bank or any other big building that you all think you can defend, will be your downfall.

And lastly chainsaws are your friend.


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Confession Friday: PB

Posted in deep & philosophical, Dungeons and Dragons, gaming lifestyle, geek, m:tg, rpg by cassey on 21 August 2009

Stargazer had this up, I thought it was pretty awesome and having convinced the gang we need to do it, welcome to Confession Friday.

It all started one bright and not so distant tuesday, it was the day jatori and I started going out. Yes, lame, but seriously this is my story :p I did what any girl does when she starts going out with someone, investigate the hobbies. So after a few sunday afternoons of watching the gang hacking and slashing, came the q of  “Why don’t you play?” Co-incidentally they needed a ranged person, and thus began my fascination with Rangers, or was it cos Orlando Bloom was soo hot? * I rolled up my kick-ass elf, with the help of let’s see: jatori, foo, zen, l,e and g. Admittedly she wasn’t that cool the first session, but then my rolling got better and after a couple of frags I was hooked.

At this point I was a bright eyed 19 year old, and all I knew about gaming was The Sims. Sad, but true. So this new world opening up to me was pretty awesome. Rpging was my gateway into MtG, anime, Civilisation and more Sims :) The fantasy environment wasn’t all that unfamiliar, after all I am a bit of a book nerd and I’ve read Prattchet ;) When I started playing my family and non gaming friends couldn’t understand it, at all, in fact they still don’t and it was all attributed to this strange boy introducing me to strange people and things. When I picked up MtG it was bad, I had to hide my beautiful, shiny Magic cards from my mother, actually she still doesn’t know about them. Yes, my mother is one of those hyper religious types, who think that the hobby is all bad.

Anyways back to the rpging. For the first year of playing I did the typical noob thing, playing the same race and class, pretty much the same character all the time. But then I saw that Healers could have unicorns and the experimentation began. I still played an elf,  only she was a Healer this time, but she couldn’t kick ass, so she had a sister who was a Ranger/Healer who came looking for her and joined the group.  Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve ever played a human in DnD; elves, halflings sure, but humans no way.  But I digress…the experimentation phase, ok so the unicorn thing isn’t really over, it’s just I could never manage to build a character that could have one and kick-ass in a fight, and boy do I love killing things.  I just remembered I had a pegasus once, she was awesome, until foo squished her :(

There is more to the tale, but this is turning into a long post. If you want to know more, drop a comment and we’ll see what happens. :)


*Yip I started playing the year the LOTR movies were all the craze.


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