Bizarre Search Terms 2019

As my blog continues to grow, the number of really weird search terms that brings people to my website continues to expand. Here are some of my favorite search terms that brought people to my door in the year of 2019.

amazon

The bizarre trend of my blog getting not one, but several hits from this search continues to baffle me. Who’s scrolling past everything to do with the rainforest, the mythical tribe of warrior women, and the global shipping corporation to find a D-tier blog that occasionally mentions having ordered something via the aforementioned corporation? Are there bots that periodically search for Amazon and then archive the first eight million hits that search gets?

dark heresy 2 shamless

I don’t know if I’d call it completely shamless. Its d100 roll under skill system is a bit of a sham, being that it’s basically just a d20 roll over system wearing a mathematically convoluted hat.

Jokes aside, the weird thing about this typo is not so much that it happened as that it happened three times. Also, it’s probably specifically looking for my specific post on Dark Heresy 2 powergaming. I wrote that on a lark without really even trying that hard to optimize, just applying some basic min-maxing to the different archetypes. Is that really the best optimization advice we have on the system?

why conan of venarium is not conan

Conan of Venarium sucked, but it’s hardly the only bad Conan story. If Conan of Venarium “is not conan” then even some of the Robert E. Howard stories aren’t Conan.

samantha noll by friendship or force

This search got two hits, and no other specific pop culture and philosophy article has gotten even one. Who’s Googling for this article and getting through all the results that are directly about it to get to my blog’s response to it?

island hex crawling

I think I know the guy who searched for this one.

codex alera pokemon is not a bad ide

I’m glad I’m not the only one who realized this.

ffx11 love chaos

This exact same bizarre misspelling showed up last year, too.

should i ignore critics

Yes.

the kartoss gambit listen to now for free

I’m sorry, man. If you’ve gotten to the point where barely related blog posts are coming up in search results for a download, that means the thing you’re looking for doesn’t exist.

what sphere of influence do fires influence

All of them, if you have enough of it.

how to start a pop culture philosophy blog

Have you tried writing words about pop culture philosophy and publishing them to a blog? It’s not like you need special software or anything. Articles are articles.

succubus game awful

I can’t tell if they’re referring to the Agony sequel that hasn’t even been released or the Succubus LitRPG, which, like most bad LitRPG, does indeed take place in a game that wouldn’t be any fun to play. Which isn’t surprising, if you think about it. Why should someone bad at making fun books be any better at making fun games?

trivial pursuit iomedae

This is less accurate than “game show host Iomedae,” but I think this phrasing just rolls off the tongue better.

darkest dungeon save scumming

Kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? There’s already Radiant Mode for if you want to be able to recover from your failures on a timescale faster than the formation of stars, if you start save scumming on top of that, why not just go play a different game entirely? One that doesn’t revolve around the cloying, oppressive darkness of an unfair and uncaring universe filled with eldritch horrors. It’s kind of like an easy mode for Dark Souls. Why bother? The game’s whole theme is about the universe’s fundamental indifference towards you. If you don’t want a game about that, maybe consider playing a different game? I realize Skyrim’s pretty worn out by now, but Darkest Dungeon came out in 2016, it’s not exactly a spring chicken itself.

how humans influence chamomile

Mostly for the worst, but thanks for your concern.

Adobe Digital Editions

Did you know it’s possible to lend out a .pdf temporarily and then take it back when the lending period is over? Adobe Digital Editions allows for this utterly insane facsimile of a physical library’s limitations in the online world where there is no reason at all for such limitations to exist. Archive.org employs this parody of copyright law when lending scanned versions of books, which is how I got my hands on a digital copy of Conan the Defiant. This saved me the trouble of getting a real physical copy from the University of Utah’s library (the only library which has a copy nearby, according to the internet), but it’s just a scan of the physical pages with no copy/paste ability, so I’m going to be reviewing it without much direct quotation. And also within two weeks, because that’s the lending period on this nutcase lending system.

Fixing Quidditch

Two thoughts occurred to me lately. The first was that you could fix the terribly broken game of Quidditch with just one rules tweak. As it is, six out of seven players on the field are usually just a sideshow while the two seekers fight to find the snitch, which is the only part of the game that actually matters. The chasers and keepers score and prevent goals so infrequently compared to the point value of the snitch that it’s hardly worth even showing up, and the beaters matter only insofar as they can incapacitate the other team’s seeker. It’s really not clear why the beaters ever bother taking a shot at the other team’s chasers, or ever bother defending their own (although for that second one, it at least makes sense that they’d want to protect their mates, even if it’s not clear why their mates are even in the game).

But only one rules change is required to change that completely: The snitch is worth exactly 1 point. Bearing in mind that a standard goal is worth 10 points, catching the snitch still ends the game, but it is worth so few points that it can only serve to break ties. Now the seekers are not only trying to spot and catch the snitch, they have to keep track of the current score and make sure to catch it while their team is ahead, or at least tied. Whether or not your team is ahead changes how you play. When you’re behind, your beaters have to choose between trying to keep the other team’s seeker busy or trying to keep the other team’s chasers busy to help level the score. When you’re ahead, you have to decide whether your beaters are going to focus on screening your seeker so they can catch up to the snitch without having to constantly burn speed dodging bludgers, or if they’re going to keep defending your chasers and/or swatting bludgers at the other team’s, in order to keep them from catching up. Rather than rendering the rest of their team irrelevant, the seeker’s team needs to build their strategy around catching the snitch at the right time.

The second thought that occurred to me was hey, didn’t I used to have some kind of online platform for sharing these kinds of thoughts with people? Whatever happened to that old thing?

Joker

I don’t have that much to say about this movie (although this will not stop me from stretching out my muddled thought process for the usual 2,000-ish words – this is gonna be one of those “probably better than missing an update completely” articles) and it’s basically all spoilers, so I’m going to put everything below the break except for a bottom-line review that Joker is good and you should watch it.

Continue reading “Joker”

Mythos: Celephais and From Beyond

Celephais

We’re back in the dream world today, and our protagonist dreams because there is nothing left for him in the waking world:

Perhaps it was natural for him to dream a new name; for he was the last of his family, and alone among the indifferent millions of London, so there were not many to speak to him and remind him who he had been. His money and lands were gone, and he did not care for the ways of people about him, but preferred to dream and write of his dreams. What he wrote was laughed at by those to whom he shewed it, so that after a time he kept his writings to himself, and finally ceased to write. The more he withdrew from the world about him, the more wonderful became his dreams; and it would have been quite futile to try to describe them on paper.

So I guess that’s the end of the story, then?

Continue reading “Mythos: Celephais and From Beyond”

Space Madness!

I was hoping to save this for Friday, but now there’s a limited time offer that I want to give people a chance to get on top of. Most people follow my blog for my chapter-by-chapter book reviews, not my RPG stuff, but for people who like both Lovecraft and rolling very large amounts of dice, I have good news for you: Space Madness now exists and you can get 20% off by clicking on this link right here. Provided that no more than 49 other people have already used that offer. Space Madness is an atompunk Lovecraftian RPG set in an era when humans have expanded out to the limits of the solar system. The party play as space rangers, bold heroes of the Federation who seek to explore the far reaches of the solar system braving not only the Federation’s arch-rivals in the Union-Republika, but also such horrors of the solar system as Venusian man-lizards, Moonbeasts, and Yuggothians.

Also, there’s a bunch of wands that you use to do stuff. The whole thing was written as part of a challenge to make an RPG based on three words selected at the whim of the challenge-issuer, and those words were atompunk, Mythos, and wands. You might think that the RPG is a half-assed weekend project, given that backstory, but no, designer Bobby Derie spent months (maybe over a year? I was on the forum where the challenge was issued, but I forget exactly how long ago it was) working on creating a complete and playable 268-page RPG. Bobby Derie used to write for Shadowrun and I would not be surprised to learn that he is one of the most knowledgeable Mythos scholars in the world, so he is probably the most qualified person in the world to write this very specific idea.

The link up above is for a softback version. You can also get a .pdf version for $5, which is practically nothing, although it’s also got no interlinking, which is annoying. The actual content is all there, though, and if you want an atompunk Lovecraft game set throughout the solar system, there’s not a whole lot of alternatives.

Yahtzee Made Video Games

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is probably going to be “the Zero Punctuation guy” right up until generational turnover turns him into “who?” He’s already getting there. Zero Punctuation hasn’t been a big deal for like eight years, there’s gamers today who’ve never even seen one.

I was in his target demographic right when he became a big deal, though, and in addition to watching the complete ZP archive, I also went to Yahtzee’s site and dug up all his games. Yeah, turns out Yahtzee is an indie game dev in addition to being a game critic. There’s a reason you haven’t heard of his games, though. They’re not agonizingly bad or anything, many of them are a perfectly enjoyable way to spend two or three hours of your life, but not above replacement level. If you picked out another (completed, non-asset flip) indie game at random, then you’d probably get something about as good. None of them are really spectacular, but a few of them do rise above replacement-level, and I need a Tuesday article and don’t want to play a bunch of new games to get it, so we’ll be looking at each of Yahtzee’s games briefly, because I already played them all back in high school.

Also, Yahtzee’s currently doing a thing where he develops a video game every month for a whole year. I won’t be covering any of those right now because I stopped following Yahtzee by the time he made them, although I am leaving open the possibility that I’ll come around and look at those once the year is up and I have a full set of twelve to poke at.

Continue reading “Yahtzee Made Video Games”

So Much For “The Only Winning Move Is Not To Play”

Twilight Struggle is considered by Board Game Geek to be one of the greatest board games of all time. It has a computer version, so I picked it up in order to play the AI, because my social life remains utterly devastated by my professional GMing gig. I’ve played a couple of games as both the USA and USSR, and so far I have lost every time by my opponent triggering a nuclear war that was technically my fault. Granted, this speaks to a serious weakness in my strategy, but really, the rules should consider that situation a much lesser victory and maybe even a stalemate compared to winning through victory points, and the AI should thus be less eager to take it.

HP Lovecraft Does Not Write Like HP Lovecraft, Apparently

I have noticed my writing becoming slightly more Lovecraftian as I have been reading his work. Is this a real thing, I asked myself, or am I just seeing tics I always had but only noticed now because Lovecraft is on my mind? There’s plenty of Lovecraft in sci-fi/fantasy, after all, plenty of vectors for me to have osmosed the ideas continuously long before I started reading multiple Lovecraft stories in a row. Plus, five-ish years ago when I read a few of the famous ones, it’s always possible that they permanently lodged something in my writing style that I just didn’t notice until now.

And hey, I thought to myself, wasn’t there an online tool that analyzes what famous author your writing style most resembles? My recollections were accurate, but I still wondered if the tool itself was accurate. I pasted in the thousand-ish words I had written the previous day, and apparently I write like Agatha Christie. “Neat,” I thought, “but how reliable is that, really? Does this tool accurately categorize writing style at all, or is it basically just noise?” I decided to test it by pasting in bits of the same story written considerably earlier. This website’s consistent opinion is that I write like Agatha Christie. “Seems solid,” I thought, but ever the skeptic, it also occurred to me: “What if this thing is just weighted strongly towards Agatha Christie for some reason?” So I dug up some of the writings that occasional commenter Longes had sent me, and the algorithm pretty consistently says that he writes like JK Rowling. I don’t really get that vibe from Longes’ writing, but while the algorithm may be picking up on different elements than humans care about, it does at least seem to consistently sort writers into different buckets.

So then I thought, “let’s see if this algorithm can correctly sort writings by the others in its own database.” So I confirmed that Lovecraft was in the database, copy/pasted Lovecraft’s Old Bugs into the page, since that’s the story I was reading and I had it open for quotation, and then double checked by also analyzing a few thousand words of the Shadow Over Innsmouth, just in case there was a style shift that would confuse the algorithm.

HP Lovecraft does not write like HP Lovecraft, apparently.

He writes like Agatha Christie.

Learning Board Games Is Hard

I love to play board games, but despite being able to buy new games for like $10 off of Tabletop Simulator on top of practically unlimited free mods in the Steam workshop, I find myself only playing occasionally. A major contributor to this is undoubtedly that I would rather be playing with people, but rarely get to, because my evenings are busy with my professional D&D, but that’s certainly not all of it. I love a good solitaire board game. Partly this is because I don’t like playing the same game over and over again after I’ve already beaten it, nor do I find it easy to muster up the willpower to try again soon after a defeat. But given the number of new (in the sense that I, personally, haven’t played them) games available, shouldn’t that just lead me to trying out new games, failing, rotating other new games in, and eventually coming back to the failed games for another crack at them until they are finally rotated into my “won” pile?

The reason why this doesn’t happen is because learning board games is hard. And I am undecided as to whether this is because rulebooks and YouTube channels are bad at explaining them or because I am bad at learning them. Rulebooks might be chained to some bad habits from the stone age of board games, sure, a poor rulebook will impact sales almost not at all because by the time someone even has the rulebook they’ve already spent $50 on the game and will undoubtedly take the trouble to learn how to play, even if the rulebook isn’t very clear. Fine. Why aren’t “how to play” explainer videos rapidly optimizing? That begs the question, of course, as to whether there are optimizations to make.

And I think there are. The best method of opening a board game explanation I’ve ever heard came from a board game group I was part of back when I wasn’t doing the D&D gig, and it went like this: “Start every explanation by explaining who the players are, what their goal is, and how they’ll accomplish it.” Arkham Horror LCG? “You are an investigator in 1920s Arkham, you’re trying to solve a Mythos mystery, and you do that by collecting enough clue tokens to advance through the act deck before enough doom tokens accumulate to advance through the doom deck.” Castaways? “You are stranded on a deserted island, you must signal a ship for rescue, and you do that by reaching the headland after retrieving and constructing enough items to successfully signal a ship.” Nemo’s War? “You are Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, you’re trying to accomplish one of the four objectives of exploring beneath the ocean, making scientific inventions, liberating oppressed people around the globe, or destroying shipping for revenge on the imperialist powers, and you do that by allocating actions that advance your chosen objective while managing limited resources in an ocean constantly filling up with more and more hostile ships.”

For some reason, these summaries never seem to appear in rules explanations. The premise is often explained to hook an audience, y’know, the whole “this is who you are, this is what you’re trying to accomplish” thing, but rarely do they make it to “and you do that by [insert actual mechanical method of measuring win condition here].” Diving into the mechanics of set up and lists of actions you can take on your turn without establishing what the mechanical end goal is makes it difficult to see why various actions are relevant to victory, doubly so if the game is even slightly abstract.