Invisible Children to End in 2015

I had the pleasure of volunteering with this organization during highschool and throughout my college years, some served as campus president. From sleepouts, fundraising to rebuild Ugandan schools, throwing a few male beauty pageants, and even attending a congressional lobby in our nation’s capitol building, it was all exciting and life enriching. Invisible Children was created in 2004 to bring an end to a rebel army using children as soldiers, and over the last nine years that army has shrunk, fled from Uganda, and over two thousand abducted children have escaped to return home. I’m glad to see that Invisible Children hasn’t lost their desire for partnership with the organizations and people that have to live at the center of the conflict and will be handing off their resources and control to local groups that they have bonded with over the years. There is still a lot of work to be done rebuilding and rehabilitating, and with the good work these people do, it will continue to happen.

This interview with the CEO is honest and worth a read, organizations like this, ones that have the balls to carve out a change in this world are few and far to come by. But we live in an age that knows the most slaves, sex workers, and child soldiers than ever before, with the most serious atrocities going unnoticed or unreported. Invisible Children’s underlying goal was to correct the injustice in this world the best way they saw fit, I pray we all continue to do just that in our own lives.

“…cynicism is, in my humble opinion, a destructive force for progress in this world.”

Be loving, be smart, be wary, and be ambitious. But always have hope in what you seek to do, don’t fall victim to cynicism from within yourself or outside from others. Change the world.

//edit: Official word from Invisible Children

Custom Dungeon World Move: Identify

I’ve been playing a little bit of Dungeon World with some friends lately(the system is awesome, very streamlined for beginners, and I really love the influence the players have in telling the action/story).  One thing that I found odd, coming from D&D proper, was the lack of any kind of an Identify spell.  The creators replied to my tweet regarding how to figure out a magical item and pointed to Spout Lore(if it fits), Ritual, asking a another being for help, and trying it out to see what happens.  That last option honestly sounds awesome and very “Dungeon Worldy” to me, but I thought I’d try introducing a custom move in a future game to see how it goes.

The following move is based heavily on Whiskeyjack’s idea in this thread, which they actually use in Apocalypse World.  Since the two systems “run on the same engine”, and share the same creators, I thought it would fit into Dungeon World easily enough.

This is an advanced move, accessible starting at level 2, available under the Bard and Wizard classes.  The downside to picking this advanced move upon leveling up is that the player could just try to figure out the magical item on their own and take a more unique or useful move instead.

Identify

When you have some quiet time you can study an item you know to be magical to reveal some of what it does; roll +Int and ask a number of questions to the GM who will answer truthfully
On a 10+, choose two from the 7-9 list
On 7-9, choose one from the list

  • You discover the item’s command word. Tell the GM how this happened and he will tell you what the command word is.  If there is no command word, the GM says so as their answer.
  • As you study the item it imparts to you a hint of its use. The GM will give you a one or two word hint/description relating to it’s use.
  • You remember some historical fact relating to the item you’re inspecting. The GM will ask you two questions about the item’s origin.
  • You think that you have figured out a way to reveal the item’s secrets, but it is going to cost you. The GM will tell you the cost and you can decide if you think it is worth it.

To pair with this new player move, in an effort to make things interesting, I will also offer this GM move for use on a 6-, Activate the magical item.  Perhaps this isn’t always relevant, the magical properties could be passive, but if the weapon needs to be activated in some way, have some fun and activate it.  They wanted to find out what it does right?

 

In this example, the dagger’s magical power is it renders the wielder invisible only if they stab themselves with it.

Cory: Okay, since we’re making camp anyway I want to identify this dagger I found.

GM: Alright sure, roll+Int!

Cory: Okay.  Oh man a 4?  Argh, guess I’ll try some other time.

GM: Not so fast…You’re looking over this dagger, trying to extract some magical energy to clue you in on what it can do.  After about 20 minutes you get careless and it slips accidentally stabbing yourself for d4 damage!  However, upon stabbing your leg you turn invisible.

Cory: Whoa, cool!  And I only take d4-2 damage b/c of my armor.  This will come in handy…

My Thoughts on: Sexual Compatibility

Article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/24/moral-case-for-sex-before-marriage

The idea of ‘sexual compatibility’ gets a lot more attention than it should be.  The article suggests that you can’t know/be sexually compatible if you don’t have sex beforehand and that sexual compatibility is necessary for a great marriage.  Yes, sex is an important part to a marriage, but are people seriously saying marriage isn’t the right choice if two aren’t “sexually compatible”?  What does that even mean?  I just can’t imagine getting close to someone to the point of “Wow I really love this person and I want to marry them, but are we sexually compatible?”  That just seems idiotic to me.

I’ve it heard this view from a lot of other people, “I have to make sure that the sex will work between us”.  If marriage is just a precursor to sex then this makes sense.  If what I’m concerned with is getting a good romping out of my wife then yes, I should be making sure the sex is to my liking first.  But I don’t think that is what most people go into a marriage for.  There is a lot more to marriage than a sexual relationship.  If you’re at the point in a relationship where you are looking to get married, but you think the sexual compatibility might change your mind….don’t get married.  You’re not ready to marry anybody.

How do you even determine sexual compatibility?  What is the criteria for compatibility?  How many attempts do you need to figure out if you’re “compatible”?   Do you even need to actually have sex to figure it out?  And why just sexual compatibility?  Are these people also buying homes together, getting pregnant and raising children before getting married as well?  If not….how will they know they are financially compatible?  Compatible in the home environment?  Compatible as parents?  How will they know if they will still be a compatible couple during retirement?

Can’t these things can be determined through conversation and other indicators you get from knowing a person?  99% of any kind of compatibility is understanding each other’s desires, limits, and each person’s willingness to work together.  And if you can’t even talk about those things on a level deep enough to figure it out, how is actually doing them going to be more comfortable and a better indicator of compatibility?

Now, there are some GREAT points this article makes.

  1. Sex is good
  2. Sex is fun
  3. People like sex
  4. Sex isn’t a bad thing

I’m not going to stand on a soapbox here and proclaim that if you have sex before marriage you will get herpes, or become cursed with a terrible sex life, or try to slut shame you.  If you really believe sex before marriage is a way to determine this notion of sexual compatibility you want in your marriage and you have carefully considered what sex is to you, fine.  Go do it and get it on.  But don’t try to preach how it is the correct way that everyone should follow.  The article seems to be primarily frustrated with how American culture views sexuality(valid), wants to challenge it(valid), but then claims that pre-marital sex is the way to do this(not valid, or at least she didn’t make any valid claims for it).

Maybe the issue here isn’t that you shouldn’t or should be having sex before marriage, its what are we teaching ourselves about sex and how is that impacting us?  Generally in America there isn’t a good sexual education experience, we don’t talk about it, or its all hush-hush naughty stuff and sexuality in America is suffering because of it.

We have people who wait to get married before having sex, don’t understand that sex isn’t some magical 100% perfect thing and have their marriage suffer because of it.  We have people who are tired of seeing that and decide to preach the good news that pre-marital sex is “the best choice for nearly everyone.”  And we have people that haven’t really thought about that much(or are too young to!) who hear both sides and aren’t sure what to think; worse if they only hear one side and blindly follow it without thinking about what it means for them!

Sex and sexual health are important parts of being a human and are usually extremely personal private matters.  We should be stressing this instead focusing on shame or pride for whatever side you happen to be on.

Perspective

I’ve seen this picture around the internets a few times, mostly reposts on /r/atheism, but after a friend sent it to me for a laugh, it struck me a little differently.god and universe

Haha, it’s funny because we are so small and God(if he exists) is so big, why is he bothering to tell us not to masturbate?  It is such a stupidly small thing to care about in the grand scheme of things.  Ipso facto, the idea of God is ridiculous because he must not really care about the important things in life.  Hahaha.  I get it.

But if you think about it another way, the straw man example created to poke fun can be used to show how deeply God cares about humanity.  Whatever you believe about masturbation isn’t the point here, replace that instruction with “don’t lie”.  It’s the same thing for the purpose of the image.  While God is so so so so so so so SO much bigger than us, our galaxy, and the observable universe, He takes time to instruct us tiny things how we can better our lives.  Tiny things that seem insignificant to us but can impact the way we live and interact with others.  He does this in addition to handling all the other “big time God stuff”.  He cares about our issues, big and small.

And it is strange to me that my friend is incapable of seeing this side of it.  Anyone who looks at this image and doesn’t really know the impact of what a loving God can have in their minute life really can’t see anything else.  Both perspectives start with the same precept, a God infinitely larger and complex than we are tells us how to conduct small parts of our lives.  Some people stop there and call it meaningless and stupid, while others look to see if there actually is some meaning behind it.

Observations of a D&D noob

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is play through a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  There is this stigma with people that play D&D, commenting on how silly they are, calling it playing make believe way past the acceptable age, hearing passing comments in Sunday School when I was young about the spiritual dangers of Dungeons and Dragons(btw; what kind of Dungeon Master doesn’t give you a save vs poison?), or see it get poked fun of on TV.  Despite people looking down at the D&D crowd a little, something attracted me to the idea of participating.  Maybe it was the idea of that which is forbidden or maybe I never experienced that level of nerdom, but for some reason I wanted in.

Brief spiel on what Dungeons and Dragons is if you don’t know: Dungeons and Dragons(D&D) is a structured and open ended role playing system where players create and control a character to interact within the game world usually run by another player known as the Dungeon Master(DM).  There are rules that everyone, yes even the DM 99% of the time, must follow which governs how players can progress, attack, or generally interact with other characters or the world itself.  There have been many different systems, editions, variations, and rule sets created since the original conception in 1974 by Gary Gygax, but at its heart the goal has stayed the same: keep the system free enough so the players can to do whatever the hell they want to but while still keeping them under some realistic limitations.  You can play an evil wizard seeking revenge but you can’t play as a dragon archer that shoots swords out of its eyes(well at least not when you’re only level 1!).

Fast forward through highschool and college, where I avoided any D&D action, to when I started watching Rollplay.  Rollplay was created by twitch/youtube content creator itmejp and the rest of the cast are mostly personalities from the professional USA Starcraft 2 scene.  I don’t think any of them had played tabletop D&D proper before, except for their DM who has played for years, so it was really fun and interesting learning how the game works alongside the cast.  I also got the opportunity to moderate itmejp’s twitch channel which is cool but also a big chore; sometimes I just want to watch the show and not ban a douchebag in chat every 7 minutes.  So what started in February 2013 has continued over a year to today with Rollplay consisting of four different campaigns/shows, hundreds of exciting plot twists, and thousands of people tuning in each week to see what happens with their favorite characters.  If you think Game of Thrones is exciting and keeps you on your toes, try watching Rollplay D&D/Solum.  When you have a good DM(a mix of fairness, creativity, and a bit of a desire to kill you) the world and story never seems dull.  When you have interesting characters(complete with their own back stories, personalities, and quirks) interacting with each other adds more to the story and plot.  It can feel like a well written book at times if the harmony is there, except for one thing: the main characters aren’t safe.  The Dungeon Master doesn’t want to kill you(at least not outright) but he certainly has to try to put you in danger, otherwise it’s no fun.  If the characters are guaranteed a cinematic resolution, then there isn’t any danger, and a world without danger is boring.  If a player character dies, that’s it.  That character is done, and usually don’t get to find out anything more about them.  If all the player characters die, you don’t get to find out what happens in the story because it ends there.  And it is this aspect that makes D&D exciting.  The characters are supposed to save the town by killing the evil dragon on the mountain.  If this was The Hobbit(and I very much love The Hobbit) we’re fairly safe in assuming that is what will eventually somehow happen, but in D&D the whole party could die and Bilbo never gets heard from again.  “But what happens to The Ring that Bilbo found!?”  We don’t find out, not until The Fellowship Of The Ring D&D campaign begins and then the dangers start all over again.

So after watching 150+ hours of the Rollplay gang do their thing, I decided it was time to take the plunge myself.  Would the other people in my party be super awkward and weird?  Would they all get frustrated with me learning how to play?  Would we get along?  Would I even enjoy playing?  This was all new territory for me so I was a unsure about a lot of things.  Luckily everything went super smooth, I found someone asking around r/itmejp, a community mostly for Rollplay fans/content, if anyone was interested in jumping into a campaign for first time players.  Cool!  Everyone else in the group was brand new or relatively new to D&D and it was the DM’s first time running a campaign.  It was very helpful, and a bit of a relief, to know I wasn’t going to be the only noob asking questions.  We play online using the webapp roll20.net which allows us to roll virtual die(with a really good random number generator for dice rolls) and facilitates the DM to create maps, environments, and keep track of player data.  A few play sessions into our campaign we started streaming our own sessions via twitch.tv and have even started gathering our own small audience!  If you haven’t popped over to the An Adventure For Beginners Page, that is what it’s all about.  It’s been a journey in itself playing with my group and we have just passed our 30th play session.

Some thoughts:

  • People who play D&D aren’t weird, well not all of us
    • I’m sure there are weird people who play, but you get that with any activity.  They’re  just people who enjoy playing the game.  I’ve met sport jocks, English majors, theology students, and musicians that all love to play.  People from all walks of life enjoy coming together and participating in a common activity, what a concept eh?
  • Playing the game isn’t always super exciting
    • I usually am always having fun but you aren’t in a battle against hordes of orcs saving the local King every minute.  Like in real life, you have to take time to run errands, restock supplies, plan what you’re going to do next, plan again after the road you wanted to take is closed, and even take a rest day or two if your character gets sick.  A lot of it is simplified thanks to the rules/system and a quality DM, but it still happens.  A few times an entire session simply revolved around our party staying in a town talking to locals and shopping for items.  Learn to embrace it as a very important part of the game.
  • Our group is awesome
    • I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better group to find.  Not only was mostly everyone else in the same newbie boat as I was, but we all get along really well.  Most of us are fans of Rollplay and get to discuss the weekly happenings on the show.  All of us have very similar humor and love to joke around in game and out.  We even started to play other games together.  The players, characters, and DM all bring something different to the table and it really makes the game stand out.  Dare I say…I’ve made new friends through a random D&D party?
  • Streaming our game online adds an interesting dynamic
    • This isn’t something you’ll find in your typical D&D group but we have had lots of fun doing it.  Its a little frustrating when twitch decides to delete a recording or when parts of the recorded video go corrupt, but we’re learning how to work around the issue and are also hosting our recordings on YouTube, possibly with additional content.  Whether it is the audience interaction, hearing how watching us helps others understand D&D better, or just having the last session recorded for an easy recap makes the extra work worth it.  It has also propelled me into some web development involving wordpress and twitch integration, something I’ll share in the future.
  • I am having a lot more fun than I thought I would
    • Going into it, I was pretty sure I would have fun playing.  However I wasn’t expecting to have this much fun.  The first time we jumped into combat in game my character shot his bow and I rolled two perfect 20s in a row, critical hit!  One of our party members got arrested and we had to go through finding witnesses and a trial to get him off of a unfounded murder charge!  I can’t count the number of times we’ve gotten ourselves too far into combat with half the party unconscious and our cleric dishes out damage and heal spells to save us.  A bard in our group played Wrecking Ball on his flute and rolled a 1 for his skill check.  These are moments I will remember for a long time.  I look forward to Monday evenings when I can chill out with some friends online and roleplay Cabaan the Elf ranger who sucks at perception checks.

Moving forward, I’m not entirely sure what the future looks like.  We finished “Season 1” of our campaign with 30 play sessions, around 26 of them are recorded and online our twitch and youtube channels, and have had over 10,000 viewers.  10k isn’t a whole lot in the world of internet videos but it is pretty damn impressive for what we’re doing I think.  We will be starting the next season this week and I’m definitely excited to see where our story goes.

If you have any interest in checking out what our D&D sessions look like, jump over to our campaign page or stop by my twitch channel on a Monday evening(8pm EST | 5pm PST) and say hello!

Pre-Order Bonuses – The Other Side

Compare my recent rant about Titanfall’s lack of preorder bonuses(a good thing!) to what you get with Watch Dogs depending on what edition, location, or pass you buy.

When special editions go to far

When special editions go to far

There are eight, EIGHT, different editions to choose from.  Keep in mind, these are just the bonuses for buying a special edition copy of the game.  This image doesn’t show all the extra crap you get from preordering from Gamestop, Amazon, BestBuy, etc.

I get it, companies make money this way.  I just wish I could pay my $60 and own the complete game.  I’m not talking about extra guns, power-ups, or skins here, I don’t care about that stuff.  There are two pieces of DLC, created during the game’s development, that you have to pay extra to get.  For shame.

Airplane Movie Reviews

I took a vacation for two weeks in New Zealand which involved flying over the Pacific Ocean-there and back again.  I usually enjoy plane rides long or short since I can finish off a book, sleep most of the way, or pass the time with free movies.  Virgin Airlines usually has a great choice of movies to watch for free.  My flight over I didn’t watch that many since I wanted to get myself on the proper sleep schedule.  Coming back I had the unfortunate middle seat along with people seated directly behind and in front of me who made it their mission to keep me from sleeping at all, so all I did was watch film after film.  Anyway, here is what I watched and what I thought about them.

  • Frozen – 4/5
    • Yes I know I’m late to this party.  I thought Frozen was a great Disney movie.  Fun plot, funny characters, good sing-a-long songs, and a happy ending.  It was a little bit of an issue at times how easily you could see insert song here story breaks.  Tangled was better.
  • Monsters University – 3.5/5
    • I’ll be honest, I only watched this for Nathan Fillion, and he was awesome!  A nifty prequel with your typical underdog plot.
  • Despicable Me – 5/5
    • Somehow I missed this when it came out and never got around to watching it.  Well I’m really glad I caught it on the flight back because I was blown away.  The animation was brilliant, the acting was top notch, and I was not expecting to have my emotions pulled out at 30,000 miles in the air!  After it was over I sat there feeling so happy for Gru, then I realized he’s an animated character, and then I realized there is a sequel I NEED to see.  It was good too right?
  • Fifth Estate – 4/5
    • A cyber thriller telling the debated story of Wikileaks and its creator Julian Assange, comes with a healthy dose of Benedict Cumberbatch.  If you like journalistic, uncover the truth, race against authority thrillers then you’ll probably enjoy this.  The film is probably more of a 3/5, it lacks as a whole at times.  But I’ve always found the whole Wikileaks story very interesting and could follow along with my own knowledge, so that might have made it more enjoyable for me.
  • Now You See Me – 3.5/5
    • A band of magicians start to rob banks during their live performances and the FBI is after them.  It is super fun to see the magic get executed, FBI outsmarted, and watch the plot twist and turn further.  It gets set up very well but it is only as fun while it lasts.  The ending is rather abrupt and didn’t do it for me.
  • Act of Valor – ?/5
    • I more or less collapsed in my seat from exhaustion half way through this one, finally thwarting the sleep barons surrounding me.  At best this is probably a 2/5 If I had to predict what the score would be.  The plot wasn’t anything special and the narrating was boring or exposition at best.  It felt like they came up with the idea, “Hey lets use real a real Navy SEAL team as the action stars”, and didn’t take it much further.

I’m pretty sure I watched at least two others but I cannot remember what they were.

Offering Too Much Advice

One of the things I do is give advice.  Sometimes I give advice when people don’t even ask for it, I just start explaining things.  Sometimes I’ll talk too much trying to explain my advice when they don’t particularly care or they already understand it and I end up annoying them.  Learning what annoys people is a never ending process.  It can be talking too much, how you explain your advice, or what subject it is on.

While it may be a way of expressing you care, you still need to be mindful of how others take it.  And that can be hard.

Pre-Order Bonuses

I know that I’m not the only one getting sick and tired of 10 different pre-order bonuses depending on what retailer you go to or version of the game you order.  It is getting out of hand.  I don’t mind so much when its simple game swag or in-game cosmetics, but sometimes it is extra weapons, maps, even entire DLC chapters.  Like day 0 DLC, it isn’t good for the industry and should stop.

  • The gamers don’t like it because they can’t get their hands on all of the game content.  A game that they paid for.
  • It’s bad for the retailers because now their orders don’t depend on actual service but who can shell out money for the best bonus.
  • It’s bad for the game companies because they are spending time making game content for small portions of their customer base.

So when Titanfall announced their preorder bonuses I was surprised when they actually did a great job.  No exclusive guns, or titans, or maps.  A few swag items and a possible guide that you can find on the internet.  Well done Respawn Entertainment!  As an avid gamer, thank you for not contributing to the preorder bonus ecosystem mess we are currently stuck in.

Xbox One

So every week since E3 I’ve logged on and wrote about the Xbox One and every week Microsoft has changed it, then I have to start writing all over again!  The latest is allowing self-publishing for developers, something I thought was the most important thing it was lacking since its announcement.  If Microsoft continues down this road I think we will see the Xbox One doing extremely well like the 360 did.

I will say this though, the original plans for the Xbox One being online and digital were not terrible and got way too much hate for what Microsoft was trying to do.  I was actually pretty excited.  I think the reversal was a good idea for the short term, but hopefully it won’t mess too much of the strategy up.  There are definitely reasons to prefer the PS4 over the Xbox One, but I don’t see any reasons to hate either console.  Sony is giving us a vastly improved PS3 while Microsoft is still trying to do something different and push digital content onto consoles; either one will be a great choice.

disclaimer//this was written before I got hired at Microsoft in September 2013